Delayed Gratification: Staying Focused to Get Ahead (Later) in The Woodlands

delayed gratificationFor sports fans, that was quite a run last week. The NHL crowned its champion (and the nation’s capital seemed like it was one massive street party for the weekend), the rest of the NBA conceded to the Golden State Warriors, and we witnessed another Triple Crown in horse racing.

Now, well … there’s baseball.

But this is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned, and for anyone who is a sports fan, because it allows you even greater incentive to free your mind from these smaller (albeit enjoyable) things, and to move your life forward in a fruitful direction.

Last week, I wrote about FOCUS, and the difficulties which the summer can bring to that task. And it is a “task”, because as I said, it’s not just the summer that preys against our personal productivity … it’s everything that *we* allow in.

I thought I’d take up the subject once more today, but before I do, a few quick tax things for The Woodlands taxpayers:

1) Reminder that estimated taxes for the 2nd quarter of 2018 are due Friday, June 15th. Let us know if you need any help with that. We’re in your corner.

2) (This shouldn’t apply to any existing clients) Thursday, June 14th is the deadline to avoid more serious late-filing penalties for your 2017 taxes. If, for some reason, you (or perhaps one of your friends) has NOT filed their taxes yet, a higher penalty scheme kicks in after Thursday. This is because the IRS offers a 60-day window after the initial filing deadline (April 17th this year), during which penalties are smaller.

So, I know you’re not a delinquent … but if you have a friend who might be, let’s help them avoid any further unnecessary fees.

And again, we’re here to help: (936) 273-1188

And speaking of delinquency. Let’s talk again about your focus. Because it’s something we all need to become more and more ruthless about in this heavily-distracted age…

Delayed Gratification: Staying Focused to Get Ahead (Later) in The Woodlands, Conroe and Magnolia
“You are the only person on earth who can use your ability.” – Zig Ziglar

Recently, I was reading about a study done years ago regarding the effects of instant gratification…

Edited excerpt from Wikipedia
Mischel’s famous research study, “The Marshmallow Test,” showed the importance of impulse control and delayed gratification for academic, emotional and social success.

In the 1960s at the preschool on the Stanford University campus, Mischel put marshmallows in front of a room full of 4-year-olds. He told them they could have one marshmallow now, but if they could wait several minutes, they could have two. Some children eagerly grabbed a marshmallow and ate it. Others waited, some having to cover their eyes in order not to see the tempting treat and one child even licked the table around the marshmallow!

Mischel followed the group and found that, 14 years later, the “grabbers” suffered low self-esteem and were viewed by others as stubborn, prone to envy and easily frustrated. The “waiters” were better copers, more socially competent and self-assertive, trustworthy, dependable and more academically successful. This group even scored about 210 points higher on their SATs.

Fascinating study.

And though there have been recent attempts to duplicate this famous study that have failed, the results and the underlying principle therein provide an important lesson for those of us who want to move our lives forward with intention.

Business thought leader, Jim Rohn, could see it a mile away, when he wrote about the harvest.

Paraphrasing Mr. Rohn: it’s about planning, focus and execution (and later … harvesting) vs. chasing the fad of the week, getting distracted and wasting time you can’t ever get back.

How many “get rich yesterday guru” emails did YOU get today? How many shiny-object advertisements were attempting to allure you out of what you knew you needed to get done?

How many “pressing” business or organization questions did you manage, rather than focusing on growth-oriented tasks for your vocation or business? How much time do they waste?

How many rabbits can you chase at one time?

Now, more than ever, in this digitally-saturated age: Plan, focus, execute and harvest.

Be ruthless about your time. Don’t let the guru of the week waste it by trying to convince you that there’s a golden goose and only they know where it is… and trust me, it’s not in The Woodlands. The real experts produce results for themselves AND help multitudes of others do the same.

The guru of the week produces results for the guru of the week and their insider buddies.

Don’t bite.

And, separately — chances are very good that you’re personally executing tasks which could be easily handled by a $15/hr employee/helper (or $10/hr even) … and which are keeping you from pursuing what only you were put on this earth to do.

There really is a tyranny of the urgent.

Fight against it. Instead: Do at least one thing today to grow yourself or your vocational calling. That is your most important task.

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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Focus Training For Folks In The Woodlands

focus trainingNow that we’re into June, it really does feel like summer is here. The air conditioning kicks in, the days are hotter … and, if you’re like me, “focus” becomes something I have to set myself towards. It doesn’t just “happen” — especially when the days are hot.

It might be simply because tax season is now fully behind us, and we’ve already turned the page into year-round work. No matter the fact that we work with our The Woodlands, Conroe and Magnolia clients all year, there really is something very focusing about that April 15th deadline every year (or the 18th, in this year’s case).

