Your Fall Financial Planning Checklist

Fall back on these financial planning habits to end 2023 strong.

The fall is a season of fresh beginnings, marked by a new school year, the reintroduction of sweater weather and the golden tones of leaves. It can also be an ideal time to organize your finances and revisit the goals you set back at the start of the new year. This checklist can help set you up for success and keep you on track for the remainder of the year.

Financial Planning

Revisit Your Asset Allocation

Review your investment strategy and asset allocation to help ensure your portfolio is diversified amongst stocks, fixed income, cash and other asset classes while in alignment with your goals and risk tolerance. In periods of uncertainty, active management strategies where portfolio managers aim to identify opportunities and manage risk may outperform passive investment strategies that track an index (an investment cannot be made directly in a market index).


Tidy Up Your Finances

Having a number of accounts at different institutions can make you feel disorganized. Consider consolidating your accounts to gain a clearer understanding of your financial streams and overall wealth. Or, if you prefer to maintain accounts with different banks, take advantage of digital tools that let you see all of your accounts in one place. This can help you take inventory of your income and expenses, get a clearer picture of your budget and cut wasteful spending to make smarter financial decisions. Action steps that you can take today include:

  • Changing your preferences to “paperless” notifications. When you receive statements digitally, it can be easier to track your finances because your statements are all in one place.
  • Consolidating any debt. Paying off your various debts via a single loan with a competitive interest rate not only helps you save money, but also leaves you with one simple payment date each month.

Plan for Your Tax Return

Whether or not you live in a state with high taxes, consider how minimizing the impact of taxation on your portfolio can help you build and sustain your long-term wealth. For example, a tax-aware asset allocation strategy, which accounts for variations in the way different accounts are taxed, may help increase after-tax returns. And, for taxable accounts, a strategy known as tax-loss harvesting can help minimize taxes owed from capital gains.


Make the Most of Your Retirement and Health Insurance Benefits

Evaluate your health insurance deductibles and make a plan on how to best leverage your flexible spending and HSA accounts. If you’re not doing so already, consider fully funding your employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k), to maximize any match being offered and make the most of your pre-tax contributions.


Update Your Estate Plan

Consider periodically updating wills and other estate planning documents. Review any changes the past year brought to your family, as well as your overall estate plan to ensure it still reflects your current situation and objectives. Financial gifts to family members can help reduce your overall tax liability while also helping them with their finances. Setting up trusts or providing for education expenses through a 529 plan or direct gift to an institution are some strategies you might want to consider.


Invest With Impact

Examine how well your portfolio aligns with your personal values. For investors concerned about issues such as climate change, gender equality and access to education, investing in companies that focus on environmental, social and governance best practices can help generate positive financial returns while also driving positive change.


Plan Your Charitable and Holiday Giving

When making your upcoming gifting plans, decide whether you want to give cash, appreciated securities, or give through the gift of volunteerism.Another option for giving back is participating in a donor-advised fund, which provides potential tax advantages while helping you support your favorite causes. If you’re more serious about creating a substantial structure and commitment, consider creating a family foundation in which you engage family members in your philanthropic goals.


Contact Your Financial Advisor

Talk with your Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor to discuss your financial plans.


When Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, its affiliates and Morgan Stanley Financial Advisors and Private Wealth Advisors (collectively, “Morgan Stanley”) provide “investment advice” regarding a retirement or welfare benefit plan account, an individual retirement account or a Coverdell education savings account (“Retirement Account”), Morgan Stanley is a “fiduciary” as those terms are defined under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (“ERISA”), and/or the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (the “Code”), as applicable. When Morgan Stanley provides investment education, takes orders on an unsolicited basis or otherwise does not provide “investment advice”, Morgan Stanley will not be considered a “fiduciary” under ERISA and/or the Code. For more information regarding Morgan Stanley’s role with respect to a Retirement Account, please visit Tax laws are complex and subject to change. Morgan Stanley does not provide tax or legal advice. Individuals are encouraged to consult their tax and legal advisors (a) before establishing a Retirement Account, and (b) regarding any potential tax, ERISA and related consequences of any investments or other transactions made with respect to a Retirement Account.

Asset Allocation does not assure a profit or protect against loss in declining financial markets.

Investing in the market entails the risk of market volatility. The value of all types of investments may increase or decrease over varying time periods. The returns on a portfolio consisting primarily of sustainable or impact investments may be lower or higher than a portfolio that is more diversified or where decisions are based solely on investment considerations. Because sustainability and impact criteria exclude some investments, investors may not be able to take advantage of the same opportunities or market trends as investors that do not use such criteria.

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC does not accept appointments nor will it act as a trustee but it will provide access to trust services through an appropriate third-party corporate trustee.

Investors should carefully read the Program Disclosure statement, which contains more information on investment options, risk factors, fees and expenses, and possible tax consequences before purchasing a 529 plan. You can obtain a copy of the Program Disclosure Statement from the 529 plan sponsor or your Financial Advisor.

Investments are subject to market risk and may fluctuate in value. Before investing, investors should consider whether tax or other benefits are only available for investments in the investor’s home-state 529 college savings plan.

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