2021 is almost over.
As one chapter ends, a new one begins.
The month of December is the perfect time to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the future.
While enjoying the holiday season, be sure to use these important weeks to review your finances and position yourself for a successful new year.
Here’s our complete year-end financial checklist for immigrants:
1. Review Your Spending Habits
During this eventful time of year, everyone wonders, “where did the year go?”
Though it’s certainly a good question, the better question is, “where did the money go?”
Start your financial checklist by taking stock of your spending habits. Review your monthly statements individually, or take advantage of your bank’s mobile app to evaluate exactly where your money is going (from food and travel to entertainment and beyond).
If you set a budget earlier in the year, honestly assess how well you adhered to it. If you overspent in some areas, don’t worry: you’ll just know where to improve in 2022.
On the other hand, if you spent less than you budgeted, consider rewarding yourself by transferring the extra money into your savings account.
Want a better way to budget? Click here to check out one of our favorite budgeting strategies!
2. Contribute to Your 401(k) or other Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plan
December marks the year’s final month to max out your 401(k).
Whether you received a holiday or year-end bonus, saved money over the course of the year, or if your company offers a “match,” investing in your 401(k) is a great way to pay yourself first.
Though you will defer the enjoyment of your investment for a later date, remember that you’re helping to build and protect your financial future.
The deadline for contributions is December 31, so be sure to make a move before it’s too late.
Note: while you have until December 31st to contribute to your 401k, you will have a few extra months to add to your IRA, where the deadline is April 15, 2022.
3. Use Your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) Balance
The end of the year often marks the end of certain employer-sponsored health benefits.
If you’re enrolled in a flexible spending account (FSA) through your company, be sure to check your balance and spend however much you have left.
Otherwise, any unused funds will be forfeited after December 31st!
Note: If you don’t have an immediate reason to spend the money (or are simply unable to do so), be sure to ask your employer if they can provide an extension.
4. Get a Free Copy of Your Credit Report
Nothing in life is free, right?
As it turns out, that’s not completely true!
Every year, you can get one free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus.
In fact, federal law requires that TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax each provide a complimentary copy of your credit report.
You can start the process by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
While it’s smart to check your credit report on a regular basis, the month of December provides a great chance to catch up and make sure there are no errors or evidence of identity theft.
If you do identify any mistakes on your report, click here to learn about disputing errors.
5. Pay Down Credit Card Debt
Credit is important, and that’s no secret. After all, it’s the gateway to getting loans for houses, cars, and everything in between.
Unfortunately, having bad credit can hamper your access to financial freedom. Of all the types of debt, credit card debt may be the most dangerous.
If your plastic is causing you pain, you’re not alone. Since the pandemic began, over 42% of adults with credit card debt have borrowed even more.
And with annual percentage rates (APR) averaging about 16% for credit cards, it can be very difficult to become debt-free.
While it’s easy to get overwhelmed, the best thing you can do is start the process one day at a time. Whether you pursue the “debt snowball” approach or target your high-interest debts first, the habits you form today will liberate you tomorrow. Making paying down your credit card a priority in 2022 will boost your future finances.
PS: Want to improve your credit score? Make sure you pay off your credit card bills on time. It’s the fastest way to boost your score and get more favorable rates from lenders.
Getting Started (in 2022!)
We almost forgot!
There’s one more thing to add to your year-end financial checklist: set your goals and resolutions!
If there’s anything we learned over the last year and a half, it’s that preparation truly matters.
For example, having savings accounts and emergency funds are tremendously important ways to gain a measure of stability in our inherently unpredictable world.
As you consider your financial goals and resolutions, be sure to include everything from your long-term goals (i.e. buying a house) to your short-term targets (i.e. paying down small debts).
Every component matters, no matter the size.
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