Weems’ Key Reminders for the Chaos in Charlottesville, Politics and Abroad

CharlottesvilleOpen (and evil) racial violence in Charlottesville.

Political turmoil all over Washington.

An ever-inflating stock market.

War drums from North Korea.

TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE.

Every summer, it seems we hit a point in which it feels like everything is fraying at the edges and we’re in danger of falling apart.

Not only do we seem to be more divided than ever (with a heaping slice of online bitterness thrown in), but each of us in The Woodlands carries our own private fears and struggles having to do with our own circumstances — be they financial, family, or otherwise.

So it seems right that I would take this time, as I have occasionally done in the past, to remind you of a few things:

Weems’ Key Reminder #1: What you choose to “ingest” over these next few days will greatly impact your state-of-mind. Garbage in, garbage out, as they say. And, of course, the opposite is true — when you surround yourself with excellence and clear-eyed determination, you find that your heart and mind carry much greater strength.

Temper your political media intake this week, as most outlets are (quite literally) merchants of fear.

From a financial standpoint, the stock market seems to be an emotional “port in the storm” right now, but this leads me to …

Weems’ Key Reminder #2: The only thing certain about the stock market is that it’s volatileSo for those of you with many assets resting there, don’t make moves out of panic or greed. Sit down to discuss a tax-advantaged strategy … not a knee-jerk emotional response.

Weems’ Key Reminder #3: The only thing you can truly control is yourself. You can’t control the market, you can’t control our domestic politics (unless, of course, anyone in the Trump administration is reading this — perhaps you people can!), and there’s a real sense in which you can’t even, really, control your salary and income.

So, with those key reminders in mind, here’s what I suggest:

Call my office this week: (936) 273-1188 (or respond to this note by sending us an email) and request one of our limited Tax Planning Saver Sessions. During this session, we will analyze your current situation and identify clear action steps for the last quarter of 2017 — designed to save your bottom line hundreds (or even thousands).

You CAN control your tax strategy… and we can help. Until then…

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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Building a Better Personal Network In The Woodlands

Personal NetworkWe work a great deal with asset sheets and financial numbers for our The Woodlands clients. We’re always on the hunt for ways that we can minimize tax burdens and be strategic about every available resource on behalf of The Woodlands families and people we serve.

But what is becoming increasingly clear in this 2017, always-online, world is this: our most powerful assets are those which can’t be measured on a spreadsheet.

I’m talking about the “soft” asset of our personal network. It’s the group of people you can turn to in a crisis, who might be willing to lend you money in a pinch, or come to your house to watch the kids.

And then there are the door-openers: those who, by virtue of their accomplishments or THEIR network, are able to introduce you (or your older child) to the kind of people who can shift the direction of your or your child’s life.

For some of us, building this network is effortless and easy. Either by virtue of how we’ve been raised, or because we went to a particular school or worked at a certain company, we are well-connected to these kinds of people.

For others of us, we have to work at it. And if that’s you, let me urge you: it is a task worth pursuing, and pursuing well.

And here are some things I’ve learned along the way (as *I’ve* had to work at this myself) that might help…

Building a Better Personal Network In The Woodlands
“It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

If you want to succeed in your career (or in life in general), then meeting people from The Woodlands who’ve already succeeded before you is going to be a huge help. In fact, this could be the sole difference between success and failure. But how do you network effectively?

Learn from my mistakes… and from my many years of seeing how it is done by those much better at it than myself. Because this “mini crash course” I’ve put together will help you build relationships that will help boost your network AND your career, whatever it might be.

And, of course, these tips hold true in online networking, as well.

Make Friends First
In my experience, this business axiom holds very true: “All things being equal, people prefer to do business with people they like. All things not being equal, people still prefer to do business with people they like.”

If you want someone to share with you their techniques for building their business or getting to a particular point in their career, then the first step is to build an actual friendship with them. Get to know them as human beings and allow them to get to know you. Show a little vulnerability, as well as curiosity and an interest towards them.

Once you have a bit of a relationship, THEN talk business. Don’t enter into this venture on a purely mercenary level. Seek friendship.

Give First, Before You Take
Perhaps you’ve discovered a career or management strategy that’s been working really well for you — so don’t hoard it for yourself. There has to be some “give” as well as “take” in any kind of relationship. Share your knowledge and your insights freely, and others will do the same.