But as I said: focus is a decision. And whether you’re an employee, retired, or a Conroe, Magnolia, The Woodlands business owner, or some other vocational expression — really, WHOMEVER you are — living a life of intentionality has never been more difficult.

Devices, screens, “the internet of things” — all of it is pulling against our mind, our imaginations and our wills. Much of that influence is very positive, obviously (who doesn’t love ordering food with a click and a swipe??) … but it’s probably no big surprise that this digitally-overwhelming world can be a little distracting.

Yes, this topic isn’t *exactly* financial, and clearly not tax-related. I don’t pretend to be any kind of “life coach”.

But we like to see our role here at Aurelia E Weems, CPA as more than merely transactional. We’re in your corner, for all kinds of decisions that affect your finances — and this issue can certainly become a financial drain as well.

So again … focus is a decision.

And here are some things that might be hurting it for you.

Focus Training For Folks In The Woodlands
“What’s right isn’t always popular. What’s popular isn’t always right.” -Howard Cosell

Just because you work harder doesn’t mean that you are accomplishing anything of actual significance.

In fact, many times it’s the opposite.

Busyness does NOT equal effectiveness.

Sometimes, you find that you are “working harder” because you have fallen into a pit of poor productivity and efficiency.

What I have found to be helpful is recognizing how there are certain habits and practices that are very likely sucking all of the life-force from your day’s productivity.

As an idea starter for focus training, here are four things that very well might be killing your momentum. For you, these might not be an issue, so I urge you, therefore, to consider what really is robbing your attention these days.

These are not all merely related to DIGITAL OVERLOAD, either.

But all of them are decisions — those that are made, and those that are avoided.

1. App Addiction
If you’re constantly checking Facebook, answering or originating random text messages, or have any social media account alerts turned on, you’ll never be as productive as you could be.

One simple way to decrease your Facebook use is to remove the app from your phone. Even if you just use the browser to access it, it’s that extra step or two that it requires that can help your weaker self resist the constant dopamine hit of social media activity.

2. Email Addiction
Turn off your alerts here, too. Don’t leave your inbox continually open when you are engaged in real work.

Because whenever you click on that “Get Mail” button, your brain drip feeds small doses of Something-Important-Is-About-To-Happen-Juice (i.e. dopamine).

Except, it’s hardly ever actually urgent. It can usually wait for your actual focused attention.

So try this out for just one week and see if you don’t accomplish more than you thought possible.

3. Other People’s Emergencies
Emergencies aside, send your calls to voicemail first and return them only during set times (and perhaps even state those times on your voicemail greeting). This has three instant benefits.

First, it tells people you are a focused person, which they will respect and even appreciate. Second, it makes you a focused person — keeping you on task and freeing you from interruptions you can’t anticipate.

Third, you can determine if you’re the right person to handle the call or if it can be delegated.

4. Delegation
As I’ve said, there is a big difference between being busy and being productive. Want to know where you’re just “busy”? Keep track of everything you do every 30 minutes, every day, for one week. Then take all the items that aren’t moving you toward your goals and stop doing them, delegate them to someone else, or hire someone to do them for you.

What will you do with all that extra time? Concentrate only on activities and processes that make money or move you ahead.

The key to more productivity is not more work. The key is more focus. Creating your “Not To Do” List will reset your priorities, refresh your morale, and could even remake your career.

Don’t let your best energy be sucked out of your day.

I’m grateful for our chance to serve you and your family  — and we are dedicated to your thriving. Which means we want to protect you from all of what could tear you down…

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188
Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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Instilling Financial Literacy For Kids In The Woodlands

financial literacy for kidsMemorial Day weekend can often feel a little disjointed.

There we are with our burgers, our pools, our picnics — all while we are supposedly remembering the sacrifice of so many thousands who laid down their lives in the line of duty for this country, and for the sake of our constitutional freedoms.

However, when you talk to veterans from The Woodlands, Conroe and Magnolia (as I get the chance to do in the course of our tax preparation work), they do often tell you that these very freedoms (the ones much bigger than backyard barbecues, of course) are exactly why those sacrifices are worthwhile.

So I suppose that despite how jarring it can feel, parades and picnics are exactly the right sort of thing to honor those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.

And so we pause and remember.

Memorial Day is much more than simply the “start of summer”.

Moving forward … now that summer *is* here, for many The Woodlands, Conroe, Magnolia families, children are much more “underfoot” than they are during the school year.

