This is the time of year when we reflect and make resolutions. We are motivated, excited to make positive changes, then life starts taking over and the changes don’t always happen. So what will you do differently this year to break that pattern? I have a few easy tips to help you be successful.
What is your why?
Come up with a “why” for each financial resolution you make. Once you’ve written down a “why” for each financial resolution you’ve made, revisit them each month to make sure they still hold.
Improve your credit score.
If you can get to the point where you’re regularly using your credit card and paying it off every month, your credit score will grow by leaps and bounds, plus you can rack up points you can use toward purchases.
Make a realistic budget & stick to it.
I know, everyone hates making a budget, but they really help. Look at all of the areas that you regularly spend money to see if you can make small changes to save more.
Pay yourself first.
How much are you contributing to your 401(k)? Many people will only contribute to the company match. Every additional dollar you contribute to your 401(k), is a dollar that will not be going to Federal Income Tax. Pay yourself, not the Federal Government.
Make this year different, and successful.
I have spent the better part of this year talking about taxes and inflation. Since the second week of January 2020, there have been a huge number or tax proposals thrown at us, I am sure some of them will be written into law next year. Anyone who has spent money on anything of late knows the impact of inflation. We have this final week of the year to make sure we don’t get bitten by either of these points.
Have you taken your full RMD? The required minimum distribution form your retirement accounts is mandatory, the amount you have to withdraw changes every year, and the penalty for under withdrawing is a 50% tax.
Have you made all of the Charitable Contributions you wish to? For many taxpayers, Charitable Contributions are deductible, check the tax code to see if this applies to you.
Are there any big ticket items you planned on buying? Make big purchase now, or at least try to lock in 2021 pricing with deposits. The Fed has stated that rates will be raised at least three times next year.
Use this short week wisely so you do not miss an opportunity to save.
2021 is winding down fast, but you still have time to make some moves that will cut your tax bill and leave more money in your pocket.
Capital loss harvesting
If you have some investments that have gone down in value since you bought them, you might consider selling them and taking a loss. You’re allowed to offset any capital gains you’ve taken this year with the losses, as well as up to $3,000 in personal income.
Retirement plan contributions
If you have extra savings you can live on right now, you may consider increasing your 401(k) salary deferral. The contribution limit for 2021 is $19,500 for those under age 50, or $26,000 for those 50 or older. These are pre-tax contributions. The money will go into your pocket vs. the IRS.
Even if you’re not itemizing your deductions in 2021, you can still get a tax benefit for your charitable giving. For 2021, you’re able to make a deduction up to $300 for single filers or $600 for a married couple filing jointly without itemizing. If you do itemize, you can deduct the full amount of charitable donations made in 2021.
Use your time wisely, the more you can save in taxes – the more you can save for yourself.
I have a client that has been a widow for a number of years. Recently she shared with me an acronym she put together to help herself find people necessary for her to move on to her next steps, and help her to keep moving in the proper direction. I thought this was wonderful and want to share it with you.
Here’s suggested expertise list for advisors:
F – financial advisor
L – lawyer
I – insurance specialist
R – realtor
T – tax(es) specialist
Please feel free to add these to your list of resources.
There are a lot of sources we can turn to for financial advice, tons of websites, articles, even a blog or two. Taking time to learn is important, but don’t ignore your common sense. Here are a few common sense tips for successful investing:
Start with your first paycheck, and continue through your last one.
Begin investing as soon as you can, be patient, and let time shower your investments with compound growth.
Cut Uncle Sam out of your picture.
Invest as much as you can in tax-deferred retirement plans, such as 401(k) plans. Your money will grow faster and you can afford to invest more now because you won’t have to pay taxes on the money until you retire.
Investing is a process, there are no miracles.
Your investment decisions won’t be right all the time, and some of your funds will underperform your expectations. But as you rebalance and weed out consistent underperformers over the years, you will generally achieve a reasonable overall investment return.
I am here to help you.
Seek professional help if you need it. As the fees on mutual funds shrink, professional advice is no longer expensive. Even if you are a do-it-yourselfer, consider a periodic checkup with a financial adviser to hone your portfolio’s performance.
Q: If I wait until I am age 70 to collect Social Security, will I get credit for the big increase current recipients will get next year?
A: Yes you will. All increases for cost of living will be credited to your record. Check SSA.gov to make sure your credits are correct.
Freedom means a lot of things, in retirement it means choice. You can determine what you do with your time whether it is indulging in a hobby, doing charity work, or gardening, the choice is yours.
If you follow these two steps you will maintain the freedom of choice.
Living on a budget:
A budget allows retirees to allocate their dollars to the things that matter most, while ensuring they don’t run short and end up in debt or take too much money out of retirement accounts. Budgeting also allows seniors to spend more purposefully so they can best enjoy their newfound freedom.
Live within your means:
Retirees must ensure they aren’t spending more than they can afford while maintaining a safe withdrawal rate. That means living within their means. It’s a lot easier to get used to spending less than you earn if you start before you actually retire.
These are two points that most people don’t want to deal with. Budgets and spending choices are not fun. Exercising these choices now, will give you freedom in retirement.
When it comes to retirement savings, many people only save to their company match percentage. I constantly tell those people to not use that as a marker. You are not doing yourself any favors. Dollars that are being deducted for Federal Income Tax could be going into your retirement instead. Let’s look at the average retirement savings by age:
According to Fidelity, the following is what the average American has saved for retirement.
20 to 29: $15,000
30 to 39: $50,800
40 to 49: $120,800
50 to 59: $203,600
60 to 69: $229,100
It is important to think about your many years of life in retirement as you are saving. Put the money in your pocket vs. that of the Federal Government.
Required minimum distributions are back. Last year due to the pandemic they were suspended, not anymore. Many of my clients are getting unpleasant surprises by the amount they have to withdraw. If you are age 72 or above, you have to withdraw a certain percentage of your Traditional or rollover IRA annually, those who still have funds in a 401(k) or 403(b) and are no longer working will have to take an RMD also.
So why the shock? Not having to withdraw last year along with most of the markets ending 2020 strong have left clients with higher 12/31/20 balances than they expected.
Please do not overlook your RMD, the penalty is large.