As each year draws to a close, I find myself in a reflective mood, reviewing how the year went, what I achieved – and didn’t – and my plans for the following year; I imagine many of you do the same thing.

I usually have several days off during late December, and take advantage of that time to perform a sanity check on various aspects of my life and take care of some year-end businessHere are five of the things I do at the end of every year

1.  Run a credit report . It’s a great idea to make this an annual habit:  go to AnnualCreditReport.com and request a free credit report from one of the 3 nationwide credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion.  Your report (actually, a “credit file disclosure”) provides a thorough review of your credit and payment history.  If anyone’s applied for credit using your identity, it’ll show up here.  Note that a credit report will not include your credit score, or FICO; to get it (by no means necessary!), you’ll have to pay ~$8 or $9.

Also:  do not go to FreeCreditReport.com; although you can receive a “free” report, in order to do so you have to sign up for a 7 day trial of a credit monitoring service.  After the initial 7 day period, it’s $19.95 per month.  Beware!

2.  Change critical passwords . I imagine many of you received emails recently regarding the fact that user logons and passwords were compromised at Gawker Media.  If nothing else, the event served as a potent reminder that everyone ought to change passwords on some sort of periodic basis, and that using the same password across several sites is nothing short of idiotic.  If you haven’t updated your passwords recently, take this opportunity to do so, and make sure you use strong passwords.  If you’re worried about remembering them, use a password manager like RoboForm.  “RoboForm Everywhere” enables you to securely sync passwords across multiple computers, by the way; no, I don’t work for them nor do I have any connection to the company!

3.  Reallocate/rebalance your investment accounts . The end of the year is also a great time to thoroughly review and rebalance your investments, whether they’re modest or extensive.  Here’s a link to an excellent article on this topic, from the SEC:  Beginner’s Guide to Asset Allocation, Diversification, and Rebalancing.

4.  Analyze your spending . Whether you use a spreadsheet to track your spending, or simply look at annual summaries of credit card spending and your online bill payments, this is a great time to spend a little time thinking about how you’re actually spending your hard earned income.  You may want to look at insurance coverage, media spending (cable, dish, internet, streaming video, etc.), or wherever your expenditures seem heavier than they should be.  In our case, I switched our auto insurance coverage from a company we’d been with for literally decades, to another.  I also canceled several credit cards during the last week, having no need to pay annual fees on cards that are used infrequently.  I’m also reviewing our life insurance policies, and we’ll probably adjust my wife’s coverage.  Take a few minutes – or an hour or so – to make sure you are spending your money where it’s truly needed!

5.  Make final charitable donations . This is a clear win-win situation:  you get to help someone who could use a hand, and gain a tax deduction at the same time.  I know the economy hasn’t been particularly stellar, but it’s been even tougher for those who are a bit less fortunate.  End the year by helping out someone else.

How about you?  What’s on your year-end To Do list?  Please share by commenting.

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4 Comments on 5 things to do before the end of the year

  1. Adriano says:

    My personal list.
    1- Pay for my private pension scheme. It is tax deductible on a certain percentage of the income. Being freelance, I first know at the end of the year how much I’ve earned. Therefore it cannot be done before.
    2- Get the last invoices. Often I buy stuff in little quantities. In December I hand in all receipts and ask the seller to issue an invoice. (receipts are not tax deductible).
    3- Issue the last invoices (and getting paid). Tax year is at the end, so it’s time to assess (according to tax brackets) whether or not to postpone some income, in order not to get it overtaxed (and maybe lose some tax relief measures).
    4- Start thinking on some New Year’s resolutions. Be it workwise or personal, it is the right moment to do so. Resolutions should be written somewhere and reviewed every now and then, in order not to be forgotten.
    5- Tidy up (rooms and life). This is the time to assess what has happened in the previous 360-odd days, learn some lessons, repeat what was successful and avoid what didn’t bring much (or what caused too much pain). The result should be point 4.
    This is also the time of relatives visiting, so I have to empty what normally was stuck up in the guest rooms… ;-)

    Happy 2011!

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  3. Maria says:

    Thank you Kevin! I plan to use this spreadsheet to see the reality of what I’m spending – and can already see the excess compared to the actual need for what I spend.

    I’m not very Excel literate. Any chance of a 2011 download, or a single version rather than His / Hers?

    Thank you again!

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  4. I like the idea of running a credit report before the end of the year. I am attempting to do my 3 annual credit reports (1 at a time) over the course of the year so I can get an idea of what my report looks like over the course of each year. I just ran my 1st one in about 2-years in Nov. In the month since I have had some inaccurate information deleted.

    I really need to get better at doing Analyzing my spending. I know it is important, but I am horrible at this task.

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