So I have an idea for you: Might I suggest the summer to be the PERFECT time to rework your children’s relationship with money? Here are some thoughts on financial literacy for kids that might help start the conversation…

Instilling Financial Literacy For Kids In The Woodlands, Magnolia and Conroe
“Adversity doesn’t test character, it reveals it.” James Lane Allen

Teaching children to save money when they’re young can help them deal with financial emergencies when they’re older. Here’s how to get them started, even this summer…

Encourage kids to save *something* over the summer. 
Whether you’ve got a 10-year-old stashing away a dollar or a teenager opening a savings or checking account, get your children in the habit of saving no matter how small the amount. Start them small over the course of the summer, and have them build towards something for the end of the season that will be a real treat.

Help kids balance treats and sacrifices. 
Work with your kids to set and meet small goals, which will allow for small indulgences along the way. Once these smaller goals are met, allow them a little withdrawal to buy something for themselves. Go for the little victories in the beginning.

Instill the idea of an emergency fund. 
Loose change can add up, so don’t let kids toss pennies or leave them lying on the ground. These can become the perfect seeds for the concept of an emergency fund (which will help them as they grow into adulthood).

Set an example. 
Children don’t miss much. If they don’t see you saving, they might wonder why they have to save. Share with them what YOU are saving towards so they can see the process of building towards a victory.

Keep kids away from credit as long as possible. 
Credit card companies expend lots of effort on marketing to teenagers. And with the rise of app-related money systems, many children with smartphone access have even readier availability to the kinds of “time-saving” money traps that so often ensnare adults. Make sure your kids understand what credit pitfalls could lie ahead.

Schedule money meetings. 
Meet with your child at regular intervals to discuss their savings and emergency accounts, answer questions, and discuss money issues he or she might encounter. Especially if they are working a summer job in The Woodlands, Magnolia and Conroe, helping your children to see where their money is going over each month of the summer will help them to get financial clarity.

Which of course, leads to…

Help children set up a real budget. 
The earlier that young people learn to manage a budget, the easier things will be down the line. Younger ones can start learning by jotting their pluses and minuses down on a piece of paper, while older kids can be introduced to budgeting on software and apps.

The main thing is that you should not rely upon “school” to train your children in financial literacy.

And the summer is a great time to get started.

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188
Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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How To Manage Money For The Woodlands Millennials

How To Manage MoneyI’ll tell you what…

The month of May is beginning to look a lot like December.

Definitely not because it’s cold out there, but with so much “end of school year” stuff happening these days, from graduation parties (ranging from pre-k “graduations” all the way up through college and beyond), to weddings (both royal and otherwise), to sports seasons wrapping up, to Memorial Day plans … well, I know some Conroe, Magnolia and The Woodlands parents who are longing for those “quieter” days during the winter holiday clamor.

I guess we all find ways to look ahead, and OUT of our current circumstances.

Which is why I’d like to take a moment and address my younger readers today. Specifically the recent graduates, but really anyone on the sunnier side of 30 years old.

Though, to be clear, this is advice that would behoove you to pay attention to, no matter your stage of life.

How To Manage Money For The Woodlands, Conroe and Magnolia Millennials
“Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.” -Tom Stoppard

One thing not often taught in schools is how to manage money and prepare for retirement.

Many students, whether they attend college or go straight into the workforce after high school, don’t grasp the importance of saving for later in life and are waiting too long to start stashing away money for retirement. When we start working with younger The Woodlands clients, these are the sorts of things about which we have conversations…

Think about saving before a life event forces you to. 
Major life events such as the death of a family member, being laid off from a job, or a debilitating physical injury can occur before we consider the impact they could have on our financial future.

Don’t be caught off guard. Begin to build a nest egg to ensure the financial security of your (future) family.

Technology can’t replace the human touch. 
For all the conveniences that technology provides us, it still can’t replace the experience of a connection with another person.

An experienced personal financial advisor can ask the right questions, provide ongoing guidance, and be an important resource for those who want to plan for retirement. A computerized advisor or even a live advisor supporting an automated advisor service often doesn’t deliver the same depth of advice or relationship.

Don’t give up too quickly. 
Let time be your ally.

Investing in the stock market with retirement savings can feel like a roller coaster ride. There will be plenty of ups and downs, but the descent is no time to jump off, even if you do get jittery. Market history suggests that eventually things may work out, if you allow enough time.

Think about taxes before they think about you.
In the early years of your career, taxes seem more like a mere inconvenience than a tangible thing to plan around. But the reality is that you can set up your financial life NOW to prevent your future self from having to pay more taxes than you ought.

Whether that’s starting in on a Roth IRA or other tax-savings strategies, don’t be fooled that the larger standard deduction moving forward will suffice for you when your career reaches maturity. Get advice now for how you can plan ahead for whatever comes.

I wonder if you know someone who can help you with that?

