Your Annual Financial Health Check & To Do List

It’s about that time of year. The end of the year is a good time to review your personal finances, and to refocus your wealth-building efforts. How much financial progress did you make? What are your financial, business or life priorities for 2009?

Dust off your financial goals and take a good look at them. Have they changed? Do they read more like wishes, or are they specific objectives? Try to specify the goals you want to accomplish, and a timeframe. Think about the consistent investing, saving or budgeting methods you could use to realize them.

Is your portfolio diversified or liquid enough to meet your New Year objectives?

Review and update your Investment Policy Statement if you have one. If you don’t have one, talk with your advisor about developing one.

Max out your IRA contribution at the start of 2009. If you can do it, do it early. The sooner you make your contribution, the more interest those assets will earn.
Consider whether Long Term Care or other insurance should be a part of your plan.

Have you changed companies and left your 401K behind? If so this is a good time to roll it over.

Before 2008 ends … think about making charitable contributions. If you make them this year, you can claim deductions on your 2008 tax return. Also, see if you can prepay next year’s property taxes this year; if your lender receives that payment before December 31, that’s also a 2008 deduction you can take.

Are you marrying next year, or do you know someone who is? This is a good time to review (and possibly change) your beneficiaries to your 401(k) or 403(b) account, your IRA, your insurance policy and other assets.

It is also wise to take a look at your insurance coverage to determine if you will be underinsured, to identify any coverage gaps, and to cancel duplicate policies

Sell your losers. From late 2007 through much of 2008, the stock market has gone through some rough times. Consequently, you may now own some stocks or mutual funds that are worth less than what you originally paid for them. While this fact may not thrill you, there is a bright side: By selling some of your losers, you can offset capital gains you may have realized elsewhere in your portfolio. If you didn’t sell any winning stocks this year — and thus had no capital gains — you can use your losses to reduce up to $3,000 of ordinary income for 2008. And if your losses exceeded $3,000, you can carry them forward indefinitely and use them to offset gains or ordinary income in the future. Check with your tax accountant for your specific situation.

Don’t delay – get it done. Talk with a qualified financial or tax professional today, so you can focus on being healthy and wealthy in the New Year.

David Vogel of US Planning Group, Woodbury Financial Services, may be reached at 770-395-9595 or

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