Planning for retirement requires a substantial amount of long-term planning. For many people, that means thinking about their financial future in concentrated doses. We might take a hard look at our finances when we make significant decisions such as buying a home, purchasing insurance or paying our taxes, but most of the time we are content to only think about immediate monetary concerns. As a result, it can become easy to lose sight of the bigger picture of our financial health today and tomorrow.
Staying up-to-date on where you are financially and what your future may hold is not as strenuous a pursuit as it may sound. In fact, by assessing seven factors of your financial health just once per year, you will be well-positioned to make adjustments as necessary while also feeling the peace of mind that comes with knowing exactly where you stand.
Consider printing and working through the following checklist annually for an easy point of reference. Need help? Check with your financial advisor to determine your financial health and any necessary next steps.
Assess your investment strategy. Is it providing the returns/security necessary to align with your current goals? Take a close look at your portfolio positions and revisit your asset allocation.
Take a look at your overall retirement strategy. Does it (still) make sense? Some steps to consider include:
- Taking your retired minimum distribution (RMD) from your traditional IRA, if applicable
- Assessing contributions to IRAs, 401(k)s or other tax-sheltered retirement accounts. Max out contributions if you are able, and consider doing the same with catch-up contributions, if applicable.
- Consider whether converting from a traditional to a Roth IRA makes sense for you.
There are many steps you can take to better anticipate taxes and minimize what you owe. For example:
- Search for possible credits and/or deductions before the year comes to a close.
- Have a qualified tax professional put together a year-end projection that includes Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT).
- Review factors such as unrealized gains, losses and appreciated property sales.
- Take a look back at last year to see if there was any loss carry-forwards.
- If you’ve sold securities, gather cost-basis information.
- Look for any other transactions that could potentially enhance your circumstances.
Gifts & Contributions
While we may enjoy giving, we are not always the best at tracking it or approaching it strategically. Plan charitable contributions to education accounts, religious institutions or other organizations ahead of time, and make any desired cash gifts to family members. Review and fund trusts as applicable.
Look over your policies. Are they up to date? Is your beneficiary information accurate? Review costs, beneficiaries and any/all life changes that could affect your insurance needs, adjusting as necessary.
Did your personal circumstances change drastically this year? For example, did you…
- Get married or divorced?
- Move or change jobs?
- Buy a home or business?
- Have or adopt a child?
- Receive an inheritance or significant gift?
- See a severe illness or ailment affect a family member?
- Lose a family member?
- Discover that a parent needs assisted living arrangements?
Any of these factors could affect the way you should be saving, filing taxes and making other financial arrangements, so be sure to log them for discussion with your retirement financial advisor.
Your age can make a big difference when it comes to what you may and may not do without financial penalty. Consider how some of the following birthday milestones could affect your options:
- If you turned 50 this year, catch-up contributions can now be made to IRAs and certain other qualified plans.
- If you turned 55 this year and you retired, you may now take distributions from your 401(k) account without penalty.
- If you turned 59 ½ this year, you may take IRA distributions without penalty.
- If you turned 62 this year, you are now eligible to apply for Social Security benefits.
- If you turned 65 this year, you are now eligible to apply for Medicare.
- If you turned 70 ½ this year, you must now take RMDs from your IRA accounts.
Asking yourself a few questions and documenting your financial history better can do wonders for cementing your financial future. Some of these factors can admittedly be complex to navigate, so make a point to check in with your financial advisor, bringing this information with you to make a meeting as productive as possible. Have questions? Feel free to contact us.