Head into spooky season by making sure you “leaf” your financial stress behind. As the end of the year approaches, it’s important to plan for the most expensive time in most Americans’ lives. Between back-to-school shopping, holiday preparations, and all the pumpkin spice stuff at Trader Joe’s, your wallet could be feeling the effects. Here are a few things you need to be aware of this fall season so that you can sip on pumpkin spice and eggnog in peace.
1. Get prepared for your student loan payments to resume in October. After 3.5 years, your federal student loan payments are coming due. Life is just more expensive than it was several years ago, and your finances probably look very different. If you are stressed about this bill coming back into your life and wondering if you’re on the correct payment plan, you are not alone.
It’s SUPER important that you contact your loan service provider (it may have changed since the last time you checked) and determine which payment plan you are on. You can figure out who your loan servicer is and what payment plan you are on by logging in to studentaid.gov.
Once you can contact your student loan provider, you will want to apply for the right payment plan for you. Calculators provided by the Student Loan Planner can help you with this. There is a new income-driven repayment plan called SAVE that will set your payment depending on your income and family size. Just confirming you are on the right payment plan could save you hundreds of dollars throughout the year, if not thousands.
- Start preparing to ask your boss for that raise. Don’t wait until the end of the year to have a conversation about compensation with your boss. A lot of companies set their next year’s budget early, sometimes as early as the 3rd quarter of the year. Start documenting the year’s accomplishments (preferably showing numbers representing the results you’ve had) and decide on the amount of raise you will ask for. Once you have that data, shoot your boss an email with a clear request to discuss performance. For example: “I’d like to set a short meeting to review my performance in my current role and discuss compensation. Let me know if <insert suggested time> works for you”.
- Be ready for your taxes to be due October 15th if you filed for an extension this year. Ideally, you’ve been working with a tax professional and already paid the estimated taxes due at the time of an extension. If you haven’t, be sure to get that finalized and submitted by the deadline! And, speaking of taxes, if you haven’t been paying your quarterly taxes, this will also be due (September 15, January 15, April 15, June 15).
- Start reviewing your current employer benefits and be ready to update these during open enrollment. Your employer’s enrollment period could start as early as October, but most are in November. This is the opportunity to change your medical, dental, and other health insurance, add or remove dependents from your policies, enroll in Health Savings Accounts (HSA) or Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), enroll in life insurance, short- or long-term disability plans, and consider many more potential benefits depending on your employer. If you don’t fully understand the benefits available to you or how to determine which benefits you need, then now would be a fantastic time to schedule a meeting with your financial planner to make sure you are taking full advantage of the options available to you.
- Check-in on your estimated federal tax liability to adjust your withholdings. If things are feeling tight and you have holiday expenses coming up, you may be able to reduce the amount of taxes being withheld from your paycheck to free up some cash flow, rather than waiting for your refund next year. You can use this calculator with your most recent paystub information to see if you will meet your tax obligation or exceed it and get directions on how to change your withholding with your employer. In addition to this step, make sure you are not exceeding funding limits in your retirement savings accounts as you approach the end of the year.
- Address any major life changes that are happening this year and start making necessary changes to your finances. Did you have a kid? Move? Get married? Change jobs? Enroll in college? Start a business? All of these big events in your life will have consequences on your taxes, health insurance, life insurance, employer benefits, investments, and many other areas of your financial life. Take the time to help mitigate and prepare for how those changes will affect your situation, and address these items before the end of the year. A financial planner will be a great start to this, and you’ll want to schedule soon because they get busy towards the end of the year and may not accept new clients at some point during the end of the year.
Don’t ruin the holiday season by procrastinating the key end-of-year financial tasks and causing unnecessary stress. Turn a new leaf this year and tackle your to-do list early so you can have a gourd-eous cozy season.