End of Year Checklist
Just when you thought you had crossed all of the last minute items off your “to-do” list here are a few more to check off before years’ end. You don’t need to get them all done before the end of this year but now is the time to schedule your planning for next year. Some should be reviewed every month and others are fine if they have a review once a year.
- Budget – Hopefully you didn’t just check out right off the bat but a lot of the other things that you should check out before the end of the year will depend on this. Take a look at your income and expenses for the year. You should be able to tell the actual numbers by now. Compare them to the budget that you had planned. Identify areas where you can make adjustments either up or down. The goal is to meet your expenses and obligations but to have a working budget with some left over for other goals and maybe a few wants such as…
- Savings Goals – yes that is a plural. You should have multiple savings goals and they need to be reviewed:
- Emergency Fund – Less than 3 months of expenses put away means you are in the building stage. Building is done through baby steps. Keep adding a new “emergency” to you savings and watch it build. Set aside enough to cover the deductible on your car. Once that is in the account start adding enough to cover the co-payment on an emergency room visit. Once that is in the bank, start adding enough to cover a month’s worth of utilities. Next would be to add one month’s worth of rent. Step by step you build the account but never take funds out unless it is a true emergency.
- Vacation and Holiday Fund – This is the perfect time of year to re-assess what was available for vacation and holiday expenses this year and make changes with your very first budget in January. Starting to set money aside for a July vacation in May or December Holidays in October is too late. It is far less stressful on the budget and the planning to take the full year to spread out the saving.
- Retirement Funds – There are two ways that these require your attention. If you have a plan that allows you to direct where your money is allotted, January 1st is frequently the date by which any changes need to be submitted. Review your budget to make certain that you are contributing enough to your retirement so that you get the most out of your deductions tax-wise and that you qualify for the most out of any employer match (free money) available.
- Credit Report – Have you been using the access to free reports at www.annualcreditreport.com to keep an eye on your credit file? This involves obtaining one of the free reports every four months by rotating through the three major bureaus. No need to hire a service when you can monitor yourself for free. Look for incorrect data in names, addresses, accounts and inquiries. If it is wrong, dispute it. If it is not yours, dispute it. Accounts and inquiries that you did not generate are often indicators that you have an identity theft problem. These are best solved as soon as they can be detected.
- Check on the status of your “Use It or Lose It” accounts – Do you need to submit a request to change your banked Time Off hours so they can be rolled over to next year? Did you sign up for a Flexible Spending Account and make full use of the benefit before years’ end? Check out the status of any coupons or discounts you obtained through social media or coupon sites. They may expire December 31st. Take advantage of any benefit that has a deadline.
- Review Your Risk – Have you mitigated the risk of events that might throw your financial plan off track? Illness, accident, storm damage, car breakdown? Do you have proper insurance coverage – house or rental, car, health, disability? Do you have a will? Are your accounts formatted so that a trusted person can manage them for you if you should become ill or injured? Do you have a road service agreement with a motor club or through your auto loan? Take a moment to consider those areas of your financial plan (income, obligations, and expenses) that might present a challenge to the success of your plan? Expect the unexpected.
- Pick a “Shouda-Coulda-Woulda” and do it – Don’t start the New Year with these hanging over your head. We all procrastinate sometimes and feel badly about it later. Reward yourself with that great feeling you get by checking it off your list – send your Mom a card, reach out to a friend who is facing a challenge, clear out a closet or cupboard and make a donation to the thrift store or Goodwill, file last year’s taxes, or just stop all the distractions for an hour and sit down with your child and read a book.
- Charity and volunteer activity – Even if you are in no position to make a cash donation to a charity by the end of this year, they can still use your help. https://www.volunteermatch.org/ will allow you to enter your zip code and interest and provide local organizations or people who could use your skills.
Good Health and Build Wealth!