Nine-Step End of Year Money Checklist

It’s almost the new year! To make sure you’ve not forgotten anything money related, here’s a short list of things to make sure you’ve taken care of or at least given a passing thought before the year ends.

And don’t worry – this list is realistic, unlike some of those other lists that seem to be written for folks who pull down multiple six figures, these are things that the majority of us can actually work on. Hint: you can probably skip a few of these, making your end of year checklist even shorter….but you won’t know until you take a peek.

Here’s to your next year starting strong, in the know, and with less money worries!!


Settle up 

Leave last year in the past! Have a chat about what you might need to do to settle out last year. Owe each other money? Need to clear the air about anything? Pro tip: If you have class differences, TALK ABOUT IT. It’s not like no one is noticing (ps. if you’re not the one noticing, bonus points if you are the one to bring up talking about it anyway). Make an hour to talk and walk out with a plan and/or deeper understanding of each other. Check out a Money Conversation Workbook if you need pointers!

Set some goals 

And make them meaningful and specific. “Let’s take a vacation” is beautiful but vague. Try “Let’s go to Palm Springs over christmas next year to hang out with Hadassah! It’s probably kinda luxe, like a $4k vacation, which means we gotta save $333/month to pay it in cash. I can put in $175, can you do $160?” BOOM it’s like the palm trees are already in your face and we’re already going vintage thrifting together.

Ps. If you want support for you and your boo to wrangle money stuff especially around equity, check out Partners Make Peace and Plans with Money toolkit – on sale with $19 off cuz woohoo new year new youse!

Ask: What happens if…

Nothing says transition time like a touch of morbidity. “What happens to the money when you die?” is not a rude question, it’s a practical one. Is it time for a Will? Do you have beneficiaries on any IRAs or life insurance? If you don’t ask this, the State surely will – who do you want asking it first? (hint: you want it to be ONE OF YOU).



Quick Taxes Reality Check 

Do a quick summary of revenue (money in) versus business costs (spending) and any pre-tax retirement account contributions. If you’re turning a profit, ask yourself a) do I have money set aside for taxes? and if not b) how will I earn extra next year to cover last years’ taxes or c) how will I spend money before 12/31 or put money into pre-tax accounts so I can manage my taxes? To land on the specific amounts, you may want to consult a tax professional, but the strategy of looking at your earnings, asking these questions, and knowing you need a plan and probably savings for taxes will put you on a good footing.

Realized you need to manage taxes? Open a SEP IRA 

…and you won’t pay taxes on contributions to it until you withdraw it (ideally at your retirement). You have until 12/31 to open one, but until 4/15 to put money for the last year into it. You can contribute up to 25% of your revenue into the SEP but heck just throwing in $500 works, too – that’s what I did plenty of years when things were tight. For my SEP, I use Schwab, but Vanguard or Fidelity would also be excellent reliable, affordable choices.

Open a business bank account 

If you said ACK I can’t quickly calculate my revenue and costs because they’re all mixed up with my personal money then honey, you need a business bank account and 12/31 is the best day to open it (followed quickly by 1/1 or 1/2) so that you can have a easy time managing your revenue and taxes next year from day one. Hack: open a new personal account and mentally categorize it as business, or Pro Tip: Get a DBA or an LLC and use those to open a “real” business bank account. If you need to know more about this, check out the Freelancers Everything Course – on sale for $19 off through Jan!!



Open an IRA or ROTH IRA

Even if you don’t contribute during this year, as long as the account is opened in the calendar year, you have until April 15 of the following year to put money into (called making contributions) for the previous calendar year. For my investments I use Betterment because it’s affordable and there’s a Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) option. WealthSimple or Ellevest offer similar SRI investment options with their accounts. Heck if you throw in $100 you’re doing Future You a favor, though you can put in up to $5,500 each year. Last year was the first year I ever “maxed it out” so don’t feel bad, just do what you can – but please work on a Future You Gets To Be Old With Money plan.

Take a look at your debt

If you have credit card, medical, student loan debt etc it’s smart to make a list of it once a year in order to a) make sure nothing surprising is going on b) get you into a mindset to pay it the heck off and stop giving those folks your interest ASAP. No more minimum payments – you know those are engineered to keep you in debt and profiting the banks as much as possible, right? Try out a Debt Snowball, learn how here.

Tally up your donations and volunteering

Do you drop $ into friends kickstarters or gofundme’s, participate in monthly support of nonprofits you love, or otherwise redistribute money? See if you can make a list of money you’ve shared this last year. This is your chance to decide if you want to change anything about your donating in the upcoming year, like adding a sustainership or setting a giving goal.  

BONUS 1: Calculate your donation rate, on your money AFTER taxes (and equity-adjusted costs like debt or retirement savings). Regular folks donate on average around 2-3% of their money, activist-y types may find themselves giving more, and high-net worth folks tend to find they give less as a percentage though more in terms of hard numbers. Use the number as data and go from there!

BONUS 2: How much time have you given in volunteering, community support, on Boards or otherwise this year? Time is a resource just like money so count it, too.


…and for next year, SET PERSONAL GOALS

Pro Tip: give your goals actual numbers, eg “I want to increase my income by $2,000/month by March.”

These details help your brain put the ideas and actions into motion to make these happen. You still gotta do the work pals BUT being clear will point you in better work directions.

Next, assess if your goals are not only clear and detailed, but possible. I like to lay out the hours I think I have to give to a goal and then get it in my calendar. If it doesn’t fit then…whoops, looks like I need to make some feasibility adjustments somewhere.

If having a manageable budget or savings is on your list, check out Calm That Ack, a self-guided training on sale for $49! If destroying debt is your dream, check out the tips in Hacking Debt, and if you’re an artist trying to wrangle money and your creative practice, here’s a new training on Artists & Creatives’ Money Skills that will lay out the most important things you need to think about so you can get back to the work you really love!