Your Financial Year-End Checklist

2020 is over, and for many of you, it can’t end soon enough. There will be plenty of time to celebrate the end of one year and to hope for better days in the one ahead. But before we get to that, take these steps to get financially ready for 2021.

1) Review your goals: The end of the year is a great time to review the goals you made at the beginning of the year and set new ones for 2021. How did you do this year? Is there anything you’re proud of accomplishing? I like to start with bright spots because they can guide you toward success as you set new goals. But let’s be realistic, too; 2020 threw us a lot of curveballs.

Was there anything you wish you could have done better? You can also learn from any potential stumbling blocks and figure out how to use them as stepping-stones next year. You may also want to take time now to review your net worth. That’s one way to gauge the progress you’ve made in your financial health this year.

2) Update your budget: Did you save the money that you wanted to? Pay off the debt that you needed to? The end of the year gives you a solid end point to assess whether met the goals you set at the outset of 2020. What if you didn’t have a budget or financial goals? You’ve got a blank slate ahead. Why not create a budget that works? 

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3) Create a holiday bucket: Holidays can be budget breakers, so why not incorporate them into your spending goals right from the start? Christmas may look a lot different this year. But you can still create a separate bucket for holiday spending and when that money is gone, stop spending. You’ll thank yourself in January when you don’t have an unusually large credit card bill.

4) Use it or lose it: Some of your benefits—like vacation days or a medical or dependent care flexible spending account (FSA)—expire at the end of the year. Take stock of what you have left and use these benefits to your advantage. MORE FOR YOUPPP Loan Forgiveness Application Guidance For The Self-Employed, Freelancers And ContractorsSBA Approving Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs): What You Need To KnowWhat You Can Do Now To Maximize Paycheck Protection Loan Forgiveness

5) Make any last charitable contributions: December 31st is the last day your charitable contributions can be deducted on your 2020 tax return. If giving to charity is a part of your spending plan, you can use these questions to help make the most of your charitable giving.

6) Pump up your 529: Just like charitable contributions, contributions to your 529 college savings plan must be made by December 31st to count for this tax year. Find out if your state is one of over 30 that allow you to deduct your contribution. You can find the specific deduction here. If your state is one of the four that allow an unlimited deduction, keep in mind the yearly gift-tax and super-funding rules.

7) Max out your 401k: While you have until April to make contributions to your traditional IRA, Roth IRA and HSA, you can only contribute to your 401k through December 31st. So, if you have extra cash and are looking to boost your savings, consider contributing your last couple of checks entirely to your 401k. Business owners can do the same with the employee portion of your Solo 401k contributions.

8) Find your tax return: You’ll be doing your taxes before you know it, so use this time to get prepared. Review last year’s return and make a mental list of records you’ll need to assemble. Year-end is also a good time to decide whether a Roth conversion makes sense for you.

9) Review your business structure: Evaluate your business structure and the QBI deduction to identify any changes you need to make to your business. You might want to set up a solo 401k, for instance, and if so, you’ll have to act before December 31st (although you can make employer/profit sharing contributions up to the business tax filing deadline).

10) Defer income and incur expenses: If you’re a business owner, you may also want to look at ways to defer income into 2021 or pay for business expenses you anticipate for early next year. This is any easy way to reduce your tax liability for 2020. However, remember not to spend money on business expenses that you wouldn’t otherwise incur just for a tax deduction. Spending a $1 to save 24 cents still costs you 76 cents.

 11) Will and trust review: The end of the year is a good time to take stock of changes in your life—like getting married or divorced, having children, starting a business or retiring.  Your estate plan should reflect these changes. Get out your will, documentation for trusts you’ve established and powers of attorney and make sure they match your current situation.

12) Insurance documents: Insurance documents also need to cover your current situation. Take a look at your life and disability insurance policies to make sure they protect your current income and those dependent on it. Your renters or homeowners insurance should cover any additional big purchases you made during the year. And lastly, you should review your health insurance policy for any upcoming changes for 2020. For those of you enrolling in the Market Place, you have until December 15th to pick your plan.

