Time is running out for end of the year financial maneuvers, but that doesn't mean you can't get a few things done. I have some suggestions and all of them are fast and easy.
After all the holiday shopping and post-holiday spending, the first order of business now is to do no harm.
"You do not want to roll into 2012 with more debt than you had in 2011," said Merrill Edge Financial Solutions advisor Paul Granucci.
So put down your credit card and back away from the checkout counter. You can still spend money, but spend money that is already out of your hands: have you used all the money in your flexible spending accounts?
Many employees put away as much as $5,000 pretax for child care and another $5,000 for health care. The money comes out of your pay check throughout the year. So, have you used all the cash you set aside? On Friday, when you go to work, ask. And if money is left over pay, pay for past or future medical, dental and child care costs. Remember the money you don't spend on medical and child care is donated to your company.
And while we are on the subject of donations, make a run to Salvation Army, Good Will or other charities that collect donations. Hand over used good-condition items you no longer need. That gives you a nice tax write-off and the charity gets to help its clients -- it's a win-win.
Next, set up a financial plan for next year. Granucci said you can't save and invest if you don't have any money set aside.
"Money is coming out of your paycheck automatically either to go in a retirement plan or into some kind of savings account or some kind of investment account or something like that, but pay yourself first before you pay everybody else. If I can express nothing more than that, that is what I hope people do for 2012," said Granucci.
One final note about those flexible spending accounts: some have grace periods of two and a half months, so you can keep spending your money until March. So it may not be an emergency for you, but check with your employer to be sure and don't just ask them, make sure you see it in writing.