The Best Last-Minute Money Moves for 2012

The countdown to New Year's Eve is already underway, which means there's less than a month left to make some final financial moves in 2012. So, how best to make improvements across all the big financial categories of your life? Here's your step-by-step guide:

Give yourself a career upgrade. First, take some time to reflect on how your work has changed over the last 11 months. Are you earning more or less than you were in January 2012? Has any change been by choice, or did you face some unexpected circumstances? If you're still recovering from a setback, such as a lay-off, then create a plan for yourself to find your footing again in 2013, starting with creating an additional source of income. If you have a skill, such as playing a musical instrument, cooking, or speaking a second language, consider teaching others on the side, for example.

Track spending. If you haven't yet conducted an in-depth analysis of where your money is going, the end of the year is a great time to do so because you can look back over the entire year. And as research has shown, that's the most effective way to budget because it's harder to forget big annual expenses, such as summer vacation or holiday gifts. Thanks to easy-to-use websites like Mint.com (or your own bank's online interface), you can upload and analyze spending in less time than it takes to watch a movie.

Save up. If you haven't maxed out your retirement savings for the year ($17,000 for a 401(k), or $22,500 if you're 50 or older), you have until April 15, 2013, to do so. Non-retirement savings are easy to forget, especially this time of year when holiday travels and shopping can cloud longer-term goals. But if you have big ones for 2013 and beyond, such as buying a home or building a hearty emergency savings account, now is also the time to think about prioritizing after-tax savings, too.

[Read: Should You Save or Pay Off Debt?]

Lower your fees. Particularly on any long-term retirement accounts, expenses can take a big chunk out of your investment return. But fees vary widely, typically from 0.1 to 2 percent of your total investment on an annual basis. Think tank RAND calculates that even just 1 percentage-point difference in annual fees adds up to $3,380 after 10 years on a $20,000 account balance. Index funds often offer lower fees, which means investors can keep more of their money.

Make a plan to conquer big goals. BJ Fogg, director of Stanford's Persuasive Technology Lab, suggests taking small steps instead of big ones. "Big leaps almost never work," he says. They can be overwhelming and doom people to failure. Instead, Fogg says you should first think about what your goal means in terms of a behavioral change. Do you need to start bringing your lunch to work? Avoid budget-busting restaurants? Or set up an automatic payroll deduction that goes into a savings account?

Coordinate with your partner. Not talking about money is one of the biggest money mistakes couples make. Getting set for the New Year by brainstorming about big money goals is a great way to close out 2012. Do you want to pay off debt together, save for a house, or cut back on some area of spending? Agreeing on common goals makes it easier to save. In The Debt-Free Spending Plan, JoAnneh Nagler explains that working together on a spending plan can be an aphrodisiac, since it reduces daily stress. "You don't think that would make you feel more amorous and sexy, but it does," she says.

[Read: 7 Items You Should Buy This Winter.]

Automate savings. Many banks make it easy to sign up to automatically deposit savings into your account every month, and you might even be rewarded for it with extra interest points or lower fees. Your employer might also be able to set up automatic deposits for you, so you don't even miss the money. Be aware, though, of potential tax changes that could also lower your take-home pay in 2013.

Revamp your passwords. Don't let online predators stump your style in 2013. Give yourself foolproof passwords by following some basic rules: avoid words you'd find in the dictionary, use a mix of numbers and letters, and create long passwords, perhaps incorporating acronyms for sentences that are easy for you to remember. Also, change passwords to important accounts, including financial ones, every few months.

Up your insurance policies if necessary. If 2012 saw you through any major life changes, such as a home purchase, marriage, or children, you might need more insurance. In fact, many people are under-insured, which can put their dependents at risk. Let the holidays inspire you to review your current policies and see whether you need to take steps to further protect your family. Since employer-provided coverage doesn't stick with you if you move or lose your job, it's important to double-check that you have enough outside coverage, too, says Carmen Wong Ulrich, president and co-founder of ALTA Wealth Management.

[Read: 50 Smart Money Moves.]

