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  • Katherine Fonville

Creative Questions To Ask Your Financial Advisor About Your Year-End Plan

The end of 2022 will be here before you know it. And you don’t want it to pass without checking in on your financial plan. Doing so helps you stay ahead of year-end deadlines and maybe even identify areas for improvement going into 2023.

As you prepare for your year-end checkup, download our end-of-year checklist, and consider asking your financial advisor these important questions to get the conversation started.

Question 1: Am I On Track To Hit My Financial Goals This Year?

Do you remember the goals you set 12 months ago? No? Well, now is an excellent opportunity to remember what you hoped to achieve and check your progress toward those goals.

Perhaps you’re preparing for retirement in the next 5 years, or maybe you’re making a cross-state move, or you’re hoping to shore up your cash reserve.

Since your financial advisor should be well-versed in your goals, they’ll be able to help you understand how your financial choices either are or aren’t supporting those initiatives. For example, did you overspend on travel this year? Is your portfolio still aligned with your timeline, risk, and goals? Is your net worth where you want it to be?

No matter what, it’s important to talk with your financial advisor to ensure you’re on the same page. Maybe your goals changed, or you simply placed them in a different order of priority when you first discussed them with your advisor.

That’s okay; life changes and your plan should adapt with it.

  • If you are on track, great! Have a follow-up discussion about how you can build on that momentum heading into next year.

  • If not, be sure to discuss with your advisor about recommendations for how to improve and why those are the steps to take.

Question 2: Is There Anything I Can Do To Put Myself In A Better Tax Situation?

This question is a must! Year-end tax planning is critical because many of retirees' most notable tax-saving moves have a December 31 deadline. Ask your advisor if there are any strategies you should consider before year-end.

Many of your options will involve choosing between accelerating or deferring income. While you won’t be able to avoid taxes entirely, you often have some choice regarding when you will pay them. Your advisor should be able to help you identify the best time.

Some topics to discuss with your advisor include:

  • Do you plan to itemize or take the standard deduction?

  • What deductions or tax credits are you eligible to claim?

  • Can you save any more for retirement or other vehicles, like an HSA or deductible IRA, that could lower your taxable income?

  • Does a Roth conversion make sense?

  • Are you investing in a tax-conscious way? Remember that tax-loss harvesting must be completed by December 31!

  • Are you properly leveraging your charitable giving strategy? Retirees have several options like a QCD, DAF, donating appreciated assets, and more.

Question 3: Is My Estate Plan Up To Date?

Take some time to look at your estate planning documents each year. You don’t have to re-hash the entire process, but a quick review can help you ensure the documents and choices still reflect your estate planning goals. Is your will still accurate? What about a medical directive? Do you have a power of attorney?

Even something as simple as updating beneficiaries due to typical family changes (birth, death, marriage, and divorce) can save your family a lot of grief and hassle down the road.

Your financial advisor can help you talk through these things and coordinate with an estate planning attorney if you need to update them.

Question 4: What’s The Best Way To Give To Charity?

There are so many ways to give to charity beyond cutting a check, especially for retirees, and some of these ways also provide additional tax benefits. Before the end of the year, ask your advisor about:

  • Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs). If you are subject to RMDs you don’t necessarily need for living expenses, consider donating them directly to the charity. When you do this, you can avoid taxes on the distributions.

  • Donor Advised Funds (DAFs). If you regularly donate, ask your advisor about DAF strategies. Many retirees find it helpful to “bunch” multiple years' worth of donations into a single year. Doing so is especially helpful if you must clear the itemization hurdle to take advantage of other deductions.

Don’t forget you can also give your time! Volunteering regularly is an excellent way to contribute to your community and meaningfully impact causes you care about.

Question 5: Is My Investment Strategy Still Aligned With My Needs?

Your investments fluctuate throughout the year, so it’s a good idea to review them and see if you need to rebalance them even if your performance has been good and you haven’t changed any goals.