End of the Year Planning Checklist

Blaine Bowers |

End of Year Planning Checklist: General Planning

Assess current year’s progress on goals

  • Did you set goals for the year?
  • Did you set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound) goals?
  • This is the perfect time of year to re-evaluate where you stand, mark off goals you’ve already completed (and pat yourself on the back) and create a plan of attack for your remaining goals. The year isn’t over yet!

Begin planning next year’s goals

  • Things change, life happens, and it’s impossible to predict what the future holds.
  • If you’ve had to re-prioritize goals, now’s the perfect time to begin getting the schedule set up for next year on the goals you couldn’t or didn’t accomplish, as well as add any new goals that have arisen.

Update contact information

  • If you’ve moved or made any other substantial change (new phone number, closed an account, etc.) this is a great time of year to verify that your contact information is up to date for all current and previous sources.
  • This will help you stay informed with any relevant information, as well as ensure you receive important information (such as tax documents) in a timely fashion.

Re-evaluate amount of emergency savings required

  • With the highest inflation levels seen in decades, it’s a good idea to review your average living expenses.
  • Make sure to adjust your emergency savings levels to adequately cover your expenses for your desired time-horizon.

Give yourself a raise when you move your savings to a high-yield account

  • One of the benefits of inflation, and the Fed’s fight to contain it, is rising interest rates.
  • This is a great time to shop around for high-yield savings accounts.
  • Make sure your emergency savings and any excess cash-on-hand is earning as much interest as possible.

Cash flow analysis/adjustment

Estate planning and reviewing beneficiaries

  • Do you have any estate planning done?
  • What happens to you and your assets if an accident renders you lifeless or disabled?
  • I doubt you want your ex or any other previously designated but no longer appropriate individual making decisions for you when you’re on life support or inheriting all your assets.
  • Have you documented in a will or other written document what your wishes are for your physical body and the handling of any specific issues or important belongings after your death?
  • Have you recorded your wishes regarding the use of specific medical interventions to extend your life?
  • It’s a good idea to have a power of attorney set up so someone you trust can make decisions for you when you are incapable of doing so yourself.
  • It’s also a good idea to review estate planning documents and insurance policies periodically to make sure the powers of attorney and the beneficiaries are still relevant and appropriate.

Insurance planning – open enrollment

  • The last few months of the year mean open enrollment for most health insurances.
  • Review your current annual medical costs and benefits, and make sure they align with your needs.
  • At the very least, take the time to look at the other insurance options out there to see if there is a better option for your unique needs.
  • Consider if a plan that offers a Health Savings Account (HSA) to optimize the tax advantages that provides is a good fit.

Re-evaluate life insurance needs

  • This is an excellent time to review your life insurance needs and add additional coverage if necessary.
  • Hopefully if you have any dependents, or anyone else relying on you for support, you’ve already got life insurance in place, but consider if any changes in your life circumstances or those relying on you for support have left your current insurance coverage insufficient or inappropriate.

End of Year Planning Checklist: Retirement Planning

401(k)/IRA (individual retirement account) contributions

  • Are you taking full advantage of the retirement accounts available to you?
  • Remember, you have until April 15 of 2023 to make 2022 contributions to your retirement account.
  • Make sure your automatic deposits are properly set to maximize your contributions and minimize your current tax obligations (depending on your current situation and financial plan).
  • For 2022, the max contribution to a 401(k) is $20,500, plus an additional $6,500 for those aged 50 and over.
  • For an IRA (any type) the max contribution is $6,000, with an additional $1,000 if you’re 50+.
  • There are phase out income limits for Roth contributions, so make sure your income is in the right place before making Roth contributions.


  • This is also a great time of year to review your current investment allocations to confirm that they still align with your long-term objectives.
  • Make sure to view your entire portfolio, not just each account individually.
  • All elements of your allocations should complement each other and help you accomplish your goals.

RMD’s (required minimum distributions)

  • If you’re over the age of 72, or have an inherited IRA, then chances are high that you’ve got to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your retirement account (unless it’s a Roth IRA).
  • Whether you take periodic payments or a lump sum, you’ll want to verify that you’re on track to receive the whole amount.
  • Distributions MUST be taken by December 31st, or there will be a 50% penalty on any RMD not taken during the year!

HSA (health savings account) – maxing it out or starting one up

  • This is the time to check out an HSA (Health Savings Account) option during health insurance open enrollment and see if an HSA account is an option and right for you.
  • If you happen to be ahead of the game and already have an HSA, now’s a good time to review your contributions to make sure you’re maxing it out.
  • If possible, pay current medical expenses out of pocket (save the receipts) and keep any unused 2022 HSA contributions invested for the long run.
  • HSA accounts offer unique tax advantages.
  • For more information on the benefits of an HSA, check out our blog post by clicking here.

Solo 401(k) set up or contribution

  • One of the best possible ways to plan for retirement for the individual business owner is a solo 401(k). If you’re a small business owner with no employees (except a spouse) you can set up a Solo 401(k) if you haven’t already.
  • If you already have a solo 401(k), make sure you’re maxing out your employee and employer contributions to maximize the benefits.
  • As long as the solo 401 (k) account is set up by December 31st, 2022, you have until April 15 of 2023 to contribute, so you might want to jump on this now.
  • Talk with your financial planner to see if this is a good fit for you.

Roth conversions

  • It might be a good idea for you to convert your retirement savings from a traditional retirement account to a Roth account.
  • Although this will increase your current tax liability, it will likely provide more options and planning strategies for drawing down your assets in the future.

