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Your Financial Spring Cleaning Checklist

Once you file taxes, you may think your financial work is done for the year. However, there are many areas of wealth management that could use some spring cleaning, from retirement savings to rebalancing your investment portfolio. Get your financial house in order with this spring cleaning checklist from the Wiley Group.

Boost retirement plan contributions

Are you making the most of tax-deferred retirement savings accounts? Now is the perfect time to assess your contributions to individual retirement accounts and workplace savings plans, such as 401(k) and 403(b) accounts. Fortunately, the IRS raised IRA contribution limits this year for the first time since 2013. You can now stash away $6,000 in an IRA, up from $5,500, plus an additional $1,000 in catch-up contributions for those 50 and older. Employee contributions to 401(k) or 403(b) accounts also increased, to $19,000, while the combined employer and employee limit rose to $56,000. The 401(k) catch-up contribution limit for those 50 and older remains the same at $6,000. Also, ensure that you are spacing out your contributions over the entire calendar year in order to take full advantage of your company match.

Update payroll withholding

You should adjust your tax withholding any time there's a major change in your life, including getting married, having a child, buying a house, changing your wages or experiencing other income adjustments, such as paying alimony. Adjusting your payroll withholding amount gives you and the IRS a more accurate picture of your taxable income, and helps you avoid surprises at tax filing time. Even without a major life change, consider talking with a tax advisor to determine if adjustments in your withholding are advisable. You can also visit www.irs.gov/individuals/irs-withholding-calculator for a withholding calculator.

Check credit scores and freeze reports

Regularly checking your credit is a good practice for many reasons. You can request a free credit report from each of the three big credit agencies-Equifax, Experian and TransUnion-at AnnualCreditReport.com, though they may charge you a fee to see your actual credit score. Fortunately, many banks and credit card companies provide free credit scores to their customers. Since each credit application lowers your score, knowing where your credit stands can help you strategize and limit your applications. Additionally, checking your credit report can help you spot identity theft or data breaches. As a precautionary practice, you can freeze your report to prevent anyone from accessing it without permission. You can temporarily lift a credit freeze for a specific time period-perhaps while you're shopping for a mortgage-or party, such as a potential employer or lender.

Review portfolio allocation

The investments in your portfolio gain or lose value along with the overall market. Over time, those market shifts can pull your asset allocation away from its target. A strong period for stocks, for instance, may mean that a greater portion of your portfolio is devoted to this asset class-exposing you to greater market risk than you'd intended. That's why it's important to periodically check your asset allocation against its target, and rebalance your portfolio if the mix has shifted substantially from your plan.

Review executive benefits

Routinely reviewing your benefits will help ensure you get the most out of your options. Take this time to review your compensation deferral plan, stock option vesting, restricted stock unit vesting and any other short or long-term incentives. Working closely with a financial advisor can help you make the most of your executive benefits, and incorporate them into your overall financial planning.

Consider gifting

The IRS raised gift and estate tax limits for 2019, meaning an individual can now leave $11.4 million to heirs and pay no federal estate or gift tax, given that that exemption is portable, a married couple can leave $22.8 million. While the estate tax limits have increased, the annual gift exclusion amount remains the same at $15,000, meaning you can gift $15,000 tax-free to any number of people in one year. Consider gifting to family if your goal is to reduce your taxable estate.

Review and requote insurance policies

Insurance policies are living documents and should be reviewed annually to adjust for changes in your circumstances. For example, you might need to boost your liability insurance to fully cover your assets, or you may need more life insurance after having a child. Your insurance agent can help you assess your coverage and determine whether you're paying more than you need to be. An independent insurance agent can compare your current policies and premiums against those of other companies to ensure that you have enough coverage and that you are paying the lowest premium.

Update beneficiary information

Just as life changes can affect your tax withholding and insurance premiums, they can also affect how you intend your assets to be disbursed after your death. Review your current beneficiary information on all investment accounts and life insurance policies to be sure it reflects your current wishes. Beneficiary designations trump any directives in your will, making it especially important to keep them up to date as your life evolves.

 

Life changes, and shifts in IRS regulations, are inevitable. Take the time now to ensure your  financial life is up to date.