With just four more weeks of 2016, there is still some time left to make a few end of the year money decisions to help you save money and/or grow your money. I know that your mind may firmly be on holiday decorations, office holiday parties, and who you will kiss when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. However, if we’re going to do this money thing right, we should at least think about making a few of these last-minute money decisions.
Retirement for the Win
You may be sitting pretty with your contribution to your 401(k) at work, but the end of the year is a great time to boost your savings and enjoy a larger deduction for 2016. Ask your HR department if you can up your contribution even just a few percentage points before the end of the year. You can always drop your contribution back down in 2017. You can contribute up to $18,000 if you’re under 55 in 2016.
Don’t have a 401(k) – no problem! You actually have until you file your taxes next year to open an IRA and save up to $5,500 if you’re under 55. Why would you do this? Well, it helps you supercharge your retirement savings and potentially enjoy a write-off at the same time.
Is it deductible: (graph from IRS website)
Remember, there are no deductions for a ROTH.
Go Ahead & Pay Now
One of the best end of the year secrets (well, it’s not really a secret, but many people don’t talk about it), is the advice to pre-pay your property taxes and/or your mortgage payment in 2016. Let’s say you have a mortgage, you can go ahead and make your January payment in December, and take a deduction this year for that payment. Same goes for your property taxes. Make sure you look up your own rules in the county where you live.
Why would you do this? Well, let’s say you’ve made extra money this year or a large bonus. Rather than paying more in taxes you can look for ways to balance out your extra earnings.
If you run your own biz, the same magic works for you. You can pre-pay a deductible car payment, or buy new software or get new business cards or a website. There are so many ways you can pay now, and save later.
You’ll Take the Loss
There’s a concept in the investment world called tax-loss harvesting. It may sound exotic like you’re going out to some field to find tax losses, but it’s actually a simple concept that can save you money. Let’s say you have two stocks. One lost you $2,000 this year and one had a gain of $3,000. With tax-loss harvesting, you can smooth out your gain by taking up to a $3,000 tax loss on your tax return. In this case, with a $2,000 loss and $3,000 gain, you would only pay tax on $1,000 of the gain. See how that works?
Now, even if you have a loss, you might not want to sell a stock or a mutual fund. Maybe you believe t he stock will rebound. In that case, tax-loss harvesting means nothing to you now, but it’s important to understand the concept.
The end of the year is a great time to make extra donations to your favorite charity that is doing amazing things in your city, or even abroad. Here are a few rules to keep in mind:
- Must be a 501(c)3 charity to get the deduction ( you can check your charity here)
- You must get a receipt, even if you give them cash. You can claim a deduction of $250 or more only if you have that little magical receipt
- You can donate stock that has appreciated if you don’t want to pay tax on it
- You can’t deduct your time for volunteering, but your gas, parking fees, toll fees, equipment, etc.
- Contributions can be deducted only in the year they were made – so watch the clock
- Even if you don’t get a deduction…shouldn’t we all be more charitable
Pay Off Game Plan
If you’ve got debt that is remaining it’s a great time to get a move on a debt game plan. You can save tons on interest fees over the length of the loan by constructing a solid payoff plan. There’s a right way to do this – and it doesn’t include throwing a ton of money on your credit cards at random. Use a credit card payoff calculator to find out your ideal payoff strategy.
Shannah Compton Game is a Money Wellness expert, host of the to-rated Millennial Money podcast, and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER with an MBA. Millennial Money has over 15 million downloads in 164 countries. Shannah’s years of experience as a skilled Certified Financial Planner have set her on a mission to revolutionize how people think, act, and feel about their finances…and have some fun doing so.