Year-end financial planning

Before we sing 'should auld acquaintance be forgot,' we must not forget our finances.

Champagne glasses

Before we sing “should auld acquaintance be forgot,” we must not forget our finances! The final few months of the year are an important time to review your financial picture and make sure you have a plan for 2018 and beyond.

The month of December can be like a whirlwind with all the holiday festivities. I recommend you start now, so you can enjoy the last month of the year.

Consider these smart money moves:

Prep for tax season

The tax-filing season opens in January, and there’s a lot you can do ahead of time to get ready. The first step is getting organized. Prepare folders for all your income, expenses, deductions and investments.

You can break your deductions down by category by creating, for example, sections for medical, charity and business. You can even do a dry run on your taxes so you have a better idea of your tax situation. By doing that dry run before the new year, you’re giving yourself time to take action if you’re not happy with what you find.

Reduce your tax bill

There are several steps you can take before the end of the year to reduce your tax bill.

Look for any payments you can make early, like your January mortgage payment. If you can make it in December, you can deduct the interest on the current year.

Bump up your contributions in your 401(k) at work, so more of your income is tax-deferred.

Be charitable! Donations made to charities in 2017 may be deductible on this year’s taxes.

Set your 2018 financial plan

Take a comprehensive look at your finances. Did you have any unnecessary expenses in 2017 that you can cut next year? Can you increase your savings in 2018?

If you don’t have a budget, now is the time to set one. You may also want to set up a meeting with your financial professional for an annual review. This is especially important for anyone approaching retirement, to make any necessary adjustments.

Convert to a Roth IRA

You may want to consider converting some of your money from a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA. You don’t get up-front tax breaks on a Roth IRA. However, your withdrawals are made tax-free as long as you’re older than 59½.

Remember: Roth IRAs are subject to what’s called the five-year rule; you can’t withdraw your earnings tax-free until five years after the tax year you make your first contribution. No matter when you make a conversion in 2017, the clock is set back to Jan. 1, 2017.

And that’s good news: That means if you make a conversion in November or December, it’s like getting a free year! You’ll be able to start withdrawing your earnings tax-free a full year earlier than if you wait until next January.

Check your insurance

Life insurance always seems to be a daunting topic because it means talking about what happens to your finances when you pass away.

But it’s important to remember life insurance takes care of your family, helping ensure your loved ones will be financially secure even when you’re not around.

A good rule is to get enough coverage for 10 to 15 times your current salary. In addition to making sure you have coverage, now is a good time to check that your beneficiaries are up to date. You may need to adjust them if there were any major life changes, such as births, deaths, marriages or divorces this year.

Matt Gulbransen is the president of Callahan Financial Planning in Woodbury, Minn., and holds an Accredited Wealth Management Advisor designation. Learn more at