By Darren Wurz
The countdown to 2023 may be over, but are your finances in order and prepared? At Wurz Financial Services, we know that financial well-being doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes hard work, diligence, and consistency to improve your finances, strengthen your savings, and plan for the future. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive financial planning guide for the new year. Read on to learn more about the steps you can take to jump-start your financial plan for 2023.
Maximize Your Retirement Savings
Be sure to max out your retirement contributions for 2022 prior to April 15th of 2023. Many employers offer retirement plans like 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and 457s, which allow you to contribute up to $20,500 annually for 2022 ($27,000 if over age 50).
These contributions are automatically deducted from your paycheck and won’t show up as part of your annual income, so the more you can maximize your contributions during the year, the less taxable income you will have. If you still haven’t maxed out your contributions with salary deferrals, consider making additional contributions prior to April 15th. With this strategy, you can defer taxes until your retirement years when you could potentially be in a lower tax bracket.
Contribute to a Traditional IRA
Contributing to a traditional IRA is another strategy to reduce your AGI if your income is within certain limits. By contributing pre-tax funds, you can effectively reduce your current-year tax liability, but you will owe tax on both the contributions and the account growth when you withdraw the funds in retirement. The 2022 contribution limit for traditional IRAs is $6,000 with additional $1,000 catch-up contributions for individuals over the age of 50. Contributions can be made until April 15th, 2023 for the 2022 tax year so there’s still time to utilize this strategy. If you’ve already maximized your 2022 contributions, start contributing for the 2023 tax year.
Understand Your RMDs
Starting in 2023, the rules around required minimum distributions (RMDs) will change again thanks to SECURE 2.0. If you turn 72 after December 31, 2022, your RMD age will be increased to 73. If you turn 74 after December 31, 2032, your RMD age will be 75. If you are subject to RMDs in 2023, the sooner you understand the rules around your distribution, the better. Though we are barely into the new year, you don’t want to be caught off guard come December 31. Depending on what age you are required to start taking distributions (70 ½, 72, 73, or 75), you could face a 25% – 50% penalty on missed distributions.
If you don’t need your RMD money to live on, consider donating the funds to a worthy cause, which could also lessen your tax burden for the year. To calculate your RMD, use one of the IRS worksheets.
Assess Your Emergency Fund
Now is the time to ensure that you have enough money set aside in your emergency fund or create a plan to build this up over the next year. An adequate emergency fund should cover 3-6 months of necessary living expenses, including mortgage or rent, utilities, groceries, transportation, etc.
With current stock market uncertainty and recession fears, many experts have suggested maintaining a larger emergency fund, closer to 6-12 months of expenses. If you’re single, or your household only has one source of income, consider saving on the higher end of this scale to make sure you’re covered in the event of a job loss or reduction in income.
However much you save, be sure this money is held in a highly liquid account. It needs to be readily available and easily accessible, but it should also be in an account that offers a competitive interest rate so you don’t lose out on potential growth.
Create and Maintain a Budget
The word “budget” seems to have a negative connotation; many people think that if you budget, you’re broke. Budgeting actually gives you permission to spend and is a simple way to keep track of your expenses and be aware of how much you’re actually saving each month. If one of your goals for the new year is to improve your cash flow and make better financial decisions, creating and maintaining a budget is a great place to start.
Contribute to a Health Savings Account
If you’re enrolled in a high-deductible health plan, consider contributing to a health savings account (HSA) in 2023. HSAs offer triple tax savings. Contributions are tax-deductible, earnings grow tax-free, and withdrawals are tax-free if used to pay for qualified medical expenses.
The 2023 IRS contribution limits for HSAs are $3,850 for individuals and $7,750 for families. If you are 55 or older, you may also be able to make catch-up contributions of $1,000 per year.
Review Your Workplace Benefits
The beginning of the year is a great time to review your workplace benefits and update your coverage levels if need be. If you had a major change to your family structure in 2022, like a birth, marriage, or divorce, now’s the time to update your 2023 health, dental, and vision insurances. Many employers also offer group life insurance which can be a great addition to any private coverages you may have.
Contribute to Your Flexible Spending Account
Your employer may also offer a health care flexible spending account, which allows you to set aside pre-tax money for qualified out-of-pocket medical expenses. In 2023, you can contribute up to $3,050.
Unlike HSAs, FSAs do not require that you participate in a high-deductible health plan, but they are not as versatile either. For instance, HSAs allow you to carry over any unused funds to the next plan year, whereas FSAs only allow you to carry over up to $610. Generally speaking, if you do not have access to an HSA, then contributing to an FSA may be a good idea.
Revisit Your Plans and Policies
The new year is also a great time to assess your insurance needs, review your coverages, and update designated beneficiaries to reflect your current financial situation. For example, if you paid off debt, you may not need as much life insurance coverage since your family’s liabilities have decreased. You might also want to evaluate your need for other types of insurance, such as long-term care or disability insurance.
Donate to Charity
Donating to charity doesn’t have to wait until the holiday season. In fact, charitable gifting is a great tax strategy to incorporate throughout the year.
Annual gifts to qualified charitable organizations may be deemed an eligible itemized deduction and can be a great way to give back at the end of the year while also minimizing your tax bill. With the higher standard deduction, you’ll need to make sure your total itemized deductions for the year exceed $13,950 for an individual filer, and $27,700 for married filing jointly. If your deductions fall below this amount, consider bunching your giving or doing several years’ worth of giving in one year.