Take The Next Step: Join (or START) a “Mastermind” or Networking Group
Meeting with other like-minded people on a regular basis can really help drive you forward.

There are two important things that happen when you’re around other people like yourself (or better): First of all, you get to share ideas, techniques and stories that’ll help you figure out more ways to be successful.

The other thing that happens is that you start to build off of each other’s momentum. If one person is making more money than the others, everyone else can learn what is causing this increase. Everyone will start taking more action. The energy begets more energy.

If there isn’t a mastermind group near you, then start your own group. It’s not that hard to find like-minded people near you. Get these people together and ask them to bring people they know. Soon, you’ll have a great group of like-minded individuals.

Find a Mentor
If you’re bringing in $20,000 per month to your business, and want to be doing $50,000 a month, then find someone who’s making $100,000 a month. If you’re hitting a wall within your organization, and see someone who has already gotten to a different level (either within or outside your organization), be intentional about pursuing them.

This relationship can be a paid relationship, or a friendship, or it can come within a mastermind group relationship. Whatever you need to do, just make sure you have someone in your life who’s where you want to be financially or otherwise. This will have a magnetic effect on your finances or career life. You’ll slowly but surely start to operate out of a new kind of strength.

The bottom line is: WHO you spend time with has a great deal of influence on your success. The old adage is true: we are often the sum of the 5-10 people with whom we spend the most amount of time. So make sure you’re networking properly — that you’re spending your time with the right people.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve you, and for your referrals.

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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Why You Should Create A Tax Planning Strategy With A The Woodlands Professional’s Help

tax planning strategySometimes the best stories are the old ones.

Variations of this yarn have floated around the culture for some years now, but in my opinion, that’s because the lesson from it is so instructive.

And I’ll admit from the jump, that it’s self-serving to some extent. Because in the age of AI, point-and-click software and ROBOTS, it’s tempting to think that tax and financial advice simply requires a more advanced machine.

Well, aside from the reality that no machine can sit in front of a person and discern the emotional streams that are most important to a The Woodlands family or individual, it is also true that unless the person *behind* the machine knows what they are doing, all you are doing is compounding errors.

So, read this, consider its lessons, and keep us in your corner…

Why You Should Create A Tax Planning Strategy With A The Woodlands Professional’s Help
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” -Leonardo da Vinci

Some years ago, one of the major manufacturing companies in this country was facing a crisis. The central conveyor belt of its automated assembly line quit running and brought the entire plant to a stop.

Although they tried everything they could think of, and even brought in several consultants, no one was able to get the conveyor belt running again, or even to identify what caused the breakdown in the first place. The company was really in a bind. With on-going overhead, and the loss of production, the company was losing money at the rate of $1,000,000.00 a day.

Finally, after a week of down time, the big brass told the plant manager to call Tom — the mechanical engineer who had retired the year before, after 25 years with the company. The conveyor belt had been Tom’s specialty and primary responsibility.

When Tom got the call, he caught the next flight from the city where he now lived and arrived at the plant the next day. He met with both the local vice president and the plant manager to get as much information as he could as to what had happened and what they had tried. He then walked slowly along the belt until he came to a particular point.

He put his ear against the machine and listened. He asked for a hammer and then gave the machine a swift and forceful blow.

“Give it a try now!” he called to the foreman. The conveyor belt started right up and ran like a dream.

Tom then left and went back home, but before he did, the company vice president told him to send them a bill for what he had accomplished. Two days later, the company received Tom’s invoice for one million dollars!

Thinking that was way too high for the little time Tom had spent to solve the problem, and how he did so with just a single blow from a hammer, the company wrote back and asked Tom to provide them with an itemization. This was Tom’s response:

One hammer blow: $2.00
Knowing where to hit it: $999,998.00 

With the receipt of that simple invoice, the company came to understand the reason for Tom’s fee and immediately issued a check to him for one million dollars!

Special knowledge is the key. Although the company’s leaders had to be reminded of that fact by receiving Tom’s invoice, as soon as they did, they knew he was right. They could have given hammers to every employee in the plant and even had the big brass banging on the machine from sunrise to sunset, but it would have done no good…because they didn’t have the knowledge; they didn’t know where to hit it.

This is an old story, told in different ways, with different names and amounts. But it’s powerful for a simple reason: labor is NOT about how much “time” is put into executing a particular solution to a problem — it’s knowing when and how to do it.

