Four Tips to Help You Achieve Your Financial Goals in the New Year!
It’s always a great time to get your financial house in order, especially when you’re preparing for the upcoming year.
1) Minimize Your Tax Bill on April 15*
Owing taxes in April can hurt your monthly cash flow, even more so when you’re not expecting a large outflow from your bank account.
Whether you owe taxes or you’re getting a refund, your tax scenario in April of 2019 is directly tied to how much the government withholds from your paychecks this year. The less the IRS and California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) withhold, the larger the amount you owe come April of the following year OR the less your tax refund will be. Alternatively, the more the IRS and FTB withhold from your paychecks, the lower the amount you owe come the following April OR the more your tax refund will be.
You can adjust withholdings at any time by filling out and submitting a Form W-4 to your employer. This is the form that your employers require you to fill out when you start a new job. You can re-submit a new form W-4 to your employer anytime during the year.
It’s best to connect with your CPA at the beginning of the year and have them suggest a withholding amount that won’t interfere with your income tax planning strategy. This is an especially important step this year due to recent changes in federal tax laws.
*For those of you who are well-read on taxes, it is true that owing some taxes in April of the following year translates to not giving the IRS & FTB an interest-free loan. While this is the case, potential underpayment penalties and interest need to be considered. Planning opportunities aside, I find that for most people, the anxiety associated with cutting a large check to the IRS & FTB outweighs the gratification associated with not giving the IRS & FTB an interest-free loan.
2) Assess Your Spending Habits with WealthBoost Advisor's Family Budget Planner
Your financial circumstances are constantly changing so it’s necessary to re-assess your budget at least twice a year. The beginning and middle of the year are great times to do this.
Click here to download a free WealthBoost Advisor's Family Budget Planner template to assess your spending habits.
Perfectionists beware! Recognize that your goal is not to be perfect, but to get started. If you start by inputting your income, taxes, and largest expenses, you’ll begin to see your cash flow picture quickly.
3) Simplify Your 401(k)/403(b)/457 Contributions In 2018
If you want to maximize your contributions to your 401(k)/403(b)/457, then you can easily plan for this for the entire year.
- If in 2018 you plan on investing $18,500 (plus, if you’re over 50 years old, $6,000 in catch-up contributions) for the year into your retirement plan, then take that dollar figure and divide it by the number of paychecks you will receive for the rest of the year.
- If you get paid twice a month (as opposed to every 2 weeks) and it is January 1st, divide $18,500 by 24 pay periods to get $771/pay period that will be withheld from your paycheck.
You can adjust your 401(k)/403(b)/457 withholding amount by logging onto your plan’s website or by asking for help from your HR department.
Contributing throughout the year accomplishes two goals: (1) it eases up cash flow planning since a certain dollar amount is withheld each and every pay period, and (2) it enables you to dollar-cost-average into the investments you have selected within your retirement plan.
4) Spend Down Your Prior Year’s Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
If you have an FSA with your employer, be aware that many companies give their FSA owning employees until March 15 to use up their FSA contributions from the previous year. If left unused you could end up losing your contribution, so it’s best to use up these funds as soon as possible.
Some companies allow employees to roll over up to $500 in unspent FSA contributions to the following year. If this is the case with your company, then you have some breathing room to spend the funds you contributed last year, but only up to that $500 amount.
I hope these tips help you take action to achieve your financial goals in 2018 and beyond.
If you know anyone who might need help jumpstarting their 2018 financial planning, please feel free to forward this along.
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