The last few weeks of the year are always a blitz to wrap up loose ends, in a frenzied fashion. In the spirit of the season, we thought it a good time to provide a checklist of items to consider before the calendar turns another year ahead, as related to your investments and finances. Keep in mind it is always important to review all of these items regularly, but are especially important to review by end-of-year at a minimum.
1. REVIEW YOUR INVESTMENTS
- Is it time to rebalance?
If you rebalance annually, have you already done so, or is this the time of the year when you need to review your allocations? Rebalancing ensures that you are in line with your long-range targets. Take into consideration investments that may be prudent for your account, while taking advantage of tax-exempt options.
- Is it time to harvest?
If you have losses in your taxable account holdings, you might want to consider realizing those losses to help offset gains. As always, please consult with your CPA or Wealth Advisor to determine where you stand for 2014.
2. RETIREMENT PLANNING
- Required Minimum Distribution (RMD)
If you’re past the age of 70.5, have you taken your required minimum distribution this year? If not, you’ll want to do so before December 31st. Contact the Trustee of your IRA to confirm if you have met your required distribution.
- Retirement Plan Contributions
Now’s the time to take advantage of tax deferred growth! Have you maxed out all of your retirement plans, 401(k) or IRAs? If not, you may want to explore what amount remains to maximum fund your plan for 2014.
3. TAX PLANNING
- Estimated Taxes
Did you receive an unexpectedly healthy bonus, a large taxable distribution, or have an exceptionally good year in your business? If so, you may have to file estimated taxes or review what has been paid. You’ll want to make sure your estimated taxes are accurate to avoid the IRS penalties for underpayment.
4. CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS AND GIFTING
- Charitable Contributions
If you plan to itemize your deductions on your tax return, you may want to consider making charitable contributions. Consider appreciated assets with a low cost basis in lieu of cash, this can present a great tax advantage to you.Do you want to start a personal charitable plan, but are not quite sure who the best charitable recipients are? Consider donating to an existing organization or establish a new donor-advised fund to make the most of your allowable exemption. Please consult with your CPA or Wealth Advisor on the best method of donating.
We encourage you to consider gifting at the beginning of the year instead of the end. If you prefer year-end then it’s time to act. The 2014 annual exclusion is $14,000 per person. Gifting from IRAs is allowed, however special rules apply. If you are not sure whether the gift tax or the estate tax applies to your situation, refer to Publication 950, Introduction to Estate and Gift Taxes.
5. ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS
- Beneficiary Forms
Have you had a change in your marital status, birth of a child or grandchild, death of a beneficiary? Now is the time to update any beneficiary forms on file for life insurance, annuities, retirement plans, etc.
- Trust Documents
Consider meeting with your estate-planning attorney if you have had any significant life-changing events. This includes review of your Trust, Will and Power of Attorney documents.
- Family Love Letter
The problems surrounding a loved one’s incapacity or death can be many, and the solutions may feel few and far between. The Family Love Letter allows you to give your family a lasting and important gift – all the vital information they need to know in case of sudden incapacity or death. You will be making plans and taking inventory of your life for your family – financially and otherwise; the letter includes everything from essential estate planning documents to contact information for advisors to insurance policies and final requests.
If you have already completed your Family Love Letter, now is the time to review and update. If you haven’t begun your letter yet, request your personal copy today.