Here’s your year-end investment checklist

Published 7:33 pm Friday, December 4, 2009

We’ve pretty much seen it all this year: a bear market, a long rally and even a period of “neither up nor down.”

But even though we have only a few weeks left of 2009, you still have time to make some moves that can pay off for you in 2010—and beyond.

Here are a few suggestions to consider:

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“Max out” on your IRA—and make regular contributions next year. For the 2009 tax year, you can contribute up to $5,000 to a traditional or Roth IRA, or $6,000 if you’re 50 or older. And you have until April 15, 2010, to fully fund your 2009 IRA. Of course, it’s not always easy to come up with a lump sum, but do whatever you can to make up for any shortfalls in your IRA for 2009. And in 2010, consider setting up automatic monthly contributions to your IRA—it’s a much more efficient way to maximize a great retirement savings vehicle.

Increase your 401(k) contributions. If your employer permits it, try to add more money to your 401(k) or other retirement plan before the year ends. By increasing your 401(k) contributions, you can lower your adjusted taxable income while you potentially build more resources for retirement.

Convert your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. Depending on your individual situation, a Roth IRA, which offers the potential for tax-free growth provided you meet certain conditions, may be a better choice for you than a traditional IRA, which offers the potential for growth on a tax-deferred basis. Consequently, if you meet eligibility limits, you may want to convert your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. However, this conversion is likely going to be a “taxable event,” so you’ll need to have money available outside your IRA for the tax bill. You’ll want to discuss this move with your tax adviser.

Sell your “losers.” If it’s appropriate for your portfolio balance and long term goals, you may want to sell some investments that have lost value to take the tax losses. If these losses exceed your capital gains from selling appreciated stocks, you can deduct up to $3,000 (or $1,500 for married couples filing separately) against your other income, reducing the amount on which you must pay taxes. And if you lost more than $3,000, you can carry over the excess into subsequent years. Consult with a tax adviser before selling investments to claim a tax loss.

Consolidate your investment accounts. Instead of having an IRA with one firm, some other investments with another and a cash-value insurance policy with a third, you might want to consolidate your assets with one provider. That way, you’ll be better able to align all your assets with a central, unified investment strategy.

Review your insurance coverage. Over the course of a year, you could experience significant changes in your life: Marriage or divorce, the birth of a child or the departure of an older child from your home, the start of a new job or retirement, and so on. That’s why you’ll want to make sure you have the right amount and type of insurance to protect your family and your financial future.

By making these moves, you can close out 2009 on a positive note, while positioning yourself for progress on your long-term goals.