Jumpstart 2010Monday, January 4th, 2010 by Charles Mayfield, CFP®
Happy New Year to everyone! As we are busy hanging up our new calendars, let’s take a moment to cover some basic ‘early year’ strategies and action steps that can get things started off on the right foot.
Important Documents: The tax man will be here before you know it. Go ahead and pull out all the 2009 files and put them in a folder or box to get ready. I save bills and receipts throughout the year. If you start commingling 2009 and 2010 papers, it will just lead to more headaches when the time comes to start your taxes.
Add up those expenses: If you are eligible for a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or a Health Savings Account (HSA) through your employer, this is the time of year to elect how much you want to pull out of your paycheck to fund these accounts. A good number to know is how much you spent on healthcare expenses in 2009. You can use this as an excuse to get all those papers out (see above).
Retirement Plan Contributions: Make plans now to increase/decrease your retirement plan contributions for 2010. If you have a 401k at work, the contribution maximum isn’t changing for 2010 (still $16,500 for maximum employee deferral). If your compensation is higher, your current contribution percentage may have you maxing out your plan early. That’s a no-no! Maybe you already have an amount you want to contribute in the coming year…do the math and make sure that you meet your goal for 2010. Many plan sponsors allow for online changes to contribution percentages. If you’re with a smaller employer, talk to your HR director and get this done.
Get Ready for the Roth: We have been gearing up for over 18 months for 2010. In our world…we are dubbing 2010 the ‘Year of the Roth’. If you have an IRA, you should be prepared to speak with your financial advisor this year about converting. This won’t be for everyone…but everyone should discuss the opportunity. Here is the article that Cass wrote about this in 2009. You can expect much more on this from Chappell, Mayfield and Associates as the year unfolds. There are going to be many things to consider with this decision. Please talk to a professional that can clearly articulate the advantages and disadvantages for action.
Taking early steps in the year can lead to substantial benefits throughout the year. Get a head start on your year and make 2010 one to remember with a smile.