updates

My Big, Dreamy Financial Goals for 2023

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post discussing how to plan your financial year, and the strategy behind reaching your big, dreamy goals in 2023. At the end of the post, I admitted that I didn’t have any goals for the upcoming year (quite surprising for me, the perpetual planner and consummate dreamer). I promised I would come back and share those goals when I understood what I wanted in 2023.

Well, here I am: I identified my goals, and I’m ready to share! Here are my 2023 financial goals:

  • Increase my income by 25% (using last year’s gross salary as a baseline)
  • Monetize my YouTube channel
  • Average 25 book sales per week
  • Remit 4 additional mortgage payments

I’ll add more details as I continue fleshing out all of the steps I need to take in order to ensure that I hit my goals. However, even now I can confirm that the goals I have feed into one another: monetized content and consistent book sales will feed into the overall income increase, which will make it possible to remit additional mortgage payments (shortening the length of my mortgage and freeing up resources to put towards my next large purchase). I have many other goals for the year, but these are the big ones when it comes to finances.

Here’s the thing about setting goals: they can be as big or as small as you like, so long as they delight you. If a small goal feeds into a bigger one, that’s fine, but a small goal – that isn’t necessarily part of a larger plan – is nothing to despise. If it’s what you want, then it’s worth pursuing, regardless of how big or small it is.

I’ll aim for quarterly updates, to show you all how I’m progressing toward my goals. I’d love to hear all about your goals: please leave me a comment, so I can cheer you on!

Planning Your Financial Year

As we draw closer to the end of 2022, there is a feeling of hope in the air: tomorrow always holds the potential for us to be better, happier, and more successful than we were yesterday. One of the biggest advantages of embracing hopeful energy is that it motivates us to plan and prepare for the future we desire. With hope on your side, anything is possible!

With that in mind, I’m excited to share with you some easy steps for planning your financial year. It may seem daunting at first, but it’s surprisingly easy and quick to plan a financial year that will bring you joy instead of tears. The key to planning anything is breaking it down the big goals into smaller, more manageable pieces. Then, once those pieces are defined, take action daily in order to make your dreams come true. I’m getting ahead of myself: let’s start at the beginning.

Ask yourself, What do I want? Vague goals get vague results. Get specific and stop excluding yourself from your desires: eliminate the word “can’t” from your vocabulary. If the goal feels so huge that you doubt that it can happen, then take it down half a notch, but never make it so realistic that it doesn’t excite you. Your goals should light you up: if it feels lackluster, it isn’t big enough. Big, dreamy, specific goals are what you need to keep you motivated throughout the year.

Ask yourself, What will it take to get what I want? Break your big, dreamy goals into smaller, specific steps. If any part of your goals rely on luck, specify that, but also focus most of your attention on the actions that are within your control. If you identify a step that feels a bit overwhelming, then break that down into a much smaller, more manageable sub-steps. The objective of this exercise is to make your big goals feel obtainable (because they are!)

Ask yourself, What can I do today to get closer to what I want? Consistent, daily action is what takes a dream or plan and turns it into reality. The biggest problem I’ve seen people encounter on the path to their goals is believing that they need to take grand actions in order to make progress. If you wait for the right time to make big moves, you’ll find yourself frustrated, stuck, and feeling like a failure. Rarely do we get a “perfect” time to take big actions: we either sneak up on our goals or we hope for the stars to align before we make moves (I don’t recommend that you do the latter).

I’m still thinking of my big, dreamy financial goal for 2023: once I’ve identified that goal, I’ll share it here, and give you all my process for achieving it. Look out for those posts in the next few weeks!

I’d love to hear what your financial goals for 2023 are: please let me know all about them in the comments below!

3 Things To Do In December for Financial Health

The end of the year is almost here! This is the month leading into my favorite holiday, New Year’s Day! There’s something so exciting about opening a brand new chapter, and I’m thrilled every time January 1st rolls around.

