Year-End Financial Planning Checklist

We\’ve just come to the end of a tough year, and you are probably more aware than ever that you need to get your house in order.  So, as you begin to tackle all those last minute things you do at year-end, here are a few items that should be at the top of your list.


Your Finances


One of the foundations of any solid financial plan is the periodic evaluation of your investment portfolio and retirement plans and making any adjustments necessary.  Have you taken full advantage of IRA, 401(k), SEP or other retirement plan? Does your portfolio still reflect your long-term goals?  Does it contain some solid, well-diversified core holdings?  How will any losses or gains affect your tax situation?


With increasing market volatility it\’s important to take steps to help ensure that your investment strategy adequately meets your changing needs and objectives, and reflects proper planning.  Make sure that your investments are based on solid, long-term informed decisions, and not short-term fears and uncertainty.  If you are concerned about any aspect of your portfolio holdings or its tax implications, now is the time to ask your financial consultant, tax and legal advisors for help.


Your Insurance Coverage


Let\’s face it, you can die, become ill or disabled at any age.  Do you have life, medical and long-term care insurance?  No matter your personal status, your life should be insured to cover, at the very least, the cost of replacing your talents and overall responsibilities — be they homemaker or wage earner.


If you already own life insurance, you should question whether or not you are getting the most out of your life insurance policy. Like all other investments, life insurance policies should be reviewed regularly.  If your lifestyle, family situation or personal and financial objectives have changed, it may be time that your life insurance policy changes also.*


Your Estate


Do you have a will?  If you haven\’t already done your estate planning, you might want to make this the year that you do. The only way to be clear about whom you want to benefit from your estate or handle your business and personal affairs is to put it in writing.  If you don\’t make these decisions, your state will.


If you already have a plan, it never hurts to give it a quick review to make sure everything is still as you would like it to be.  In fact, you should review your will each time there is:


* a the birth, adoption or death of a child
* the marriage, divorce or separation of anyone named in the will
* upon every major tax law change
* a move of the testator (the person for whom the will is made) to a new state
* a significant change in income or wealth of either the testator or a beneficiary
* any major change in the needs, circumstances or objectives of the testator or the beneficiaries


Keep accurate records.  Tell your executor where they are kept and be sure your executor can get access to all pertinent documents. Make a list of the names and phone numbers of advisors your family can count on and attach it to your documents. Whether you use a will, a family trust or a more complicated instrument to define your wishes, be sure that you discuss your plans with your family, before it becomes necessary.


Don\’t put these items off until next year. The time you take now to re-examine your finances and personal affairs could help reassure your family.

Joseph Hollak