Author: tialdelano

The 3 Pillars of Financial Success

As a rule, I like to keep things simple. One of the principles I share with my clients is that there are 3 things- and ONLY 3 things- that need to be implemented in order to ensure financial success. These 3 pillars are the basis for every budget, long term retirement plan, and customized Prosperity Plan that I create. Would you like to know more? (I see you nodding!) Here is what you need to be financially successful:

Reduce Debt

This isn’t a discussion about good debt vs. bad debt. As far as I’m concerned, ALL debt should be eliminated as soon as you possibly can. Debt that isn’t tied to appreciable assets (like land, businesses, or even education credentials) is especially repulsive. Always aim to pay things off, pay on time, and avoid taking on debt unless it’s for something that retains its value.

So long as you are paying money to others, you will find it hard to have money for yourself and for the things that make your heart sing. Debt reduction is critical to financial success. Less debt is always the better choice.

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Earn More

There are lots of arguments made against earning more money. But, those arguments invariably come from people that complain about not having enough money. Not only do those underfunded folks bash those that earn more, but they justify their own scarcity so that they won’t have to make any changes or possibly TAKE ACTION to alleviate their monetary discomfort.

As a general rule, more income, whether it comes from wages, self employment income, or passive income streams, is a good thing. If you have enough money coming in, you automatically have access to more options. OPTIONS are all about freedom: if you have more money, then you are free to choose the things that YOU want, without fearing that you will go lacking in other areas of your life.

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Save More

This is, oddly enough, the hardest part of financial success. Putting money aside and resisting the urge to spend it has to be one of the most challenging parts of becoming financially successful. It seems that whenever someone finally gets a nice little nest egg put away, sudden “emergencies” appear, which whittle down those savings to nothingness. It’s depressing and demotivating when those “emergencies” happen, which is why some people seem to always have no “rainy day” money. They are discouraged from saving again, lest those “emergencies” deplete that nest egg once more.

My best suggestion is to put the money in an account that requires an unusual amount of effort to do withdrawal. My federal job has the option for thrift savings accounts, and it takes quite a bit of paperwork in order to do a withdrawal. That, in my opinion, is enough of a deterrent to keep me from going in and recklessly spending my retirement savings.

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Those are my top tips for achieving financial success. These are recommendations that I’ve personally implemented successfully. What are some of your favorite financial strategies/tips?

This Week in Tax & Finance …

More of the amusing and interesting stories in the world of tax and finance that I’ve read this week…

If you think that your last speeding ticket was a doozy, just imagine paying $58k for wanting to get to your destination faster. Forbes reports that Finland assesses speeding fines based on a percentage of personal wealth, rather than the fixed rates that most countries impose. This fine was imposed for going just 14 miles over the speed limit. It may sound odd, but since fines and penalties are designed as a deterrent, it makes sense that these fees would be proportionate to income.

The takeaway? Drive at the speed limit.

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Usually, being the first person to do something is a privilege. It’s a source of pride for years and gives you serious bragging rights. However, Plaxico Burress, NFL wide receiver and New Jersey resident, is finding out that being the first isn’t always a good thing. Burress has been indicted for “willful failure to pay state income tax”. The law went into effect September 2014 and Burress is now the first person to be charged for willful nonpayment. According to the NJ Prosecutor’s Office, Burress filed his state income taxes but experienced a failed Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). The state views failed EFT similarly to writing bad checks.

The takeaway? Make sure that your checks and EFTs are clearing properly, so you won’t be left with fees and (in the case of Burress) legal woes.

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Is it possible to get hooked on doing GOOD for others? According to this Reuters article, microfinancing addictions are REAL and the urge to do more can quickly become consuming. The author mentions that the desire to help as many budding entrepreneurs around the globe can spiral out of control. He suggests that microlenders set a cap to their spending, be patient with issuing loans and receiving repayment. and consult others before going all in with your lending.

The takeaway? Pace your do-gooder inclinations so that you can do good for a longer time.

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That’s all for this week. There will be more posts VERY soon!

This Week in Tax & Finance …

This post is just a summary of the more interesting articles I’ve read about tax and finance over the past few days.

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According to this article published yesterday (April 26, 2015) on NBC News, the Clinton Foundation had errors on its tax return. The errors weren’t of the calculation sort, but were due to misidentified income. I’m fairly certain that someone will lose a job over this, especially since this is the beginning of the Clinton presidential campaign and there is NO room for errors that may make the organization look unethical or careless.

The takeaway lesson? Grant money IS NOT a charitable donation. Identify it properly!

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Next, an article posted by Accounting Today highlights the tax effect of the marijuana business. 27 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana usage in some form, though it is still considered a controlled substance under federal law. Marijuana businesses get taxed on their income as gross income (similar to gambling winnings and alimony) instead of net income (like businesses that aren’t selling controlled substances). This means higher taxes for marijuana retailers- unless they get creative with their taxes. There is also speculation that any providing tax advisory services to a marijuana business could be found in violation of federal law, as they may be found to participating in “aid[ing], abet[ting], counsel[ing], command[ing], induc[ing] or procur[ing] the commission of a federal offense”. Tax preparation isn’t so problematic, as it is done AFTER business transactions have occurred. It’s tax advisement (which occurs BEFORE the taxes are filed) that may punishable by federal law.

