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5 Additions to your New Year Checklist

1.         Review your Estate Plan.  In plain English, get an estate plan in place or update your existing plan.  Keep control over how your estate is transferred and how your assets re divided.  Remember, over time circumstances change.  Relationships change; there are divorces, deaths, and births.  Individuals change, they develop physical and emotional problems; they make poor life choices.  For those reasons and countless others, you may decide to make other bequests. 

Another reason for a review is changing tax law.  You may have created an estate plan under tax laws that have changed.  You of course want your estate plan to maximize all tax benefits.  Have your plan reviewed and implement the necessary changes.

Finally, don't forget to review update those Payable on Death (POD) designations!

2.         Review your Insurance Coverage and Needs.  Again, like with your estate planning, changes in income, family size, and financial obligations impact your insurance needs.  Consider a review of your life insurance, auto, home owners/renters, liability umbrella, and other insurance needs.  Consider as well, disability insurance, especially, if you are self-employed.  Remember, all of this does not necessarily mean an increase in coverage, especially, if you are down sizing or simplifying your lifestyle.   

Don't forget to review those Payable on Death (POD) designations!

Finally, shop that coverage!

3.         Check that Credit Report.  If you have not recently checked your credit report, you probably should do so at least on an annual basis.  Errors can crop up and it is up to you to monitor the situation and make corrections. 

Everyone is entitled to one free report per year and if you have been declined credit, you may be eligible for another free report.  A word of caution, make sure that if you are requesting your report on line, that you are requesting it from a genuine source.  The last thing you would want to do is provide confidential information to an illegitimate operation.

Don't forget that your credit report can impact more than your access to credit; employers may be checking it when you apply for a job; your insurance company may be looking at it when setting rates; and of course the cost and availability of credit is impacted by it.  It is easier to stay on top of the report as opposed to waiting until a problem forces you into action. 

4.         Start Next Year's Tax Planning Now.  Reviewing and updating your tax planning not only makes sense given the changing tax laws, but should be dove tailed with your estate planning and charitable giving plans.  It just makes good financial sense to stay on top of these financial concerns and to plan ahead.

5.         Retirement Planning.  Most of us look forward to a time when we are able to sit back and relax after a lifetime of work.  What this means is that it is never too early to begin to plan for that time.  We have of course all heard this before, but like estate planning, many of us tend to put it off.  There always seems to be more pressing financial needs and before you know it, time and opportunities have passed.  This is a trap to be avoided.  Get that plan started and rest well knowing that when the time comes you will be ready to enjoy that hard earned rest.

Conclusion

Taking some simple steps can greatly enhance the personal and financial security for yourself and your family.  Some of the above steps may require professional advice to get things right.  I often hear friends, business acquaintances, and clients object to the cost of seeking out advice from lawyers, accountants, tax experts, and other professionals when addressing the above items.  I can understand the complaint; good and competent advisors do often charge for their services and rightly so.   That concern for cost does need to be considered in light of the value that these advisors can provide.  It is my experience that the expense of resolving problems on the backend is typically greater than the expense associated with proper planning on the front end.  I believe that developing and utilizing a network of professional advisors to assist you in tax, insurance, estate, and financial planning is well worth the effort and associated expense. 

Take good care and have a prosperous and happy New Year!