Whether or not the last 334 days or so have been turbulent, static or somewhere in between, one thing is for sure, December begets a host of consistencies: holiday traditions, religious celebrations, frigid temperatures, bitter or sweet reflections and an opportunity to tie up loose ends around your personal economy.
Even though our elected officials remain at a stalemate and the agendas are more selfish than altruistic, don’t let the cantankerous few in Washington and on Wall Street scribble on your blueprint of financial freedom. Stay on top of your personal and financial targets and fashion wise decisions for your families.
Start by asking yourself two questions: “Where do I want to be one year from now?” and “What could I be doing better?” You should revisit these questions frequently but year-end is a likely time because it’s the time people are rethinking, recommitting and discussing their financial goals.
There are countless articles, expert economic projections coming from all angles but more importantly, there is the renewed energy that comes with each upcoming year. So sprint with this energy and optimism behind you. Once you have gotten enough momentum, shift to slow and steady.
Before the lights go out in 2011 and you suit up for the 2012 sprint, the following ideas and year-end strategies are to assure 2011 can rest in peace:
1. Assess your 2012 income expectations: about the same or moving into a higher or lower tax bracket?
2. Keep your holiday spending in check. A great deal is only that if it fits within your spending margins. Note: Don’t spend your bonus before you get it on holiday shopping.
3. Dust off your résumé and update it with your 2011 professional accomplishments, continued education and additional roles and responsibilities. Don’t wait until you are actively seeking a new job.
4. Max out your Roth IRA. If you are not systematically saving to the maximum, figure a way to achieve this prior to April 2012. There are huge benefits to funding a Roth IRA.
5. Revisit your spending plan. and plan ahead to increase your cash reserve savings. Even the smallest increment will make a difference to your liquid cash picture.
6. Familiarize yourself on the irs.gov website with the current tax legislation and focus on the tax advantages and incentives that are set to expire on December 31. Hire a tax professional to assure you are capturing all tax credits and deductions you are entitled to.
7. If you get a year-end bonus, and it projects you into the higher tax bracket, it may make sense to defer it (if your employer allows this) until the following year. Self-employed/1099 incomes tend to have more flexibility around this strategy.
8. Increase your pretax deductions if you have not reached the maximum contribution level (i.e., 401K, retirement plan savings).
9. Apply to work at retail stores for some extra income. All retail stores have extended hours during the holidays, plus they would probably appreciate the extra help. Since you’re not going to get rich here with your new part-time gig, make sure the logistics (very short commute, no added costs out of your pocket) make sense.
10. Shrink your outflow column (from November’s article) by checking out www.billshrink.com, a free and easy cost-saving tool that will look for opportunities to save you money on your everyday expenses.
As I draw from my own experiences, 2011 has been a whirlwind of opportunity, growth, major expenditures (crippling my cash reserve) and several proud mommy moments. I look forward to what 2012 has in store.
Freelance writer, financial consultant, entrepreneur and mom, Tamela Saulsberry brings a combined 16 years of experience in business, finance, sales and coaching. She is delighted to receive your questions and feedback. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-269-2341.