Keep It Simple

Henry David Thoreau Quote

Dina here …

There are a few things that immediately make me more relaxed and happy to face the day:  a strong cup of coffee, a nice walk, and a hot shower.  It’s nice to know that I can guarantee myself a good start to the day with such simple things.

It got me thinking that people rarely do this with their finances.  Instead, financial matters are treated like an overstuffed, messy closet that needs to be dealt with but remains closed (and avoided).

Make no mistake, procrastination weighs on the brain.  Putting things off just makes it difficult to enjoy “down time” because there is this nagging sense that something needs to be addressed.

The good news is that a few quick changes can immediately get your finances moving in the right direction.  I have intentionally picked three things that you can (and should) do right away (and it will take less time than cleaning out a closet).  Tackle those three, and you might just become motivated to do more.

The best part is there is a deadline because there is no better motivator than a sense of urgency.

With less than three months left in the year, these changes may help you save on your federal and (if applicable) state taxes if you act quickly.

  • Contribute the maximum to your employer-sponsored retirement plan. If you can’t afford to do that, get as close to the maximum as you can.  Remember, this lowers your taxable income.  The maximum contribution amounts are as follows:

– $18,500 ($24,500 for those ages 50 or older) for 401(k), 457 and 403(b) plans;

–  $12,500 ($15,500 for those ages 50 or older) for Simple IRA plans; and

–  For those with a 403(b) AND a 457 plan, you can contribute the maximum amounts into each plan for a total maximum of $37,000 or $49,000 (if 50 or older).

  • If you can’t contribute the maximum to your 401(k) plan, but your employer offers a match, contribute at least enough to get the match.  That is free money.
  • If you are saving for college expenses, many states offer tax benefits for contributions made to in-state 529 plans. And some, like Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, Montana and Pennsylvania allow for tax benefits for contributions made to any state’s plan.  To learn more about tax deductions or 529 plans, visit  As always, fees matter, so be sure to look at your options from a fee perspective.

Even if taxes are not an issue for you, you can still fortify your retirement account by participating in your employer-sponsored plan (some even offer Roth 401(k) or Roth 403(b) plans).

If you do not have access to a company-sponsored retirement plan, remember you can still contribute to a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA ($5,500, or $6,500 for those age 50 or older).  Click here to learn more about the differences between the two accounts and the eligibility requirements.

You don’t need to completely overhaul your life to strengthen your finances; a few easy changes can get you on the right path, and, more important, can ease that nagging feeling that you are neglecting something important.

Sometimes the smallest of actions can give you the greatest peace of mind.