Empty out flex-spending accounts. Many flex-spending accounts that are offered by employers, including those for healthcare costs, commuting costs, and childcare costs, come with a use-it-or-lose-it policy. That means if you set money aside, now is the time to gather those receipts and file for reimbursement. (Some policies give employees until March 15 to file.)

Give generously. With tax breaks for charitable contributions potentially on the chopping block amid the fiscal cliff negotiations, you still have time to donate (and deduct) in 2012. Websites such as charitynavigator.org make it easy to research nonprofits before writing a check.

With these items ticked off, you can ring in the New Year with a little less on your plate.



More From US News & World Report

--

Get stories like this on the Yahoo app and discover more every day.
Download it now.
Loading...
  • Ex-Comverse CEO pleads guilty to fraud, a decade after fleeing U.S.
    Ex-Comverse CEO pleads guilty to fraud, a decade after fleeing U.S. Reuters - 3 minutes 31 seconds ago

    The former chief executive officer of Comverse Technology Inc pleaded guilty on Wednesday to securities fraud, a decade after he fled to Namibia from the United States to avoid prosecution. Jacob "Kobi" Alexander, the Woodbury, New York-based … More »

  • U.S. crude down 3 percent after big stockpile build
    U.S. crude down 3 percent after big stockpile build Reuters - 26 minutes ago

    The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said crude inventories rose 2.5 million barrels last week, versus analysts' forecasts for a draw of 500,000 barrels. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures settled down $1.33, or 2.8 percent, at … More »

  • European stocks rebound as euro slips; oil tumbles
    European stocks rebound as euro slips; oil tumbles Reuters - 33 minutes ago

    European stocks scored consecutive daily gains for the first time in three weeks on Wednesday, drawing support from a weak euro, but U.S. and Canadian stocks drifted down as lower metal and oil prices weighed on the materials sector. Emerging … More »

  • EU, Portugal agree on 5 billion euro recapitalisation for ailing bank CGD
    EU, Portugal agree on 5 billion euro recapitalisation for ailing bank CGD Reuters - 37 minutes ago

    LISBON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission and Portugal have agreed in principle on the recapitalisation, on market terms, of ailing state-owned bank CGD, envisaging an injection of up to 2.7 billion euros (£2.3 billion) in state funds and … More »

  • Ecuador, Iran officials meet on need to stabilise oil prices Reuters - 1 hour 0 minutes ago

    QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador's Foreign Minister Guillaume Long said on Wednesday that the South American country's authorities spoke with a visiting Iranian delegation about the need to stabilise oil prices. ... … More »

  • Syria rebels backed by Turkey tanks 'seize' IS-held town
    Syria rebels backed by Turkey tanks 'seize' IS-held town AFP News - 1 hour 1 minute ago

    Turkish tanks and hundreds of opposition fighters thrust deep inside Syrian territory Wednesday in a lightning operation that within hours ousted Islamic State jihadists from a key Syrian border town. The air and ground offensive -- the most … More »

  • Wall St. declines as healthcare, materials lag
    Wall St. declines as healthcare, materials lag Reuters - 1 hour 2 minutes ago

    Wall Street retreated on Wednesday, pulled lower by declines in the materials and healthcare sectors as investors continued to assess the possibility of an interest rate hike in the coming months. The market is awaiting Federal Reserve Chair Janet … More »

  • The Latest: 8-year-old pulled out alive from quake rubble
    The Latest: 8-year-old pulled out alive from quake rubble Associated Press - 1 hour 5 minutes ago

    The Latest on the earthquake in central Italy (all times local): 8:35 p.m. An 8-year-old girl has been pulled alive from the rubble in Pescara del Tronto, one of the three towns most severely demolished ... … More »

  • Stocks edge lower as mining and materials companies slip
    Stocks edge lower as mining and materials companies slip Associated Press - 1 hour 20 minutes ago

    U.S. stocks are edging lower in afternoon trading on Wednesday, giving back a modest increase from the day before. The declines, which were led by mining and materials companies, were light but broad as ... … More »