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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Aurelia Weems’ Three Tips For Resisting Financial Process Automation

Financial Process AutomationDid you see Google’s demonstration of their new virtual assistant technology, Duplex, last week?

If you did, like me, probably you were both amazed … and a little bit terrified of the implications. Essentially, Google is close to figuring out how to make it so that machines and robots can engage in regular human interaction — with the human being oblivious of the fact that they are engaging with a machine.

 (And apparently, I wasn’t the only one troubled by that concept, as Google quickly appended their policy by stating that their robots would indeed self-identify as such.)

 The fact is that we are barreling down the road towards ever-increasing automation, and only recently have people begun to pull off to the side for a moment and ask themselves: is all of this automation, speed and convenience a good thing?

 These are questions worth pondering as a society, as families in The Woodlands, Magnolia or Conroe, and even for the sake of our own souls.

 And, as I will posit to you today, for the sake of our wallets.

 But before I get there, and speaking of wallets, just Monday of this week, the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 law that outlawed sports gambling at the federal level. Which means that state and federal treasuries are about to salivate over all of the new tax revenue that legalized sports gambling might bring.

 It was a 7-2 decision. So, if you were on it at -4.5, you’re a winner.

 

<Groan>

 Sorry, couldn’t resist.

 And speaking of groan-worthy segues, it might prove to be a very good thing for you to resist the steady snowball of robot automation within your personal finances.

 

Here’s what I mean…

 Aurelia Weems’ Three Tips For Resisting Financial Process Automation

“As our circle of knowledge expands, so does the circumference of darkness surrounding it.” – Albert Einstein

 What if we thought differently about autopay?

 What if we were to take a moment to consider the consequences of so much convenience, not just with scary robots intersecting our daily lives, but for the sake of what it might be doing to our pocketbooks?

 Small business owners in The Woodlands, Magnolia or Conroe and those with more complicated incomes know what it is to write checks for quarterly taxes, and, I believe, they tend to have a deeper sense for what they are paying, as a result.

 In fact, I think our country would be a different place if everyone had to write a personal check and send in their taxes like this. If people really saw what they pay (or don’t pay) I think they would feel differently about their tax burden.

 

This is a common refrain among certain political observers — but it has me thinking about what it might mean for YOUR family …

 In fact, this is part of the genius of financial guru Dave Ramsey’s “envelope system” for family budgeting (whereby you place cash into specified envelopes, and pay only as much cash as remains in the envelope for different budget categories). “Automating away” our obligations can lull us into financial slumber.

 Which is why I now propose that you REMOVE financial process automation from certain checks that you write each month. (Again, this is aside from automated savings, as I’ve previously discussed.)

 Now, allow me to interject a word of caution: The only danger to this approach is that you run the risk of focusing too much on scrimping pennies. I certainly advocate wise budgeting, but it’s important to remember that thinking overmuch about saving money can constrict your mind away from important “risks”, which can often be worth taking — like starting that business, making a new investment, etc. Don’t let this technique keep you from expanding your financial mindset.

 

So, here are a few suggestions for what you might DE-automate, for the sake of personal clarity:

 1) Just once, receive your paycheck in cash (instead of ACH’d), or cash the full amount when you receive it. Because, have you ever HELD one paycheck’s worth of money before?  It’s really hard to fully comprehend how much you’re bringing in until you physically feel those stacks of $20s in your hand. I can guarantee you it’s a lot harder to spend it when you’re seeing it in person rather than online.  And it hurts frittering it away more, too.

 2) Pay your mortgage manually. Feel the burn of this large check, every time you write it. It will trickle into how you think about the other bills which you pay such that even if this is the only bill you take off of “auto-pay”, you’ll be wiser with your remaining funds each month.

 3) Only purchase vehicles for cash. If you had to pay outright, wouldn’t you end up with a cheaper car? Probably. Just because many are used to setting up loans and payments for vehicles, does NOT mean it’s wise — in fact, this is one of the primary markers for the “quiet millionaires” (those who are getting ahead financially, even on relatively smaller salaries). Yes, your pride might suffer when you’re not rolling around in a 2018 Audi through The Woodlands … but considering the real cost of that vehicular pride-booster does wonders for calming your egoistic tendencies.

 

In short, paying in cash (or with a manual check) helps you to consider the following questions:

 * Is this ____ still WORTH it?

* Is there a way I can cut it down a bit?

* What’s the best way to pay for it right now? (c/c, check, cash?)

 

Again, some of this could literally take seconds, but the point of it all is that you STOP to think about it. With automation, you don’t get the “ping” every month because it’s already doing the thinking for you.

You’ll learn a LOT more about the financial “you” this way than you would otherwise, I’m certain.

It’s really about paying closer attention.

And we could all use more of that in our lives.