In the realm of tax planning strategy, and of preparing your tax return, I urge you… do NOT fall prey to the thinking that a software program or forms downloaded from the internet can suffice to enable you to preserve your resources, or properly leverage the multiplicity of credits, legal and ethical loopholes and deductions available.

Give yourself and your family the gift of financial peace of mind come tax time and well ahead of it — and do it with someone who knows how to do it right.

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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Training Your Heart For Good Financial Stewardship In The Woodlands

financial stewardshipWorking with my The Woodlands clients’ finances over the years has given me a bit of a crash course in human behavior. Often, I’m floored by the generosity I see displayed by many clients — even those without significant means.

Other times … well, I think that we all could use the reminder that our human flaws show up very clearly in our family’s finances. The fact is that we ALL lie to ourselves, from time to time, about what’s really happening in our wallets.

Really, this comes down to being a matter of the heart.

It’s so easy to pull the trigger on more expensive choices because we convince ourselves that “we deserve it”, or that rather than wanting this nice thing (whether it’s as simple and perhaps-trivial as a clothing item or a dinner at a fine restaurant) — that we *need* this new thing.

The too-recent financial crash of the late 2000’s wasn’t just a pure “Wall Street” phenomenon. The fact is that people who live in the real world of “Main Street” sometimes convinced themselves that the house with the jumbo mortgage (and on a 3/1 ARM) was absolutely necessary … when the more modest house could have been just as sufficient, and, even, enjoyable.

So, I’ve compiled a short list of ideas on how to address these matters of the heart, as it relates to our finances … and some simple ways to put guardrails in place.

Training Your Heart For Good Financial Stewardship In The Woodlands
“Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things.” -Frank Clark

The goal here is that we would train our hearts to more clearly align with good financial stewardship and wisdom, when sometimes we aren’t used to practicing it.

Here are some ideas that might stir your thinking…

Financial Stewardship Idea 1) Understand why you are purchasing what you are purchasing.
Sometimes the real reason we are buying something isn’t actually the reason we might think we are buying something.

Are you buying your child a new bike because they need a new bike? Or … are you feeling guilty because you don’t feel that you are devoting enough time to spending with that child? Is that piece of jewelry you are purchasing for your wife because you simply love her … or are you wanting to show her something about who YOU are.

These are hard questions, but they need to be asked. Which leads to the second idea…

Financial Stewardship Idea 2) Decide on (and actually operate from) a budget.
All the budgets in the world might align themselves into your family computer, but they are worth absolutely zero if you don’t actually use it. There are loads of great apps and utilities to choose from (like YNAB, or PowerWallet, among others), and they can make it much simpler to determine whether or not you actually should buy something.

Sure, it may be that Macy’s is running a killer sale … but if you go past your budget, you could be doing damage to not only your wallet, but your heart.

Financial Stewardship Idea 3) Ditch the bad (expensive) habits and add ones that work even better.
Too often, shopping is used to ameliorate and numb our feelings of distress or pain. Recognize this within yourself when you have the space to realize it (i.e., when you are NOT facing immediate distress or pain!), and look for ways to encourage your own heart and soul to re-program your response to pressure.

Instead of popping into the car over to Kohl’s on a rough day, go out for a jog or take a walk. Read a book to your children, or even pop over to the local coffee shop for a spell. Sure, those $4 lattes are expensive … but they’re cheaper than a new set of golf clubs or a new dress.

The point is to create new neural pathways for our brain when under pressure.

Financial Stewardship Idea 4) Give yourself a limit for each purchase.
It’s a great idea to establish parameters with your spouse for what you can term a “slush spending amount”; i.e., an amount of money that you agree you can spend without calling each other and checking in. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to things such as gas, groceries and other necessities, but it can provide exactly the kind of trigger and accountability to retrain your heart into healthier spending habits.

Financial Stewardship Idea 5) Practice the art of gratitude.
The ancient Greeks called this practice eucharisteo — and it can be a powerful remedy for the unhealthy practice of buying more “stuff” as a way to feel better about oneself. The fact remains that you have much to be grateful for, no matter your current life circumstances. It mostly requires a willingness to see.

Dealing with our hearts when it comes to our finances is a tricky proposition. But it’s a necessary first step to a healthy family financial picture.

