Now that 2019 is rapidly winding down, it's time to get your financial ducks in a row before the new year kicks off. If you're eager to end the current year on a positive money-related note, be sure to check the following items off your list before January 1, 2020.
1. Max out your retirement plan contributions -- or get as close as you can
The more money you put into your IRA or 401(k) on an annual basis, the less financial stress you'll have as a senior. But that's not the only reason to fund a retirement plan; if you save in a traditional IRA or 401(k), you can lower your 2019 taxes by maxing out your contributions for the year, or getting as close as possible.
For the current year, you can contribute up to $19,000 to a 401(k), or up to $6,000 to an IRA, if you're under 50. If you're 50 or over, these limits increase to $25,000 and $7,000, respectively. And while you don't have a lot of time left to fund your account, cutting back on spending in the coming weeks could at least help you eke out a few extra hundred dollars, which will immediately help your tax situation improve. Furthermore, while you only have until December 31 to finish funding your 401(k) for the year, if you're saving in an IRA, you actually get up until the 2020 tax deadline in April to contribute for 2019, so keep that in mind if you don't manage to squeeze out extra savings in the coming weeks.
2. Assess your investments
Chances are, you have investments in either a tax-advantaged retirement plan or a traditional brokerage account. The end of the year is a great time to check up on your portfolio, see how it's performing, and determine whether you need to make adjustments to better align with your goals, life changes, or appetite for risk.
Furthermore, if you're sitting on losing investments in your traditional brokerage account, be sure to unload them before 2019 closes out. That way, your loss can serve as a tax deduction when you file this year's return in 2020.
3. Figure out whether you'll itemize on this year's tax return
Your 2019 tax return may not be due until April 2020, but here's a good reason to put some thought into it now: If you decide that it makes sense to itemize your deductions for the current year, you can accelerate certain deductions so they can be claimed for 2019 purposes.
For example, the IRS allows you to deduct medical expenses that exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). If your AGI for the year is $60,000, you can only claim expenses in excess of $6,000. Therefore, if you decide to itemize, and you're sitting on $5,500 in medical expenses at present, it could pay to push up key appointments and procedures to increase your out-of-pocket costs for the current year, rather than pay those expenses in the new year and potentially lose the opportunity to deduct them.
The same applies to charitable giving. If you're going to be itemizing this year, you may want to accelerate some donations to get the highest deduction.
The moves you make this month could set the stage for a more financially healthy 2020. Check these key items off your list, and you'll be happier for it in the new year.