Believe it or not, the year is coming to a close. If you want to finish strong and set attainable goals for 2023, here’s a handy, actionable checklist to help you navigate upcoming expenditures.
Review Your Spending and Create a Budget
This might seem like Finance 101, but it’s a tried and true method that works. Take a look back to see where your money went. When you’ve evaluated your patterns of spending, you can reset priorities for the New Year, assuming you want to make changes. If you do, sit down and create a budget. Your tax professional will probably have a downloadable tax planning guild so ask them first, but here’s an example of a family-friendly free, downloadable template to get you started on your 2023 plan.
Rethink Your Savings
If you already have a healthy amount in savings, congrats. Make sure it’s an account that’s interest-bearing and you have the best rate. However, if you had to dip into your emergency savings, then chart a course to replenish it. If you don’t have an emergency fund, it makes good sense to start one. A smart rule to consider is having six months of income saved up, should your heater go out, you experience a sudden job loss, or suffer unforeseen medical expenses that your insurance doesn’t cover. A no-nonsense way to begin is to automate a certain amount each month that will be deducted from your paycheck. You’ll begin to accumulate money in no time. Best of all, you’ll never miss it.
Evaluate Your Debt
Have you made progress in paying it down? Or have you gone the other way? If you’ve eliminated your debt, once again, congrats. If you’ve increased your debt, don’t despair because there are some easy ways to cut expenses. Slow down on eating out. Review your subscriptions and see which ones you really need. Here’s a list of more areas to consider. Another way to get rid of the shackles of debt is to apply for a consolidation loan. You might also use the debt snowball method—starting with the smallest debt and working your way up to the largest. Or the inverse, the debt avalanche, where you pay off high-interest rate balances first.
Contribute to Your 401(k) by Dec. 31
You still have time to do this, but make sure it happens before the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31. If you’re fortunate enough to receive a year-end bonus, you might want to put as much of it as you can toward your 401(k) plan. For the New Year, increase the amount you’re contributing. Just one or more percentage points higher can make a big difference. Finally, if your company offers a match that you have yet to take advantage of (read: max out), do so before it’s too late.
Consider a Roth Conversion
If you’ve experienced a loss of income this year, you may be in a lower tax bracket. This means you can take advantage of your situation by converting some of your pre-tax assets like a Traditional IRA into a Roth IRA. If you’ve earned too much to convert to a Roth IRA, a back-door Roth IRA contribution might be the way to go. Here’s how you do it: Deposit money into a non-deductible Traditional IRA, then convert that IRA into a Roth IRA. But before you do anything at all, consult your tax advisor, as there are potential costs and tax liabilities that might come up.
Check your FSA Balance
An FSA (Flexible Spending Account) is a great benefit if your employer offers it. However, check your balance to see how much you have left because the rule is: Use it or lose it. That said, many companies offer a grace period until mid-March to spend what you have left, though not all do. Make sure to inquire about the rules of your account before the New Year.
Get a Free Credit Report
When was the last time you checked your credit? If you haven’t done so, now’s a good time because looking back can help you plan ahead. Here’s a great place to get a free report. If you notice any errors or discover any identity theft, you can immediately take steps to correct them and start with a clean slate for 2023.
While taking care of financial matters at the end of the year can be a love/hate kind of thing to do, if you spend a little time now, the coming days might be substantially merrier and bright.