  • Copper Drops to Erase Year’s Gains on LME as China Imports Slide Bloomberg - 1 hour 47 minutes ago

    Glencore Plc, the top copper supplier, fell after reporting profit declined by two-thirds. Copper for delivery in three months declined 1.7 percent to settle at $4,632 a metric ton ($2.10 a pound) at 5:50 p.m. on the LME, capping the longest … More »

  • Russia jails leader of banned nationalist group
    Russia jails leader of banned nationalist group AFP News - 2 hours 30 minutes ago

    A Russian court on Wednesday sentenced ultranationalist politician Alexander Belov, a former leader of a banned anti-immigration movement, to seven and a half years in prison for extremism and money laundering. Belov was formerly coordinator of the … More »

  • Euro area banks see net profit fall 20 percent in first quarter - ECB
    Euro area banks see net profit fall 20 percent in first quarter - ECB Reuters - 2 hours 41 minutes ago

    Euro area banks saw their profits fall by a fifth in the first three months of this year as they made less money from trading and most other business areas, European Central Bank data showed on Wednesday. The ECB survey painted a gloomy picture, … More »

  • European equities mainly rise on German GDP
    European equities mainly rise on German GDP AFP News - 2 hours 51 minutes ago

    European stock markets made limited gains Wednesday after a downbeat session in Asia, with sentiment partly lifted by German economic growth data. Strong foreign trade and buoyant consumption drove Germany's economy, Europe's largest, to … More »

  • Oil slides on surprise jump in US crude stockpiles AFP - 2 hours 59 minutes ago

    Oil prices slumped Wednesday as a surprise jump in US crude stockpiles added to lingering concerns over a global supply glut. The US Department of Energy said commercial inventories of US crude grew by ... … More »

  • Global Markets - European stocks rebound as euro slips; oil tumbles
    Global Markets - European stocks rebound as euro slips; oil tumbles Reuters - 3 hours ago

    European stocks scored consecutive daily gains for the first time in three weeks on Wednesday, drawing support from a weak euro, but U.S. and Canadian stocks drifted down as lower metal and oil prices weighed on the materials sector. On a light day … More »

  • FTSE underperforms European peers, miners hinder
    FTSE underperforms European peers, miners hinder Reuters - 3 hours ago

    Britain's blue-chip share index retreated on Wednesday, underperforming its European peers, as a sharp drop in metals prices put pressure on the mining sector and South Africa-exposed stocks fell as the rand slipped. Glencore GLEN.L was down 3.1 … More »

  • Up 57 percent, Britain's inflation-linked gilt tops all bonds in 2016 Reuters - 3 hours ago

    The longest-dated UK government index-linked gilt has been the best performing government bond of 2016 as investors scramble to buy inflation protection in the wake of Britain's shock decision to leave the European Union. The UK government's 0.125 … More »

  • Sensors, other devices can help prevent hot car deaths
    Sensors, other devices can help prevent hot car deaths Associated Press - 3 hours ago

    Hot cars are a danger to children, particularly in a sweltering summer like this one. There are some devices on the market — built into cars as well as child seats — that can help prevent kids from being ... … More »

  • Markets Right Now: US stocks edge lower at midday Associated Press - 3 hours ago

    The latest on developments in global financial markets (all times local): 11:45 a.m. Stocks are moving slightly lower in midday trading on Wall Street as the market gives back a modest gain from the day ... … More »

  • China’s Shadow Finance Is Reminiscent of Pre-Crisis U.S.: Q&A Bloomberg - 3 hours ago

    The nation has at most about 18 months before this funding -- derived largely from wealth-management products offering higher returns on riskier underlying investments -- hits a wall, says Wright, director of China markets strategy for New … More »

  • New PBOC Money-Market Tactic Has Traders Trying to Decode Signal Bloomberg - 3 hours ago