Donor-advised funds are another option that allow you to contribute a lump sum all at once and then distribute those funds to various charities over several years. With this strategy, you can itemize deductions when you make the initial contribution and then take the standard deduction in the following years, allowing you to make the most out of your donation tax-wise.
Invest in a College Savings Plan
If you have children or grandchildren in your life, contributing to a 529 savings plan is an excellent way to jump-start their college savings in the new year.
This type of educational savings plan was created so that families can receive tax benefits for saving toward qualified higher-education expenses. After-tax money is invested in a 529 plan where it grows tax-free. When the money is later taken out for qualified expenses, there are no federal taxes due.
In 2023, you can give up to $17,000 (or $34,000 if gift-splitting with a spouse) per 529 account gift-tax-free. There’s also a special election that allows you to give 5 years’ worth of contributions as a lump sum, meaning you could give up to $85,000 (or $170,000 if gift-splitting) entirely gift-tax-free!
Consider a Roth Conversion
Roth IRAs are an attractive savings vehicle for many reasons, including no required minimum distributions (RMDs), tax-free withdrawals after age 59½, and the ability to pass wealth tax-free to your heirs. Unfortunately, Roth IRAs have income restrictions, and you may not be able to open an account outright if you are above certain limits.
To get around this threshold, consider a Roth conversion. Using this strategy, you will pay tax on money contributed to a traditional IRA, thereby converting it into a Roth. If you believe you will earn less income in 2023, or your traditional IRA balance has taken a hit due to recent market volatility, a Roth conversion may be a great opportunity for your specific situation. Converting to a Roth also allows your money to grow tax-free for as long as you’d like.
Consider Tax-Loss Harvesting
Tax-loss harvesting involves selling investments at a loss in order to offset the gains in your portfolio. By realizing a capital loss, you are able to counterbalance the taxes owed on capital gains. The investments that are sold are usually replaced with similar securities in order to maintain the desired asset allocation and expected return.
Given the unprecedented market volatility throughout 2022, this can be a great way to make the most out of a losing situation by using an investment loss to offset your tax liability. Even though the deadline for this to count toward the 2022 tax year has passed, there will likely be ample opportunity to revisit this strategy in 2023. Talk with your advisor about potentially harvesting your losses and if it makes sense for you.
Review Your Asset Allocation & Invest With Impact
The beginning of the year is also a great time to review your asset allocation strategy and incorporate ESG and impact investing if desired. Given the dramatic market volatility and historic levels of inflation over the last year, it’s crucial to evaluate your investments and make sure your portfolio is properly diversified in 2023. It should also be tailored to your specific risk tolerance level, ensuring you earn enough returns to keep up with inflation but you’re not overexposing yourself to risk.
If you are interested in using your funds to support environmental, social, or governmental issues (ESG), you can also consider impact investing as a way to earn returns while also promoting change on causes you care about.
Review Beneficiary Designations
If you had any major life events happen in 2022, like a birth of a child, marriage, divorce, or a death in the family, make sure you review your beneficiary designations for 2023. There are several assets, including retirement accounts, bank accounts, and life insurance policies, that are distributed based on beneficiary designation and not the terms of your will. If you have an updated will but an outdated beneficiary listed on one of these accounts, there is a chance your assets will not pass according to your wishes.
Review Your Estate Documents
Similarly, it’s important to review your estate planning documents, including your last will and testament, any powers of attorney, living wills, and/or trust documents. The new year is always a good time to take another look at these documents or start drafting them if you don’t already have them in place.
Make the Most of the Annual Gift Tax Exclusion
If you’re looking to reduce your taxable estate in 2023, consider making gifts up to the annual exclusion amount. Individuals can give to each recipient (and to an unlimited number of recipients) up to $17,000 and married couples can give up to $34,000 without triggering gift tax. Not only that, but the beneficiary of your gift will not have to report it as income. This is a great way to spread your wealth amongst family and friends.
Get Started Today
Planning for the future takes more than just going down a list of tasks. Partnering with a qualified financial advisor can be a great first step toward financial confidence. At Wurz Financial Services, we have the tools and expertise to help clients get their financial house in order. When you’re a client, we don’t just tell you what to do; we work with you to come up with a plan that feels good to you. Schedule a no-obligation consultation, and together let’s find out if we’re the right people for you to depend upon during your journey to a comfortable retirement. Contact us at 859-291-9879 or email@example.com today!
Also, join us at one or all of our free webinars:
- Social Security 101: The 3 Rules to Maximize Your Lifetime Retirement Benefits!
- Will I Have Enough to Retire?
- Retirement Planning Strategies for Solo & Small Firm Attorneys
Darren Wurz is a fee-based financial advisor and co-owner of Wurz Financial Services, where he operates the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati office. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and has a master’s degree in financial planning from Golden Gate University. Darren specializes in serving the unique financial planning needs of attorneys and law firm owners. He is the host of The Lawyer Millionaire Podcast and author of The Lawyer Millionaire: The Complete Guide for Attorneys on Maximizing Wealth, Minimizing Taxes, and Retiring with Confidence, published by the American Bar Association.
Darren is a member of the American Bar Association and the Financial Planning Association. He is also active in his local community as a member of the Northern Kentucky Bar Association, Cincinnati Bar Association, Covington Business Council, and Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. To learn more about Darren, connect with him on LinkedIn.