12 financial moves to make this spring


Spring cleaning can mean tidying up your wallet or pocketbook, as well as your closet.

In the spirit of renewal, here are 12 financial moves you should make this spring. Some are annual rituals, or should be. Others are tasks we tend to put off, but shouldn’t.

1. Revisit your resolutions

Many of us set New Year’s resolutions for 2024 around spending and saving, borrowing and earning, but fewer of us followed through on them.

“For a lot of people, a top money goal was paying off credit card debt or starting an emergency fund,” said Kimberly Palmer, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet. Spring is “the perfect time to see if you’re making any progress,” she said.

And what if you’ve made zero progress?

“For those of us who fell off track, there’s something called a reset button,” said Ashley Folkes, a certified financial planner in Birmingham, Alabama. “Spring offers the perfect opportunity to restart where we left off, without dwelling on regrets.”

2. Clean your financial ‘junk drawer’

Spring offers a chance to sort through that drawer – or box, or unused corner of the dining room table — where you stash financial paperwork to deal with on some unspecified future date.

“You know the one I’m talking about, where you toss all your statements and bills, intending to sort them out later,” Folkes said.

Working through the neglected papers is a great way to ease financial stress, he said. Throw some away. File some away. Deal with the rest, one way or another.

3. Start a 2024 tax folder

Speaking of papers: If you haven’t already, consider setting up a folder to stow all your tax documents for 2024: receipts, donation forms, and anything else you need to report or plan to deduct. Better still, set up one real folder, and another on your laptop, says Jeff Farrar, a certified financial planner in Shelton, Connecticut.

This tip comes from Jeff Farrar, a certified financial planner in Shelton, Connecticut.

4. Watch that withholding

While you’re at it, look at your W-4 form and make sure you are withholding the right amount of your paycheck.

“Since taxes are on our mind, with April 15 coming, why not get better prepared for next year’s taxes?” Farrar said.

Will you get a refund next year, or will you owe? Most of us have a lot more control over that question than we think, said Jeff Jones, CEO of H&R Block. You may want to reap a large tax refund to help your family’s cash flow. You may prefer to limit your withholding so that you hold onto more of your paycheck until tax time. The decision is yours.

“In general, you can actually control the outcome,” he said. “We try to remind people, it’s really a choice you can make.”

Most of us have fairly predictable income. Take a look at your last few tax returns. Study the pattern. Are your earnings trending up, or down? Then, consult a tax professional.

Taxpayers straightforward returns “can be in much more control if they just get some expert help and think about withholding changes on their W-4 at the beginning of each year,” Jones said.

5. Talk to your tax preparer

More broadly, spring is a great time to have a conversation with the person who prepares your taxes.

“Aside from housing, taxes are most people’s largest annual expense, so it deserves more attention than pulling together your W-2 and 1099s” and sending them in, said David Flores Wilson, a certified financial planner in New York.

“Our advice is to have a thoughtful, proactive conversation with an accountant, CPA, or financial planner after the spring tax deadline so that you can strategize what you can do the rest of the year to lower your taxes prior to next spring,” he said. “Perhaps there are deductions or credits you weren’t aware of.”

6. Max out your retirement plan

You can contribute to an IRA up to April 15 and have the money count toward your 2023 savings. The contribution limit for 2023 is $6,500 if you’re under 50, $7,500 if you’re older.

Even better, get an early start on contributing to your IRA for 2024. The longer the money sits in your retirement account, the longer it can accrue interest.

“There is a 15-month window to make IRA contributions for any given year,” said Mary Ryan, a certified financial planner at Vanguard. “The earlier you make it, the more you benefit from the compounding effect,” earning interest both on the money you’ve saved and on the interest it has already reaped.

Spring is also a good time to challenge yourself to contribute to a workplace 401(k), Wilson said.

Those plans have higher contribution limits: $23,000 in 2024, plus an extra $7,500 if you’re 50 or older.

“Maxing out 401(k) contributions can lower your taxes and get you closer to financial independence,” Wilson said. “Our advice is to marginally increase your contributions every couple of months, up to a level that’s uncomfortable, then back off a little.”

Not saving for retirement? Now is a good time to start.

“Even if you can only save a little right now, getting started is very important, because you want to give your retirement savings time to grow,” said Terri Fiedler, president of retirement services at Corebridge Financial, a financial services company in Houston. “Ideally, you’ll be contributing enough to at least maximize what your employer will match. And if you’re not there yet, look for opportunities to increase your contributions over time.”

7. Name your beneficiaries

Most retirement plans and life insurance policies include beneficiaries: The folks who get the money if you die.

Many of us procrastinate in naming them. In the spirit of spring cleaning, why not name them now?

8. Dust off your estate plan

Speaking of beneficiaries: Anyone with an estate plan should review it every year, or at least any year when a major life event plays out, like a job change, marriage, divorce or arrival of a new child, experts advise.

“An estate plan isn’t something you can set and forget,” Ryan said.

Consider whether you need to update any part of the plan, including your beneficiaries.

9. Book your 2025 vacation in 2024

Setting up vacation plans a year early saves money and gives you more choice of flights and lodgings, experts say. And then there’s the psychological value.

“Studies have shown the anticipation of a vacation is half the psychic value you get out of it,” Farrar said. “So, enjoy this summer’s family vacation, but put next year’s on the calendar, as well.”

While you’re at it, he said, “dig out your passport and check the expiration date. Nothing worse than getting ready for an international vacation and realizing your passport is about to expire.”

10. Review your investment portfolio

“You don’t need to monitor your portfolio on a daily basis,” Farrar said, but spring is an ideal time to review your asset allocation and make sure it suits your needs.

Your mix of stocks, bonds and other investments can drift over time, and your portfolio objectives change.

“Check to see if your allocation of stocks vs. bonds is where you want it to be,” said Maureen Demers, a certified financial planner in North Andover, Massachusetts.

11. Invest in high-yield savings

Yields on savings accounts, certificates of deposit, money market accounts and other savings vehicles have been up for the last year or two, along with interest rates generally.

Yet, many people “are still holding large cash balances in suboptimal, low-yielding vehicles,” Wilson said.

If your savings isn’t earning 5% annual interest, or close to it, consider transferring the balance into a high-yield account.

Growing debt: Our credit card balances threaten to swamp our savings. Here’s how to deal with both

12. Check your credit card

Credit card debt is rising, along with credit card interest rates. Now is a good time to take a good look at your card, especially if you carry a balance from month to month, Palmer said. The key question: “Are you paying more interest than you realize?”

Credit card rates change over time, and lately, they’ve been going up.

If the APR on your card is rising, Palmer said, then it might be a good time to shop around for a new card.

Daniel de Visé covers personal finance for USA TODAY

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