Financial tips for the end of 2017

With just a few weeks left on the calendar for 2017, it’s time to think about year-end financial planning.

While taxes, retirement savings, and investments may not be on the top of your holiday to-do list, they’re things you need to think about before the end of the year, along with all of that holiday shopping.

Michelle Brownstein,  Vice President of Private Client Services at Personal Capital,  says this is the time of year when we like to be generous, give gifts, and give to charity, but if you don’t plan ahead, it can become really expensive.

Michelle suggests writing down what you’re going to spend on gifts.  Consider taking that money out of your checking account and say ‘this is all I’m spending.’ When you’ve spent it all, stop buying gifts.

Making charitable donations before December 31st can help with your tax bill come April.  Whether it’s donating clothing to Goodwill or giving money to a charitable organization, make sure you get a receipt if you plan to use your donation as a tax write-off.

Didn’t put away as much as you should have for retirement?  Add to your plan if you can afford it.

Michelle says you should get your retirement accounts as close to maxed out as possible.  If you’re receiving a match from an employer in a 401K, and you haven’t gotten to the max for that match, Michelle says, you’re leaving money on the table.

If you have investments, take a look at your portfolio. This is a great time to look at your investment strategy and evaluate if things are going the way they should be.

Personal Capital has a free app that can help with everything from budgeting to investment strategy and let you know where you stand.

As we say goodbye to 2017, don’t be afraid to sell some of your high performing investments.

Michelle says one of the keys to successful long term investing is having the discipline to rebalance.  If something has gone up, you don’t have to sell the whole position, but Michelle suggests taking some of the profits off the table, so if next year isn’t as strong, you’re not left overexposed to something that did well in the past.

You also might want to unload some losers.  Michelle says this is a great time to look at investments that may not have done as well and sell those at a loss, which you might be able to write off against your capital gains, depending on your tax situation.

Another thing to think about as we head into 2018? Budgeting.  If creating a budget seems overwhelming, Michelle says, start small.  Spend 15 minutes each week reviewing your income and your spending.  It will become a habit that will help you become more financially aware.

And above all, if you’re carrying any high-interest credit card debt into 2018, your top financial priority should be paying that off.