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My last bonus task is to enjoy this holiday season. I love the holidays because you can reflect and appreciate what you have. We’ve been tested a lot this year, living our lives through a pandemic, racial unrest and a contentious election. I hope the end of the year brings you comfort and peace. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website

Brian Thompson

Brian Thompson

As both a tax attorney and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, I provide comprehensive financial planning to LGBTQ entrepreneurs who run mission-driven businesses. I hold a special place in my heart for small-business owners. I spent a decade defending them against the IRS as a tax attorney and have become one as a financial advisor. It’s a position filled with hope and opportunity. It gives you the most flexibility to create the life that you want. I also understand the added stresses of running a business while being a person of color and a part of the LGBTQ community. You may feel like you don’t have access to the knowledge that others do. I’m here to help lift some of that weight from your shoulders.

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Critics:

A personal budget or home budget is a finance plan that allocates future personal income towards expenses, savings and debt repayment. Past spending and personal debt are considered when creating a personal budget. There are several methods and tools available for creating, using and adjusting a personal budget. For example, jobs are an income source, while bills and rent payments are expenses.

Contents

5 Product Marketing Strategies to Get Customers to Take Action

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When it comes to , has a significant impact on individual purchasing decisions, but ultimately it is the products that create an overall impression. Brand marketing is an important component in raising your brand’s prestige and overall favorable perception, but customers want to be part of the picture and feel that is as much about them as it is about the brand. Smart product marketing engages consumers and focuses on products or services that will be useful to them. Your brand will only be as strong as the customers who feel a strong connection to what you are offering. These five strategies will help you revamp your product marketing strategy.

1. Research new products with existing data

A product launch can be as exciting as the announcement of a personal milestone, but the sad fact is that most will fall short of their expected goals. You can save yourself and your company from disappointment by leveraging the data you already have about your customers and visitors to refine the products and features you are offering. Existing data will tell you your leads’ buying and browsing habits, what they click on and which emails they open. This data should give you significant clues on creating products and features that will get a response and create a successful product launch.

Related: 4 Strategies That Drive Brand Loyalty

2. Increase demand with existing customers

It is important not to underestimate the value of repeat . Not only are people more likely to take action and purchase a product if someone they know is using it, but drumming up repeat business is easier on your marketing budget. According to the Harvard Business Review, marketers spend between five and 25 times less to secure purchases from repeat customers than from new customers. Providing excellent customer service is one of the keys to keeping customers long-term. Another strategy is to offer them special promotions and deals to reward their loyalty.

3. Spy on your existing competitors

Although it is crucial to focus mainly on your customers, to keep an edge and stay on your customers’ radars, it is imperative to know what your competitor is doing and how they are performing. This is not difficult to do and can be as intuitive as paying attention to their performance on , how many likes they are getting and what strategies they are using. Using to track what happens after a click can help give you more information on how to update your own strategies. Ensure the sample size you are evaluating is large enough to give you a full picture of what actions to take in closing the gap between you and your competitors.

 

Related: 3 Reasons You Should Spy on Your Competition

4. Improve your existing listings

Your listings don’t just convey information about the product. A good listing lets your customer know why he or she needs the product. Revise product listings to emphasize convenience, time savings, reliability and . In addition, incorporating valuable keywords in the listings can make sure your they are seen by those who are most likely to make purchases — the people who are searching and ready to buy. Keywords can also drive traffic from those who are just browsing the web looking for more information about a product, and an attractive and catchy listing can transform an inquiry into a purchase.

5. Dare to take huge risks

It is worthwhile to achieve a balance between obeying the data and knowing when to take risks. If you are knowledgeable about the risks, you can go out on a limb now and again, especially if your intuitive move is in line with the kind of thing your customers respond to. Past failures, such as lackluster product launches, can be a strong indication of where you can go with future efforts. “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking any risks,” says none other than Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Related: 5 Brand Marketing Tips Every Brand Can Learn From the NBA

If your product listings aren’t getting the response expected, there are many ways you can fine-tune your approach. involves the big picture, but getting specific and offering customers things they clearly value can move the needle more quickly. Updating data on a constant basis is essential, but using data you already have provides a valuable roadmap to developing and improving your products and features. Leveraging success with your existing customers is an effective way to get repeat business, especially if you encourage them to refer your product to others.

Gathering information about competitors on social media and by using AdWords can give you pointers on how to update your offerings and enrich your marketing strategies. Even the phrasing of your listings can be dry and uninspiring or can create an immediate desire to acquire your product or service. In addition, using keywords has the ability to automatically attract potential customers to your listing. Finally, don’t be afraid to follow your intuition and take educated risks when you feel you have a clear picture of what your customers want.

By: Alon Ghelber Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

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