It’s that time of year again! With the holidays upon us, 2022 is fast approaching. The end of the year can be overwhelming (we feel it)... Not to worry! Today we’re here to offer a financial to-do list to close out 2021, and welcome in 2022 stress-free!
As the year comes to a close, a financial review can help you quantify your progress and identify areas where improvements are required. It also helps you to develop a financial plan for the future. We did the research, we found the best tips, and included some of our own, so that you don’t have to stress about it! Forget Google, it’s all right here. They may not all apply to you and your financial situation, but we hope they help you in some way or another.
Let’s get to it!
1. Review Your Budget:
Over the course of the year a lot of things may change, including your financial wants and needs. In addition, with the pandemic changes, there’s a good chance your spending habits have changed as well. So at the end of the year it’s a good time to evaluate your budget, and where your money is going. Make a monthly budget for 2022 and resolve to track your spending against it throughout the year.
If you’re a returning reader of our blog, you already know how much we love to talk about budgeting here at Untangle Money.
Our version is the non-budget budget:
Take a look at your take-home income, subtracting your Committed Money*;
Then look at your retirement goal and invest that money (that’s what people mean when they say ‘pay-yourself-first’);
And then the left-over is your Flex Money that you can spend on whatever you want
Sisterly advice: Any month where you spend less than you budgeted for, you can transfer the difference into savings or invest it.
*Committed Money - is money that you’ve committed to spending in some way, you would need to take an action (cancel a subscription, move) in order to change this.
Make sure you have adequate cash in your rainy-day fund, or what we prefer to call your Life Happens fund. Based on our research, we suggest having around $2,500 in that fund - this is sufficient for most people.
2. Review your savings progress and set goals for 2022
In any strong financial plan, it is important to have savings to fall back on (the life happens fund we just mentioned). You may have had to dip into that fund this past year, which is totally OK (that’s what it’s there for). As part of your end of year checklist, it’s time to focus on how you’re going to replenish that money as well as grow your savings in 2022.
The best way to grow your savings? Invest your money now. If you haven’t already started investing your money, make that one of your 2022 financial goals (we talk more about this in the next three sections).
Some other financial goals you can set (including some we’ve mentioned already):
Make a plan to pay down or pay off your debt (we love the book Living Debt Free)
Figure out your retirement plan/goals and find out how much you need to save for your retirement - We happen to have the product just for that! Checkout our MINI!
Make a list of your financial needs and wants for the next year (Are you planning to buy a house? Maybe a car? Starting a new job? Having children?). Make sure to take account of what you’ll need or want to spend your money on in 2022.
Take a look at your financial goals; check your progress; reassess your plans to achieve them (what worked in 2021, what didn’t); and create a plan to work toward them in the new year.
3. Year-end Investment Moves:
Two important investment moves to consider are your overall portfolio allocation and rebalancing.
In terms of your asset allocation, review your investment mix of stocks, bonds, alternative investments, and cash to determine if what you’re currently doing still makes sense for your financial goals.
Questions to consider:
Do you have a lot of cash sitting on the sidelines?
Did you come into a large sum of money this year?
Do you have a big expense on the horizon that means you’ll have to withdraw funds?
Be sure to address any of these scenarios to craft an appropriate investment strategy for the coming year.
4. Contribute to your TFSA
A Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) is a great tool for saving and investing for both short and long-term goals. You can grow the money you have in your TFSA tax-free and keep more money in your pocket by putting your investments inside a TFSA account (💸💸💸).
For 2021, the annual TFSA limit is $6,000 and this does not include the contribution room you may have carried forward from previous years. The last day you can contribute to your TFSA for this year is December 31st, but the deadline isn't as pressing because the contribution room carries forward to the next year.
Let's look at an example: Let’s say you have $6000 you want to contribute in 2021 (and the contribution room to go along with it) , and December 31st comes and goes and you forget to make your contribution. You can just as easily contribute $6000 on January 1st, 2022 and it will be fine.
