Why think about how to improve productivity now? With the end of the year rapidly approaching, it may seem a little overwhelming to start thinking about next year.
However, if you wish to make strides to improving productivity and efficiency, that’s exactly what you need to do!
If you want to improve productivity now, interestingly, focusing on the future is a great way to make today more positive and less overwhelming. This is true, no matter the current state of your finances or organization. It places your mindset in a position of control. After all, while you can’t control what has already happened, you surely can control what you do in the future.
Here are 8 things you can do now for your finances to make today less stressful and next year more productive:
Locate Important Papers
While you are getting out the holiday decorations and cleaning the house for guests, this is the perfect time to also get your financial and other important papers organized too! This is definitely a step you can take to improve productivity now – without delay.
Ideally, you have an organized office at this point. If not, it’s a good idea – for your own mental and financial well-being – to organize it now. Most people find they have more energy and initiative during the holidays. Take advantage of this state!
When you are organizing your office, you want to make sure you know where important papers and documents are and organize these too!
These include things like birth certificates, social security cards, charitable donation receipts, sales receipts for gifts purchased, insurance policies, retirement account policies, and bank statements too!
At minimum, get some inexpensive folders and a filing box and make sure all these documents are kept in one place and labeled appropriately. This will make your life easier come tax time and take that foreboding weight off your shoulders now.
Check Your Withholding
For most companies or businesses, the start of the year is when withholding can be changed. How much did you pay into taxes on your paycheck or in estimated taxes the past year? How much did you have to pay in extra when you filed your taxes, or how much did you get back?
It doesn’t really matter if you had to pay more at tax time or got money back. In either case, it means your withholding should be adjusted.
If you usually get money back, you don’t want the IRS to hold your money and earn the interest. If you usually pay money in at tax time, that’s not good either. Usually, there is a penalty associated with that as well and that is IF you make the extra payment on time. Otherwise, there is additional interest and penalties due too.
Therefore, make sure that your withholding is set so that you end up as “even” at tax time as possible. If not, prepare to change your deductions when that time rolls around.
Check Your Pre-Tax Deduction Plans Like Insurance and Retirement
Similarly, it’s likely open enrollment for insurances and retirement plans too. This makes it a good time to review yours as well. Do you know what your deductibles are? Do they need to be lowered or raised?
Likewise, how about life insurance? Do you have enough for your current rate of pay? Is your beneficiary or are your beneficiaries correct?
While you’re at it, look at your car insurance and any other supplemental policies as well. Usually, it doesn’t hurt to shop around to make sure you are still getting the best rate.
Review Flex Spending or Health Savings Accounts
With FSA and HSA pre-tax savings accounts, you use it or lose it. Therefore, this is the perfect time for you to make sure you don’t have money you need to spend. If so, is there anyone in the family who needs dental work? Or perhaps you, your partner, or a child or children needs more contacts or new glasses?
Additionally, if you do have monies that have to be spent and don’t need any medical services, take a look at the website for your FSA account. Even certain things like sunscreen and certain vitamins can be covered if you use their preferred provider(s)!
Check Your Interest Rates
While you are on a roll, pull out all your credit cards (hopefully, not too many!) and check your interest rates. Many cards have variable rates and your rate may have gone up dramatically without you realizing it. Similarly, check to make sure you’re not being charged big fees for add-on products you may not need.
For example, if you have disability insurance, you might not need that expensive credit insurance on your store charge card.
Of course, in some cases, you may want to check with your financial advisor or planner but do look and see where you might be able to save money by canceling extra services and/or transferring balances to a card or cards with a lower rate.
Make Charitable Donations
While organizing your house, and organizing your office, you are likely gathering up stuff to throw out. Additionally, family members are probably getting new clothes and other stuff for Christmas too, creating a need to get rid of the old. Don’t necessarily just throw everything away!
While you may want to make some extra cash by selling some of the larger items, think about what you could donate. If you do it before the end of the year – and donate to a charitable organization – you can get receipts so your donations can be deducted on taxes.
Similarly, if you know you are going to have a big tax bill, it may make sense to up your cash charitable donations too. It’s a great way to make someone else’s holiday and do something good for your financial situation as well.
Meet with a Financial Advisor or At Least, Make a Plan
Remember… future planning will help you feel less stress about the present. Even if you weren’t as organized or productive financially or professionally this year as you had wished, you can – and should – change this for next year.
If your income significantly increased or decreased, you will likely want to consult with a financial professional. However, in any case, this is a wonderful time to look back on the past year, not with regret but with an eye toward a plan for improving your position.
By controlling what you can – the future – you will feel less stress about what you can’t control… the past. This will help to ensure you enjoy the holidays and end of this year as much as possible, with a hopeful eye to 2017!