Markets by nature are uncertain, whereas certain planning steps are pretty well defined. The hard part is implementing these steps. With kids’ sports in full session and the holidays approaching, the end of the year creeps up on us.

With that in mind, here are seven critical steps we will review before the end of the year and to help you review and execute your plan.

Get Organized

Remember when life was simple? I don’t remember either, but we use a tool that makes it really simple for you to see how your finances are doing. It gives you one secure place to see all of your accounts, which are always up-to-date. This tool also helps us share information without sending paper back and forth.

Review Your Cash Flow

Understand where your money is going. Are you on target to fund your financial goals? Did you stick to your withdrawal strategy? Now is a great time to review your cash flow and determine if you need to  tweak your plan in any way and take advantage of tax-saving opportunities.

Tax-Loss Harvesting

Due to the recent pullback in the stock market, there may be unrealized losses in your taxable account. By selling these positions, you realize a loss, which will effectively lower your tax bill. You can apply capital losses against capital gains you realized throughout the year. If there are any losses that are left over, you can deduct up to $3,000 and carry any losses over $3,000 into the next year. 

Rebalance

Rebalancing your portfolio does two things. First, it maintains your risk profile. Second, it systematically buys low and sells high. When one asset class does well, we sell it. When another asset class underperforms, we buy it. We sell high and buy low.

Required Minimum Distributions

Inherited IRAs require that you take a minimum amount of your IRA or you may get dinged with a 50% penalty. This penalty also applies if you are 70 ½ and have assets held in an IRA.

Review Pensions and Social Security Statements

The Social Security Administration stopped sending paper statements annually to save money on printing and postage (with a projected $70 million in savings). It is important to keep track of your expected payments during retirement. If you have not done so, sign up at

http://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/

If you have a pension through your employment, you should receive an annual pension benefit statement. Very similar to a social security statement, this document reports your projected benefits.

Charitable Giving

For those of you who are charitably inclined, donating appreciating security can be a great way to give. You are able to receive a tax deduction and not incur capital gains tax on the appreciated asset. Since qualified charities do not pay taxes, they tend not care if they receive cash or stocks. They can sell the stock the next day and not incur taxes. You effectively are able to donate in a tax-efficient matter.

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Finally, as we prepare for the end of the year, I hope that you all enjoy the holidays with your family and loved ones. I also want to thank all of you for your support and trust throughout the years.