 

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems

(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA 

 

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A 12-Point Financial Health Check For The Woodlands Families And Individuals

financial healthWe are now fully engaged in our tax “off season” here in The Woodlands, Conroe and Magnolia.

But interestingly, this is where the real difference that we can make on behalf of our tax preparation clients is actually made. We’re diving into the new tax legislation, and attending classes (online and in person) to get clarity, even as the IRS releases various new guidances for how to implement the new legislation for our The Woodlands, Conroe or Magnolia tax and accounting clients.

As for our actual tax work, we’re focusing on extended returns, amendments, and working with The Woodlands, Conroe or Magnolia business owners and families with year-round concerns. If you are interested in finding out more about what we can do for you NOW — like proactive tax planning to reduce your future taxes (especially in light of the new tax law), feel free to shoot me an email through the link at the top of the page.

As I’ve already communicated, we are so grateful for our clients for making this tax season our best ever. Seems that many of our current clients’ friends needed a “port in the storm” this year.

Now, this week, I have an idea I’d like to propose to you. I believe it could help you in multiple ways: with your family’s monthly bottom line, your taxes … and even your mental health.

Let me know what you think.

A 12-Point Financial Health Check For The Woodlands, Conroe and Magnolia Families And Individuals
“You can accomplish much if you don’t care who gets the credit.” -Ronald Reagan

If you’re like most people in The Woodlands, Conroe or Magnolia, I bet that when you get your house insurance renewal notice, you quickly glance at the price — and renew it. You renew it simply because you don’t have the time to search around for better prices.

In my experience, working with family finances for YEARS, I’ve learned that most people in The Woodlands, Conroe or Magnolia have a good sense of what needs to be done to improve their finances but they simply cannot find the time.

So here’s my proposed solution for you:  Take a day off work.

In fact, many financial tasks simply cannot be completed in the evening or on the weekend. By taking a day off work, you can contact people who may only be available at regular business hours.

On top of the true bottom line impact a day like this could create, there is, of course, the “mental health” aspect of it all. HR professionals often recommend taking a mental health day, from time to time. Well — call this your “Fiscal Health” Day.

Possible tasks to consider accomplishing on your day off:

1. Dump your savings account with a puny interest rate and open a high yield savings account.

2. Get quotes for cheaper insurance: health, life, auto, house, and any other insurance. And you can even do a little calculating to determine how much you could save by changing your deductible. Even better —  a good broker can do all of this shopping for you.

3. Complete the most important (but not obviously-pressing) financial tasks like making a will. Best done with a professional in The Woodlands, Conroe or Magnolia, by the way. 

4. If you’re carrying credit card debt, call the companies and ask them to reduce your credit card interest rates. Believe it or not — they’ll often say yes. Take time to develop and formulate a good plan to get out of credit card debt. Find or prepare a debt reduction plan.

5. Get more organized with your finances by shopping around for and using a good personal finance software program. Mint, YNAB, and Quicken are all good options. There are many more.

6. Review your budget, get caught up on your budget, or learn how to budget.

7. Shop around for the best online financial broker. Be sure you’re getting the best price for your stock trades.

8. Make energy efficient changes to your home and lifestyle.

9. Find a quality second-hand store to shop at, as an alternative to the local department store.

10. Set up automatic payments for your bills, to be sure you avoid late payments.

11. Sell your junk on eBay. Look for junk lying around the house and list it. Or use a service like 1-800-GOT-JUNK, and have them come to your house. You just point at the stuff you want to get rid of (warning: this is a little costly, but it can be gratifying).

12. Make sure that your taxes were handled properly.
Undoubtedly, there are more things which can go on this list, if you’re industrious about it. But simply put, I’m hoping to give you “permission” to see your financial health in a similar light as you see your mental health.

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188
Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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Four Tips For The Woodlands Couples To Make Money and Marriage Work Together

money and marriageIt seems like crooks these days keep finding new ways to trick people here in The Woodlands, Magnolia and Conroe into giving them more money.

And no, I’m not talking about Congress.

Last week, for those of us in the tax professional world in The Woodlands who are paying attention (because let’s be honest — many of our colleagues are still on vacation), we got bombarded by the official IRS channels and other such voices that there is a new scam afoot. Essentially, the thieves are now “spoofing” the numbers they are calling from so that the incoming call seems as if it is originating from an actual IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. And then, if the taxpayer questions them, they direct you to IRS.gov to look up the local TAC office phone number to verify. They then hang up, and call back a second time — now armed with the taxpayer’s trust.

Allow me to remind you: IRS employees at TAC offices do not make calls to taxpayers to demand payment of overdue tax bills. There are certain instances when the IRS does call a taxpayer, but never before sending multiple notices in the mail.

