Year-end Financial Planning Checklist

Year-end Financial Planning Checklist

With the calendar year-end fast approaching, it’s time for investment professionals to begin reminding clients of some important financial planning actions they may want to consider before the opportunities are lost.

Personal Changes

  • Ask about any events this year, or milestones expected for next year, that may change financial plans (e.g., retirement, moving, new baby).
  • Discuss threshold-age-related issues: age 50 (now eligible for catch-up contributions); 62 (make sure clients don’t begin taking reduced Social Security benefits without first discussing it with you); 65 (remind clients they need to apply for Medicare even if they are planning on beginning Social Security at age 65); and 72 (RMDs must begin).
  • Remind clients to spend any remaining balances in their Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA).
  • Determine if clients have refinanced their mortgage amid historically low rates.
  • Re-assess financial plans and objectives for a post-COVID-19 world.


  • Re-assess a client’s risk profile in view of investment actions they may have made during the pandemic meltdown. Any year-end portfolio rebalancing may have to reflect a modified client risk profile.
  • Suggest that clients contribute to a child’s or grandchild’s 529 college savings account.
  • Review your clients’ executive compensation provisions and options.
  • Ask if they need to rebuild their emergency fund.


  • Harvest tax losses to offset realized gains; keep in mind the 31-day IRS wash rules.
  • Consider accelerating income into 2020, including accelerating exercise of company stock options if your client believes that income taxes will be going up in 2021; otherwise, defer income where possible.
  • Suggest clients make their January mortgage payment in December to get a deduction for 2020.
  • Recommend contributing to a Health Savings Account (HSA), if the client qualifies.
  • If a client may be subject to Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), have your client discuss with their tax advisor before accelerating or deferring income and tax payments.
  • Any refunds from colleges on tuition and room and board, if they were paid with 529 funds, must be returned to the 529 account; otherwise, they may be subject to income taxes and penalties.


  • Ask for 2020 and 2021 IRA contributions.
  • Suggest clients raise their 401(k) contributions.
  • Remind clients that RMDs have been pushed back to age 72.
  • Suggest that your clients’ fund a child’s Roth account, provided the child has earned income (e.g., babysitting, dog walking).

Estate Planning

  • Gift up to $15,000 per individual (for each spouse) federally, tax-free.
  • Discuss with clients the option of making charitable gifts of appreciated stock or other property instead of cash.
  • For clients over the age of 70 ½, discuss the benefits of making a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) from their IRA.
  • Introduce the idea of a Donor-Advised Fund (DAF) for clients’ charitable donations.
  • Review beneficiary designations on all financial accounts and insurance policies.

Be sure to reach out via your Web site, e-mail communications, newsletter and by personal phone calls to remind your clients of these key year-end planning actions and reinforce the value you bring to their financial lives.

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