With 2021 well underway, it’s more important than ever to get your personal and professional affairs in order. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is my personal or professional life full of clutter?
- Do I have deadlines to meet but feel anxious about meeting them?
- Do I have any tasks that I have yet to complete?
If this is you, you’ll be glad to know that some simple changes can be made that will boost your productivity levels and give you some peace. What can you do?
Declutter The Tech
Most people tend to overlook the need to clean up their technology, but did you know that cluttered technology can result in anxiety and stress? Dealing with tech – be it email, voicemail, FB, Twitter, etc. – can be laborious and time-consuming. However, it’s a necessity if you ever want to feel as if you’re making headway again, personally and professionally.
You can deal with this vapid chore by listening to music or having a movie in the background to take your mind off it.
- Delete messages in your voice mailbox, especially if it’s already full or getting close to full.
- Address your email inbox. Read any unread messages, reply if you need to and delete those you don’t need to keep. If you’re getting emails you no longer want to receive, unsubscribe them to help eliminate the clutter.
- If your cell phone has apps you rarely or never use, uninstall them and keep the ones you really need or want.
- Deal with your hard drive. After moving those you would like to keep onto an external drive or USB thumb drive, delete files off the drive.
- Make updates to your Facebook profile, going over the privacy settings. Remove third-party apps and website access. Go through your friends’ list and groups you are a part of. If you’re no longer interested in these folks or groups, unfollow them. Get rid of tags you’d rather not share.
- Give your electronics – mouse, keyboard, laptop/computer – a wipe down using a spray and wipe designed for electronics. More germs are on these devices than a toilet, and not cleaning them regularly can cause you to become sick.
Address Your Finances
The end of the year often includes deadlines, and if left unaddressed, you could be penalized or miss out on opportunities or have funds seized. Be sure you let your money work for you.
- Review your 401(k) plan to ensure you’re meeting your yearly contribution limit or can meet it. If you find that more can be contributed, boost it before the end of the year. Investors could contribute up to $19,000 a year in 2019 with an additional $6,000 in catchup payments for people 50 and older (this also decreases their taxable income). Be sure to look over asset allocations and see if a rebalance is necessary.
- Use any dependent or medical care money in your flexible spending accounts to ensure they’re not lost. FSA accounts let you contribute money – pre-tax – to pay for certain eligible childcare or medical expenses, but they must be used before Dec. 31. While some FSAs will permit $500 to rollover, most do not. Some FSAs provide a grace period, which means employees can use the money for up to three months after the plan year ends.
- Withdraw the mandatory minimum distributions from any retirement savings plan you have if you are older than 70. If this amount is not withdrawn, the IRS could hit you with a 50 percent penalty of the amount you should have taken out. This could mean thousands of dollars.
Deal With Loose Ends
People tend to focus on the more pressing matters, pushing aside just as important matters. This would be the time to deal with those matters.
- Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005, which stipulated that all persons must have a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or ID from their state if they wanted to fly or be permitted into a federal building by Oct. 1, 2020. Since this can take time, it’s important to see your DMV right away. DMVs often have to mail these cards out, which can delay you from boarding a flight or accessing a federal building.
- Reach out to old friends. Reconnect with people who are important in your life – one of the most energizing things you can do for yourself.
Take Care Of Estate Planning Details Before Deadlines
Before the year ends, there are some tasks around your estate planning to be complete to ensure your goals are right on track to be met. This especially true of tax benefits.
- Federal tax law states that you are eligible to give $15,000 away per person per year without paying a gift tax on the transfer. This should always be done before or on Dec. 31 to benefit from the year gift tax exclusion. After the New Year, you can conduct more tax-free gifts up to the maximum exclusion amount.
- If you set up an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT), be sure a gift is made to the trust in the premium amount due as soon as possible so the trustee can send out a “Crummey” notice to the beneficiaries. This notice will inform them of their right to withdraw the amount before a certain deadline (usually within 30 days of the notice). No matter when the premium is due, be sure to add this to your necessary year-end estate planning tasks. The insurance proceeds are then omitted from the estate and not subjected to tax and probate issues.
- Come up with new charitable giving strategies for the New Year. In 2017, the standard deduction was doubled, which means married couples who filed jointly have a $24,400 deductible. For that reason, some people make a normally two-year contribution in one year to benefit them when itemizing deductions. For instance, a couple who pays $10,000 in local property taxes and pays $5,000 in mortgage interest, with a $7,500 yearly contribution to a charity, will not benefit from itemizing because it’s not enough. However, double the contribution to $15,000, then the itemized deductions exceed the standard deduction. Next year, they would not need to make a charitable contribution and can take the standard deduction.
Reach Out To Us For Help With Your Estate Planning
There are many end-of-the-year tasks that you can handle yourself. However, estate planning needs the help of experienced estate planning attorneys to make sure your estate planning goals are in compliance with the law. If you need help with your estate planning, give Pratt Law Firm a call at 972-712-1515 to set up a meeting. Let us help you deal with your Texas estate planning issues.