After having several busy seasons, as well as a few slumps or slower moments throughout the year, you’re probably just ready to bring in 2023 quietly. I don’t blame you for wanting a tame intro to the new year, but there are a couple of things you can prioritize in December, to set yourself up for success in 2023 and beyond!

Here are my finance tips for December. These work well for both tax practitioners, business owners, or even employees that are looking for ways to increase their wealth now and in the future. To your continued success!

  • Send thank you cards and holiday cards to clients and customers. Sending seasons greetings, as well as heartfelt expressions of gratitude, is a wonderful gesture for everyone. The goodwill is multiplied if you’re an entrepreneur and do this with your clients and customers. If you aren’t a tax preparer or a business owner, then this is a fantastic practice to develop when showing appreciation to the people that you employ (think hairstylists and nail technicians, postal workers that you interact with regularly, childcare providers, housekeepers and other in-house staff, lawn maintenance workers, etc.,). Gratitude is an energy that always brings in abundance, so express thanks often.
  • Create and/or refine your business vision for 2023. If you haven’t done a business vision board, this is a good time to do it! I love how vision boards can help you crystallize the ideas, goals, and aspirations you have for your business. If you aren’t interested in a vision board, then writing down the vision is also powerful and can move you closer to your desires. If you’ve already done one or both of these steps, this time of year is also fantastic for reviewing those previous notes or boards, and seeing if it still aligns with you. If so, great! See if there is a way to expand on what you already have. If your previous vision no longer aligns, then refine that vision until it resonates with you again.
  • Schedule business activities for the first quarter of 2023. It’s never too early to start planning for the upcoming weeks and months, so set aside a little time this month to schedule things that you know you’ll need to handle in January and February. Take that scheduling time out to March, if it feels good. It’ll feel great to know that you’ve already gotten a head-start on the next year, and it will save you some time and frustration at the beginning of the year, when everyone else is scheduling activities and taking the best available time slots!

Those are my end of the year finance tips! I’d love to hear what money-related things you like to do in December in the comments below!

3 Things To Do In November for Financial Health

Welcome to November! We’re on the cusp of the holiday season, which means there will be more time to spend with our loved ones and more plans to make as we wrap up the year.

This is one of my favorite times of year: while summer is my favorite season, November is full of exciting energy as it is the last month before the final month of the year. This time feels full of possibility: what will happen before we get swept up in the activities of December? We get to decide, for ourselves, what we do with this last dance before the end of the year.

With less than 2 months until the end of the year, this is a fantastic time to take inventory of anything that is unfinished from earlier this year. For this month, I recommend reviews and automation. My three financial tips for November:

  • Review current health insurance selections and adjust accordingly. For many employers, November is the final month to make any changes to health insurance selections before being locked in for the next year. So this is a great time to review your current insurance plan and see if you are getting the most out of your health insurance, as well as whether you need the amount of coverage you’re currently paying for. Further inspection may reveal that you are under- or over-insured, and you should absolutely choose a plan that suits your needs for your current phase of life.
  • Identify any tasks that you can pre-schedule/automate throughout the end of the year (and spilling over into the new year), then do it. During the last several weeks of the year, it can be easy to overlook tasks that need to be handled, and the price that comes from forgetfulness (usually in the form of late fees or decreased credibility) isn’t worth it. Take time to see which items need to be automated – even if it’s just for a few months – and set up those automations/schedules/alerts now, while you can. A few moments of preparation can mean huge savings for you!
  • Review your professional credentials and schedule any necessary continuing professional education (CPE/CE) courses. I mentioned the need to schedule CPE/CE classes during the summer slump that many tax practitioners experience. But, if you missed that post, now is also a good time to schedule those courses before the end of the year. Most professional credentials have annual requirements for maintaining those licenses, so the last thing you want is to let the end of the year arrive and you’re a few credits short. Schedule those now, so that you won’t have to rush around and find the courses in December, when many CPE/CE courses have limited options (because so many people wait until the last minute to do it!)

