Every fall I do certain maintenance tasks around the house. For instance, I spiff up the yard by raking the leaves, planting seed and rotating bushes and plants. I seal the concrete benches, clean out the oven, clean the mini-blinds and etc. As I was doing the yearly mini-blind cleaning it occurred to me that we also have fall financial tasks to accomplish – especially this year with the ‘fiscal cliff’ looming.
So, here are seven financial tasks we will undertake this fall.
Research open enrollment needs.
Open enrollment occurs every November for those employed by others. Now is the time to dig in and see what you really need. Last year, for instance, we added vision coverage – as it had been several years since we had done eye checks and eye glasses. This year we may not need that.
Those who have flexible spending and health savings accounts need to check to make sure they are on track to use up that pre-tax savings, if you need to do so. Now is also the time to decide if you want (and are eligible) to enroll in these plans.
One of my ex-co workers enrolled so that he could help pay for laser surgery. It was considered cosmetic back then (and may still be), but he was able to save the taxes on the money he spent on the surgery by using one of these plans. So, if you are planning elective surgery or treatments, see if there is any benefit to you by enrolling.
If you or your parents are eligible for medicare – don’t forget to include its open enrollment on your financial task checklist too.
Check your holiday fund status.
We are already over the starting line of the Christmas shopping season race. Now is the time to verify that you have the funds to cover your expenses, or if not, to find ways to cut those expenses. Don’t just include the gifts, also think about the tree, decorations, food, travel and special clothing or pictures or events that add strain to your budget.
If you haven’t already, one way to save might be to institute a new gifting policy in your family – agreed to by all. For instance, instead of each family giving gifts to everyone in the extended family, draw names, or agree to give only to kids under a certain age and etc.
Make sure your estimated tax payments are on track.
By now you may have already paid estimated taxes 3 times. You get one more chance, in January, to make sure that you have paid in enough to avoid penalties. The IRS expects us to pay as we go, in the quarter the money was earned. Don’t forget to include your side business income, lottery winnings, expected year end bonus, capital gains from any sales you decide to do, interest and dividends and etc. Also, don’t forget that your state also expects estimated taxes each quarter!
Check your asset allocation to be ready for year end buys or sells.
Fall is also a good time to prepare for those last minute year end buys or sells. Check your asset allocation to see if your investments are in line with your hoped for percentages for each sector. If not, make plans or put in limit orders with your broker.
Decide whether to take some capital gains while the rates are low.
The tax rate on gains is still at 15% this year (unless you are at or below the 24% marginal tax rate – then it is 0%). Who knows where it will be next year. If you have been thinking of taking some profits, now is the time to figure out what to sell and at what price, making sure it fits with your tax strategy for the year.
Get your business and personal records up to date for tax prep.
Although there is still half a year until April, keeping business and personal records in order really cuts down on the time it takes to get ready to do your taxes, or send your information to your accountant. If you haven’t kept up, now is a good time to start – before the main rush of the holidays is upon you.
Take action if you want to take advantage of high gift tax exemption limits.
According to CNN Money,
“This year, estates under $5 million are exempt from the tax. Amounts above that are taxed up to a top rate of 35%”… but… “In 2013, if the exemption level falls to $1 million.”
Gifts under $5 million are also exempt from the tax.
In addition, tax rates this year are ‘just’ 35% of the amount over the limit, but next year the rate will be 55% of the amount over the limit.
Even those just starting out should think about whether they should act now to take advantage of this.
For instance, if you have been investing in real estate, you may want to set up a trust for your children and gift the real estate into the trust (especially if the current value is over the annual gift tax exclusion amount – currently $13,000 per person). That way, any future growth is out of your estate and the real estate can be passed to your children tax free.
While we certainly don’t have $5 mi to give away, we do have a vacation condo that we want to go to our kids some day. We are talking about whether now is the time to do that – to take advantage of the higher gift tax exemption limit.
Even the IRS admits that estate and gift tax laws are among the most convoluted of the tax laws and suggests that you hire an attorney or Certified Public Accountant to help you. – so don’t take action without doing so.
It takes time to work through the details of these laws and to establish any legal structures needed to deal with them, so get started asap if you plan to take action to use these beneficial limits and rates.
Do you have specific fall financial tasks to do? What are they and why do you do them in the fall?
This post has been written by Marie from FamilyMoneyValues.com. Be sure to visit her site if you’ve enjoyed this post.
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.