Airfare for the in-laws. Gifts for everyone on Santa’s list. Charitable contributions. And, oh, the mountains of groceries. The holiday season is rife with spending — sometimes to excess. So, before we collectively descend into the season during which we overburden our credit cards and exhaust our savings, it might be helpful to take a moment to take stock of our financial goals.
To do that, we spoke with Olympia Federal Savings financial advisor and 13-year financial services veteran Jason Andrew about how to plan ahead this holiday season. Andrew identified five key financial actions to take now.
1. A Look Back
It is a great time to evaluate how you’re doing in terms of the financial goals you set at the beginning of the year, because it isn’t too late to start saving. If you haven’t hit your annual maximums for IRA savings, you can still make contributions through the April 15 tax-filing deadline for the previous calendar year.
2. Planning for 2020 and Beyond
Now also is a great time to start thinking about next year’s goals. What is it you’re trying to accomplish in the next 12 to 24 months? Are you saving for a house? Going on a much-deserved vacation? Completing some projects around the house? Alternatively, what are your long-term goals? How much will you need for retirement? Better yet, how do you make your money last during retirement? Distribution planning is key to making your resource and legacy have a lasting impact.
3. Don’t Be Afraid of Market Lows
While you may have heard whisperings about a possible recession and felt a sense of unease in the market, know that if we do enter a market downturn, this is a great time to begin looking for investments that are on-sale or trading below market value. It also is a good time to remember to stay consistent with your saving, especially if you’re putting aside a set amount each month. This strategy is called dollar cost averaging, and when the market is down, your monthly contribution is likely going to go further in purchasing more shares in the investment you’ve chosen. You’ll want to work with your financial advisor to discuss what strategies are best for you.
4. Gifts That Don’t Require Wrapping
This time of year can be a time of excess when we spend more than we should or get way too many things we just don’t need. Instead, consider giving the gift of education to the young people in your life by setting up, or contributing to, a 529 college savings plan. These plans can be used to pay for expenses associated with higher education, as well as the kindergarten through 12th grade tuition of the beneficiary, tax-free.
5. Thinking of Others
The holidays also can be a great time to consider charitable giving. A great way to do this is through gifting highly appreciated stock or using your required minimum distribution to send directly to the charity of your choice.