By Theresa Fry, Senior Vice President and Manager, IRA’s and Retirement Planning

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Nowadays, it seems there is a day, week, or month devoted to everything – National Garlic Day, National Bowling Week, and National Canine Fitness Month to name a few.  In the financial world, the month of April bring us our tax filing deadline day, National Retirement Planning Week, and Financial Literacy Month.  All three can serve as a reminder to become better prepared financially.

Tax Deadline Day – April 15 (April 17 if you reside in Maine or Massachusetts)

If you still haven’t filed your 2018 income tax return, you are not alone.  The IRS reports that the number of individual income tax returns received by March 29 was down more than 1% from the same time last year.  The change may be because people are still trying to figure out the 2018 tax law changes or it could simply mean that more people owe income taxes this year and they are waiting until April to file their taxes.

If you have a larger tax bill than usual, doing some tax planning now could give you a better outcome next year.  You may want to increase the amount being withheld from your paychecks, increase your pre-tax or deductible contributions to your employer-retirement plans – like 401(k)s or 403(b)s – or traditional IRAs, or if your employer provides a high-deductible health care plan, you may also want to establish or increase contributions to a Health Savings Account (HSA).  HSAs provide tax-deductible contributions, tax-deferred earnings, and tax-free distributions when used for qualified medical expenses.

National Retirement Planning Week –  April 8 – 12

National Retirement Planning Week is dedicated to planning and saving for your retirement.   The first step to retirement planning is knowing how much you will need to save to support the lifestyle you want in retirement.  First, you (and your spouse if you are married) should discuss what your goals are in retirement.  Then it is a matter of prioritizing which goals are needs, wants and wishes.  You can then establish a budget to help you save for and fund each of your goals.  A financial advisor can help you through this process and prepare a plan for you that is customized to meet your goals.

Financial Literacy Month

April is also dedicated to financial literacy – helping people gain a better understanding of personal finance matters and encouraging economic and financial education in schools.  In their 2018 Survey of the States, the Council for Economic Education reported that only 17 states require high school students to take a course in personal finance and 22 states require a course in economics.

Regardless of your age, improving your knowledge of personal finance has been shown to increase personal savings rates, reduce the amount of personal debt, and increase the likelihood of having emergency savings.  Creating a budget, making more than your minimum payments on outstanding credit card balances and setting aside some money each month to build up an emergency fund are important steps to take if you are feeling overwhelmed with debt.

Talk with a Benjamin F. Edwards financial advisor if you need help developing a budget, creating a saving and investing plan for retirement, or working with your tax advisor to implement some new tax planning strategies in 2019.

Benjamin F. Edwards & Co. is not a tax advisor.