For those panicking as the year winds down, it is not too late to hire help to handle those financial moves that need to get done before the year ends. Many advisers still have time to meet new clients, though most wait until January.

“There is definitely a New Year’s swell,” said Brian Power, a principal of Gateway Advisory in Westfield, N.J.

Here are some things you need to do before Dec. 31:

1. Monitor your gains and losses

In this year of flat to slightly positive portfolio returns, Power is busy offsetting the capital gains of previous years with tax-loss selling.

His biggest issue: Clients do not always call him back with the greatest sense of urgency.

Harvesting tax losses requires getting stocks that are not doing well off your books. You can take a loss of up to a $3,000 per year.

If you need help but not a full-service financial adviser, Web-based services like Wealthfront ( and Betterment ( do year-round tax-loss harvesting for lower fees.

2. Make your contributions and distributions

While contributions to an Individual Retirement Account can wait until April 15, many other tax deductible items such as college savings 529 plans, charitable giving and gifting have year-end deadlines.

Most important, if you are over age 70½ you must take Required Minimum Distributions from your IRA account by Dec. 31; otherwise, you will be penalized by the Internal Revenue Service.

3. Structure your giving

The IRS allows you to give up to $14,000 to as many individuals as you like, without those gifts counting against your $5 million lifetime exemption.

At The Gardner Group in Dallas, about a quarter of the clients have investment accounts designated for charity.

Donations can be counted for a tax deduction in the year they are deposited and then dispersed at another time.

Most are what President Greg Gardner calls “round-trippers” who zero out their accounts at the end of each year, but some have accumulated funds in the millions.

4. Update your financial plan

Year-end is also a good time to make sure you are on track. Review your insurance, estate planning, and investment choices.


Beth Pinsker is a Reuters columnist.