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Last Chance for Smart Money Moves: 10 Things to Consider Right Now


Last Chance for Smart Money Moves: 10 Things to Consider Right Now

By Heather Belli, CFP®, CDFA Willow Creek Wealth Management

Now is the time to avoid the most common and costly financial planning mistakes: waiting too long to make smart moves before year-end.

Here is a checklist of things you should be thinking about right now while there’s time to change them:

Retirement Plan Contributions: review your IRA, 401(k), SEP or other retirement plans to make sure you’ve maximized contributions.  There is still time before year-end to increase your 401(k) contributions and leverage your employer’s contribution.

Insurance: when was the last time you took a look at your insurance coverage? If there have been any changes in your living situation, you may want to update your homeowners or auto insurance. If you’ve been with the same company for many years, it may be time to get a competitive bid.

Estate Planning: Have there been significant changes to anyone named in the will? i.e. the birth of a child, marriage, divorce or separation? Also, any significant change in income or wealth of either the testator or a beneficiary, any major change in the needs, circumstances or objectives of the testator or the beneficiaries may necessitate a change of beneficiaries in your will, qualified retirement plans, or insurance policies.

Keep accurate and up-to-date records and tell your executor where they are kept so that your executor has access to all pertinent documents. Make a list of the names and phone numbers of advisors your family can count on and attach it to your documents. Whether you use a will, a family trust or another instrument to define your wishes, be sure that you discuss your plans with your family, in advance of the need. 

Charitable Gifting: Planning to make a charitable donation or gift to friends or family? You’ll need time to select specific recipients and to decide whether to give cash or appreciated assets like stocks.

FSA Accounts: If you have a flex spending account at work, you need to use it or lose it by the end of the year. If you put in $2,000, for example, you don’t want to have $1,000 sitting there at year-end. Using up the remaining funds in a flex spending account can be easy if you need new glasses, but if you are planning for a complex medical procedure, now may be the time to schedule it before 2017.

Investment Portfolios: A portfolio review of your investments should be done now as well to take advantage of any potential tax loss harvesting to reduce your income tax liability.

RMDs: Year-end means Required Minimum Distribution deadlines. Make sure you take your RMD from your retirement accounts if you are at least 70 ½ in 2016, or are the beneficiary of an inherited IRA. And if you have charitable intent, you can now donate your RMD (or a portion of it) to a qualified charity and not be taxed on it.

Rebalance: Assess whether you need to re-balance investments. For example, if your risk tolerance is 60% equities, and if the equity portion of your  portfolio has grown to 65% or 70%, shift money from your top-performing assets into those that haven't done as well.  But be wary of creating capital gains taxes in taxable accounts. One tax-smart way to rebalance is to use new deposits or contributions to increase underweighted assets.

Meet with your wealth manager or accountant soon, while there is time to review your personal situation and take advantage of opportunities to leverage your finances and reduce your taxes. Don’t wait until the end of the year when you may lose options to make important adjustments!


Heather Belli, CFP®, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner with Willow Creek Wealth Management, Inc. in Sebastopol, one of the leading wealth management firms in California. For more information go to or call 707/829-1146.