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Mark Your Calendars: Get Your Finances Organized For 2019 In One Move

Maggie Klokkenga, CPA, CFP®  |  February 8, 2019

Admit it: You’ve been caught off guard realizing—oh sh*t—today is the last day to use my FSA dollars, file my taxes, change my health insurance for the year. Or whatever. Life happens.

But here’s a way to assure you don’t have to kick yourself because another penalty has come, or another opportunity to save has gone. Schedule the important dates on your calendar before they happen. Here are the ones you’ll want to log for 2019:

Feb. 15: Check it so you don’t regret it

  • Check in on your retirement accounts because you don’t want to get behind for the year. For your employer retirement accounts, like a 401(k) or 403(b), make sure that you are contributing enough to receive the full match from your employer. The contribution limit for 2019 is $19,000, and if you are 50 or older, you can make a catch-up contribution of $6,000 for a cool total of $25,000 annually. This isn’t a firm date, but a great one to stay on track for your retirement savings this year.
  • Check your health savings account (HSA) to make sure that the contribution you chose when it was benefit enrollment LAST YEAR through your employer is being made correctly (see November). You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how quickly your HSA balance will increase!

March 15: Use FSA dollars or lose them (really)

  • If you have a flexible spending arrangement (FSA) and your plan is one of those that gives a few months grace from year-end, this is your real “use it or lose it” date. If you need to turn in your medical receipts to be reimbursed, change this date to Feb. 15 in order to give yourself a little time before the clock runs out. You can also ask your employer if it is possible to carry over up to $500 from your FSA balance to the following year to use in that plan year.

April 15: Squeeze in those last-minute deductions

  • If you have not yet filed your individual tax return, you need to file an extension by midnight on this date. An extension only lengthens the amount of time that you have to file your tax return; it does not extend the amount of time that you have to make a payment, if one is required.
  • Make any traditional IRA or Roth IRA contributions. You may receive a tax deduction for your traditional IRA contribution; if you do, wait to file your tax return until you have included the deduction. Tax deductibility of traditional IRA contributions are dependent on whether you have a retirement plan at work and also on your income level. Roth IRA contributions are subject to income limits
  • For you who have a side hustle who are paying quarterly estimated tax payments, the first quarter payment is due. 
  • This is the last day that you can make previous year contributions to your HSA. However, make sure that you and your employer are on the same page that you’re making previous year contributions; you don’t want to get stuck with paying a 6% excise tax for excess contributions.

June 15: Make a midyear checkup

  • If you’re a W-2 employee, double-check your pay stub JUST to make sure that both retirement and HSA contributions are being taken out as you had directed (see February 15).
  • On your way to the beach, drop off your second quarter estimated tax payment at the post office.         

Sept. 15: File your tax return. Seriously

  • Round up the rest of your tax paperwork and avoid any last-minute issues by filing your own tax return now. Or, be your tax preparer’s best friend by bringing it in now vs. the last day (see Oct. 15). Tax preparers get slammed right before Oct. 15 with everyone ELSE who waited too long.
  • Grab a pumpkin spice latte, and drop off third quarter estimated tax payments.

Oct. 15: One LAST push to get in those deductions (for last year’s tax return)

  • This is the last day to make contributions to your SEP IRA, assuming you extended. If you did not extend, then you must have made your SEP contribution by April 15, even if you filed before then. Remember to report the SEP contribution on your tax return; this is a dollar-for-dollar deduction against other adjusted gross income.
  • If you extended your individual tax return, it HAS to be filed by this date. Word for the wise if you use a tax preparer: Bring cookies.
  • Medicare open enrollment begins and goes through Dec. 7.

Nov. 1: Prepare for the upcoming year (no crystal ball needed)

  • Typically this is when your employer has open enrollment for your benefits which include your choosing medical, dental and vision plans. It may also include life and disability insurance, so be sure to review all benefit choices and enroll before the enrollment period closes.
  • If you have a health savings account (HSA), try to maximize that contribution. Single coverage contributions top out at $3,500, and family coverage is doubled at $7,000. Be aware that many employers contribute to the employee’s HSA during the year (free money for you!). Employer contributions also count toward the maximum, so keep that in mind. See April 15 for contributions that can apply to the previous year.
  • Your state may also begin its open enrollment period for choosing medical insurance through the open marketplace. Go to www.healthcare.gov to review your state’s open enrollment period.

Dec. 1: Finalizing your year-end contributions BEFORE it’s year-end

  • If you can afford to make one last large contribution to your 401(k), go to your employer or online to your retirement account to up the contribution percentage. Ask your employer how long changes in 401(k) contributions take to process, and make the change even a few weeks earlier if necessary. This is your retirement we’re talking about!
  • If you are making charitable contributions or 529 contributions, do not wait until the last week of the year. While the date that you mail the check is the date that counts in terms of when to deduct the contribution, you may have some going back and forth with the receiving charity on the tax year that should be used. Avoid this by making the contribution a couple weeks early. The same goes for 529 contributions.

Dec. 31: This is it. Last day of the year

  • While recharacterization is no longer allowed thanks to the new tax law, conversions (full or partial) to Roth IRAs need to be made by this date (ordinary income taxes apply).
  • If you are 70½ and have a required minimum distribution (RMD), you need to take your RMD or pay a hefty 50% penalty on the RMD amount.

Jan. 15

  • Congratulate yourself on being on top of your to-do’s for the previous year by making your fourth and final quarter estimated tax payment.

Punxsutawney Phil didn’t look back this year, and you shouldn’t either. Stay focused on the future with having these important financial dates in your planner.

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