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Preparedness Never Takes a Holiday

As the holiday season gets into full swing, many of us turn our minds to taking time off from work to enjoy time with friends and family. A break from the norm is a great way to refresh and recharge ourselves for the new year. But, while we may enjoy taking that holiday, it's important to remember that our finances still need tending, regardless of the date on the calendar.

To help you prepare to manage your finances in 2012, we've put together a list of important financial planning dates to be aware of. You can mark them on that calendar you received as a gift. Or, better yet, you can enter them into your virtual calendar (where you can also set up reminders to keep you on track).

January

  • Fourth-quarter (prior-year) estimated tax payment: If you are self-employed or have other fourth-quarter income that requires you to pay quarterly estimated taxes, the payment must be postmarked by January 17, 2012.
  • Federal financial aid: For students entering college in September, the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is available beginning January 1. Families should plan to complete the FAFSA form as soon as possible in January.

February

  • Nonfederal financial aid: The priority deadlines for most college scholarship and financial aid programs occur in early to mid-February. College-bound students should plan to submit their CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE applications by these dates.

March

  • Corporate tax returns: The filing deadline is March 15, unless you file for a six-month extension.

April

  • IRA required minimum distributions (RMDs): If you turned 70½ during 2011, you have until April 1 to take that year’s RMD. (You will also have to take your RMD for 2012 by December 31.)
  • Prior-year IRA contributions: Fund your retirement account for 2011 by April 15—the deadline for contributions to traditional IRAs (deductible or not) and Roth IRAs. If you have a Keogh or a SEP-IRA, however, and you get a filing extension to October 15, you can wait until then to put prior-year dollars into those accounts.
  • Taxes, taxes, taxes: Individual, gift, estate and trust, partnership, and estimated first-quarter tax returns are due in April. Talk to your tax professional to discuss which deadlines apply to you and get them on your calendar!

May

  • Nonprofit informational return: The filing deadline is May 15. You may request two 90-day extensions to file. Extension deadlines are August 15 and November 15.

June

  • Second-quarter estimated tax payment: If you are self-employed or have other second-quarter income that requires you to pay quarterly estimated taxes, be sure your payment is postmarked by June 15.

September

  • Third-quarter estimated tax payment: If you are self-employed or have other second-quarter income that requires you to pay quarterly estimated taxes, be sure your payment is postmarked by September 15.

October

  • Recharacterizing a prior-year Roth IRA conversion: If you converted a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA during 2011 and paid tax on the conversion, October 15 is the deadline for recharacterizing (undoing) the conversion.
  • Medicare enrollment: October is open enrollment for Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug coverage plans.
  • Employee benefit plan enrollment: Open enrollment season begins for certain employee benefit plans. Take time to consider how much to contribute to a flexible spending account.

November

  • Student loans: The grace period for May graduates is coming to an end. Recent graduates still looking for employment may want to investigate their options for deferring payments.

December

  • Reporting a loss on the sale of stock: A trade to sell a long position must be executed by the close of the last trading date of the current year. A short position closing trade must be executed so that the trade settles by the final trading day of the current year.

This is not an exhaustive list of all of the planning dates throughout the year. Be sure to talk with a financial professional about deadlines that are most relevant to your personal situation, so you can better prepare for the coming year. Happy Holidays!