It's almost time to ring in the new year.
Before you do, there are some smart money moves you can still make that can set you up for success in 2022 — and beyond.
To be sure, practicing good financial health is important all year long. However, there are some Dec. 31 deadlines looming ahead.
Plus, since people tend to put their lives in perspective at the end of the year, it makes sense to also include your money habits, said New York-based certified financial planner Tom Henske.
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"What really stifles people is the fear of the unknown," he said. "Taking the first step in getting things going is the hardest part."
These strategies can help improve your financial outlook before the year ends.
Get ahead of holiday bills
Take inventory of what you spent this holiday season, so you know what to expect when the bills arrive in January.
If you incurred any debt, come up with a plan to pay it down. Prioritize aggressively paying down the highest interest card first, said Abbey Henderson, CEO of Concord, Massachusetts-based Abaris Financial Group.
If the debt is overwhelming, consider consolidating it through a balance transfer card with a zero or low interest rate or personal loan.
"Consolidate as long as you can commit to getting it paid off and are not just running up another card," she said.
Review your budget
What did you spend money on this year?
Look at your credit card statements — many lenders even break down the expenses by category for you. See where you can adjust for the following year.
If you need to bring more money in, consider taking on a side hustle, asking for a raise or finding a new job. January and February are the best times of year to job-hunt because that is when companies' hiring budgets tend to take effect.
Look at medical expenses
If you still have money left in your flexible spending account, you may want to make that doctor's appointment you've been putting off or buy qualified items so that you get the reimbursement for this year.
While legislation signed into law late last year allows you to roll over any unused FSA funds into 2022, your company has to opt in. Some employers also give a grace period of a few months into the next year or permit you to carry over $550. If you still have money in the account, check with your employer to make sure you don't lose it.
Max out your retirement contributions
The annual contribution limit for employee-sponsored retirement plans, such as a 401(k), is $19,500 this year, or $26,000 if you are age 50 or over.
If you can, try to max out your contributions. If you can't, at least try to contribute enough to get the full company match, suggested Winnie Sun, co-founder and managing director of Irvine, California-based Sun Group Wealth Partners.
"That's free money," Sun said. "Don't leave it on the table."
Then, if you have already maxed out your 401(k) or don't have one, do the same with your individual retirement account or Roth IRA. The maximum contribution this year is $6,000, or $7,000 if you are age 50 or older.
Even though you have until April 15 to fund your retirement savings account out for 2021, doing it now will enable you to start saving for 2022 in January, Sun said.
While people have the best of intentions to get their financial life on track at the beginning of the year, things begin to fall apart as the year goes on. By setting up automatic transfers from your checking to your savings or investment account, you can avoid that, Henske suggests.
"What some people will do is hem and haw over the amount," he said.
"Be OK with putting $25 per month and just get it connected and going," Henske added. "It is easy to go in and change it from $25 to $250 per month."
Also check on your 401(k) contributions for next year. While the limit for IRAs is staying the same, at a $6,000 max contribution, the 401(k) maximum is increasing to $20,500. The catch-up limit for those age 50 and over remains at $6,500.
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