Make the Most of Your Hearing — And
Know When to Get Help
Medicare Covers Alzheimer’s Disease
Self-Esteem Is a Powerful Predictor of Longevity, Happiness
Corner: Electrical Problem Has Simple, Not-So-Obvious Solution
Financial Checklist: 10 Smart Ways to Bring 2013 to a Close
With the holidays upon us, it’s easy to put financial concerns on the back
burner (other than covering all those extra holiday expenses!). However, this
can be a great time to review the financial strides you’ve made this year.
Use this year-end financial checklist to help you focus on where you stand now
and what adjustments you might want to make for the new year. It doesn’t
have to take a lot of time — and it may make your holidays that much brighter
knowing you’re on solid financial footing.
1. Review your spending and refine your budget. You may have started the year
with a clear budget, but did you to stick to it? Take a look at your 2013 spending
patterns. Are there areas where you were consistently over budget? Were there
a lot of unanticipated expenses? Did you meet your savings goals? With this year’s
facts and figures in front of you, it will be easier to plan and prioritize your
expenditures for next year.
2. Determine your net worth. This is a worthwhile yearly exercise to find out
where you are — and where you need to go. And it’s easy. Simply add
up what you own (home, car, savings, business interests, personal property, investments,
etc.) and subtract what you owe (mortgage, loans, credit cards, etc.). Knowing
this will allow you to track your progress year to year. It may also give you
some incentive to save more or reduce your debt.
3. Rethink your credit card usage. Speaking of debt reduction, review the terms
of your credit cards. Are you paying too much in interest and fees? Are you getting
the benefits you want such as cash back or travel points? If you’re going
to use credit cards, you might as well make them work for you — but always
pay off your monthly balance if you can!
4. Check your credit score. While you’re focusing on credit cards, go to
annualcreditreport.com and request a free credit report from each of the three
nationwide credit reporting agencies. You’re entitled to one free report
from each agency every 12 months.
5. Make sure you’re on track for retirement. If you’ve let retirement
savings slip this year, recommit to making it a priority. Up the percentage you’re
contributing to a 401(k) or IRA. If you’re self-employed, consider opening
a SEP IRA or a similar small business retirement plan.
6. Comparison shop for insurance. Insurance needs change as your life changes.
Review your health, homeowners and car insurance policies to make sure you have
the right coverage at a reasonable premium. Consider life insurance if you have
dependents — or consider discontinuing a policy if your kids are grown
and on their own.
7. Rebalance your portfolio. Market movements may have thrown off your asset
allocation. Check to see if your portfolio still reflects your goals and feelings
about risk. If not, bring it back to your target by selling down your overweighted
asset classes and buying more in underweighted classes. Though keep in mind that
rebalancing does not protect against losses or guarantee that your goals will
be met. And if you’re retired, this is a good time to set aside money for
next year’s cash needs.
8. Start tax planning. It’s not too early to think about taxes. If you’re
selling stocks to rebalance your portfolio, consider harvesting your losses to
get a tax break. Capital losses can be used to offset taxable capital gains,
plus up to $3,000 in ordinary income ($1,500 for married couples filing separately).
Losses you can’t use this year can be carried over into future tax years.
9. Update your estate plan. New baby? Newly married or divorced? Make sure your
beneficiary designations reflect any changes. If you haven’t already done
so, complete an advance health care directive and give copies to your doctor
and hospital. Don’t yet have an estate plan? Make that a New Year’s
10. Put whatever you can on automatic. Bills, recurring payments, even savings — the
more you can put on auto pay now, the easier your financial life will be next
If your year-end review shows you’ve got things under control and are on
target to meet your goals, congratulations. If you need to make some changes,
now’s the time to start putting together your plan for 2014. Either way,
with this information in hand, you’ll feel in greater financial control-which
should make your year-end celebrations that much more fun. Happy holidays!
TOP | HOME
This page and its contents ©2013
Metropolitan News Company, Inc.