For Women & Co. by Catherine McManus
As you're wrapping up your finances for 2013, you may want to think about making a few moves that could mean more money for retirement, a smaller tax bill and perhaps some new eyeglasses. We spoke with Jonathan Clements, Director of Financial Education at Citi Personal Wealth Management, who provided some smart money strategies to consider before ringing in the New Year:
• Retirement Check-up: If you're enrolled in an employer-sponsored 401(k) or 403(b) plan and you aren't on track to contribute the maximum, consider increasing your contribution now, so you'll have a few weeks to hit the max. If you're under age 50, the 2013 limit is $17,500, while those 50 or older can contribute $23,000. This would also be a good time to consider converting part or all of your regular IRA to a Roth IRA. You'll have to pay income taxes on the taxable sum converted. But once the money is in the Roth, it has the potential to grow tax-free.
• Bring Your Investments Back to Balance: So far, it's been a decent year for stocks, which means your portfolio might need rebalancing. For example, if your goal is a portfolio with 60 percent stocks and 40 percent high-quality bonds, you might now have significantly more than 60 percent in stocks, thanks to the market's rise. To get back to your target percentages, consider shifting money to the bond side of your portfolio to build it back up to 40 percent. Rebalancing can mean selling investments with capital gains, so it's often best done in a retirement account, where selling won't trigger a tax bill. If you rebalance in a taxable account, you might sell losing positions to offset realized capital gains and thus reduce your tax bill.
• Time to Think About Your Taxes: If you're close to the threshold for itemizing rather than taking the standard deduction -- which is $12,200 for married couples in 2013 and $6,100 for singles -- see if you can get over that line before year-end. You might increase your charitable contributions or perhaps pay property and estimated state income taxes before year-end. Alternatively, if you're more likely to be able to itemize next year, try to shift deductions into 2014.
• Gifting Forward: How much money have you given to family members this year? For 2013, the annual gift tax exclusion is $14,000. You can give that sum to as many folks as you want without worrying about the federal gift tax. You can even invest as much as $70,000 in a child's 529 college savings plan and count it as your gift to the child for the next five years.
• Empty Health Care Spending Accounts: Got money left over for this year in your Flexible Spending Account? Try to spend it before year-end on, say, a new pair of eyeglasses -- and think about setting aside a bit less in your FSA for next year.
Women & Co., a service of Citi, is the go-to personal finance source for women. By providing financial content, commentary and community, Women & Co.'s mission is to get women thinking and talking about personal finance. Founded in 2000, Women & Co. is one of the longest running personal finance websites dedicated to helping women strengthen their financial futures.