Those are the finance tips for November. Let me know if you’ve done any of these already, and how that worked out for you, in the comments below. Take care!

Extensions Due on October 17th

Just a gentle (or firm, depending on what you require) reminder: all of those extended tax returns are due on October 17th. If you’ve been following this blog since the summer, then you know I’ve been sounding the alarm on tax return extensions and how to prepare for filing those. Along with filing extended tax returns, this is the time to do any withdrawals of excess IRA contributions made during calendar year 2021 (excess contributions must be withdrawn to avoid penalties). This is also the time to contribute to solo 401(k) simplified employee pension (SEP) plan for tax year 2021 if you extended the filing time for Form 1040.

Whew, that’s a lot! There is still time to do a few things to close out tax year 2021 if you’ve extended your time to file. For most tax preparers, October 17th is the end of their tax season, and they can finally have a chance to rest before the beginning of the next tax season. However, if you’re a business owner, you may have a different tax filing date. If so, keeping up with the general extension dates and assigning specific tasks to complete on those dates can be a fantastic way of staying ahead of the surge of work that comes when its time to file taxes.

That’s all: get those extended taxes filed! Talk to you all soon!

Still Need Student Loan Debt Assistance? There’s Help For You.

The recent announcement of federal student loan debt forgiveness has exposed strong opinions on both sides of the issue. Aside from the passionate arguments from the pro and con crowds, there are many other issues and points of discussion that have arisen in light of loan forgiveness. One of the less discussed aspects of student loan debt debacle is the balances owed even after some debt has been forgiven. Many people will still have enormous debt, even after receiving the maximum forgiveness available.

For those that will still need assistance after the forgiveness is applied, there is a webinar that may provide some guidance that is helpful. The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) is sponsoring a Student Loan Debt Webinar to provide resources and strategies to assist indebted individuals. The webinar is scheduled for September 22, 2022, starting at 7:00 PM EST. The session is scheduled to last for roughly 1.5 hours, so expect lots of valuable information: don’t forget your notebooks!

NCNW is, “Washington, D.C.-based charitable organization making a difference in the lives of women, children, and families through a four-pronged strategy that emphasizes entrepreneurship, health equity, STEAM education, and social justice.” The organization does a splendid job of offering timely tips and actionable information, and I think the Student Loan Debt Webinar will be an invaluable resource to those interested. With nearly 100 years of commitment to service, the organization has a long track record of giving back and uplifting the population it serves.

If I find any other useful information for you all (regarding student loan debt or any other barriers to financial freedom), I’ll be sure to post them here!

Tracking The Good Stuff – My Results

The past several weeks may have been difficult for you (I certainly felt the energy of difficulty and frustration). Last week, I mentioned that I would be focusing on all of the good stuff that came into my life. Keeping a Goodness Log is a great idea if you need to turn your mind away from frustrating topics and to put your attention toward what you prefer to have. Given the overall negative slant of most of the information that we’ve been getting, a Goodness Log can be just what you need to get your mindset back to where you want it to be.

I noticed that I experienced SO MUCH goodness last week: actually, there were too many good things to capture them all in this post. So, I’m going to share some of my highlights. Here’s some of the goodness that came my way over the past week:

  • I had a luxurious dinner with my lovely daughter at Hondo’s
  • I saved quite a bit of money on a few of my food delivery orders
  • I received a free set of candles to review on one of my YouTube channels
  • I got some fabulous instruction regarding which direction I needed to go in my businesses
  • I had wonderful conversations with some of my dearest friends
  • I got some great resources that will help me fill the gaps within my daughter’s educational program
  • I found some information that I needed to complete a chapter in my upcoming book
  • My schedule had a lot of restorative free time (much needed)
  • I saw increased channel and blog activity

The goodness is coming in, everyone! This exercise really helped me to get back to the positive mindset that I prefer. I’m hoping that you all felt an energy shift from keeping a log, too!

