Five Tasks to Add to Your Holiday To-Do List

December 6, 2018

We know how busy December can be with the holidays.  Shopping lists, entertaining and prepping the house for guests or your bags for travel- it can all seem overwhelming.  As you navigate your to-do lists, be sure to put a little time into your year-end financial planning too. Here is our quick list of tasks you may need to complete before year end.  Of course, be sure to always consult with your tax advisor to see if these strategies are appropriate for your personal circumstances.

1. Required Minimum Distributions

The year is quickly coming to an end and you don’t want to forget about taking your required minimum distributions (RMD’s). You must start taking RMD’s from any kind of non-Roth IRA by April 1st following the year in which you reach age 70 ½.  Going forward distributions must be made by December 31.  The Internal Revenue Service assesses a 50% penalty on the required amount, if you miss taking a required distribution.

You may even want to consider a qualified charitable deduction (QCD).  A QCD allows you to direct funds from your IRA to a qualified charity of your choice.  This distribution counts against your RMD for the year, up to $100,000.  The amount of the distribution given to charity will not be included in gross income and it will not count towards the limits of charitable contributions.

2. Gifts to family and friends

The annual gift tax exclusion amount increased in 2018. You can give $15,000 to any person you choose or $30,000 if you are a married couple.  This is a perfect time to gift to family and friends.  It may also be a great opportunity to fund a 529 plan.  Feeling extra generous? You can frontload a 529 plan with five years of annual exclusion gifts into one.  An individual can gift $75,000 tax-free into a 529 plan or $150,000 per couple, if gift splitting, before December 31st .

3.Maximize retirement saving
Don’t forget to max out your tax-deferred retirement accounts.  In 2018, you can contribute the following:

  • 401(k)

$18,500 or $24,500 if you are age 50 or older.  If you can’t contribute the full amount, try to contribute at least the amount that will be matched by your employer.  If you have extra savings available, you might be able to add funds to your 401(k) after-tax, up to $55,000 for future tax deferred growth.

  • IRAs

$5,500, plus an extra $1,000 if you are 50 or older.  You have until April 15, 2019 to make an IRA contribution.

4. Review estate plans

Year-end is also great time to review your documents to make sure they still reflect your goals and wishes.
A few quick things to look for:

  • Confirm your health care directives and powers of attorney are up to date.
  • If you recently created a trust, which may require the retitling of assets, be sure this has been completed for all respective accounts.
  • Review beneficiary designations on insurance policies, your 401(k), IRA’s, bank accounts and other financial assets.
  • Take the time to explain your estate plan to a family member and show them where to locate your important documents. This may also be a good time to make a list of all your accounts and respective passwords using our Critical Information Organizer.  Be sure to save all documents and passwords in a secure location.

5. Review capital gains and losses

The markets have certainly been a little rocky recently. Now may be a good time to review your taxable portfolios.  Talk to your advisor(s) about any opportunities to book losses you may have realized recently.  These can offset taxable gains you may have already accumulated this year.


Whatever is on your to-do list this season, find some time to consider these additions as well.  You will appreciate the extra effort in the new year.  As the days get shorter, we hope you enjoy a wonderful holiday season full of excitement and relaxation too.


-Assunta R. McLane