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You just put away your holiday decorations and now it’s time to get serious about your financial status. Here are four money moves to make in January to start the year off on the right financial foot:
The holidays are prime time for thieves to steal your financial information. Given the season’s higher-than-normal spending habits, it becomes easier for people to access your information – and harder for your credit card company and bank to flag suspicious purchases or withdrawals. In early January, review your credit card and bank statements to check for any spending you don’t remember. The sooner you report unexplained charges, the sooner you can mitigate potential damage to your credit.
It’s beginning to look a lot like tax season, indeed. While not as catchy as the holiday tune, January is the time to begin gathering your paperwork for Uncle Sam. By mid-January, you’ll start receiving W-2s, 1099s, prospectuses from your investments and other tax-related documents. Keep all of them in a safe place so you don’t lose anything important. You might be tempted to delay filing until April, but avoid that temptation. The earlier you file, the earlier you get your refund.
You probably have a big year ahead of you. Are you going on vacation in July? Getting a new car in March? These are all big expenses you should start planning for now. Take the time to calculate how much money you’ll need and when, then add a “buffer” to that amount to plan for any unexpected costs associated with these big purchases. You might realize you need to stay in a little more in January so you have a better chance of frolicking on the beach come July.
While the deadline to contribute to your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan has passed, there’s still time to add to your Individual Retirement Account (IRA). For these investing accounts, you have until April 15, 2016, to contribute the IRS maximum ($5,500, or $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older). Contributions to a traditional IRA may be tax-deductible, depending on your income and other factors, which could potentially reduce your 2015 tax bill.
January is all about taking the necessary steps to start the new year off right. By making these financial moves at the beginning of 2016, you’ll better position yourself for financial prosperity in the 12 months to follow.