Are you starting to panic that December is practically half way over and the New Year is around the bend? I certainly have felt the weeks disappearing lately and only today remembered I need to get a jump on holiday gifts before I miss all the shipping deadlines for Christmas. Having to fork over expedited shipping costs at the last minute is such a burn and I don’t want to get caught in that boat again.
With limited time left before the year is up, we have to focus on prioritizing our to-do lists! Here are some must-dos I recommend you tackle asap.
Complete open enrollment right now. Make sure you’ve taken care of all of your insurance needs! Reviewing policies and filling out forms is a pita, but it’s not something to risk procrastinating on any longer. I can speak from experience that insurance is invaluable. Deadlines vary by employer and provider, so get on it!
Estimate your YTD taxable income and deductions. A lot of tax rule changes are coming. I know that taxes can seem confusing and impossible to figure out, but you can’t use that as an excuse to stay in the dark. I hate paying taxes, but I love understanding what the rules are and how I can optimize and reduce my tax liabilities each year. Educate yourself on upcoming tax hikes on Social Security and Trump’s middle class tax increases. You still have a couple weeks left to increase your tax deductions for this year or opt to defer income.
Max out your 401(k). One of the smartest things I’ve done in my retirement planning, was maxing out my 401(k) many years ago. At first I wasn’t sure I could afford to do it, but I saw the immense upside, quickly adapted and never looked back. If you have access to a 401(k) plan, I strongly encourage you to push yourself and max it out. If you need some motivation, look at these recommendations of 401(k) balances by age. Be sure to get your contribution changes in asap before your employer’s deadline.
Don’t lose any hard earned PTO. I never had a problem going over my vacation accrual cap when I was working in a corporate environment full-time. But, I was surprised how many of my staff would lose days each year-end because they didn’t schedule enough time off. Don’t be like them! You’ve worked hard to earn your PTO, so check on your balance and make sure to get some time in before year-end. Even a 1-2 day staycation can be a huge refresher and a great way to tackle other year-end must dos.
Calculate your net worth. When I was younger, I used to think personal finance and investing was boring and complicated. But now I’m almost a bit obsessed. I started producing income reports to become more aware of my monthly earnings and to stay motivated to save and invest. During this process I also started tracking my net worth. If you’re not sure where to begin calculating your net worth, there’s a fantastic website, Personal Capital, that does all the leg work for you. And the best part is their online tools are free! Knowing your net worth will improve your financial awareness and help you grow your wealth faster. Look at these average net worth figures for the above average person to get inspired to grow your own empire.
Analyze the YTD financial statements for your business. If you are self-employed or a small business owner, I can’t emphasize how important it is to review your financial statements before year-end. Hopefully you’re already doing this on a quarterly basis, but if not, drop everything and do it right now. Look for ways to improve cash management, optimize expenses and identify your money makers and losers. There are always a million things happening at once when you have a business, that it’s easy to forget to prioritize accounting and fine tuning operations.
List out your wins and losses. A lot can happen in 365 days. What have you done with yours? Unless we sit down and actually jog our memories, we often forget so many of the things that happened to us over the course of a year, which is such a shame. It’s incredibly rewarding to remember your wins – it’s worth the time. And even though losses are disappointing, we need to remind ourselves of what went wrong too so we can grow and set new goals. Check out the “1 Second Everyday: Video Diary” app for your smart phone. It’s a great memory jogger. I’ve used it for almost 3 years now and wish I started sooner! Starting a blog is also a fantastic way to keep track of wins and losses – Untemplater has completely changed my life for the better. Check out my how to start a blog page for everything you need to get started.
Skip the cards and go simple for the holidays. I used to get so stressed out about sending holiday cards on time until one year I just decided to stop sending them altogether! Most people just end up throwing them in the recycling bin (although they won’t say so to your face) so I figured what’s the point. Now I send personalized emails or just pick up the phone and call instead – easier, faster, free and more effective. As for gifts, I just stick to the young kids in my family and don’t feel ashamed giving gift cards. Who doesn’t love money? I was ecstatic receiving cash when I was a kid!
Get excited about the New Year. This should be easy. I always feel rejuvenated when a new year starts and part of the fun is the anticipation. I start mulling about new goals I want to set, think about ways I want to grow and what changes could be in store. Life is too short to stop learning and to just sit around watching TV. Find ways to enrich your life and feel engaged. Get out there and have more fun!
Untemplaters, are you feeling stress from the holidays and year-end? What are some year-end must dos on your list? What do you have planned for the last few weeks of this year?
Financial Slacker says
I can absolutely relate to paying those expedited shipping costs. For some reason, it’s happened to me repeatedly over the years. The frustrating thing is that I often order from the same company yet always wait until the last minute.
This year, I’ve been better and have most of my shopping done already.
Glad you got your shopping out of the way. I lucked out using Amazon prime on most of my shopping in order to get gifts out before Christmas. The holidays really snuck up fast this year!
Financial Slacker says
Unfortunately, I spoke too soon. I did wind up paying expedited shipping fees on two items ordered earlier in the week.
Maybe next year.
That’s a great list. Luckily I think I’m caught up on gifts and a lot of the other points. I’m probably going to analyze my wins and losses when I plan for my 2017 goals.
I’m taking an extra day off for the big Christmas weekend so I’ll have extra time to recharge for the new year!
Glad you had a nice long weekend. Can’t wait to hear about your upcoming goals. I’m going to be working on writing mine out this week.
I’ve read that most people don’t use all of their vacation days each year, and it really shocked me. Apparently some people do it on purpose because they want to look like a more dedicated employee, but to me that seems like a big sacrifice. Anyone working for a living works hard and deserves some time off to recharge.
Totally. Taking time to recharge is really important. I loved taking time off. I actually wished I had more days even when I had a very generous 30 days of PTO!
Sam @ Financial Samurai says
Good reminders Sydney. Thanks!
I’m very excited to analyze year end business numbers. I feel there’s always some type of positive surprise that’s not accounted for when you consistently do something all year!
Glad you enjoyed the reminders! I always set myself an alert to pay my Q4 estimated taxes before the year-end is up. They’re not due until January, but I like to get them paid in December so I can get the benefit of the write off in this year.