You’ve probably heard that most New Year’s resolutions end up in the bin of regret. A mere 8% of Americans say they stick to their plans, according to research by the University of Scranton.
But to have a successful year, mere resolutions aren’t enough, especially when it comes to making a personal financial plan. You need a detailed Q1 through Q4 strategy for your money—one that higlights key dates, important tasks and handy reminders. With these, planning 2016 just got a whole lot smarter.
Know your limits Remember that you can save up to $18,000 ($24,000 if you’re 50 or older) in a 401(k) plan and up to $5,500 ($6,500 if you’re 50 or older) in a traditional or Roth IRA.
Remix As you’re planning 2016, be sure to examine your portfolio’s asset allocation mix. If it needs to be rebalanced, take care of it now.
Tax time If you’re self-employed, your final estimated tax payment for 2015 is due January 15. While you’re at it, note the dates that quarterly payments are due for 2016 on your calendar and set alerts.
Pay yourself If you turned 70½ at any point in 2015 but haven’t taken the first required minimum distribution (RMD) from your retirement accounts, do so before April 1 (and avoid a hairy 50% penalty).
Take credit Get free copies of your credit reports from the official site authorized by federal law. A little credit housekeeping now can set the stage for better rates on home, car, business loans and more later.
File it Tax returns are due on April 18. Even if you’re requesting the six-month extension, pay what you owe today—otherwise you could face penalties and interest later.
More deductions Remember that April 18 is also the last day to make a contribution to an IRA or simplified employee pension (SEP) plan for the 2015 year.
Policy check Review home, auto and life insurance policies. Life events such as divorce, remarriage or illness could require you to adjust your coverage. Talk to an agent before you get distracted by summer travel, to make sure you’re getting the proper policy at the best price.
Social Security check Review your Social Security benefits statement and check for errors. Social Security bases your payout on the 35 years when you earned the most. If your earnings aren’t reported correctly, you won’t receive all the benefits you’re entitled to.
To your health Each fall, employees can tweak their contributions to health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible savings accounts (FSAs). Confirm your employer’s open enrollment period (it varies from company to company), so you can get the most from these pre-tax plans.
Savings reminder If you’re self-employed and paying estimated quarterly taxes on September 15, make sure that you’re also on track to contribute the maximum to your retirement accounts. Calculating the allowable amount for your SEP-IRA can be complicated, however, so you may want to consult a tax professional.
Time’s up If you requested an extension on your taxes, October 15 is the last day to file returns. And if you’re covered by the extension, you can also make IRA contributions for the 2015 tax year.
Your legacy Before the end of the year, organize your estate planning documents. A living will (also called a health care directive) gives instructions for your care in case you’re unable to make those decisions yourself.
Changing names Review the beneficiaries on your retirement accounts and make any necessary changes that might be triggered by a divorce or remarriage.
Do good Make tax-deductible contributions to your favorite charities before the holidays distract you. Also, be sure to take advantage of the annual gift tax exclusion for personal gifts to loved ones.
As you map out your plan for the year, make sure it’s customized to suit your needs and goals. This calendar, just like your finances, can’t live in a “set it and forget it” space. Stay on top of deadlines with phone or email reminders, and make sure to adjust your plan as curveballs (say, planning a child’s wedding) inevitably come your way.