Ask Karen Gibbs

Veteran business correspondent Karen Gibbs answers your personal money questions and addresses current topics that affect YOUR finances on a daily basis. Karen is the financial expert in your corner--no question is too basic or too small. Karen boils down the issues simply: here's what you need to know, and here's what you need to do. Send your money questions to AskKaren@mpt.org and post your comments below.

22

December

Year-end Check Up

Karen Gibbs

dec 31Congratulations!  You’ve almost made it through 2014.  I hope it was a good year for you and that 2015 will be even better.  Here are some steps to make it so.

You did make a budget for 2014, didn’t you?  Well, now is a good time to review your budget.  Did you stick to it?  Did you spend more than you planned?   What worked and what didn’t work for you in 2014?

Let’s start with the obvious.  To get ahead you must pay yourself first.  You are your most important asset and it pays to protect that asset.  Do you have disability insurance in place to replace your income if you become disabled or too sick to work?  Loss of income can lead to loss of home, car, etc. 

How about health insurance?  Did you enroll in Medicare or open an account via www.Healthcare.gov

Are you taking advantage of your company’s retirement savings program?  Are you maximizing the company “match”?  The magic of compounding will get you to your goal much faster if you set aside the most you can every month without hurting your current standard of living.   

Are you shopping around for the best deals?  Every penny saved counts toward a more secure retirement.  If you’re carrying a balance on credit cards, work to pay down that debt.  If possible, stop using credit cards and use cash instead.  The mere act of parting with hard earned dollars forces you to spend less.  Studies show that people using cash focus on cost while those using credit cards focus on benefits.  There’s also an added bonus of not having to pay interest on purchases when you use cash.

Are you expecting a refund from Uncle Sam for this tax year?  Consider using the IRS tax calculator to change the number of deductions claimed and avoid having too much withheld from your pay.  Instead of getting a refund in April 2015, you will now have use of your own money throughout the year.

Are you turning 70-1/2 in 2015?  You will be required to take minimum distribution from your retirement savings.  Use the IRS calculator and avoid the heavy penalties.

How has your investment portfolio performed? Does it need to be rebalanced to reflect your goals and risk tolerance?  Do you wish to make changes to your beneficiaries?

And lastly, now is a good time to remember those less fortunate than you.  Consider donating items you no longer need or use.  Give the gift of time and volunteer in your community. 
   
May you and yours enjoy the generosity of the Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa Spirit and best wishes for a healthy, happy and profitable New Year!   
 

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