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Year-end financial checklist: 9 personal finance tips for 2024

As 2023 comes to a close, you and your family reflect on where you’ve been and where you’d like to go.

As the year wraps up, it’s natural to think about your goals — professionally, personally, and financially. It’s something that you and your household will want to assess and talk about openly and honestly.

Financially speaking, perhaps you built up your emergency fund or finally paid off that credit card bill that’s been haunting you since your college years. If so, congratulations. Or perhaps you went off course a little when you did a little too much online shopping. If so, you’re not alone.

Whatever the case, you’re ready to head into the new year with some new financial goals. However, before you flip the calendar to a new year, there are some things to check off your to-do list before saying goodbye to this year.

Doing so will help ease your mind and allow you to focus on the year ahead.

Review or update your beneficiary designations

Make any needed updates to the beneficiary portion of your bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and annuities. 

Have you gotten married or had a child within the last 12 months? Or perhaps a loved one has exited your life through a divorce or a death. Choosing a beneficiary for your life insurance policy is a decision you should consider carefully. This is important because beneficiaries trump who’s named in a will.

To help you keep track of your beneficiaries, write down their names along with the date when any updates were made. Also, be sure to name a contingent beneficiary in case your primary beneficiary passes away. Your beneficiaries can be a person, a charity, or a nonprofit organization — or a combination of all three. Store this document in an easy-to-access spot and review it annually.

Remember, when you name a beneficiary on your 401(k), you have the option of choosing more than one primary beneficiary and allocating percentages of the assets to them. Have you been employed at the same place for a long time? If so, review your beneficiaries.

Being well organized is another way to be sure that your beneficiaries get what’s coming to them. Keep your life insurance records in at least two places — preferably inside and outside the home — in case there’s a fire or flood. And they should have a lot of details (we’re talking dates, policy numbers, the amount of the death benefit, the name of the agent who sold you the policy, etc.). A good place to store your records inside the home is with your financial records or legal papers. A safe deposit box, a trusted relative, or a professional should keep the second set of records. And be sure your beneficiaries know where to look for them after you’re gone.1

Review tax withholdings

Review your tax withholdings and payments. Big events in the last year — such as marriage, divorce, or having a child — are good reasons to adjust your withholding.

Check out the Tax Withholding Estimator (also available in Spanish) from the IRS. It’s a handy tool for everyone — employees, retirees, and the self-employed — who wants to effectively tailor how much income tax to withhold.

Speaking of taxes, start prepping for tax returns by making sure your financial institutions and employers have your correct address. And then start gathering the documents you’ll need to file your taxes (prior returns, receipts, bank and credit card statements) and create a spot for them and W-2, 1099, 1099-G (for unemployment) or 1098-E (for student loans) documents.2

Review your insurance needs

Health insurance, life insurance, homeowners insurance, and auto insurance — oh my!

The types of insurance you can have seem endless. It’s important to reevaluate your insurance policies regularly — to make sure you’re properly insured and are not paying too much for them.

Reviewing homeowners insurance

Homeowners insurance rates can fluctuate due to crime and bad weather near your home, which can have a negative impact on rates. The 18 U.S. weather/climate disaster events in 2022 (as of October 11) that each exceeded $1 billion in damages are sure to affect insurance premiums.3

Thankfully, there are things you can do to decrease the cost of your premium. One way is to raise your deductible. The higher the deductible the lower the monthly premium will be. However, be sure it’s one that you can afford to pay out of pocket if something does happen.4

Looking for other practical ways to lower your premium? Bundle your homeowners and auto coverage. In addition, try to boost your credit score by making on-time payments, lowering your credit utilization, and avoiding opening new lines of credit. Security features in your home — such as an alarm system and cameras — reduces the likelihood of a break-in. Investing in these features can lower your premium.4

Also, have you accumulated more possessions since the time you purchased your policy? If so, reevaluate your homeowners policy to be sure it covers everything of value.

Reviewing auto insurance

Every state has minimum car insurance requirements — and you might need just the minimum coverage. However, make sure your coverage equals your total assets (your house, car, savings and investments) in case the costs related to the accident exceed your coverage limits — and your assets are seized to pay for them.

Your auto insurance might include liability coverage, bodily injury liability (BIL), property damage liability, personal injury protection, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, collision, and comprehensive.

Review the types of coverage your state requires and read up on potential rates and discounts or work with a professional to get an affordable rate.

When determining how much you should pay for your premium, car insurance companies factor in your age, driving record, the type of vehicle you drive, credit score, and where you live. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do things to help lower your car insurance costs.

One way is to raise your deductible.

