4th Quarter Personal Finance Checklist
And just like that, we’ve reached the 4th quarter, which means it is time to review where you stand financially.
The good news is, there is still time to get your financial ducks in a row before the end of the year with a personal finance checklist.
To make this process as easy as possible, use this personal finance checklist to help you end 2021 strong and ready to begin 2022 on the right foot.
Your 2022 self will thank you!
#1 Review 2021 Goals
Step number one on the personal finance checklist is to review your 2021 goals.
Take time to review all your goals for the year: savings, debt, retirement, etc.
How far along are you? What goals are you behind on? Is there anything else you need to do before the year is over?
Knowing where you are can help you know what is possible to do to end the year with a bang.
[Related Read: Close the Gap on Financial Goals with a Side Hustle]
#2 Assess Your Debt
Take a good hard look at your current debt. See how far you’ve come and see if you can pay down more of it in this final quarter of the year.
If not, make sure you have a plan and continue working on the plan for the rest of the year and into 2022.
Also, if you can, see if you can get a 0% credit card and roll over the higher balance to one with a lower interest rate.
It is also worthwhile to call the credit card company to see if they will lower your rate.
#3 Plan Holiday Spending Now
The holidays are just around the corner. If you aren’t prepared, you may find yourself making money mistakes.
According to the National Retail Federation, “Retail sales during 2020’s November-December holiday season grew an unexpectedly high 8.3 percent over the same period in 2019 to $789.4 billion.”¹
Unfortunately, a good bit of those sales resulted in debt.
A 2020 Magnify Money survey found, “About a third (31%) of all consumers took on debt to pay for holiday expenses this year. […] Holiday debt was defined as spending related to gifts, travel and entertainment. Those who incurred holiday debt this year borrowed $1,381 on average.”²
Don’t let this happen to you. Make a plan today for how you will pay for expenses this holiday season.
[Related Read: 9 Ways to Keep Online Holiday Spending under Control This Year]
#4 Make Tax-Advantaged Investments
While you technically have until Tax Day (Mon, April 18, 2022) to max out your IRA contributions, you should try to do so before the end of the year.
If you don’t have an IRA, see about opening one.
For individual retirement accounts (IRAs), the limit for 2020 is $6,000. If you are 50 and over, your contribution limit is $7,000.
If you have a 401(k), see if you can contribute up to the contribution limit.
The 2020 contribution limit for 401(k) plans is $19,500. If you are 50 and over, your contribution limit is $26,000.
Look at where you are so far and see if it is possible to contribute a little bit more out of each paycheck now through the end of the year.
If you can’t max out the contribution limit for your 401(k), at least find a way to contribute an amount equal to your employer’s match contribution.
[Related Read: 3 Things to Do If You Can’t Max Out Your 401(k) This Year]
#5 Rebalance Your 401(k)
It is important to rebalance your account allocations throughout the year. If you aren’t doing so, you may be missing out on earning even more and keeping more of your hard-earned savings.
This is because unmanaged allocations may experience larger losses because of down markets. In contrast, they may miss out on growth opportunities during good markets.
Make the appropriate changes to your 401(k) to help you meet your retirement savings goal.
[Related Read: How Rebalancing May Boost 401(k) Returns]
#6 Cash In on Investment Losses
Don’t miss the opportunity to cash in on investment losses.
Consider selling your losing positions in the market to offset stock market gains.
The IRS allows you to claim up to $3,000 in capital losses per year or $1,500 for a married individual filing separately.
If you exceed this amount, you may carry over unused losses into future years.
#7 Review and Update Tax Exemptions
Another step on the personal finance checklist is reviewing and updating tax exemptions.
This can prove helpful come tax time. Take a look and see if you’re paying too much or too little in taxes.
If you are paying too little, do what you can to prevent owing the IRS for underpayment.
If you are paying too much, keep more each paycheck or take this “extra” and put it in your 401(k) or IRA.
#8 Get Taxes in Order for 2021
Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare for tax season. Get your taxes in order now.
This is especially important if you are self-employed.
Have you made all your quarterly tax payments this year? Are there any major purchases to be made before year-end that will offset total profits?
#9 Plan for a Holiday Bonus
If you’re planning on a holiday bonus this year, give some thought now about what you will do with the money. Will you save it, use it to pay off debt, or invest it into your retirement savings?
Have a plan so you don’t blow it.
[Related Read: 7 Disposable Income Mistakes to Avoid]
#10 Review Insurance Policies
Many people purchase insurance and simply re-up year after year without considering whether it is still the best plan for their life stage.
Don’t let this be you. Instead, take time to review all your insurance policies (car, home, and life) to see if your coverage still makes sense for your needs.
It is also wise to shop around to see if you can find better rates.
Some other things to keep in mind:
- If your home has increased in value due to updates or additions, change the home insurance replacement value amount to reflect the new value increase.
- If you have any prior tickets or accidents that have fallen off this year, get a new quote to see if you can save money on your car insurance.
- If you have lost weight or stopped smoking, see if these life changes may help you get a better quote to save money on life insurance.
[Related Read: Prepare for a Financial Emergency Using These 5 Simple Steps]
#11 Update Beneficiaries
Another step on the personal finance checklist is to update beneficiaries.
Look at all your accounts with beneficiaries (401(k), IRA, life insurance policies, investment accounts, and checking and savings accounts) and make sure the information is correct. Make corrections as needed.
#12 Check Your Flexible Savings Account (FSA)
Many Flexible Savings Accounts (FSAs) have to be used by the end of the year. Look to see if you have any unspent money that you need to use before you lose it.
Now is the time to make doctor appointments or buy new glasses, so you can use your pre-tax dollars in your FSA account.
#13 Get Ready for Healthcare Open Enrollment
Healthcare Open Enrollment is right around the corner.
Open enrollment for 2022 health plans runs from November 1, 2021, to January 15, 2022. Coverage will take effect on January 1, 2022.
Put together an updated list of doctors and prescriptions today so you don’t have to rush around when enrollment begins.
#14 Plan for 2022
Don’t wait until the new year begins – get ahead now!
Step #1 of the personal finance checklist had you reviewing your 2021 goals.
Use the insight you gained when reviewing these goals to come up with goals for next year, as well as a plan to reach these goals.
#15 Get Professional Advice
Speaking to a financial advisor now can help you get on track and stay on track with your financial goals.
Out of everything on this checklist, listening to the suggestions of a financial advisor may have the biggest impact on your finances.
The type of advice you receive about your finances may be impacted by the type of advisor you resource for advice.
Download our no-cost guide on how to understand The Different Types of Licenses Financial Advisors Have and What They Mean to You .