And remember: we are here to help!

I’m grateful for your trust, and for your referrals. And don’t forget what’s below as something you can share with your friends.

Aurelia Weems’s Independence Month Special…
“FREEDOM!” (Well, free Tax Return Review, that is.)

Simply mention this blog article and bring your return filed by ANY other preparer (including yourself), and we will review it at no charge. You will ONLY be charged if we help you find “missing money” from the IRS, and we, in fact, file an amended return for you.
And don’t forget to 
share this with a friend that needs help.
EXPIRES JULY 31, 2017

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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A Basic Mid-Year Tax Planning Method for The Woodlands Taxpayers

mid-year tax planningWell, we are right in the thick of summer. It’s hot.

It’s also tempting to just sit back and hit the cruise control for the next 6 weeks or so, and do nothing different, make no changes, plan no plans.

Like many, you’re probably averting your eyes from the national political scene — because whichever “side” you favor, nobody seems to be covering themselves with glory these days — but one thing that I urge you to NOT avert your eyes from (however tempted you might be at times) is the state of your finances for 2017.

The last couple weeks I’ve given you some “big picture” strategy for how to move forward on reaching financial independence, but I didn’t write a great deal about how our own particular specialty plays into this: taxes.

So, in that spirit, I’ve put together a few things that WOULD behoove you to look at, in terms of your The Woodlands family situation — not just with your finances, but also your taxes — here, at around the midpoint of 2017.

A Basic Mid-Year Tax Planning Method for The Woodlands Taxpayers
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” -Dan Millman

The tax return preparation process is always an “historical” look at what happened during the year … whereas DURING the year, there are always things we can do to “write” history, so to speak.

What I will advise you on now is “quick and dirty” tax planning for wage earners. There’s usually much more that can be done, even if you don’t have complicated investments or The Woodlands business ownership. That’s worth a conversation (so call or email our office!). But here’s a good place to start…

To begin, all you have to do is take your cash flow for the first half of the year, and multiply by two. Add up your wages, dividends, interest, and any other income, and then — if this represents approximately what you’re expecting for the second half of the year — double the sum.

Once you have your estimated 2017 income, give us a call (or send me an email), and we’ll help you determine the appropriate tax rate and deductions to apply. Because once you’re armed with this info, we can help you determine the amount of taxes you might expect to owe for the 2017 tax year.

By then comparing this against your projected withholding, you can adjust the withholding on your paycheck in advance as needed, and ensure a happy visit to our office in the early winter.

This can also be a good time to organize your financial records or get started with some financial software. (YNABPowerWallet, etc.) Getting organized now can make gathering a report of all those deductions a breeze, come tax time.

And another thing: wealthier Americans, in particular, are facing higher tax rates on ordinary and investment income.

That makes it all the more important to review Uncle Sam’s highest-impact tax breaks, such as donations of appreciated assets, tax-free exchanges and capital-loss harvesting.

Unlike obvious moves, such as contributing to an individual retirement account or a 401(k) plan, these strategies require a higher degree of awareness and active planning.

But not all high-impact breaks are for the “wealthy”. Any homeowner can benefit from a provision allowing taxpayers to pocket tax-free income from renting a residence for as long as two weeks, and low-bracket taxpayers can pay zero tax on long-term capital gains.

Other important moves can help minimize estate, gift and inheritance taxes. Really, there are a variety of moves we can make to help you with your planning for the year … but you have to let us help you. It is, after all, why we are here.

And it starts with the snapshot of where you are right now.

So, shoot me an email, give us a call … we are right here.

I’m grateful for your trust, and for your referrals. And don’t forget what’s below as something you can share with your friends.

Aurelia Weems’s Independence Month Special…
“FREEDOM!” (Well, free Tax Return Review, that is.)

Simply mention this blog article and bring your return filed by ANY other preparer (including yourself), and we will review it at no charge. You will ONLY be charged if we help you find “missing money” from the IRS, and we, in fact, file an amended return for you.
And don’t forget to 
share this with a friend that needs help.
EXPIRES JULY 31, 2017

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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Smart Planning for Financial Independence in The Woodlands

Financial IndependenceI have more to say about financial independence today (since I received some great feedback the last time I wrote about it). But before I get there, I’d like to speak some encouragement to you. A few people in The Woodlands wrote me saying that they were feeling pretty dispirited about their personal situation … and that anything discussing “financial independence” really seemed like a pipe dream, and unrealistic for them.

