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5 money moves to make by year’s end

Editor's note: This article was originally published on MoneyRates.com. It has been reprinted here with permission.

Deadlines get a bad rap. People hate them, dread them, shirk them and skirt them. But deadlines can also be your friend, prompting you to get things done so you can then put your feet up with a clear conscience.

You know all about the obvious financial deadlines — pay this bill by the end of the month, file your taxes by April 15 and so on. But there are some less obvious financial tasks that merit a deadline, and the end of the year is a logical focus for some of these tasks. In some cases, there are specific reasons for that, and in other cases it is just a matter of using a deadline to prompt action.

Financial moves to make before the new year

In any case, here are five things to make sure you do before the end of this year:

  1. Eliminate checking account fees. According to the latest MoneyRates.com Bank Fees Survey, 2014 saw the continued disappearance of free checking accounts. Consider them an endangered species, but not yet extinct. Capturing one of these rare creatures can save you over $150 a year, so if you are paying checking account fees, start searching for a free checking account now.
  2. Boost your retirement fund contributions. If you contribute to an employer-sponsored plan, you have two reasons for boosting contributions before year-end. One is to boost your tax deduction for 2014, and the other is because annual contributions to these plans are capped. If you have been meaning to ramp up your contributions, there is still time to get a higher amount in for 2014 and then continue these higher contributions in 2015. Plus, if you are over age 50, you can make additional “catch-up” contributions in 2014.
  3. Run some numbers on a refinancing. The economy seems to be at a cross-over point: Growth has improved enough for housing values to rise, while current mortgage rates are still relatively low. That has created new refinancing opportunities for previously underwater homeowners, but do not expect that combination of factors to last.
  4. Opt out of overdraft protection. It is a ruthless dynamic: As more and more customers opt out of overdraft protection, banks keep raising overdraft fees to make up for the lost revenue. Therefore, the longer you stay in overdraft protection, the more of this burden is going to fall on your shoulders.
  5. Shop for savings account rates. Interest rates on savings accounts have yet to improve, but Federal Reserve policy is going through a transition that could eventually lead to higher rates. Banks that have established themselves as rate leaders now are likely to lead the movement of rates upward, so why not get at the head of the parade?

Don't wait for your New Year's resolutions to make the right money moves. Instead, get a jump on your financial obligations by taking care of them by the end of this year.

Richard Barrington is a personal finance expert for MoneyRates.com. He has earned the CFA designation and is a 20-year veteran of the financial industry.