The last quarter of the year can have an especially significant impact on your finances. Because certain tax opportunities and employer benefits expire at the end of the year, it’s particularly important to keep your finances organized during these last few months so you don’t miss out on important savings.
If you’re looking for some help getting organized, you’re in luck: The Financial Planning Association is conducting its 12th annual Financial Planning Week from Oct. 7-13. During the week, you can take part in education events, seminars, workshops, and hotlines, all designed to help you discover the value of financial planning.
Ally Bank is also committed to helping you realize your goals for financial organization. That’s why we created this checklist of steps you may want to take before December 31:
Review your employer’s benefits
It’s open enrollment season, which AARP explains is the time of year where you can adjust your Medicare and employer-covered health insurance. During this time, you can choose the coverage that best meets your needs, whether that means initiating, changing or dropping coverage. Open enrollment season may also provide you an opportunity to make changes to your flexible spending account.
Empty your flexible spending account
Speaking of flexible spending, you may have to spend the remaining funds in your account by year’s end or risk losing them, according to CNBC. To avoid this loss, simply check your balance, determine if you have additional funds you may need to spend, and if so, schedule some appointments you may have been putting off.
Review your portfolio
Financial advisors recommend checking in on your financial portfolio every now and then and rebalancing as necessary, according to CNBC. This helps keep your risk level in check and helps keep you on track to meeting your goals.
Keep your estate plan up-to-date
You may want to make sure your estate plan is current – especially if you’ve had major life changes, such as a marriage, birth, divorce or death of a loved one, recommends MarketWatch. A comprehensive check-in goes beyond just your will and trust funds. You’ll also want to review the beneficiaries listed in your 401(k), IRAs, pension plans and insurance policies.
Evaluate your retirement accounts
If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, you may want to consider opting in. And if you’re already participating, you may want to revisit how much money you’re contributing. In 2013, you’re allowed to contribute up to $17,500, according to Time. At the very least, Time notes, you should consider contributing enough to get a full match from your employer. Also, don’t forget that the money you put into your 401(k) is pre-tax. The same rule applies for money you put in a traditional IRA (though you can make your 2013 contribution as late as tax day 2014).
Check your emergency fund
If you’re not sure how much money you have in your emergency fund, there’s no better time to check than now. As Bankrate notes, you typically want to have enough cash on hand to cover as many as nine months worth of expenses, should you experience job-loss, illness or other unexpected costs. Ideally, you’ll want to keep your emergency reserves in accounts that offer easy access, such as an Online Savings Account or CD. We offer both at Ally Bank, and allow you to withdraw from our CDs at minimal or No Penalty.
Assess insurance coverage
Aside from employer-sponsored health benefits (above), you also may want to look at other insurance coverage. CNBC recommends checking your home, life and auto policies to make sure you’re getting the right amount of protection.
What financial adjustments will you make before December 31? How will you take part in Financial Planning Week?