As usual, I know that when a few people write about it, there’s many more that think it, and I’d like to speak a word to you, if you’re in that category.

Don’t give up.

When you go through hard times, financially, it’s easy to believe that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. But did you know that most millionaires were previously bankrupt at some point? (Just Google it, you’ll see.)

In fact, it’s often the “fire” of these times of trouble which serve to clarify things — and get you into the place of making smart decisions, perhaps for the first time.

So, if you’re feeling the financial heat right now, look out for the blessings in the midst of pain. I know it’s hard — but chances are, you’re being reminded of what’s REALLY important … and often, seeing this again can be a launch pad for living the kind of life that you really want to live.

So, go for it!

Aurelia Weems’s Independence Month Special…
“FREEDOM!” (Well, free Tax Return Review, that is.)

Simply mention this blog article and bring your return filed by ANY other preparer (including yourself), and we will review it at no charge. You will ONLY be charged if we help you find “missing money” from the IRS, and we, in fact, file an amended return for you.
And don’t forget to
 share this with a friend that needs help.
EXPIRES JULY 31, 2017

Now, to the good stuff…

Smart Planning for Financial Independence in The Woodlands
“There is no royal road to anything. One thing at a time, all things in succession. That which grows fast, withers as rapidly. That which grows slowly, endures.” -Josiah Gilbert Holland

Money has no value unless you’ve got the time and good health to enjoy it. In fact, if you have to be poor, would you rather be poor now or at retirement? By planning carefully and investing wisely, you shouldn’t have to make this choice.

I believe that you ought to save early and often, making regular, scheduled investments in the stock market through the use of mutual funds, or an actively-managed account.

Of course, nothing in life is ever guaranteed, but historically speaking, over the long term, the U.S. stock market yields an annualized return of about 7-8% (assuming dividends are reinvested). Yes, things are volatile right now … but “market risk” is not the greatest danger to your savings — inflation is the greatest danger. The value of your retirement erodes at a rate of roughly three or four percent every year.

But the stock market has always recovered from even the steepest declines.

Here’s an historical note for you : the worst one-year period for the Dow ran from July 1, 1931 to June 30, 1932. It lost 68.92% of its value. Would you have bought stock then? If your goals were long term, that’s exactly what you should have done. The best 30-year period for the Dow ran from July 1, 1932 to June 30, 1962, during which time it offered an average annual return of 14.34%.

Becoming Financially Independent
Reaching financial independence isn’t always easy. It takes time and work. You cannot accomplish your goal of achieving it by wishing. It takes doing. It takes being committed and absolutely determined to act.

One way you can act now, is to take a look at your personal expenses. Here’s some tips to cut them…

* If you and your partner both work, try to live on only one income. Invest the other.
* Save an emergency fund, but don’t make it too large. I like a small (one-month of expenses) emergency reserve, with everything else invested in mutual funds. Eventually, you should work to build this up to 3-6 months, but initially, one month will do.
* Never borrow money, except to buy a home. If you use credit cards, use them only as a convenience, not to borrow. Of course, I recommend not using credit at all for everyday purchases. Debit cards will really cover any use for which you might want or need to use plastic.
* Pay yourself first. Every month, invest some portion of your income for your future. Again, I recommend setting this up to be happening for you on an automated basis.

Finding more money to actually invest is the best way for you to reach financial independence in The Woodlands. And one great way to find extra money is to cut back on your existing expenses.

Yes, you can achieve financial independence, but you can’t get there overnight, and you can’t get there without setting goals and making sacrifices.

So, start now.

I hope this helps!

I’m grateful for your trust, and for your referrals. And don’t forget what’s below as something you can share with your friends.

Aurelia Weems’s Independence Month Special…
“FREEDOM!” (Well, free Tax Return Review, that is.)

Simply mention this blog article and bring your return filed by ANY other preparer (including yourself), and we will review it at no charge. You will ONLY be charged if we help you find “missing money” from the IRS, and we, in fact, file an amended return for you.
And don’t forget to
 share this with a friend that needs help.
EXPIRES JULY 31, 2017

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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Four Keys to Achieving Financial Freedom by Aurelia Weems

financial freedomI truly hope you enjoyed your Independence Day festivities. Perhaps you’re still enjoying them?