Here are a few more tips:

Let’s say your family car is paid off but you still have full coverage from when it was new. Now that it’s several years old, you might not need full coverage. Review how much you need and get quotes from three different companies.5

Find out if you can be rewarded with a discount for your good driving record or your car’s antitheft devices and safety features. Or for driving fewer miles each year. In fact, a number of people with office jobs started working from home due to the pandemic and continue to do so — see if you can use that to your advantage.5

Sign up for driver-monitored savings or take a certified defensive driving course.5

Consider using the same insurance company for your homeowners and auto coverage. Bundling your insurance may provide you with considerable savings.5

Review your portfolio — diversify if need be

Take a close look at your investments.

We saw how quickly the world changed when the pandemic began. So, too, can your life situation. Make sure your financial strategy still fits you. Did you recently inherit some money? Or perhaps your job is less secure than it was last year. As your life changes, your investments and financial portfolio might need another review and alterations.

Meet with your financial professional to see how changes in your life may have impacted your overall financial portfolio.

For instance, stocks and bonds in your investment portfolio should be appropriate for your age and how well you tolerate risk.

Your portfolio should reflect investment objectives that are appropriate for your current life stage. Your age, risk tolerance, tax status and time horizon, among other factors, are all important. Speak with a financial professional regarding your personal situation.

Spend eligible flex dollars

A healthcare flexible spending account (FSA) can save you money — as long as you spend the pre-tax dollars before the end of the year. Otherwise you run the risk of losing it.

In 2023, employees could squirrel away as much as $3,050 — $200 more than in 2022.6 So, make that last-minute dental or acupuncture appointment while there’s still time.

A tip for next year’s open enrollment period: If you, your spouse, or your child is going to need medical services, you should consider contributing to your FSA at least the amount of your health insurance deductible.

Check in on your emergency savings account

In an ideal world, you’d have three to six months’ worth of emergency savings set aside.

However, we don’t live in an ideal world, which makes it difficult for some heads of households to care for their family’s everyday needs. However, it’s important that you don’t fall into the camp of the 57 percent of Americans who don’t have the cash to cover an unexpected $1,000 bill.7

Remember that an unexpected emergency, such as a car repair or a medical expense, could set you back financially. To help ensure that doesn’t happen, build up your savings by automatically depositing some money from your paycheck to a dedicated savings account.

If you have kids, contribute to their college fund

College tuition isn’t for the faint of heart. But having a tax-advantaged strategy in place can help you prepare for the rising costs. If you already have one, try to contribute as much as you can.

As you’re preparing your child (or children) for their upcoming education, whether it’s elementary, high school or college, there are many different types of vehicles that could help you reach your goals. Speak to a financial professional to explore the possibilities and to see what would be a good fit for your specific situation. 

Make charitable donations

In 2022, people — along with foundations, corporations, and bequests — gave an estimated $499.33 billion to U.S. charities.8 Before the year ends, donate to an organization that’s close to your heart. The benefits are two-fold: You will reduce your taxable income and feel good about giving some of your hard-earned dollars to a good cause. It’s a win-win.

Start preparing for the future — and future memories

The new year starts as quickly as the last one ends. So be sure to set some new goals and write them down. Do you want to create an estate plan or simply save some money for a new car? Or you might be expecting some big changes that will affect your finances — such as having a baby or changing your career. Create goals with these anticipated changes in mind.

If it’s realistic, your financial checklist should include a savings strategy for a family vacation or another memorable event. It’s nice to have something to look forward to, even if that something will occur sometime way in the future. It’ll keep your eye on the prize.

You can open a dedicated savings account and set up an automatic transfer of funds to get you closer to your destination. And don’t minimize how effective dropping your loose change into a jar can be.

You’re now on your way to moving forward with your future. 

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1. “How Should I Organize and Store My Life Insurance Records?” Insurance Information Institute, November, 2023.

2. Blacklock, Amy; Cook, Vicki. “Financial review and planning checklist,” Women Who Money, Updated February 7, 2023.

3. National Centers for Environmental Information,,  January 10, 2023.

4. “How to save money on your homeowners insurance,” Insurance Information Institute, November 2023.

5. “Nine ways to lower your auto insurance costs,” Insurance Information Institute, November 2023

6. “Flexible Spending Accounts program — new 2023 limits for the HCFSA and LEX HCFSA,” National Institutes of Health

7. “57% of Americans can’t afford a $1,000 emergency expense, says new report.” Fortune, January 25, 2023.

8. “Giving USA: Total U.S. charitable giving declined in 2022 to $499.33 billion following two years of record generosity,” Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, June 20, 2023.

DOFU 11-2023