As we approach the end of 2019, here are five financial housekeeping items you (or your financial advisor) should make sure is checked off your list:
Max Out Your 401k Contributions
In 2019, the maximum contribution into 401(k) and 403(b) plans increased from $18,500 to $19,000 per year. If you have a flat dollar amount coming out of your paycheck, you may not have adjusted for this increase. Check with your HR or payroll department to assure that you are indeed on track to max out your contributions if you can afford it.
Spend Down FSA Dollars
If you have money in a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) with your employer you may only carry over $500 into the next year. Make sure that you have spent down this money and you don’t end up just forfeiting it.
Note: HSA dollars are not required to be spent, so be careful here.
Check Your Capital Gain/Loss Situation
During the year if you (or your financial advisor) made trades in your taxable accounts it generated capital gains and/or losses. You will want to check what the current gains or losses are, whether or not they are short or long term gains, and then see how to minimize these gains by the end of the year. If you have a loss that you could potentially take to offset a gain, you may want to strongly consider it. You will want to be careful not to unknowingly change your asset allocation or trigger wash sale rules. Here is a quick guide on capital gains/losses and wash sales.
Make Sure to Take Required Minimum Distributions
If you are over the age of 70 ½ or have inherited an IRA, you are likely to be required to take distributions from IRAs, Roth IRAs, and employer plans such as 401(k)s and 403(b)s. You (or your advisor) will have to help you calculate the required amount that has to be taken, which is determined by the balance of the account on 12/31/2018. The penalties are stiff - 50% of any amount not taken - so you will want to make sure this is done on time.
Get Your Roth IRA Conversions Done
With the tax code generally more friendly to most people right now due to lower marginal tax rates, Roth IRA conversions may be a good item to consider. There are many nuances to whether or not you should consider this strategy, so you should be talking to your CPA and/or financial advisor to see if this might be right for you. If your income is particularly low this year, you expect your tax rate to be higher in the future, or you have a large taxable account, this is something to definitely discuss. Unfortunately, all conversions must be completed by December 31st, much to the consternation of taxpayers. This involves some more complex tax projections before the end of the year, but just because it involves more planning, it doesn’t mean you should avoid considering it.