    The People’s Bank of China sold 50 billion yuan ($7.5 billion) of 14-day reverse-repurchase agreements on Wednesday, its first offering of anything with a tenor other than seven days since February. Officials are signaling they’re ready to curb … More »

  • Italy quake unlikely to trigger 200 mln euro cat-bond default
    Italy quake unlikely to trigger 200 mln euro cat-bond default Reuters - 3 hours ago

    A powerful earthquake in Italy on Wednesday is unlikely to force UnipolSai's 200 million euro ($226 mln) catastrophe bond into default as the bond has low exposure to the affected region, the Italian insurer said. The earthquake devastated a string … More »

  • Glencore’s Worst Profit Shows Miners Still Reeling From Rout (1) Bloomberg - 3 hours ago

    Weak raw-material prices caused profit at the commodities giant to plunge 66 percent in the first half to $300 million. The shares dropped 3.1 percent in London even as Glencore promised to cut debt even further and said it may resume paying … More »

  • TABLE-INDONESIA KPB NUSANTARA PALM OIL PRICES - Aug 24 Reuters - 3 hours ago

    Aug 23 (Reuters) - Following are Indonesian prices for crude palm oil (CPO) quoted at an auction by PT KPB Nusantara (formerly known as the state marketing centre) on Monday. Buyer Volume Price Terms (tonnes) ... … More »

  • RUBBER-Tokyo futures prices after evening session Aug 24 Reuters - 3 hours ago

    Following are prices for Tokyo rubber futures at the end of the Tokyo market's evening session on Aug 2016. Contract Day Volume Evening Volume * Aug 162.5 26 157.6 4 * Sep 160.2 33 158.5 1 * Oct 160.0 ... … More »

 
Recent Quotes
Symbol Price Change % Chg 
Your most recently viewed tickers will automatically show up here if you type a ticker in the "Enter symbol/company" at the bottom of this module.
You need to enable your browser cookies to view your most recent quotes.
 
Sign-in to view quotes in your portfolios.

MARKET MOVERS

  • Most Actives
    Most Actives
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    0.1290.0000.00%
    N21.SI
    0.250.00-1.96%
    5ME.SI
    0.60+0.04+6.57%
    5TP.SI
    0.99-0.02-1.98%
    Y92.SI
    0.156+0.007+4.70%
    AFC.SI
  • % Gainers
    % Gainers
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    0.30+0.06+22.45%
    T18.SI
    0.15+0.02+15.38%
    5TI.SI
    0.225+0.025+12.50%
    Y35.SI
    0.51+0.05+12.09%
    BHU.SI
    0.162+0.017+11.72%
    QS9.SI
  • % Losers
    % Losers
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    0.011-0.115-91.27%
    QF6.SI
    0.23-0.17-42.50%
    AWI.SI
    0.205-0.055-21.15%
    I06.SI
    0.45-0.10-18.18%
    BFK.SI
    0.385-0.085-18.09%
    E8Z.SI

Market Data

  • Currencies
    Currencies
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    1.3549+0.0037+0.27%
    USDSGD=X
    1.5259-0.0011-0.07%
    EURSGD=X
    1.7919+0.0092+0.52%
    GBPSGD=X
    74.1170+0.008+0.01%
    SGDJPY=X
    5.7210-0.0145-0.25%
    SGDHKD=X
    2.9751-0.0007-0.02%
    SGDMYR=X
    9,777.2441-39.46-0.40%
    SGDIDR=X
    4.9103-0.0031-0.06%
    SGDCNY=X
    1.0306+0.0017+0.17%
    AUDSGD=X
  • Commodities
    Commodities
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    1,328.90-17.20-1.28%
    GCZ16.CMX
    18.54-0.38-2.02%
    SIU16.CMX
    95.71-8.18-7.87%
    ^XAU
    2.08-0.04-1.70%
    HGU16.CMX
    46.69-1.41-2.93%
    CLV16.NYM
  • Bonds
    Bonds
    TreasuryYield (%)Yield Change
    1.140.00
    ^FVX
    1.56+0.01
    ^TNX
    2.24+0.01
    ^TYX