When it comes to personal finances, the majority of people start the year off with financial new year's resolutions. You make plans to cut back on spending, put more in savings, invest money, or other tasks to improve your financial situation. However, there are things you can do right now that will give you a leg up on improving your personal finances. By performing the following 8 year-end tasks provided by the Rules of Thumb blog from MoneyThumb, you can put your personal finances on track going into 2019:
Go Over Long-Term Financial Planning with Family
With everyone together over the holidays, this is a good time to talk about your estate plan or come up with one if you haven't already done so. An estate refers to what you own: financial accounts, real estate and possessions. Hashing out how those things will be distributed can head off any fighting among your kids and limit the amount of taxes your heirs may have to pay. It's also important to name people to several key roles, including an executor of your will, and powers of attorney for both health care and your financial affairs if you become incapacitated while still living.
Take Advantage of Flexible Spending Accounts
If you are an employee with an FSA you may not realize that the end of the year is a use it or lose it time. Unless your employer offers a grace period or rollover option, the pretax money you have in a flexible spending account, (FSA) must be used by Dec. 31. Take that money out for Christmas presents, put it in savings, or just splurge on yourself. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you don't lose that money. It belongs to you.
Check Your Credit Report
Run a credit checkup to know where you stand. There are several free options for checking your credit score. There is a myth that checking your credit score can harm your credit, but this is not true. Studies show that checking scores more often helps you manage and maintain good credit.
Use a Budgeting App
There is no magic formula for being able to make ends meet. You have to live within your means and to do that you need to budget. Having a budgeting app on your phone makes it easier to accomplish that. Apps such as Mint or Albert keep tabs on your spending and help find places where some expenses can be cut. You can even set budgets that alert you when they start to top out.
Look for a Better Rate for Savings
When it comes to money matters, most Americans worry about unexpected expenses, making ends meet and health-care costs, according to a study by LendingTree, which had polled more than 1,000 adults about their resolutions for 2018. One of the best ways to deal with unexpected expenses is to make sure you have enough money set aside. That's where rising interest rates can help.
As the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark rate, yields on savings accounts have increased, as well. While the average interest rate on a savings account is still only 0.2 percent, some top-yielding savings accounts are now as high as 2.25 percent and you can earn even more with CDs, or certificates of deposit.
Enlist the Services of a Financial Advisor
To make sure that you're able to finish the year with solid financial footing and set yourself up for a strong start to 2019, this is a good time to check in with a financial pro or even a robo-advisor.
Robo-advisors, which have come a long way, can give you access to automated investment strategies and create portfolios for less than it would cost to work with a human. However, they do come up short when it comes to financial planning and addressing any specific financial concerns you may have, such as a job change, move, illness, change in marital status, buying or selling a home, or paying for a child's education. Still, working with a robo-advisor provides a low-cost solution to investors who are just getting started. And lower costs mean more money to invest.
Get Ahead of Health-Care Costs
When it comes to medical expenses, this is the time to pay extra attention to what lies ahead. If you've already met your health insurance deductible for 2018, you can save money by scheduling appointments and procedures before the end of the year — rather than waiting until 2019 when you begin a new year and your deductible kicks in again. Keep in mind, though, your plan may have a maximum number of visits for certain things like dental cleanings or physical therapy visits.
Use a PDF Financial File Converter
MoneyThumb has a version of our PDF financial file converters specifically designed for personal finance use. By using a PDF financial file converter, you can drastically cut the time you spend on reconciling your bank statement and make your tax preparer very happy since all of your financial information they need to prepare your taxes is at their fingertips. MoneyThumb offers a free test drive of all our products. Check them out here.