Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top Four End-of-Year Financial Planning Tasks

Between turkey and holiday cookies, don't forget the most important type of planning you should do this year, financial planning. M&I, a part of BMO Financial Group, offers these four aspects of your finances everyone should review before 2012 arrives.

Budgets: Review your monthly budget and track your spending. Keeping track of where your money is being spent will highlight unnecessary expenses. Begin saving today. A savings account can help when life throws an unexpected curve ball. Ideally, build an emergency fund that could pay your necessary expenses for six months.

Creating budgets with your children is also a great way to teach kids about money and the difference between a need and a want. Our Helpful Steps for Parents tool provides parents with tips, games, and strategies to help teach children financial literacy. Visit www.bmoharris.com/parents to learn more.

"The Helpful Steps program starts with kids as young as five years old," said Jim Sathre, senior vice president, retail banking for M&I. "Giving kids a financial education will prepare them for every stage of life, from saving for college to buying a house."

Retirement: Examine how much you've been putting in your retirement account this year. If possible, plan to contribute the maximum allowable amount to your 401(K) and take advantage of your workplace retirement plan to gain matching contributions. If your workplace does not have a matching program consider a Roth IRA.

College: College planning is essential for every family whether you are just starting out or are planning to support a grandchild's education. If you have not started preparing for future college expenses, start now. College savings plans can offer considerable tax benefits. Each state offers residents a 529 college savings plan that provides tax benefits or other perks to help parents and students prepare for college bills.

Investments: Invest wisely. Investigate investment options to determine which is best to meet your financial needs. A few options include money market accounts, CDs and government bonds, and IRAs. Solid investments may reap dividends in the future.

We all know how important it is to save money and prepare for the future and reviewing your budget and investments will ensure you're meeting your financial goals.

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