In the dog days of summer, it’s easy to (finally) shake off last winter’s deep freeze. It’s also enticingly easy to forget that the year is now half over. How are you doing on last January’s resolutions? Here are five easy financial planning steps that can help you go far in savoring the rest of your summer, and beyond.
1. Retirement funding – Whether your workplace retirement savings plan is a 401(k), 403(b), 457 or similar plan, take a few moments to confirm that you are making best use of it and are meeting your annual savings goals. Have you optimized the opportunities available to you? If not, consider bumping up your deferral rate to the maximum, or at least by enough to take full advantage of any employer (“free money”) matching contributions.
Contribution limits for 2015: The 2015 limits on employee pretax contributions into company retirement plans is $18,000, or $24,000 for people age 50 or older by the end of the year (which includes a $6,000 “catch-up” amount). If your plan allows for Roth 401(k) contributions, which like Roth IRA contributions are made with after-tax dollars, you may want to consider this option for some or all of your contributions. The limits are the same as pretax deferrals ($18,000 or $24,000), but you forgo a current tax benefit in exchange for tax-free growth.
2. Health care costs – Ditto for any Health Savings Account (HSA), Flexible Savings Account (FSA) or similar account.
Contribution limits for 2015: For 2015, the annual limit on tax-deductible contributions to an HSA is $3,350 for a person with individual coverage under a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP). For a person with family coverage, the limit is $6,650. Those 55 or older can contribute an additional $1,000. If your employer contributes to an HSA on your behalf, all contributions by you and your employer are combined to determine whether you’ve reached your maximum contribution level for the year.
3. Other long-term savings – Take stock of your IRAs, 529 accounts and other personal savings earmarked for your life’s varied goals (vacation home, travel budget, etc.). Are you where you want to be? If not, do you want to save more, tilt your investments toward greater risks/expected rewards, and/or lower your expectations? If you are on track or even ahead of the game, do you want to shift some of your investments into more stable holdings, to more reliably preserve what you’ve already achieved?
4. Near-term expenses – Have you regularly set aside money for upcoming big-ticket items such as back-to-school costs, real-estate taxes and quarterly estimated payments? Or, if you are planning to spend funds that are currently invested in the market, have you considered how to free up those funds most efficiently, including avoiding taxable gains, minimizing transaction costs and planning for other timing implications?
5. Next year’s taxes – April 15 may seem like a long way off, but you can avoid tax penalties next spring by doing a bit of big-picture projecting today. Take a moment to compare your 2015 earnings to your withholdings and any estimated quarterly payments, to ensure your projected tax payments have got you covered so far.
With these five steps achieved, you should be all set to head for the pool, the golf links or the nearest outdoor activity that strikes your fancy. Enjoy the rest of your summer, and if you could use some help knocking them off your list, give us a call.