The beginning of a new year is a great time to get organized, both personally, professionally, and financially. It may seem daunting to think about 12 months of financial tasks and reminders, but giving your attention to one or two major tasks a month can really help you stay ahead of the game. Get out your planner or open up your Outlook and mark these important financial dates and to-dos down for each month.
Once you’ve recovered from all the holidays, take some time this month to create and review your financial goals for the year, especially your goals for your retirement contributions. Whether you choose ROTH TSP, Traditional TSP, or a combination of both, the elective deferral limit is $18,500 for 2018.
It’s a hefty accomplishment to contribute $1,541.66 each month to max out your TSP for the year. However, if you’re not maxing out your TSP contributions, think about what you can do to get closer to that annual goal of $18,500. Boosting your contribution rate even just by 1% will make a big difference in the long run. Likewise, if you or your spouse also have an IRA, the 2018 contributions limit is $5,500 per person.
Forget the flowers and chocolates this month. Show your loved ones how much you really care about them by taking time to review important documents that help take care of you and your family in emergencies and tragedies. Review insurance policy coverage, any accounts or policies where you need to make beneficiary designations, wills, powers of attorney, and even guardianship wishes.
We all know that Tax Day is in April, but take the month of March to really focus on preparing for your taxes. Use March to gather all your tax documents and review them for accuracy. By giving yourself some extra time, you’ll have more time to figure out if you’re missing any important documents and more time to prepare your tax strategy. The more time you have to prepare, the less likely you are to make mistakes or miss deductions.
This year, taxpayers will get an extra two days to file their individual tax returns with the IRS. Tax Day is 17 April this year instead of 15 April. It’s pushed out two additional days this year because 15 April falls on a Sunday and the next day 16 April is Emancipation Day, which is celebrated as a public holiday in Washington, D.C. Keep in mind, if you or your spouse are serving in a combat zone, you will have an additional 180 days after your last day in a combat zone to file your taxes.
17 April also marks the deadline to fund the previous year’s traditional and ROTH IRAs. The maximum contribution per person in 2017 was $5,500.
When’s your birthday? Mine’s in May! Regardless of when your birthday is, set up a recurring reminder each year to pull your free annual credit report. Each year you can pull your free credit report from the three major credit bureaus. The reports are completely free and will show you all the activity related to your credit which is helpful to catch any incorrect or fraudulent activity.
If you have kids in college, hopefully you’ve already submitted your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2017-2018 school year. However, if you haven’t yet, 30 June 2018 is the officially the last day you can submit your FAFSA form for this school year. The FAFSA for the 2017-2018 school year will ask for tax and income information from 2015.
You’ve made it past the mid-year hump of 2018. July is a perfect time to do a financial check-up since there is still six more months in the year if you need to make any major adjustments. Now is a great time to check back in with how you are performing against your goals. Specifically, check-in with your retirement savings contribution goals and other investments. If you are working at banishing debt, have you made good progress this year? If not, adjust fire, and focus on burning through that debt.
At least once a year, call your internet, cable/satellite, phone, and mobile phone service providers to see if there’s a better deal available for you. My personal philosophy is that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. When you call, always be polite and friendly. Explain that you have been a loyal customer and always pay your bills on time, however you’re looking to lower your monthly charges. Ask if there are any loyal customer discounts, specials offers, or new pricing packages available. You could save hundreds of dollars each year by simply picking up the phone and asking your service providers if they can help you to lower your bill.
If you have Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) for either healthcare or dependent care, make sure that you are on track to spend down all of your contributions for the year. FSAs are a great benefit because they let you pay for out of pocket health and dependent care expenses on a pre-tax basis. The contribution limits are $2,650 for healthcare FSAs and $5,000 for dependent care FSAs in 2018.
If you have college bound kids, 1 October 2018 is the date that the 2019-2020 FAFSA opens. It’s best not to procrastinate with filling out the FAFSA because some colleges and states give out financial aid on a first come, first served basis.
Additionally, don’t forget, if you requested an extension to file your individual tax return earlier in the year, 15 October 2018 is your new deadline to submit your tax return.
Good news! Most Tricare beneficiaries don’t have to worry about the annual Open Enrollment period that runs 1 November through 15 December. However, if you or your spouse carry another form of health insurance that is not Tricare, 1 November is the first day to review and select your health plan choices for the following year. Starting in 2019, Tricare will have an open enrollment period of its own. Unless you have a "qualifying life event," you'll use this period to switch between Tricare Prime and the Tricare Select (perviously known as Tricare Standard).
Congratulations! You made it around the Sun one more time. Before you head off into the New Year, remember that 31 December 2018 is the very last day to opt into the Blended Retirement System (BRS) if you are eligible. Although the BRS opt-in period has already been open for a year, you still have until the 31st to make your decision.
The 31st is also the last day to make any charitable contributions in 2018 if you itemize your taxes. In addition, if you have FSAs through your employer and they don’t give you a grace period of annual spending, remember that the 31st is also the deadline to spend out your healthcare or dependent care savings.
Christine Maxwell writes about personal finance and maintaining a career as a military spouse atHer Money Moves. You can also find her on her on Twitter @HerMoneyMoves, Pinterest @HerMoneyMoves, Facebook @HerMoneyMoves, and Instagram @HerMoneyMoves. (How does she manage it all?)