As the year winds down and the ball drops in Times Square, inevitably our thoughts turn to that other big annual deadline — tax filing day.
Sure, it’s more than four months away on April 15, but there are a lot of year-end moves you can and should make to maximize your return while saving for your own retirement.
The biggest of them is to defer more income, but where and how much can be confusing. Here’s a checklist of five tax prep to-dos as we end 2015 and start a new year:
If you have a retirement plan at work, be it a 401(k), 403(b) or 457 plan, take a look at how much you are taking out of your paycheck now. Did the total dollar amount reach your personal goals? Did you get a raise at the end of the year and thus can afford to contribute more?
Contribution limit for 2016: $18,000 per year, plus another $6,000 if you are over the age of 50.
If you don’t have a 401(k) or have a non-working spouse, you can put money instead into an individual retirement account (IRA). The limits are lower but savings into these plans is tax-deferred just like your 401(k).
Contribution limit for 2016: $5,500 for each filer, or $6,000 if you are over 50.
Subject to income limits, taxpayers who contribute to a Roth IRA are taxed today on that income but enjoy tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals later, in retirement.
Contribution limit for 2016: Same as a traditional IRA, but you can contribute to both up to the limit.
If you have a health savings account (HSA), adding money to your account can reduce your taxable income this year. You have until the tax deadline to contribute to this account but if you send money after Jan. 1 be sure to designate to which year you want to apply the contribution. Your HSA provider might have a special form to fill out, so check on that first.
Contribution limit for 2016: $3,350 for single filers plus another $1,000 for those 55 and older and $6,750 for families, plus the added $1,000 if you are 55 or older.
Finally, it’s just good practice to look over all of your retirement and bank accounts each year and to make sure the named beneficiaries on each account is correct. Often, people divorce and remarry and fail to update these forms. In the case of your passing, the named beneficiary will receive your accounts, no matter who you list as an heir in your will.
Taking the time to work on your retirement is a chore, but it’s one worth doing. Even a small effort today to get your plan in good working order pays big dividends later, when it matters.