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How to Be Ready for a Fiscal Cliff Deal

It can make your head spin. And, of course, the big problem is that time is running out. Year-end tax moves must be done before the close of business Dec. 31.

Even those who are not contemplating year-end maneuvers should take this as an object lesson: At one time or another, anyone may face a short deadline. In that case you don't want to have to race to the bank to deposit a paycheck or move money from one account to another.

It can pay, then, to have the most modern money management tools in place ahead of time.

People with multiple accounts at banks, brokerages and mutual fund firms can set up links to enable direct transfers among accounts, so they don't have to carry checks in person or wait for the mail.

It also makes sense to have easy access to all accounts via computer and smartphone and to use automatic alert features that will phone, email or text if an account is running low. Financial software such as Quicken can help you keep track of everything and calculate the best year-end tax moves, automatically recalculating as asset values change.

Right now, the key is to have those plans in place so you can move on short notice when the rules become clear. Because it looks like those fiscal cliff talks will come down to the wire.
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