Year-end financial check-in: 9 ways to ensure you’re on the right path.


Last updated on October 3, 2023.

The start of a new year is often a time of renewed focus and can be a catalyst to finally deal with some of the things we’ve been putting off. Our finances are no exception.

Keeping this in mind, here is a checklist of things to address before the calendar turns over, helping you kickstart your financial success for the year ahead.

1. Review your debt and/or savings plan.

Deadline: As soon as possible

The end of the year is a good time to take stock of your current financial standing and make a plan for financial success in the new year.

If you have debt, work on a plan to pay it down. If your debt situation is in order, then take some time to map out a savings strategy. How much can you afford to save each month? Consider the various savings avenues available to you, such as a High-Interest Savings Account, Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA), or a First Home Savings Account (FHSA). As you make these decisions, also consider how you want to grow your savings.

2. Create an end-of-year budget and replenish your emergency fund.

One of the key aspects of year-end financial planning is setting up a budget for the remaining months of the year. Consider your upcoming expenses, including holiday shopping, travel, and any outstanding bills. Creating a budget will help you avoid overspending and keep your finances in check. It will also allow you to consider replenishing your rainy-day fund if it has been depleted. Utilizing a line of credit as an emergency fund is not optimal, given the increase in variable interest rates since 2022. If you are able to budget for it, try to set aside some emergency savings in a high interest savings account or a cashable term deposit. That way, those higher rates will be working for you, not against you.

3. Check your insurance coverage.

Review your insurance policies, including health, auto, home, and life insurance. Ensure your coverage meets your current needs and make any necessary adjustments.

For example, you’ll want to ensure life insurance coverage is adequate to meet your goals of income replacement and debt reduction should you or your spouse pass away. Review whether other coverages, such as disability or critical illness, might also help meet with your objectives.

If you own your home, review your policy with your broker to ensure it meets your needs. If that home is a strata lot, you’ll want to ensure your policy aligns with the strata’s policy so you will avoid paying large deductibles in the event of a claim.

And if you rent your home, you can consider protecting your belongings with a renter’s policy.

One of the key aspects of year-end financial planning is setting up a budget for the remaining months of the year.

4. Get a will.

Deadline: As soon as possible

A recent poll found that half of Canadians don’t have a will. This statistic is troubling for a several reasons. First and foremost, your will dictates guardianship of minor children. If there is no will, the courts decide guardianship and they may not make the same choice you would. Having a will also expedites the estate process for your surviving family, potentially reducing costs and leaving more money for them sooner. Read more here about the importance of a will and how to get started.

5. Make RRSP contributions.

Deadline: February 29, 2024 for 2023 tax year

Give a gift to your future self by planning an RRSP contribution now. The deadline to contribute for the 2023 tax year is February 29, 2024. Start by figuring out how much you should contribute to maximize your tax savings. Remember RRSPs are essentially a tax deferral program and contribution amounts can be deducted from your income tax return. Also, understanding early how much you want to contribute will help you budget better for what can be, for some, an expensive holiday season. You may also want to consider if a TFSA (or FHSA) contribution makes more sense for you – here’s a breakdown of RRSP vs TFSA.

6. Make charitable donations.

Deadline: December 31, 2023 for 2023 tax year

If there is a registered charity that you like to support, consider donating by December 31 to get tax benefits for the 2023 tax year. A federal tax credit of 15% can be claimed on your first $200 of donations. If you can afford to donate more, additional donations will garner a 29% federal tax credit. Provincial credits are also available. But the tax credits are just a bonus on top of the positive vibes that come from giving. Here are nine tips to make the most of your charity donations, no matter what your income level.

7. Make use of benefits.

Deadline: Usually December 31, may vary

If you have extended health benefits, you typically can’t carry forward unused amounts into the new year. So, amid the crazy holiday season, why not take some time to take care of yourself? You could go for a massage to relieve the stress in your back and shoulders. Or maybe it’s time to upgrade your glasses. Whatever you might need, now is the time to make sure your health benefits don’t go to waste.

8. Submit work expenses.

Deadline: Varies by workplace

If you have reimbursable expenses at work, make sure you check when the submission deadline is and submit these in time, so you don’t get stuck with the bill. To ensure you don’t get too far behind with your expense submissions next year, set monthly or quarterly reminders in your calendar to submit.

9. Review assets and capital gains.

Deadline: December 27, 2023, for 2023 tax year (to ensure transaction settles by December 31)

If you’re expecting to pay capital gains from the sale of a security asset in 2019, you may wish to sell another security asset before December 27 at a loss, if possible, to offset the gain and wipe out the tax. For example, if you sold some stocks at the beginning of the year, you may have realized a capital gain. By disposing of another security at a loss before the deadline, the capital loss can be used to offset the capital gain and reduce your tax burden. We recommend that you talk to your financial institution to make sure this strategy is suitable for you.  We recommend that you talk to your financial institution to make sure this strategy is suitable for you.

Looking to get some advice? You can talk to a planner at Vancity about options relating to your specific situation. Not a Vancity member? Open an account online.

This blog post provides general information only, and does not constitute financial, accounting, tax, legal or other professional advice. We encourage you to obtain personalized advice from qualified professionalregarding your particular circumstances. 

Disclaimer: Mutual funds, other securities and securities related financial planning services are offered through Credential Securities, a division of Credential Qtrade Securities Inc. Credential Securities is a registered mark owned by Avisa Wealth Inc. The information contained in this article was obtained from sources believed to be reliable; however, we cannot guarantee that it is accurate or complete. This material is for informational and financial, tax or similar matters. Using borrowed money to finance the purchase of securities involves greater risk than purchasing using cash resources only. If you borrow money to purchase securities, your responsibility to repay the loan and pay interest as required by its terms remains the same even if the value of the securities purchased declines. Please see our Terms of Use.

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