5 Reasons Why We Don’t Earn Enough Money

Hi friends! I have a little bit of a surprise coming in a couple of days, but before I can unveil that, I have to cover a topic that I know has been on a lot of minds, and that seems to be discussed more and more in public forums as the economy goes through its ups and downs.

Many of us work hard, do a good job, and yet we still don’t seem to earn enough money. This is a problem that I had personally for years, until I made some crucial changes that helped me to turn this around (more about those changes in a minute). There are at least five common reasons why we don’t earn enough money, and I’d like to discuss these with you, as well as point you in the direction of some support for turning these reasons around.

  1. We didn’t do skill audits when needed. A skill audit is a deep dive into our knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs, for those that are familiar with federal job terminology). Listing our skills then having a deep appreciation for what we’ve mastered is critical to understanding our worth in tangible measurements. Without this knowing, it’s nearly impossible to be adequately compensated for our work. After all, if we aren’t clear about our value, how can we appropriately price our labor when interacting with clients and employers?
  2. We undervalued our skills. Even when we’re crystal clear about what’s in our skill set, we can still under-price ourselves. Many of us believe that timidity, and being the “lowest bidder”, will ensure that we get the clients or the jobs that we want. And it’s true that doing this may get us jobs and clients, however . . . We often find that undervaluing our labor means that we work harder, get burned out faster, and earn less over time. Please don’t let the current conversations about the desperation in the job market discourage you: there are enough positions available at every income level to satisfy your earning desires, and you don’t have to undervalue yourself just to secure employment.
  3. We have outdated money beliefs. Once upon a time, we believed that telecommuting and virtual work environments were only available to the few lucky people that happened to stumble upon progressive employers. Then 2020 happened, and we found out that a lot of employers that previously found telework to be “infeasible” and “unsustainable” could now operate with 100% virtual teams. I mention this example to illustrate that our money beliefs should be constantly shifting because our realities are always transforming. For that reason, we have to ask ourselves honestly whether we believe that we can actually earn more, that employers and clients are willing to pay what we ask, and that there are environments that will support the kind of work we wish to do. Only after considering these things can we remove this block in our earning potential.
  4. We accepted principle over profit. This is probably the only reason that may remain even after going through the other points. Sometimes, we choose work that is underpaid but rewarding (education and farming are two fields that come to mind immediately) because we’ve decided that the emotional rewards outweigh the financial gain. It is possible to have abundant income and deeply purposeful work all wrapped in one, but if our main motivation is principle, we may not seek out more lucrative opportunities. The goal should always be adequate or abundant income, coming from meaningful work. We should never have to choose between the two and, if our financial gain means that we have to compromise our values, then the opportunity isn’t worth it.
  5. We’re paralyzed by fear. This is probably the biggest one, because it’s the only thing that requires constant monitoring and addressing issues as they arise. It’s also the only point that can’t be easily corrected by introducing objective information. Our fears can convince us of monsters in teh shadows and can keep us from taking leaps of faith. However, it’s key to note that we are always larger than our fears, and we can always choose to be brave. Our future selves require us to be courageous and take one step forward, then another, even when we don’t know exactly where it will lead us.

I’ve personally gone through each of these reasons for underearning. I didn’t understand the breadth of my skillset, I did work where I was grossly underpaid, I believed that my dream salary wasn’t possible due to XYZ (insert lots of detrimental thinking here), I engaged in meaningful work that didn’t pay much, and I’ve been so scared that I wouldn’t even apply to certain jobs. I’ve tackled each of them one by one, in order to dismantle my money blocks and earn more money than ever. Now my work is simultaneously interesting, full of purpose, and well paid. I also got to tap into one of my core values – flexibility – since I now have a position where I can choose my work schedule based on my needs.