Don’t give in to threats, and don’t fall for this one.

Now then … May is here. And the season is definitely shifting.

In fact, I do believe we are headed into wedding season here in The Woodlands, Conroe and Magnolia.

And the fact is, an overwhelming number of failed marriages from The Woodlands, Conroe and Magnolia cite financial troubles as a major factor in their breakup. As sad as this is, it really shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, because the way we use our time and money reflects our values.

And, of course, without a strong set of shared values around money and marriage, marriages drift apart. But I’ve seen how dealing with finances together can actually bring a couple closer — not farther apart.

But it matters how you approach it. Here are some thoughts, heading into this wedding season. Perhaps they would be useful for a young couple in your life… (or maybe you!)

Four Tips For The Woodlands, Conroe and Magnolia Couples To Make Money and Marriage Work Together
“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many young couples start out married life without a clear idea of how to handle their finances — leading to stress, arguments, and long-term marital problems.

And correspondingly, there are some couples for whom finances have become a painful wedge. So, though I don’t fashion myself to be a “marriage expert”, I have seen many financial partnerships work well … and more than I’d like, of those that didn’t.

Here are some ideas for you, as well as a little gift idea at the end.

1. Don’t avoid the hard stuff.
Whether you are in a pre-marriage stage, or are already working through your partnership, it’s crucially important to learn the skill of conversation about finances. There can be so much mental anguish over shame, fear, and past pain that unhealthy communication patterns begin to emerge.

So give yourselves the gift of honesty, and make a list of hard topics that you can tackle over time.

As an example, many couples from The Woodlands, Conroe and Magnolia are afraid to talk about the three D’s: debt, death, and disability. Take time to discuss these fears instead of avoiding them. Planning will help you both feel better.

2. Talk through your different money backgrounds.
How we were raised has an enormous effect on how we deal with money. Depending on what your home was like as a child, you likely heard many different attitudes expressed around the dinner table, and they have undoubtedly shaped your financial paradigm as an adult. Whether from poverty, or from abundance, your background is extremely powerful.

So, if your money attitude differs from your spouse’s, talk about how you were raised  and work toward a compromise where you can strengthen each other’s weaknesses.

3. Put yourself in each other’s shoes.
If one of you usually pays all the bills, switch for a couple of months. You or your partner may get a crash course on how much running the household actually costs. Keep track of all spending for at least one billing cycle (usually one month) to actually see where your money is going, and decide which expenditures can be decreased or eliminated. You might even find opportunities to give.

4. Maintain (small) independence.
A joint checking account is useful, but maintain some kind of separate amount of money as a “slush fund” of sorts, whereby you can each make purchases without mutual consent. Keep these amounts small (you always want partnership in the big amounts), but a sense of independence (however symbolic) will help both of you feel you have equal footing in the relationship, even if you have a big difference in salaries.

5. Work together to build something financial.
Find a way to work together on a small, money-related project, whether playing the stock market or saving towards some small goal. Pick something that doesn’t carry emotional weight, and see it as an exercise. You’ll find that working together in a small way will help you in a BIG way, as your decisions become more significant.

6. Agree together that you won’t lose on your taxes.
Obviously, this is what we are here for, and perhaps one of the best gifts you can give yourselves is a workable plan as it relates to a tax strategy.

And maybe the best place to start is to make sure that your taxes were handled properly.

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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3+ Reasons Why The Woodlands Taxpayers Might Need to File an Amended Return

amended returnWell, we did it. You did it. We made it through the tax busy season.

Every year, when I shut our The Woodlands office door on April 15th (the 17th this year — er, the 18th, because of the IRS “issues”), I feel a huge weight lift off of my shoulders. Going home that day is very nice. We work hard around here to help you keep more of your money in YOUR pocket. But it’s nice to be able to finally have more family time.

But then the next day comes — and I realize that “breaks” in business (and in LIFE) are, frankly, short-lived.

And so the “offseason” in our business begins. But this is where the real difference is made for our clients.

You see, while some of our competition is out there taking their weeks and months off, living off of the “fat” of tax season, we’re attending conferences, developing our proficiencies in managing our business (and yours), and publishing this money-smart tax blog for our local The Woodlands community.

All of it to serve you BETTER than “Joe Down The Street” who can slap together some paperwork and make it look official for the IRS — and then sips margaritas by the pool all summer when they should be working to improve.

Goodness, I hate to be so blunt — but The Woodlands deserves better.

And speaking of deserving better … lost in the shuffle of last week’s many (moving) deadlines, was the quiet passage of  “Tax Freedom Day“. This is the date when the nation as a whole* has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year.

(*It should be noted that this is only a collective average and does not accurately reflect the number for you, or for your neighbors — it is the average tax burden for the overall economy, rather than for specific subgroups of taxpayers.)