Cash balance plans

  • For those of you who own a business, a cash balance plan can help to set yourself and your employees up for retirement success.
  • A cash balance plan is labelled as a defined benefit plan and can be used in conjunction with other retirement plans, such as a 401(k).
  • Cash balance plans are fairly complex, but they have contribution limits based on age and distributions based on account value.
  • While contributions can be quite substantial, it’s important to note that only the employer can contribute to the plan, and it must be offered to all eligible employees.

Defined benefit plans

  • For the self-employed individual, defined benefit plans allow you to select a steady amount of income every month during retirement.
  • Contributions to the plan are determined by an actuary based on the desired benefit amount.
  • Contributions are made primarily by the employer (yes, you if you’re self-employed).
  • Defined benefit plans can be combined with other retirement vehicles such as 401(k) and IRA.

Stock Options

  • Do you participate in an employee stock purchase plan (ESPP) or receive any stock as compensation or benefits such as Restricted Stock Units (RSU)?
  • This is a good time to review your contribution limits and vesting schedule, as well as review where that account stands in relation to your entire portfolio.

End of Year Planning Checklist: Tax Planning

401(k)/IRA contributions

  • Are you on track to meet your contribution goals for your retirement accounts?
  • Remember, contributions to traditional 401(k)s and IRAs are tax deductible and tax deferred.
  • Contributions made this year will lower your current tax liability, but future distributions will be taxed at your ordinary income rate.
  • Talk with your financial planner to determine the most advantageous way to utilize the retirement plans available to you.

Roth conversions

  • Is your income lower this year than normal?
  • Are you expecting to be in a lower tax bracket this year?
  • If so, this is a great opportunity to consider converting your traditional retirement account into a Roth account to take advantage of your lower tax bracket.
  • Roth conversions are best for those with at least 5 or more years until retirement (or 5 or more years until the money is needed, whichever is first), and who expect to be in a higher tax bracket in retirement.
  • Roth conversions are also good for those of you who make too much to contribute to a Roth account directly, but still want the flexibility and options in retirement.

HSA (Health Savings Account) max or sign up during open enrollment

  • Yes, HSAs (Health Savings Accounts) were covered once on this end of year checklist, but remember, contributions to an HSA are tax deductible, and distributions for qualified medical expenses are tax free.
  • If you need some extra cash this year but don’t want the tax ramifications of selling any of your holdings for a gain, try looking into reimbursing yourself for previous HSA qualified medical expenses.

Tax projections with a CPA (certified public accountant)

  • It’s always a good idea to work with your CPA to make sure you’re meeting your expected tax liabilities.
  • This is a great time of year to get a good estimate of your current tax situation while giving you time to make any necessary estimated tax payments.
  • Why pay IRS penalties if you don’t have to?

Charitable Contributions

  • For those of you who are already inclined to donate to charity, you can reduce your current year tax liability by donating money or assets to a qualified organization.
  • Do you have RMDs (required minimum distributions) that put you into the next tax bracket?
  • You can reduce your taxable income by opting for a charitable distribution from your retirement account straight to a qualified organization.
  • You can also reduce your taxable income by the market value of your donated assets.
  • Talk with your CPA or financial planner to see if charitable contributions are a good strategy for you.

Annual Gifts

  • If you’re someone who likes to help friends and family, or just like to give away money, don’t forget to keep up with the annual gift tax exclusion limits.
  • The limit on annual gift amounts raises every year with inflation but going above those limits can lead to an 18%-40% gift tax.
  • There are certainly a lot of exclusions and workarounds, so make sure you consult with a financial planner or CPA if you plan to give away (or have already given away) any substantial amount of money this year.

Tax-loss harvesting

  • Have you lost money on any investments this year?
  • It might be a good time to sell off some losses and rebalance your portfolio.
  • Losses from this year can be used to directly offset capital gains (and/or ordinary income up to the current limit), and you can carry forward any losses that you can’t use this year.
  • Nobody likes to realize losses, but if that money is reinvested for future gains, it could be a beneficial strategy to reduce your current overall tax liability

Solo (k) set up or solo (k) contribution

  • With total contribution limits of $61,000 (2022), and the ability to utilize the Roth feature, this is an amazing opportunity to sock away some serious cash for retirement.
  • Solo (k) contributions are deductible for the individual (non-Roth contributions) and for the business, so it’s a double attack on the tax man.

Cash Balance Plans

  • For the business owners with at least a couple of employees, cash balance plans can be a great way to reduce your tax burden.
  • Contributions to a cash balance plan are only allowed by the employer and are completely tax deductible for the business.
  • The best part is, contribution limits are substantially higher than most retirement plans, so you can get a pretty significant write-off.
  • However, cash balance plans are fairly complex, and should be discussed with your financial planner.

Defined Benefit Plans

  • High contribution limits with contributions coming primarily from the employer make some defined benefit plans great to lower the current tax bill for small business owners.
  • Not only are contributions deductible for the business, but they can also be combined with a defined contribution plan to really reduce your current tax liability.

RMD’s (required minimum distributions)

  • There’s a 50% penalty for not taking all your required distributions within the calendar year.
  • Make sure you distribute enough money each year.
  • You can also consider donating some or all of this year’s required minimum distribution directly to a qualified charity to help reduce your tax liability.


Additional Resources:

Department of Labor "Fact Sheet: Cash Balance Pension Plans".

IRS Publication 4484 - Choose a Retirement Plan

IRS Publication 526 - Charitable Contributions

IRS - Retirement Topics - 401(k) and Profit-Sharing Plan Contribution Limits

IRS - Retirement Topics - IRA Contribution Limits


This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax, legal, or investment planning advice as individual situations will vary. The SFA does not provide tax or legal advice.