To organize and carry out your household financial plan, you need to ensure finances are checked regularly and action is taken as needed.
“It’s easier to do these things in small bites. You don’t want to try and do a year’s worth of financial planning in one sitting. It can be too daunting, and then it never gets implemented,” says Geoffrey M. Zimmerman, CFP®, senior client advisor at Mosaic Financial Partners Inc.
Smart Business spoke with Zimmerman about executing personal financial planning.
What should a year of financial planning include?
January — Prepare a household net worth calculation that looks at all your assets against debts and liabilities. Compare last year’s statement to this year’s to see if you increased your household net worth. Also review your spending plan for the year as year-end reports become available.
Adjust your payroll elections to maximize contributions to employer retirement plans and/or executive top hat plans. For corporate executives, implement any exercise and hold strategies with incentive stock options.
February — Review your property and casualty insurance, such as homeowners and auto, especially if you made a major purchase last year. Your excess liability coverage needs to be adequate relative to both your current net worth and earnings potential.
March — Pull out old statements and clear out the deadwood. You’ll need to keep certain documents for tax purposes, like your cost basis on securities, but your advisers can suggest how long to retain documents.
It’s also time to look at your portfolio, and rebalance it if needed. According to Gobind Daryanani, in a 2008 Journal of Financial Planning article, if you look frequently and rebalance when an asset class has deviated from its target by 20 percent or more, you can pick up some additional returns.
April —Increase your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) contributions for the prior year before the tax-filing deadline. By funding your IRA now with $5,500 annually, $6,500 if you’re older than 50, funds are less prone to leak out of the ATM.
May — Update estate plan documents. Have there been changes affecting the people you have in place to act on your behalf? Were there changes in the tax laws, exemption amounts, your net worth or state of residence?
June — Time for a midyear review. Evaluate your placement of assets for tax efficiency, rebalance your portfolio and consider midyear tax loss harvesting in your after-tax accounts. If your non-IRA account has a security at a loss, you can sell it, take the loss and buy something similar but not identical. The losses can be used throughout the year or carried into the future.
July — Think about the future with your significant other, spouse or partner. Kick back, dream about what you and your family want, and jot down a few notes.
August — Check your Section 529 savings accounts for the kids and grandkids. If they aren’t set up yet, don’t wait; college isn’t getting cheaper. These plans allow contributions to be made to pay for post-high school education at a qualified institution, tax-free.
September — Pull out the notes on your future plans from July. Use it to update the financial plan, looking for necessary changes. Also, rebalance your portfolio.
October — With open enrollment, review employee benefit elections for medical, life, disability, vision, dental, etc. Also look at your outside insurance such as life and long-term care against current needs. Corporate executives with nonqualified deferred compensation plans need to elect salary deferral for the following year.
November — Begin year-end tax reviews to manage tax liability. It’s also a good time to finalize remaining charitable donations, including appreciated stock.
December — Do an end of year wrapup, such as annual gifting, financial portfolio rebalancing or tax-loss harvesting. IRA to Roth conversions must be done before Dec. 31. Also, go back to exercised incentive stock options and decide whether to do a disqualified position and sell that stock, or to hold it into the following year.
Finally, take a look at this list and see how much you were able to complete this year. Were you able to do it all? Lift a cup of egg nog and celebrate. And, if you didn’t, then consider enlisting the help of a financial planner to help you stay on track. ●
Insights Wealth Management & Finance is brought to you by Mosaic Financial Partners Inc.