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While there might only be a few days left in 2014, there are still some great financial moves you can make to put yourself in a great position for 2015, especially when it comes to getting the most return on your taxes. TODAY's financial editor Jean Chatzky joined TODAY's Lester Holt to share five easy moves you can make to put yourself in the best financial position for 2015.
1. Max out retirement-plan contributions & college-saving contributions
Contributions to retirement plans like 401ks and education plans like 529s are tax deductible. While there are limits in some states as to how much you can contribute to these plans, you have until the end of the year to do so. Chatzky said: "If you want to put more money in your 401k right now, call your benefits department right now and ask them, 'What do I need to do to get the check to the right place at the right time?'"
2. Contribute to charities
Charitable contributions are also tax deductible, which can help lower your overall tax bill. One thing that Chatzky recommends if you're making a charitable deduction (at any time, not just the end of the year): have a paper trail. "You want to get receipts from the charitable organization to document what you gave and how much," she said.
3. Sell losing investments
Selling some losing stocks or funds in your portfolio before the end of the year can help offset the taxes you'll pay on your investment profits. Heads up, once you do sell those stocks or funds, you can't buy back those same investments for 31 days. But, Chatzky said, you can find a similar option. "If we're talking about mutual funds, there are a lot of similar ones out there," she said. "So you can replace that position in your portfolio."
4. Make an early mortgage payment
Mortgage interest payment is tax deductible, so if you can make an early payment, that additional interest paid will help your overall 2014 tax bill. This is a particularly smart move if you're in the first few years of your mortgage. "As we all know, interest tends to get front-loaded," Chatzky said. "So you're making more payments in terms of interest regarding principle the earlier you are in your loan."
5. Check your flexible spending accounts
In 2013, a new law allowed people to carry over $500 in flexible spending money at the end of the year, a change from flexible spending accounts' "use it or lose it" policy. But, Chatsky said, those changes aren't necessarily a guarantee, so she recommends checking on your specific plan. "Check with your benefits department," Chatzky said. "See what the rules are for your particular plan."
And if you are at the end of some use-it-or-lose-it money with your flexible spending account, Chatzky recommends heading over to FSAstore.com, where you can online shop with your flexible spending account.