Interestingly, did you know that the Declaration of Independence was actually approved on July 2nd, and most of the delegates didn’t sign it until August 2nd? While John Adams expected Americans would celebrate July 2, the date on the published copies of the document was July 4th … so that little quirk is why we all know “July Fourth”.

Some other facts you may not know about our just-passed holiday…

* Three presidents died on July 4th: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams in 1826, and James Monroe, in 1831. Calvin Coolidge was the only president born on July 4th, in 1872.
* The Massachusetts General Court was the first state legislature to recognize July 4th as a state celebration, in 1781.
* The first recorded use of the name “Independence Day” occurred in 1791.
* The U.S. Congress established Independence Day as an unpaid holiday for federal employees in 1870. They changed it to a federal paid holiday in 1931.

So, for those of you who got Tuesday the 4th off of work, thank the Great Depression-era Congress.

Anyway, all of this about “independence” got me thinking about YOUR *financial* independence, right here in the The Woodlands area. Are you on track for it?

But before I get there (and while we’re on the topic), don’t miss this:

Aurelia Weems’s Independence Month Special…
“FREEDOM!” (Well, free Tax Return Review, that is.)

Simply mention this blog article and bring your return filed by ANY other preparer (including yourself), and we will review it at no charge. You will ONLY be charged if we help you find “missing money” from the IRS, and we, in fact, file an amended return for you.
And don’t forget to
 share this with a friend that needs help.
EXPIRES JULY 31, 2017

Now, to the good stuff…

Four Keys to Achieving Financial Freedom by Aurelia Weems
“You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.” -James Allen

Often, as we strive to keep our heads above water in these culturally crazy times, it’s easy to lose sight of why we’re all working hard each day, especially in The Woodlands. What is the goal? What is it we’re trying to accomplish by earning wealth? For me — and for many others — the answer is financial freedom.

Now, I would define this as “having an income sufficient for your basic needs and comforts from sources other than paid employment”. Financial independence implies freedom– Financial Freedom. It’s the condition of having saved enough money that you can do whatever you choose. Whether you elect to keep working doesn’t matter — you have enough saved and invested to follow your dreams.

But is financial independence just a pipe dream? Is it something only for the lucky and the strong? No, it’s a goal that anyone can fulfill, as long as they’re armed with some basic knowledge, and make some smart choices.

As I see it, there are four keys to accumulating wealth and achieving Financial Freedom:

1. Start investing as early as possible. It takes significantly less money to accomplish what you want, and you have more time working for you.
2. Be determined to save on a regular basis. It is an easy way to accumulate wealth — especially when it becomes an automated component of your monthly plan.
3. Begin investing with the largest possible sum you can. You will have more money working for you over a longer period of time.
4. Reach for the highest rate of return you believe you can safely receive on your money over time. Each additional percent is important. The higher the rate, the less money it takes to accomplish what you want.

Financial freedom is built upon these four guidelines.

What Holds Many The Woodlands People Back
In order to save money, you must fight to keep from spending it. I encourage you to set goals, to prioritize wants. Since money can be spent only once, you need to decide which wants are most important. To do this, it may be helpful to place a value on each of your wants.

So … here’s an exercise for the week: Pull out a piece of paper and list your wants.

These can range from a new house to a hot tub to a trip to London to a new blender for the kitchen. Next to each item, write why you want it. (You might want a hot tub, for example, because it would allow you to relax with family and friends.)

When you’ve finished, take another piece of paper and re-order the list based on how important each want is to you. If a trip to London tops the list, are you still willing to delay it by spending $40/month for that gym membership you rarely use?

Confront this issue first (keeping in mind those four keys mentioned above), and I’ll be back with more thoughts for you next week.

I’m grateful for your trust, and for your referrals. And don’t forget that great tool above (free return review) as something to share with your friends.

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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Three Practical Financial Tips for the Multi-Generational Caretaker in The Woodlands

caretakerWith summer in full swing, for some of my The Woodlands clients it means that the children are more “present” than they might otherwise be. The wallet might feel a little more leaky than normal, with summer camp expenses (and there *are* certain tax deductions for those, if you do it right), various activities for the family, and more.

But there is great joy in all of that, of course, and I’ve often said that it’s almost always worthwhile to invest in “experiences over stuff”.