This year’s magic date was Thursday, April 19, 2018 (which is three days earlier than last year, for what it’s worth). 3.5+ months into the year. And, as in years past, Americans will collectively spend more on taxes in 2018 than they will on food, clothing, and housing combined.

Now, it’s part of our job to keep your tax bill down, but we can’t do much about the nation’s tax burden, aside from casting ballots. But we can help your friends, family and neighbors here in The Woodlands. (Or maybe even YOU, if you for some reason didn’t use our services this year!)

Here’s what we can do to help …

3+ Reasons Why The Woodlands Taxpayers Might Need to File an Amended Return
“You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created.” -Albert Einstein

Our local The Woodlands clients who filed with us this year already feel the peace-of-mind that they were able to claim every possible deduction which is legally allowed in the tax code for 2017. After all, we put each return through an extensive review process to ensure you keep as much of your hard-earned income as the IRS allows , and to minimize the need for an amended return as much as humanly possible.

But what about your friends? And what about your previous years?

Well, since the filing deadline has already passed, they (and you) might think that the proverbial “fat lady” has sung on 2017 returns (and 2016 and 2015)Not so.

Because according to the most recent report on the matter, issued by the Government Accountability Office, taxpayers overpay the IRS over $1 billion every year due to incorrect itemization and preparation.

What’s worse is that those who prepared their own taxes (with a software or on their own) are the most vulnerable, according to the report. But did you also know that taxpayers who used one of the “big chain” preparers are almost as bad off?

Read below for the 3+ reasons why you might need to consider an amended return:

An excerpt from an additional report from the GAO: In a Limited Study, Chain Preparers Made Serious Errors

In GAO (United States “Government Accountability Office”) visits to chain preparers, paid preparers often prepared returns that were incorrect, with tax consequences that were sometimes significant. Some of the most serious problems involved these preparers…

1.  Not reporting business income in 10 of 19 cases;
2.  Failing to take the most advantageous post-secondary education tax benefit in 3 out of the 9 applicable cases; and
3. Failing to itemize deductions at all or failing to claim all available deductions in 7 out of the 9 applicable cases.

More clippings from the report:
* The 19 paid preparers we visited arrived at the correct refund amount only twice. On 5 returns, all for the plumber, they understated our refund amount by a total of $3,465.

* All 19 of our visits to tax return preparers affiliated with chains showed problems. Nearly all of the returns prepared for us were incorrect to some degree, and several of the preparers gave us very bad tax advice, particularly when it came to reporting non-W-2 business income. Only 2 of 19 tax returns showed the correct refund amount, and in both of those visits the paid preparer made mistakes that did not affect the final refund amount.

So what can your friends do about this? And what could YOU do about it, if you didn’t have us handle your taxes in prior years? Simple: file an “Amended” Return.

Many tax businesses don’t provide this service, but even though we’ve completed our existing clients’ returns, we WILL review any NEW clients’ returns — at no charge.

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188
Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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The Joys Of Providing Professional Tax Services To The Woodlands

Professional Tax ServicesWell, our primary work for this tax season in The Woodlands has just about wrapped up.

But notice I said “primary”, there … you see, unlike some professional tax services in The Woodlands, we make it a point to do a bit more than simply “fill out forms” on your behalf. I’ll tell you more about that in a moment.

Yes, today is an extremely busy day for us here at Aurelia E Weems, CPA — it’s the day before the big deadline, as I type this up (Tax Day = Tuesday, April 17th, 2018). But I’m still taking the time to write to you, simply because I want to make sure you heard this from me (though you are likely to be actually receiving it later in the week, especially depending on how this day goes) …

The loudest thing I want communicated from me in this note is this: THANK YOU for your trust.

It is no small matter for anyone to place their financial life in front of another, and I know that for some, it can bring with it some anxiety or discomfort. That’s why we work so hard to be people in The Woodlands that you can trust for even more than just a simple “filling out some forms” service.

It’s why I make it a point to send these notes every week (even when we are slammed with work), and it’s why we work so hard to stay up-to-date on all of the latest tax code updates and regulatory changes that come like clockwork, every year.

Oh, and this coming year, 2018, is going to be fun. Lots of new opportunities for savings ahead.

We take your trust seriously. To our The Woodlands clients, THANK YOU for it. To those in The Woodlands who are not clients of ours yet, we look forward to earning your trust in 2018.

But this work also brings with it a certain joy — because this past season, we got to see remarkable lives of generosity, love and integrity laid out before us with regularity. For some, this was reflected by their financial statements — and for others, this was displayed by the warmth, kindness and delight by which you communicated with us during this process.

