(BPT) - With the economic ups and downs of the last several years, many Americans are more motivated than ever to get their finances on track. With some financial alternatives expiring before the year's end, there's no better time than the present to start.
"If you're waiting until the New Year to resolve to better your finances, you may want to think again. You could be missing out on some year-end strategies that could help bolster your retirement savings and even provide tax benefits," says Lule Demmissie, managing director of retirement at TD Ameritrade, Inc., a broker dealer subsidiary of TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation. "By being proactive, you can really have a positive effect on your nest egg."
Demmissie offers 10 smart year-end strategies to help you start the new year with a strong financial focus:
1. Make 401(k) contributions by the end of the year
Not good at regularly saving for retirement? Make up for it by investing part of - or your entire -year-end bonus. For 2013, the maximum 401(k) contribution for people younger than 50 is $17,500. It's a simple way to help build your retirement savings.
2. Play catch up
If you'll be 50 by the end of the calendar year, now may be the perfect time to make catch-up contributions. In addition to the $17,500 401(k) maximum, people 50 and older can make a $5,500 catch-up contribution. Visit the IRS website for more information on contribution amounts.
3. Invest in a traditional or a Roth IRA
While the deadline for this year is technically April 15 of the next year; some say don't wait to make contributions to an IRA for the 2013 tax year. Take advantage of the tax benefits, such federal tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals during retirement. For traditional IRAs, most wage earners can deduct contributions on income taxes now and pay the taxes upon qualified withdrawals in retirement. Note: Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) limits apply for deductibility for both Roth and traditional IRAs.
4. Invest in a child's future
Give your child a head start in life by investing toward his or her education. Consider opening a 529, Coverdell or custodial account. For parents of children already in college, don't forget to take advantage of the American Opportunity College Credit if you are currently paying your child's college tuition. (Note: AGI limits apply).
5. Pay down high-interest debt
Having high-interest debt can make saving for anything else very challenging. By paying it down now, you can save yourself money in the long run. If you only pay the minimum amount each month, a seemingly small purchase could take months to pay off and over time could cost significantly more due to the high interest rates.
6. Own a home? Invest in it
Numerous energy-efficient home improvements qualify for a federal tax credit if done by the end of 2013. Things like new windows, doors, water heaters and skylights may qualify. Visit energy.gov to learn more. In addition to a tax credit, these improvements can save you money on your utility bills, opening up more of your monthly budget.
7. Donate to charity
Donating to charity isn't only an act of goodwill; it can be used as a write-off come tax time. Whether a monetary gift or donation of goods, such as clothing and household items you no longer use, keep records and include the deduction when you do your taxes.
8. Adjust your W9
In 2012, the average tax refund was just under $3,000. Rather than loaning Uncle Sam the money at no cost, consider adjusting withholdings and using the funds for saving or investing
9. Save for a rainy day
It can be tempting to spend any monetary holiday gifts or bonuses from work immediately. Instead, if you don't already have one, use that money to start an emergency fund. Some financial professionals advocate having six to nine months' worth of expenses set aside for unforeseen emergencies.
10. Review your portfolio
Don't delay reviewing your contributions and portfolio allocations. TD Ameritrade offers a variety of tax-deferred savings vehicles that can help you pursue your retirement goals. If you have questions, meet with a qualified financial advisor and learn what you can do to start 2014 on the right financial foot.
TD Ameritrade does not provide tax advice. -Please consult with a tax-planning professional with regard to your personal circumstances.
Provided by: TD Ameritrade, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC /NFA