Your Financial To-Do List Before Year's End

Richard Irwin |

Just like your holiday gift list, tick these items off your financial to-dos in the coming weeks. You’ll feel empowered by taking care of finances, and have a few new ideas to manage your money better in the new year.

Review and file your benefits claims

Are the benefits you have enrolled for the ones you still need? Reviewing your benefits portal is about as exciting as watching the snow fly, but it’s in this careful activity that you may identify areas to trim, or even coverage to add. You could learn just how much additional coverage you have for things like mental health support, massages and financial wellness. Should you have a legit need, use up expiring health benefits.

If you’re behind on submitting your benefits claims, now would be a great time to upload your receipts (or send them via snail mail while you’re dropping off holiday cards). Money you’ve paid out-of-pocket for eligible medical expenses may be claimed for the medical tax credit if you qualify. Why not organize those receipts? You’ll need them for filing taxes anyway.

Make your donations before the end of the year

For the donation receipt to be applicable to your 2023 tax filing, you’ll need to get this money to your registered charity of choice before the year closes. Especially at a time like this, with soaring food prices, high interest rates and generally inflated prices for everything, financial help is needed to support people in need. If you’ve got the flexibility in your budget, give a little.

Take a look at your will and insurance plans

Especially if you’ve experienced a major life event in the past year like welcoming a child, moving, changing jobs, divorcing or marrying or starting or selling a business, you’ll want to ensure your will reflects your true wishes, and that your life, critical illness and disability insurance plans cover your needs. Are the beneficiaries up to date? Is the executor the same? What about the chosen guardian for your children? Do you need more/less insurance coverage?

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “Hmm, I don’t have a will or insurance coverage.”

Use this pause as your super-loud cue to set up your will (you can even do it online) and meet with an insurance professional to assess your needs before the year is up.

Make your RESP plan contributions before Dec. 31

The Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) is a great way to save for your child’s future education. And to be eligible for the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) for this year, you need to make your contributions before year’s end. The maximum amount of the grant every year is 20 per cent of your contributions up to $500 per year, and a lifetime grant maximum of $7,200.

I’m a lover of free money, and I think you are, too. So make it a priority to contribute if you can. Rather than asking for more plastic toys for your kids this season, see if friends and family would be interested in contributing to their RESP instead.

If you’re thinking about a TFSA withdrawal or an RRSP contribution, meet with your financial planner promptly

The timing of your TFSA withdrawal can impact when you’ll regain that room back in your account, which is why most planners suggest withdrawing before the year is out, so that the available room comes back sooner. Your financial planner will need to review your total list of financial priorities before recommending a strategy. The same goes with your RRSP contributions (you have until March 1, 2024, to get contributions in and have them count for the 2023 tax year), but you’ll want to think about if/when/how you want to approach any top-up contributions. If you’ve incurred losses in your regular investments, your planner can speak to tax-loss selling, and if it makes sense for you to do so before Dec. 31.

Mark up your calendar with key renewal dates

Don’t get caught off guard by a “surprise” insurance policy, mortgage or subscription renewal. Get your 2024 calendar out right now and mark these items so that you give yourself enough time to review before you decide to renew (or not). Don’t forget employment contract renewal dates if that’s how you earn your income.

Update your automated payments and savings efforts

Based on your budget (and yes, you definitely need to have one; even self-made millionaires use budgets), you might need to change the amount of money you have automatically going toward debt, savings, investments and other services. Review it all, and update based on what you can afford and what your goals are for the remainder of this year and into 2024.

I like to work on these items a few per week as the year draws to a close so that they don’t feel like a pileup. You may find that starting now also helps you be more strategic in setting goals for the new year.

Author: Lesley Anne Scorgie for The Toronto Star.