5 things to know Thursday

Today's the last day to contribute to some retirement accounts

If you want to end up with the largest nest egg possible, knowing when to contribute to your retirement account is almost as important as contributing in the first place. You must make your 401(k) contributions by Dec. 31, 2020, if you want to write them off on this year's taxes. That might sound obvious, but other savings accounts – like an IRA or health savings account (HSA) – allow you to do so up until the tax filing deadline, which is April 15, 2021. For your 401(k), you usually cannot make lump-sum contributions, but instead need to change the amount of money your employer withholds from each paycheck.

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How your New Year's Eve may fare, weather-wise

Fitting for the last day of 2020, a pair of storms could put a damper on New Year's Eve celebrations across large portions of the U.S. Some areas could see rain, thunderstorms, snow or even ice. The storm in the eastern half of the nation will bring unwelcome heavy rain to some areas and locations from the Great Lakes region to the Appalachians and Southeast should be ready for what could be a soggy New Year's Eve. At Times Square in New York City, the few revelers who are out should see rain and temperatures in the 40s. There also could be severe thunderstorms – including the chance for tornadoes – across portions of the Deep South and the Southeast.  

The UK's divorce from the European Union finally completes

The United Kingdom's long and divisive Brexit journey will finally be completed Thursday, after the nation voted in a June 2016 referendum to leave the European Union. The U.K. left the EU that it had joined in 1973 almost a year ago, but remained within the bloc’s economic embrace during a transition period that ends at midnight Brussels time (6 p.m. EST). Britain’s Parliament voted on Wednesday to approve a trade deal with the EU, averting economic chaos with just one day to spare. Big changes are coming on New Year’s Day. The trade agreement, hammered out after more than nine months of negotiations and sealed on Christmas Eve, will ensure Britain and the 27-nation EU can continue to trade in goods without tariffs or quotas. That should help protect the $894 billion in annual trade between the two sides, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that rely on it. But Brexit will still bring inconvenience and new expense for both individuals and businesses — from the need for tourists to have travel insurance to the millions of new customs declarations that firms will have to fill out.

Scandal-riddled Army to play in bowl game Thursday

Army will play in the Liberty Bowl on Thursday, a day after it was revealed that 24 football players were involved in the worst academic cheating scandal at West Point in 45 years. In all, 55 of the 73 cadets accused of cheating on a calculus final exam in May are athletes. Some of those athletes could dress and play for Army in the Liberty Bowl against West Virginia (ESPN, 4 p.m. ET). Army, which won nine games this season, is playing in the Liberty Bowl as a COVID-19 replacement for Tennessee. Army has gotten a lot of attention and support after nearly being left out of the bowl season when opt-outs left Independence Bowl officials with no opponent for the Black Knights, forcing a cancellation. They got their chance after Tennessee returned several positive COVID-19 test results. 

What is open and closed on New Year's Eve? 

Whether you need groceries or want to pick up a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the end of a trying year and welcome 2021, take note. Many stores will close early Thursday, hours before the ball drops and have limited hours Friday for New Year’s Day. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, expect some stores to limit the number of shoppers allowed inside. To help plan your last-minute shopping down to the minute, here are New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day store hours for department stores, discount retailers and grocers. As for restaurants, unlike Christmas, when many major chains closed, more restaurants will be open to bid 2020 a farewell and welcome in 2021. Expect to find many restaurants operating with special hours Thursday and Friday

Contributing: The Associated Press

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