That particular experience, however, isn’t what I’m writing you about today. There is another joy that some of my clients find themselves embracing, and that’s when Mom & Dad or other, older members of the family move in. Suddenly, there are multiple generations “present” in the home. And this can obviously change the dynamics.

But as you embrace this particular joy (and yes, it can also feel like a burden), there are important things to keep in mind as it relates to maintaining your legal and financial footing while you do so.

Here’s what I mean…

Three Practical Financial Tips for the Multi-Generational Caretaker in The Woodlands
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”  -Dan Millman

Time was, families used to be dealing with elderly parents, young children … and everything in between, all in one house! This is less common now, and as a result, many families are actually unprepared for how to handle it — simply because models are much less plentiful.

The reason I highlight it now, is that we can help — whether with specific practical assistance, or even just dispassionate advice. You might know somebody in this situation of being a caretaker — or you could be dealing with it yourself.

And depending on your perspective, all of it can feel like a double-whammy.

Certainly, as with children, it’s always a better idea to focus on the benefits of more time with your parents, etc. … but yes, I’ve seen many times how this can put a major drain on a family.

From what I’ve observed of adults thrust into the role of caring for their parents, the biggest struggle often comes from trying to keep their dual responsibilities segregated.  They try to ensure that the needs of the aging parent don’t impact what’s going on in their children’s lives.

As an example, the adult children feel like they have to choose between making sure that Mom takes a walk for exercise, and attending a child’s piano recital.  No matter what the adult parent chooses, he or she often feels like a failure at everything.

What you need to realize is that this process is not something that you can keep separated in your life.  You’ll do your family a great service by viewing it as an experience to be shared with everyone in the family, and maybe even with some members of the outside community.

If you find yourself in this situation here are 3 practical tips I can offer:

1) Get the Actual Facts. You may have avoided talking with your parents about finances in the past. Whether you were taught that those things are private or “it just never came up,” now is not the time for surprises. You need to know how your parents are doing financially and whether they’ve made any provisions in case they become ill or suffer a long-term disability.

2) Ensure the Estate is Set Up Right.  At this stage of your parent’s life it’s important to make sure that your parent’s legal house is in order. We can help make a recommendation to this end, if you need help.

But, no matter where you get it done, your parents absolutely need to have a financial power of attorney, advance health care directive (a health care power of attorney plus a living will), and a simple will. It may not be the best estate plan for your parents. It might not be proper Medicaid planning. However, it is the bare minimum you will need to help care for your parents.

3) Insure Against the Future. Now is the time to examine long-term-care insurance or assess whether savings will cover an extended nursing home stay, assisted-living facility costs or extended home-care services.  You may be tempted to begin to liquidate your holdings or to stop saving for your own benefit, in order to help pay for the cost of your parent’s care. Big mistake.

Remember that there aren’t nearly the same kind of government programs or lending scenarios that will help you pay for your kids, or their college, or fund your retirement — as there are programs to help support aging parents.  And it’s vital that you continue to save for your retirement.

I’m grateful for your trust, and for your referrals.

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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Aurelia Weems on Patterns and Habit, via Parable

habitLast week I wrote about worry, and this week … well, the summer is fully upon us, and as things get hotter, some days I come into the office and without the intensity of tax return filing season to keep me distracted, I occasionally find myself a little stuck.

Can you relate?

You see, I’m a creature of habit, and over the course of the summer, I can find myself repeating patterns over weeks and months. Eventually, these patterns can become codified firm policy around here.

But innovation requires that even staid The Woodlands tax practices be willing to think outside the ol’ proverbial box.

Which, of course, is one of the reasons why I started blogging for my clients and friends in this way some time ago. Which has really done wonders for us … being able to communicate in a conversational, coherent way with our people has been really fun.

(Yes, I know blogging isn’t exactly “new” … but I like to think we do it a little differently than the norm.)

Anyway, I was reminded of all of this by the following parable that I came across. Maybe it will help you too?

Aurelia Weems on Patterns and Habit, via Parable
“Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.” -John Maxwell

A small brewery launched a fancy microbrew. It proved to be very popular–so popular, in fact, that they were having trouble getting it distributed to all the stores and bars in the area. The management team met to discuss the problem.

“Here’s the schedule,” said the manager in charge of distribution. “You can see that we have our biggest shipments on Monday and Tuesday, and then smaller ones Wednesday and Thursday, and all the local deliveries on Friday.”

