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Moves to Make Before the Year is Out

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Published Fri, Dec 18, 2020 8:00 AM EST

By: Michelle Fox @MFOXCNBC

Don’t forget to check your retirement plan. Here are moves to make before the year is out.

As you check off your to-do list for the end of the year, don’t forget to look at your retirement savings.

Whether it is an individual retirement account, an employer-sponsored plan like a 401(k) or a brokerage account, assessing your portfolio is crucial.

That means checking to see where you are at with your savings, comparing it to your long-term financial planning goals and making a plan to bridge the gap, if necessary, said certified financial planner David Totah, senior wealth advisor at Frisco, Texas-based Exencial Wealth Advisors. There’s no better time to do it than the end of the year.  “We are wrapping up the year and beginning a new year and you have the entire year for these changes to impact your position, your plan,” he said.


Rebalancing your portfolio

While the stock market has been volatile, it is up — which means your portfolio could be out of balance. Instead of a 60% stocks/40% bonds split, you could be more heavily weighted in equities than you want.  “If there is a big downturn, you will expose yourself to a bigger loss,” said CFP Jude Boudreaux, senior financial planner with The Planning Center in New Orleans.

Sell some stock to get yourself back to your original asset allocation.

“Buy low, sell high,” he said. “Stay disciplined to a strategy.”

If you have a target-date fund in your 401(k), which is geared towards your anticipated retirement date, it will automatically adjust the allocations based on your age.

Next year’s 401(k) contributions

401(k) plan
 designer491 | iStock | Getty Images

Try to contribute enough to your 401(k) to at least get your employer’s matching contribution, if there is one.

“Pay yourself first,” Totah said. “Save the money first, and then spend what is left over.”

It may also be a good time to see if you can bump up the amount of your contribution for next year.

“Don’t let the perfect ‘I can’t get to the max so I won’t make any changes’ get in the way of doing 1%,” said Boudreaux, a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council.

“Try 1% and see how it goes,” he added. “Taking a step forward and doing a little more can be a big plus.”

You may also be in line for an annual raise. For instance, if it is 3%, aim to bump up your contribution by 2%, if you can.

 Also, if you are age 50 or older, consider trying to add in the catch-up contribution. The contribution limit for 2021 is $19,500, but people age 50 and up are allowed an extra $6,500.

“Catch-up contributions are so critical,” Totah noted. “You are in the last quarter of the game.

“You have to start socking it away if you are short of your goals.”

The right exposure

You may find that you have a lot of stocks in a certain sector, especially if there were a lot of gains during 2020. You may consider reducing some of that exposure, Totah said.

You may then increase your exposure in another area.

“Make sure that the positions that you own currently are the positions you want to own next year in possibly a new type of economic situation,” he said.

Tax-loss harvesting

If you made money on the sale of some investments this year, you can offset those gains with selling other assets at a loss during the same year.

This is called tax-loss harvesting, and it should reduce the amount of capital gains taxes you’ll have to pay.

Charitable donations

charitable giving
 Constantine Johnny | Moment | Getty Images

If you have shares that have gone up in value, you can give them to a charity and not pay the capital gains tax. You also get the charitable deduction on your income tax if you itemize. If you take the standard deduction, you still get a $300 charitable deduction write-off this year.

Those 70½ and older can make a qualified charitable distribution from their IRA without itemizing their taxes. It is a way to donate money directly from your account without paying taxes on the withdrawal.

Remember, although life can get hectic around the holidays, it is a good time to also pause and reflect on your financial strategies, said Boudreaux.

“Think about what we want to be different next year and what steps we want to take to make that happen,” he said.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.