This much is clear: No matter the state of your financial life, nobody (not the IRS, not anyone) can take from you the strength derived from a life lived with gratitude and joy.

Our The Woodlands clients have reminded us of that once again, this year. What a privilege it has been to serve so many of you in The Woodlands this tax “season” … and we look forward to years of service to come.

Lastly, and as I mentioned above … we’re not letting up. We’re committing the “offseason” to continue our education in the new tax laws (the IRS still has not issued full guidance on much of it), and related to more ways to save you on your bottom line, and to serving you and your The Woodlands family in ways well beyond simple tax preparation. Ask us about how we can help you be better prepared for next year, and you may really like what we can do for your family’s bottom line.

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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Aurelia Weems’ Tax Extension Breakdown

tax extensionIt’s the final full week of tax season, and our office in The Woodlands is hopping!

But yes, I’m still taking the the time to step away for a moment and write to you, my friend. Lots of business to communicate today, with the deadline of Tuesday, April 17th, right around the corner.

And, fret not — if you have all your papers in, and are waiting for our completion, know that my team is hard at work, even as I put this together.

This is often our busiest week of the year (so please be understanding), but it’s also the week when we receive, with clockwork regularity, many questions from The Woodlands taxpayers about extensions.

But before I get to those, here are a few more things that fall on the 17th…

1) Estimated taxes for the first quarter are due.

2) Want to open or contribute to an IRA or Roth IRA for 2017? Gotta get that done by Tuesday the 17th.

3) Final day to max out contributions for your 2017 HSA (Health Savings Account).

4) Claim any refund money from an unfiled 2014 return. (There is over $1BN of unclaimed refund money out there for that year — but only available if you didn’t file a return for that year.)

5) Most states’ tax deadlines also fall on the 17th. (Exceptions – DE 4/30; HI 4/20; IA 5/1; LA 5/15; VA 5/1; any state with no income tax.)

(Oh, and if you HAVE finished your process with us, please let us know what you thought. We really appreciate it. You can also find us on Yelp and/or Google Maps.)

Now … about those tax extensions.

Aurelia Weems’s Tax Extension Breakdown
“Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” -Richard Bach

As you know, this upcoming Tuesday, April 17, 2018, is the filing deadline for a federal tax return. If you need more time to get your paperwork complete, you need to file (or have us file on your behalf) this form: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4868.pdf with the IRS by the end of the day on the 17th. This gives you an automatic six-month extension of time to file (until October 15, 2018 — note, this is NOT the 17th of October).

Here’s the skinny:
An “Extension of Time to File” is not an “Extension of Time to Pay”, unfortunately. The Extension simply gives you an automatic six months of additional time to get your paperwork together and file that return. But, if you owe more than what you paid with your estimate, you’ll be accumulating penalties and interest on the difference — so PLEASE don’t take the entire six months to do this!

So, when filing your “Extension of Time to File”, you’ll need to estimate what you think you owe to the IRS.  This should not be pulling numbers out of thin air (or other various body parts). You’ll still need to go through your receipts and tax documents and get them “somewhat” organized.

From here, you can estimate both your income and your expenses, and then approximate what you owe Uncle Sam. Keep in mind that this is an ESTIMATE. And, you’ll have to pay what you estimate you owe at the time we file for the tax extension.

And we can easily help you create this estimate.

You can do this all electronically through our office, you can mail in the form WITH estimated payment (must be postmarked by the 17th), or you can call a specialized provider and pay by credit card. We can provide you with the appropriate number to call.

If you cannot pay your taxes due for some reason:

1) Pay as much as you possibly can right now.

2) You can ask for (and often receive) an extension of up to 120 days to PAY: https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc202.html. It requires a phone call to the IRS. 🙁

3) “Financial hardship” delay: this is if paying your tax bill would demonstrably affect your ability to pay your other bills. Interest and penalties still accrue, but it’s better to register this with the IRS than to simply ignore the bill.

4) Installment payment plan: If you owe less than $50K in taxes, you should usually be able to get an installment payment plan of up to 72 months, simply by asking for it. If this is something you are considering, please let’s talk it over to make sure we come up with the best plan. But you can apply online for this here: https://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Online-Payment-Agreement-Application

5) Negotiate: this is NOT something to try on your own. We can help, but the number of “Offers in Compromise” that get accepted each year are quite small and a knowledge of how the system works is important.

6) Using existing credit sources (credit card, HELOC, private loans): some tax advisors would quickly recommend this, but I would NOT recommend you go this route, especially because the interest rates from the IRS are usually better than what you can get here.

However, if you’ve exhausted the options above, I suggest you do this instead:

7) Sell something you don’t need anymore. Always a pretty good plan anyway.

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA 

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