6 steps to take now so your financial life will be off to a good start in 2020

Here are some things you can do before the year comes to a close.
Image: Piggy Bank
If you didn’t put the maximum amount allowed by federal law into your 401(k), 403(b) or thrift savings plan, now is the time to add more, if you can.artisteer / Getty Images/iStockphoto
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By Michelle Fox, CNBC

The end of the year is almost upon us.

Before you know it, you’ll be ringing in 2020 and making a list of New Year’s resolutions.

Yet you may want to get some things in order now so that you can head into next year on a strong financial footing.

“It’s smart to have a game plan going into the following year, especially around what you are trying to accomplish savings-wise,” said certified financial planner Tyler Huck, a financial advisor for Atlanta-based Oxygen Financial.

Zaneilia Harris, a CFP and president of Harris and Harris Wealth Management in the Washington metro area, likes to think of December as a launching pad that will allow you to get focused in 2020.

Just remember to make the time this month to accomplish your goals, she said.

“With the holidays, you can get caught up being busy if you don’t take the time to be quiet,” said Harris, a member of the CNBC Digital Financial Advisors Council.

Here are some things you can do before the year comes to a close.

1.) Recommit to yourself

Make yourself a priority, said Harris. Women, especially, tend to put their family first, but it’s important to make sure you are setting financial goals for yourself, she said.

That can be investing in your future by taking a class, putting more money aside in your 401(k) or investment account or just shoring up your emergency savings.

2.) Review your financial goals

Take a look at your financial and personal goals and make sure they align.

“Sometimes you can get completely off track because you get caught up in other things,” Harris said.

Assess your portfolio and tweak it if necessary.

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If you have a financial planner, make an appointment to meet or talk by telephone before the end of the year to make sure you are heading in the right direction, Harris said. If your investments are automated, she said, it’s a good idea to speak with someone just to get another perspective.

It also may be time to put yourself out there for a job promotion or salary increase. Harris suggests listing all the things that support why you deserve it, and then getting feedback from someone in your organization that you trust. Then, practice asking for what it is you feel you deserve. This way, by the time it comes for your annual review, you are prepared.

3.) Make a savings plan now for next year

If there is something you want to spend money on next year, like a vacation, you need to plan for it now.

“It’s smart to sit down in December and do the research and figure out what amount you need,” said Huck, who also hosts a finance and careers podcast for millennials called “They Don’t Teach You This.”

“Have a clear plan going into January.”

Determine how much money you need to set aside per pay period to reach your goal. Then, ask your human resources department to direct deposit it into a savings account, Huck said.

4.) Mind your taxes

As the year comes to a close, make sure you are doing everything you can to save on taxes.

Take a look at your investments. If you have sold or want to sell some stock that has done really well this year, think about other equities you may want to shed that aren’t doing well, Huck said.

It’s called tax-loss harvesting. By selling assets at a loss, it will make up for some of the gains you made and should reduce the amount of taxes you will have to pay.

Also, make sure to use up the money stashed in your flexible spending accounts that allow employees to put aside cash on a pretax basis for medical costs. The distributions are tax-free as long as they’re used toward a qualified medical expense. You generally have until the end of a calendar year to spend the money you saved.

5.) Max out your 401(k)

If you didn’t put the maximum amount allowed by federal law into your 401(k), 403(b) or thrift savings plan, now is the time to add more, if you can.

The contribution limit for 2019 is $19,000. Those ages 50 and older can put as much as $25,000 into their 401(k) accounts thanks to the $6,000 catch-up contribution the IRS allows.

Or, look ahead to next year and see if you can increase the contributions from your paycheck in order to put more aside. The 2020 contribution limit is $19,500, while the catch-up contributions for those 50 and older is $6,500.

6.) Reflect

It’s also a good idea to reflect on what went right this past year, Harris said.

Taking a step back and focusing on the positive can help you see what worked for you and put you on a path toward a secure future.

“Our brains tend to go to the negative,” she said.

“Look at all the things that happened that were great and think about how you can duplicate that going forward.”

Disclosure: Invest in You: Ready. Set. Grow. is a financial wellness and education initiative from CNBC and Acorns, the micro-investing app. NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

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