Christine Benz, Morningstar’s director of personal finance, offers advice on some major personal finance issues.
If you’re trying to figure out your financial-planning tasks for next year, Christine Benz, Morningstar’s director of personal finance, offers a calendar to take care of some of the major issues you’ll want to address.
Here are excerpts from it.
See how you’re doing. “Now is a good time to survey the damage [to your investment portfolio in 2022] and see if you’re still on track to hit your financial goals,” Benz said.
“If you’re still in accumulation mode, review how much of your salary you managed to save and invest last year.” She adds: “15% is a reasonable minimum target.”
Check in with your tax professional and gather tax documentation. “Tax day will be here before you know it,” Benz said. “That means it’s not too early to start gathering your tax-related paperwork, especially 1099s listing any income or gains your holdings have paid out.”
Contribute to an IRA for 2022. “April 18 is your deadline for filing your 2022 tax return, and it’s also your deadline for funding an IRA for 2022,” Benz said.
“For 2022, contribution limits are $6,000 for those younger than 50 and $7,000 for people older than 50. They’re going up to $6,500 (under 50) and $7,500 for 2023.”
Fund your health savings account for 2022. You also have until April 18 to make a contribution to a health savings account if you want your contribution to count for the 2022 tax year.
Know what to save and what to shred. “If your file drawer is bulging with old statements, prospectuses, and utility bills from 2003, it’s time to do some culling,” Benz said. But “before you start shredding old financial statements and trade confirmations, make sure that you have documentation regarding your cost basis.”
Create a master directory. Every household needs a basic document outlining financial accounts, along with the provider name, account number, and the names of any individuals they work with, Benz said.
Important date. April 18 is the tax-filing deadline for your 2022 return.
Assess your emergency fund. “Unexpected expenses can crop up no matter your life stage, making it essential to hold liquid reserves,” Benz said. “For most households, holding three to six months’ worth of living expenses in true cash instruments is a good starting point.”
Assess liquid assets if retired. “Retired people will want to hold even more cash, in case one of their income sources is disrupted,” she said.
Create or review your investment policy statement. “Running your portfolio without an investment policy statement is a little like trying to build a house without any blueprints,” Benz said. “Your IPS needn’t be complicated, but it should convey the basics of what you’re trying to achieve,” including your asset-allocation policy.
Evaluate the viability of your portfolio and your plan. “Midyear is a good time to conduct a portfolio checkup because you have time to course-correct if you’ve gotten off track,” Benz said. “Focus on the fundamentals of your plan and your portfolio, including its asset allocation.”
Craft or revisit your estate plan. “Planning for your own disability or mortality isn’t pleasant,” Benz said. “But a basic estate plan — in which you determine who will inherit your assets … — is a must for people at all life stages and wealth levels.” Do-it-yourself estate-planning kits are an option for estates that are straightforward, she said.
Review your long-term-care plan. “Long-term care is another topic that is no fun to think about, and unfortunately, there are no easy answers about whether to buy insurance or self-fund using your own portfolio,” Benz said.
“To make an informed decision, it’s helpful to use data to understand the likelihood that you’ll need long-term care, the potential duration, and the costs.”
Kick college funding into high gear. If you haven’t thought about your kids’ college education much, “it’s time to take a hard look at how you’ll pay for it and whether you’ll hold the money in a 529 or some other account,” Benz said.
Conduct an insurance review. “Most employers offer open enrollment for health insurance and other benefits at year-end, but it’s also a good time to take stock of your other types of insurance: property/casualty, life, disability, and so on,” Benz said.
Conduct a year-end portfolio review. “While you’ve no doubt paid some attention to your portfolio throughout the year, year-end is a good time to give it a thorough checkup,” Benz said. “If you own investments in your taxable account that have lost value, selling to generate a tax loss is a way to find a silver lining.”
And if your taxable income is less than $44,625, you’ll pay no long-term capital gains tax for 2023. So you may even want to sell some winners in your portfolio.