The takeaway lesson? A good tax preparer may help marijuana retailers avoid a heavy tax burden, but tax advisors could get in hot water over their advice.

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Say it isn’t so! Hershey’s stock is down and they are hurting. CNN reports that Hershey has recently purchased several other companies, including Mauna Loa, the macadamia nut processors (imagining the tasty treats that can come from that merger). Unfortunately, Hershey isn’t making any money off of those purchases yet. Nestle, however, has seen a 10% overall in stock value, due to the euro weakening and making chocolate production cheaper.

The takeaway lesson? The US dollar is up, the euro is down, and even though Hershey is suffering, this is a great time to take a trip to Europe (perhaps you can enjoy some more affordable Nestle products while you’re there).

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That’s my quick recap of the most interesting articles I’ve seen over the past couple of weeks. Look out for even more fun stuff in May, including some great FREE gifts to subscribers!

This Website is One Month Old!

I’m so excited to announce that this website is officially one month old!

I’m still learning so much, as I have never worked on WordPress so extensively. I have found myself accidentally submitting blog posts when what I meant to do was save them as drafts (that has happened more than once, and actually happened earlier today)! I found out- the hard way- that the beautiful colors I’d selected were only available under Premium accounts. I learned about email forwarding, sharing on social media, and the amazing convenience of scheduling posts.

Working through the details of a business, then going into the creation of a website, was quite the undertaking. I’m just glad that I’m finally on this path. I look forward to sharing more valuable information with you all in the future! In the meantime, I will be celebrating this one month anniversary!

Your Taxes Are Filed- Now What?

You have your returns done (or you will have them done soon). Now you get to relax … Actually, don’t relax yet. You have a couple more things to do. But these are quick- I promise!- and will save you a lot of future headaches.

Await your refund

If you are receiving a refund, then it normally takes 2 weeks for electronically filed returns and 4-6 weeks for mailed returns. If you experience delays, you can check the refund status on the IRS “Where’s Your Refund?” application.

Submit your payment

The sooner you pay, the better. Every day that you delay paying your taxes, interest and penalties accrue. Even paying a portion will translate into savings.

Request an extension of time to pay

You can contact IRS to request an extension of time to pay your taxes, in case you aren’t able to pay. The extensions are available for up to 120 days, though if you need less time, that is fine.

Request that penalties be waived

While you’re requesting your extension of time to pay, you can ask for a penalty waiver. When penalties are waived, your overall bill will be reduced. This is at IRS’s discretion, so it may or may not work. But it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Double-check your records

A few weeks after submitting your returns, compare your tax returns to your receipts and other documents. Sometime between June and August, get copies of all of your income statements from IRS (you can do this online). If you see a forgotten 1099 or W-2, you can amend your tax return to include that newly discovered information.

Prepare for next year

Adjust your W-4s at work if your withholding was inadequate. Start digitally scanning your receipts and other relevant documents so that you can have all of your information in one place.

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This short list will help you catch any errors and reduce your tax stress. Here’s to low-stress future tax seasons!

5 Ways to Save Money TODAY!

I’ve spent the past few weeks digging through tax returns (yay for life after April 15th!) and love that I can now turn my attention to overall financial fitness. If we want to live more prosperous lives, we have to watch the habits of those that are living quality lifestyles. Many wealthy individuals use certain techniques to maintain their standard of living; mainly, they focus on keep their expenses low, while simultaneously growing their assets. No matter what you earn, you can always employ the “Reduce Expenses, Increase Assets” perspective.

These tips are in no way original, but who doesn’t occasionally need a helpful reminder?

1. Eat at home. According to the Wall Street Journal, individuals in lower income levels spend more on food than those in higher income brackets. Now, the infographics featured on WSJ are simple snapshots and doesn’t account for everyone’s circumstances, but generally speaking, these hold true. The convenience of purchasing something premade or dining at a restaurant often comes at a higher price, both monetarily and healthwise. So, instead of dining out or buying something prepackaged, eat a healthy, homecooked meal. Make sure that you cook enough so that you will have tasty leftovers for the next day’s lunch!

2. Cancel an unnecessary subscription. Most of us have at least one subscription that we can eliminate, whether it’s a magazine, newspaper, subscription box full of “surprise” items or premium cable television stations. One of my hobbies is genealogy and I had a paid subscription to a genealogical research website. I cancelled the subscription to the website in favor of going to the library. I find that going to the library helps me to focus and use my time more wisely; the monetary savings is just a perk! So, go ahead and cancel that subscription. If you find that you cannot live without it, you can always renew your subscription.

3. Avoid shopping websites and physical stores. This is so obvious, yet how many of us find ourselves mindlessly wandering over to our favorite online stores, perusing the “What’s New” pages and making a mental list of the items we want to get soon? If we don’t visit the websites, then we can’t be tempted. The same thing goes for visiting our favorite shops to see what has been stocked since our last visit: if we want to save money, avoid the places that want you to spend your money!