I’m here for you all if you need help with reason #1 – identifying your current skill set. I am currently offering a skills audit package on my Services page, so you can see my approach to quantifying your KSAs. It includes a telephone/zoom conversation with me, as well as a beautifully formatted document that you can use when seeking new earning opportunities, and you can customize it as you add new skills to your toolkit. It’s perfect for helping you get clear on your depth of expertise and how to position yourself to earn what you want and deserve. The skills audit will also help you overcome any of the five reasons that may be blocking you from earning more money, as well as any skills gaps, and recommend how to address these gaps in the most affordable and efficient way.

Those are my top five reasons why we may not be earning enough money. Look out for more insights in upcoming posts! Take care.

Why the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 Should Worry You

You’ll have to journey with me a bit, before you see that this post is not quite what it seems. . .

No, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will not be hiring 87,000 special agents. I’ve written about this in several places (beyond this blog), because I cannot stand sensationalism. It’s an abundance of emotion and an absence of sound, factual research that makes me shake my head in disappointment. I usually point to it as a failing of the US education system, but it is often information spread by “learned” people that are experts at exploiting the vulnerabilities of others (including the lack of critical thinking displayed by many) behind the outrage and fallacies being shared. I explained all about the misinformation regarding IRS hiring over on LinkedIn, but I’ll share a copy of that text below, as well.

Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

As written August 11:

In July, I posted on my blog that the Inflation Reduction Act, if passed, would allocate $124 billion for IRS tax enforcement. I also stated that this meant more IRS collection jobs would be announced. These jobs would be revenue agents and officers, auditors and specialists, etc.,.

Imagine my surprise when today, I saw the rumors of 87,000 SPECIAL agents being added to IRS. I laughed immediately, because I know the difference between a special agent and a revenue agent, and I also chuckled because I knew that there was NO WAY that IRS would double their workforce by hiring special agents exclusively. Special agents do not consistently collect enough money for IRS – with a current staff of 82,000 – to bring on a group SPECIAL agents than exceed the number of staff they have currently.

There is a difference between revenue agents and special agents. Revenue agents are auditors and unarmed. They do the bulk of the audits conducted by IRS. Special agents are law enforcement, just like FBI and CIA agents. FBI special agents have strikingly similar job duties. IRS’s special agents are armed, because they go to FLETC in Georgia. No official sources have confirmed this 87k hiring boom, and several sources indicate that this is a rumor at best. This rumor came from a poorly comprehended report and a desire to sensationalize a hot topic that few people actually understand.

But, I’ll play along and pretend the 87k hiring rumor is true. Assuming that IRS does hire 87k ppl, I assure you that the majority of those ppl will be tax specialists, revenue officers and revenue agents, not special agents, who really don’t generate revenue consistently enough to justify this type of hiring push.

Please continue to read, read, read, and use your power of discernment. Don’t go by what one source says (even if the source is this post!) If I’m wrong, then I’ll personally put up another post admitting it. But I’m pretty sure I’m not. I just want you all to continue to be wise, be alert, and watch out for those that monetize and exploit your outrage.

I wrote a detailed post in late July about the potential impact of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA 2022), and it’s most likely effects on tax law (you can read that here). Yet still, several days after IRA 2022, I see lawmakers actually spreading the same tripe as quoted by careless Twitter users that have never worked at IRS and, prior to IRA 2022, were completely unaware that IRS has special agents, which are not the same as revenue agents.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

The whole quote of 87,000 agents that IRS will be hiring? It was an estimate proposed last May, that is in no way a definite plan for this year, just a “wish list” that I, as a federal employee, can confirm is hopeful at best, and IRS would be lucky to hire and retain half of this amount. The hiring levels rarely meet the amounts that agencies project, simply because turnover still happens, other hiring takes priority, and some people will leave because of termination, resignation, or transfer to other agencies. Also, this is a projection for a 10 year hiring plan, because there isn’t enough staff or resources to possibly train 87,000 agents within the next year. The IRS has recorded a record low of auditors and agents, with numbers being the lowest they’ve been since World War II.

