The end of the year can also be an ideal time to reconsider your retirement strategy and rebalance your portfolio. End-of-year decisions, such as whether to adjust your payroll contribution or explore other savings options should also be made.
If you think you may bump up to a higher tax bracket in the future, consider establishing a Roth IRA. Although there is an upfront tax hit, future distributions are tax-free. As of Jan. 1, people who didn't qualified for Roth plans because they earned $100,000 or more can pursue the option of a conversion for the first time.
If you're self-employed, consider opening a small-business retirement account such as a SEP-IRA, SIMPLE IRA ("Savings Incentive Match PLan for Employees") or individual 401(k). If you open a qualified retirement account by Dec. 31, you have until the day you file next year, including extensions, to make contributions for this year.
If you're 70½ or older and required to take minimum distributions from your retirement accounts, you would traditionally need to do so before the end of the year. But remember that minimum distributions have been suspended for 2009 and will be reinstated in 2010.
Debt consolidation is also a smart move to consider as the year draws to a close. You may benefit by replacing credit card debt with a lower-rate, tax-deductible home equity loan or line of credit.
If you lowered your mortgage interest rate in the past year, you may now have a lower-interest deduction, Spiegelman says.