4. Call a service provider to reduce a bill or get additional perks. This can work for any business with whom you have an account. It works particularly well if you have cable television, credit cards, or even a bank or credit union account. When contacting the provider, mention how long you’ve been a customer and how much you’ve enjoyed doing business with them, then ask if they have any specials or if your account qualifies for any bonuses. The key to this is to be pleasant and not demanding. The customer service representative will be thrilled that you aren’t irate, and they will eagerly share what offers are available to valued customers like you.

5. Plan a free activity. I once knew a person that could not fathom doing any activity that didn’t cost money. In fact, every time his wife asked him to go out and do something fun, his excuse was that he had no money (of course, his wife knew his financial situation; he didn’t lack money, he lacked creativity and originality). Every time he did something fun, it cost him a significant amount of money. As you can imagine, his finances were in shambles because none of his entertainment was free. Do a free activity for a change. Even small towns have lots of free activities available. Try going to a local museum, enjoying a picnic in the park, visit the local library (these often have fantastic free events), joining (or creating!) a book club, or finding a local festival that has no admission costs. If you live in a medium- to large-sized city, there are a plethora of free options. Get creative!

Those are just 5 quick, easy tips to help you save money today. What are some of your favorite money-saving ideas and activities? Please comment below and share some of the ways you’ve reduced your expenses.

Tax Day is Two Days Away: Freebies For ALL!

With Tax Day (April 15th) being upon us, it only makes sense that all of us taxpaying citizens get something for doing this annual test of patience. Several major media outlets have published the places where you can get freebies on Tax Day. Here is a list of everyone that is giving away Tax Day Freebies:

DailyFinance has a comprehensive list of restaurants and retailers that are offering freebies on Tax Day. My favorites from their list are Burger King (the chicken fries are back!), Olive Garden, and Bonefish Grill.

DealNews has a brief list of freebies, but a notable one is HydroMassage, where you can get a free massage via water jet. Just what you need to relax after a stressful tax session.

Kiplinger mentions that Boston Market, California Tortilla, Schlotsky’s, Office Depot, and several other places are giving away Tax Day Freebies. Let’s just rejoice over the fact that California Tortilla is participating.

SunSentinel highlights the fact that Staples will be allowing people to shred up to 5 lbs of documents for free, up to May 2. Sounds like a great way to handle some of that overdue spring cleaning.

eSmart Tax features some yummy deals, like Maggie Moo’s, IHOP, and Cinnabon. Those are some of the sweetest, tastiest deals I’ve seen.

Will you all be joining in the Tax Day Freebie fun?

Less Than 1 Week From April 15th- Are You Ready?

During my time as a tax professional, I have devised a quick checklist of items to have on hand before preparing your taxes. It never fails that, when I mention the items needed, at least one item is missing every time. Save yourself some time and aggravation by having these items ready when you go to file your taxes:

  • Social Security Numbers for everyone to be listed on the tax return
  • Copies of all W-2s, 1099s, and 1098s received during the year (yes, that job you worked for less than a month should be included!)
  • Bank and credit card statements showing business expenses paid
  • Any receipts for items purchased for your job, if you are an employee
  • Copies of local taxes paid, sales taxes paid, property taxes paid, and real estate taxes paid
  • Copies of any expenses that you’ve paid, that you are unsure if you can claim on your return (a skilled preparer can tell you if those “mystery” expenses can be deducted)
  • Copies of charitable donation receipts
  • Brokerage statements
  • Receipts for any energy efficient upgrades that you’ve completed during the year

This is not an all-inclusive list, but having these items nearby will making it much easier to prepare your taxes quickly and efficiently.

Countdown to Tax Day- If You Need More Time …

April 15th is right around the corner. Are your taxes already done, or will you be sending in your taxes right before the deadline?

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For many people, there is some anxiety surrounding tax day, either because they cannot submit their tax return on time, or they cannot pay the tax due by April 15th. If you fall into either category, relax! There are things you can do to give you more time to file and pay your taxes.

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If you need a little more time to do your taxes, have no fear. You can request an extension of time to file electronically or using a paper form. To submit it electronically, just go to any one of IRS’s FREE FILE providers to request for an automatic SIX MONTH extension. You can submit this extension request regardless of your income. If you prefer to mail in the extension request, use Form 4868 and mail it to the appropriate address as indicated in the form.

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If you have your return ready but you can’t pay your taxes, you can request an extension of time to pay. The extension of time to file IS NOT the same as an extension of time to pay. If you need more time to pay your tax, you have to complete a different form. You will need to complete Form 1127 in order to get more time to pay your taxes. Granting a payment extension is at IRS’s discretion, and they do not promise that everyone will be allowed more time to pay. They generally only allow it under hardship circumstances. But it never hurts to try, especially if you cannot afford to pay by April 15th.

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If you have other IRS questions, feel free to contact me for a FREE consultation. I’d love to help you!