Cries about these auditors and agents targeting people earning less than $400,000? Accurate on the surface, but it takes a little digging to understand a critical point. The assertions about people earning less than $400,000 came from Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, who stated something that many completely disregarded (or simply were unable to comprehend): she directed that, “any additional resources—including any new personnel or auditors that are hired—shall not be used to increase the share of small business or households below the $400,000 threshold that are audited relative to historical levels.” That historical levels part really tripped up the speedy (non-critical) readers, and caused all manner of histrionics. According to IRS, these agents, “cannot simply be assigned to global high wealth, partnership, or large and complex business examinations without the requisite skills, training, and experience to analyze returns that are highly complex[…]”; that means they will have to practice honing their audit skills prior to get these $400K+ returns. And, since the historical levels have been much higher than they are currently, you can reasonably expect that some individuals earning less than $400K per year will be audited because, historically, they were. I’d be worried if you follow advice from people who refuse to read for clarity, and who jump on catchy soundbites that suit certain narratives.

Again, to be clear, no one said that all individuals earning less than $400K would be audit free: EVERYONE has noted that the audits for this group shouldn’t go up disproportionately. Only time will tell whether this will happen, but on the outset, realize that Yellen never said that people earning less than $400K were exempt from audits. Many skipped over this part because it didn’t serve a narrative about IRS being the horrible bullies that mistreat every American that cross their paths.

As I stated above in my post from LinkedIn, one source is not enough, and exploitation and monetization of outrage is exactly what certain influential groups desire. I’ve read information from IRS, Government Accountability Office (GAO), and Congressional Budget Office (CBO), as well as groups that disagreed with the measures, such as The Heritage Foundation and a statement from the Republican House Budget Committee Members. I’d caution most people to read multiple sources – from a variety of perspectives – and to ask, “Qui bono?” (Who benefits?) as you read. The same people criticizing certain tax legislation often organize groups, movements, and products designed to get money from their supporters/readers. The same can absolutely be said for those that are eager to support tax legislation, without offering critical analyses of how they have reached the conclusions they so eagerly share on their platforms and social media at large. In short, hot takes are rarely supported by the amount of analysis needed to make a balanced and fair assessment. These groups KNOW that, and capitalize on it.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Our rapt attention is currency (hence the phrase, “Pay attention”). Be mindful of how your attention has been monetized by the people whose opinions you adore: most of them are pandering to our worst fears because it is (and always has been) a lucrative gig, and it’s a far more profitable angle than giving balanced, neutral opinions that neither stir hope nor fear in our hearts. Our biggest worry about IRA 2022 should be all of the people trying to cash in on our worries: they’ve figured out how to “sell shovels” to us and many of us don’t even know it.

Avoiding Gift Tax – Make Sure The Checks Clear!

Recently, I discussed the issues surrounding the estate of Aretha Franklin. From the sources that I reviewed, it appears that she did not intentionally reduce the size of her estate through gifting to her heirs before her death. It isn’t required that people reduce their estates through giving, however. . . With an annual ceiling of $15,000, affluent individuals of advanced age may prefer to distribute a portion of some inheritances before their death, to avoid taxes to both themselves as well as the recipients.

For those that choose to give before death, whatever you do, make sure your heirs cash those checks as soon as they receive them! A recent tax case (Estate of de Muth v Commissioner) determined that if a check isn’t cleared before a person dies, the checks become part of the estate, and therefore subject to estate tax. Of course, gifters can’t force recipients to quickly cash checks given to them, but if the intent is to ensure that the size of the estate is reduced, then time is truly of the essence.

I was interested in Estate of de Muth because it was always my understanding that it was the date of gifting, and not the date of cashing, that determined when a gift was given. But with the tax courts determining that the act of gift giving occurs upon cashing the check, I now have a different perspective regarding gifts and what constitutes receipt. This is why I love staying aware of the changes with the tax law: you never know what you’ll learn!