The 5-Minute Year-End Checklist

It’s the holidays. Between egg nogs, mall visits and a jam-packed party calendar, you have very little time for financial stuff. But there are a few things you should not put off until the new year.

So here’s a quick checklist to help you organize a five-minute call with your financial and/or tax advisor.

Tax Harvest

  • Last day to make a trade is Friday, Dec. 30.
  • Do you have losses you can take to offset gains?
  • If you’re taking a loss but still want to maintain a particular exposure, ask about the “substantially identical” carve-out in the “wash sale rule.”
  • Perhaps your income is temporarily low this year—ask if it makes sense to take some gains.

Take RMD

  • For those of you over 70.5, make sure to take your Required Minimum Distribution from your IRAs and other retirement plans.
  • You don’t have to take each account’s RMD from that account; you can combine the RMDs and take them from where it makes the most sense.
  • While the deadline is Dec. 31, you’ll need more lead time if a position has to be liquidated to raise the cash.
  • Alternative to selling: You can take your distribution in kind. It’s still taxed, but you still own whatever was distributed out of your retirement plan. And it’s less costly.

Prepay Expenses/Defer Payments

  • Taking this approach depends on how you and your advisor think this year will compare to next year (in terms of income, expenses and taxes).
  • Expecting a year-end bonus? Ask your tax advisor if it would make more sense to take it right after New Year’s.
  • Could you prepay an expense, such as real estate taxes? Again, ask if this will benefit you in a meaningful way.


  • Gifting to charities is always a favorite around the holidays and is generally tax-deductible.
  • Discuss estate tax issues:
1. Annual $14,000 per person gifting exclusion
2. Lifetime $5.45 million per person estate tax exemption
3. Use of 529 plans for kids’/grandkids’ college and the special 5-year rule.

Happy holidays everyone!

Robert A. “Rocky” Mills is a Financial Advisor with the Global Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley in Westlake Village. The information contained in this article is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments. Any information presented is general in nature and not intended to provide individually tailored investment advice. Morgan Stanley and its Financial Advisors do not provide tax or legal advice. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, Member SIPC, or its affiliates.