It’s November, so along with all the Thanksgiving and Christmas activity, we’re about to be bombarded with articles about resolutions for the New Year. It’s just part of the natural “news” cycle. Let me say up-front, this is NOT a resolutions article. Now wait for it, just wait, for the inevitable “but” or “however.” OK, it’s not a resolutions article, BUT, suggestions of things you might want to think about now for 2018 rather than year-end, or worse yet, sometime next year.
Five items to consider for 2018:
- Vacation: Yes, vacation. Set the date(s) and get it/them on the calendar now. Put in for the time-off, ASAP. I can’t believe how many people leave vacation time unused every year. It’s a chance to recharge and see things from a different perspective. It’s good for you, and likely good for your work. For business owners- block out a few days afterwards to catch-up without having to juggle customer meetings. If your business can’t function without you for a week or so, we should talk.
- Retirement savings: While you can change your contributions to your retirement plan any time, now is a good one to review what you’re doing. If you’re maxing out contributions to your 401k – awesome! If not, how about increasing it by 1% or 2% for 2018. You probably won’t notice it- until years from now. Did you turn 50 this year, or will in ’18? You’re eligible for “catch-up” contributions of an additional $6,000. If you don’t have a retirement plan at work, don’t forget about IRAs. You can put $5,500 in each year. 50 or over? You can do another $1,000. You can do this even for a spouse who isn’t working.
- Skills training: An odd one, perhaps, but an important item that often gets overlooked. If anything has changed in the American labor market in the last thirty to forty years, it’s that education and training can’t end when formal education does. Your ability to earn a living is your greatest investment asset. What skills would make you more valuable in your current job? What new ones would get you the next job you want? Companies hire and keep those who bring the most to the table. If it’s job-related, your company might even pay. Either way- an annual skills enhancement program needs to be part of career management.
- Education savings: Did you have a child this year, or become a grandparent (again)? If you see education as important to her future, consider a 529 account. Some states offer tax incentives to residents for contributions (NC no longer does). However, your grandchild may live in a state that does. You could give the money to the parents to contribute, so they get the breaks. Everyone wins. You’re helping the next generation, your child gets a tax break, and your grandchild gets an education.
- Taxes: Arghhhh!!!! I know. The “T”-word. If you’re a business owner, it’s a great time to visit your accountant to review the year, talk about strategies for year-end or next year, and make sure all is well. For W-2 employees, it’s a good time to make a folder to collect all the things that will be coming year-end. If you’ve recently retired, or will in 2018, I suggest a visit with your accountant. Things may change. Have her do a projection for 2018 so you can plan accordingly. It may look very different than what you’re used to. Nobody likes tax time, but many of us make it harder than it needs to be.
Not all of these may apply to you, but if one or a few do, November is a great time to get a jump on them. Then you can sit back and watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” knowing it truly is.
Todd Washburn, CFP®
Todd Washburn Solutions, LLC Fee-only financial planning
“Life Planning for Visionary People” firstname.lastname@example.org