It’s hard to believe that the end of 2015 is approaching. Now is a good time to think about year-end activities you can perform to get your financial house in order for 2016. I’ve invited Financial Advisor Sharon Case* to offer some financial tips to help you get ready for the new year. By taking the time to get organized now, you’ll be able accomplish your long-term goals more easily.
Review Your Health Insurance Options. It’s time to go through that pile of mail and look for any notifications from your insurance company. Many insurance companies across the nation are updating their plans for 2016, and some 2015 plans are being discontinued. Those enrolled in these plans have an opportunity to shop for new plans until January 31, 2016. If you choose a new plan on or before December 31, 2015, your new plan will start January 1, 2016.
Practice tax loss harvesting. You can potentially sell investments which have lost value by the end of the year to total at least $3000 in capital losses. In fact, some investors can use this tactic to offset all their capital gains for a given tax year. Losses that exceed the $3000 yearly limit can be rolled over in future tax years to offset capital gains again. Track down your investment statements and discuss this strategy with your tax professional to see if it makes sense.
Find out if you can contribute the maximum to your IRA. The maximum contribution in 2015 for a Roth IRA or a Traditional IRA is $5,500 if you are age 49 or younger, and $6,500 if you are age 50 or older. The sooner you contribute to your IRA, the sooner the money invested has a chance to grow. There are also income limits for contribution to a Roth IRA. Talk to your tax professional before the end of the year for details about your ability to deduct contributions to a Traditional IRA if you are participating in retirement benefits at your job (i.e. a 401K), and to get specifics on how much you can contribute.
Consider opening a Health Savings Account (HSA). If you are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan, you may set up and fund an HSA. You can make fully tax deductible contributions of $3,350 (single) or $6,650 (married couples) on an annual basis. Catch up contributions of $1,000 are permitted for those 55 or older who are not yet enrolled in Medicare. Moreover, HSA assets grow tax free and withdrawals from these accounts are tax free if used to pay for qualified health care expenses.
Make a charitable gift before December 31st, 2015. Gather up and organize documentation of your charitable donations. You can claim a deduction on your 2015 return, provided you itemize your 2015 deductions on Schedule A. If you give cash, you need to document it. Even small contributions need to be confirmed by a bank record, payroll deduction, credit card statement or written communication from the charity with the date and amount donated. You can gift appreciated securities if you have owned them for over a year. You can deduct 100% of the fair market value of donated securities and avoid the capital gains tax that would have resulted from selling them and donating the proceeds.
Review your financial plan with your financial advisor. Check to make sure your goals have not changed and that your plan is still consistent with your goals. Review your budget and make necessary modifications as well.
Planning ahead and addressing some of these ideas will pay off at tax time and throughout 2016!
Wishing you simplicity, harmony and freedom,
*Guest columnist Sharon L Case owns and operates Case Wealth Management and Financial Services. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Investment advisory services offered through Advisory Alpha LLC, a SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Case Wealth Management and Financial Services Ltd is independent of Advisory Alpha LLC