“We’ll have to change that,” the CEO said, “but we’d better find out why it’s scheduled that way.”

The team couldn’t find any logical explanation for the schedule, which had endured over the years, until they reached a former distribution manager, long-retired, whose grandfather had co-founded the company. He thought for a while, then said:

“Yes, I remember. When we started out, all our deliveries were made by horse-drawn wagons. On Mondays and Tuesdays, when the teams were rested, they could pull a big load, but on Wednesdays they started to get tired, and by Friday they could only make it a few blocks. So we set the schedule that way.”

Let’s all commit to remembering WHY we do what we do … and not let our methods get in the way of our mission.

I’m grateful for your trust, and for your referrals.

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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How to Stop Worrying by Aurelia Weems

stop worryingThere are so many things in our modern world that are true causes for concern. Whatever your politics, the atmosphere in Washington is tense. There is unrest across the culture, and a sense that many of the things that we have grown to rely upon aren’t nearly as stable as they once were.

And to top it all off, Batman just died.

But I don’t like to worry about things that I can’t control.

Well … usually. I can’t count how many times I’ve woken up at 2:30AM with a business idea for my The Woodlands practice, or grappling over a problem that we needed to deal with. Or over family issues. You name it.

But when I “wake up” in the morning, splash some water on my face and grab a cup of coffee … I am often reminded that what I was worrying about just didn’t make sense.

I’ve lost too many hours of sleep as a The Woodlands business owner, frankly. And I happen to know that this is the case for everyone, even if you aren’t called upon to meet payroll.

But I’ve slept much better when I worked through this simple exercise for my worries. It’s from the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy, but I’ve modified it a bit for my own use.

So, here’s an idea that you can use to stop worrying…

Oh, and before I get there — remember that estimated taxes are due June 15th. So if you’re seeing this and you haven’t already taken care of that (and you are subject to paying them), now’s a perfect time to handle it…

How to Stop Worrying by Aurelia Weems
“I take a simple view of life: keep your eyes open and get on with it.” -Sir Laurence Olivier

For many The Woodlands people, worrying about things can become more vexing than the original problem they were grappling with.

Imagine that you are on trial and facing 20 years in prison. You’ve hired a lawyer, and you’re praying she’s going to be able to help you. She leans over and says, “Don’t worry. I know I never do. I never worry about a thing. Instead, I just try to think positive.”

Now ask yourself: Is this the kind of person I want representing me? Someone who doesn’t worry about anything — not even what’s going to happen to her client?

The answer, of course, is a resounding NO. You want a lawyer who’s going to worry over details. And cover everything that needs to be covered, so you don’t end up in prison for 20 years. What you want is for your lawyer to worry, and then take appropriate action so that she is prepared.

(In the exact same way, you want a The Woodlands tax professional who is going to pay attention and “worry” over details so you don’t have to. But I digress…)

Now imagine a lawyer who leans over and whispers to you, “Wanna know my secret? I never prepare for a case — I just worry. It’s why I’m known as such a great attorney. All I do is worry. As a matter of fact, a lot of times I actually worry myself sick and have to go into the restroom and throw up.”

Do you want this person representing you? Nope. What you want is an attorney who can help you solve your problems. And that’s exactly what your worry should do for you: help you solve your problems. If it doesn’t, you’re probably participating in unproductive worry, which is unlikely to get you anywhere, except on your way to becoming overly-anxious and, probably, depressed.

So here is the exercise which has kept me from worrying needlessly — but rather doing it productively. I start by asking these two questions to keep worry in its proper place …

1. Is the problem plausible or reasonable? If you’re getting ready to take a trip to a national park, for instance, it’s appropriate to worry about getting accurate directions and your car tuned-up before you go. Worrying about being shot by a sniper along the way, which is unlikely, is probably a waste of time.

2. Can something be done about the problem immediately? If you answer “Yes” to this question, then you can probably come up with an action plan to get something done that will alleviate your worry. If your family’s cashflow is down, how can you INCREASE it by earning more, and obtaining more sources of income — rather than worrying about the expense side of your family budget. If your production at work has suffered recently, what are the positive steps you can take … rather than fixating on who to blame?

You get the idea.

Use these questions, and start sleeping better at night! I know I do…

And I’m grateful for your trust, and for your referrals.

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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