It’s not too late to contribute to your TFSA and take advantage of the tax-free growth realized on your savings account or investment portfolios.
5. Maximize your RRSP contribution (if you make over $50,000)
For 2021, you could contribute 18% of your earned income (up to a maximum of $27,830) to a Registered Retirement Savings Plan. If you have not used up your eligible RRSP limits in previous years, your contribution room would be higher.
For 2022, the maximum RRSP dollar limit will be $29,210.
In addition to helping you save for retirement in the future, an RRSP contribution also lowers your taxes for today. Your lower taxable income (as a result of RRSP deductions) can result in an increase in your Canada Child Benefit if you have kids.
Sisterly advice: If your employer offers an RRSP contribution match, make sure to contribute the maximum to avoid leaving free money on the table.
More advice: Consider making a contribution to your RRSP account within the first 60 days of 2022 in order to claim the tax deduction on your 2021 tax return.
6. Check your progress on paying down debt
If you currently have debt that you are paying off (whether it be student debt, credit card debt, etc.) now is a good time to take a look at how much debt you have right now compared to what you had at the beginning of the year. If you were able to make steady progress on paying it down that’s great! If not, don’t be too hard on yourself.
Things can change throughout the year, especially while in a pandemic. Address why you weren’t able to pay as much off as you had hoped, and make a new game plan for the new year that fits with your financial situation. It’s important to find the best strategy that fits into your lifestyle to pay down your debt while maintaining your other financial needs.
Sisterly advice: One way to get closer to paying off your debt is to cut down on your expenses, even if it’s just temporary, and putting that money toward your debt. Having a budget can really help with managing your debt payments. This will also allow you to set aside money for your future investments!
7. Beneficiary Updates
As you close out the year, it’s important to make any necessary updates and/or changes to your beneficiaries and estate.
Some questions to ask yourself:
Did a family member who was a beneficiary on your account pass away this year?
Did you want to change beneficiaries because your family dynamics have changed?
Be sure to reach out to your advisor/insurance professional to update them on your situation and discuss best practices.
If a family member did pass away this year, you should consider reaching out to your estate planning attorney to review and update your planning/documents such as a will, Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, and other estate planning documents.
8. Review your insurance policies
Sisterly advice: It doesn’t hurt to shop around to make sure you are still getting the best deal for your insurance needs. This looks like asking 3 different providers.
*Little known information: If you’re a CAA Plus member, you can get insurance from them. Their rates were very competitive in 2020. Another option in Canada is PolicyMe - it’s an online Canadian insurance company and they have some of the most competitive rates in Canada. We also enjoy the education section on their website. (We are not affiliated with them in any way).
9. Prepare for Tax Season
Unless you are self-employed, you must file your 2021 income tax return by the end of April 2022. Self-employed individuals generally get an extension until the middle of June.
Start gathering the documentation you need at tax time to ensure you don’t miss out on important tax deductions and credits.
RRSP contributions need to be made on or before March 1st - in some situations this can take a few days so we prefer to think of the deadline is February 23rd.
10. Recap and prepare for the future!
To close off your checklist, take a look at what you did this year and everything you checked off on this list, then adjust accordingly. You may have had some shortcomings this year - again, that is OK. You can learn from those shortcomings and can avoid the same problems in the coming year by planning well ahead.
Take a look at your budget and savings plan to determine if you need to tweak it to accommodate your new financial goals. Make sure to do the same for your estate plan and insurance as well.
Do you need to increase your income? You can create a plan to make extra money at your current employment or find other means for a second source of income.
Boost your savings by decluttering, trying different no-spending techniques, sticking to your budget and investing!!!
If you are nearing retirement or are thinking about your future retirement, this is also a good time to review your retirement savings to determine whether you are saving enough. Start looking at various options for generating retirement income from your registered and non-registered investment accounts.
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