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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What Is Estate Planning? Six Good Reasons Everyone Should Have An Estate Plan In The Woodlands

What is Estate PlanningThere comes a point when you hear news such as we all saw unfold over the weekend in London (and earlier in the week in Manchester, UK), and it’s tempting to just go numb. It feels like survival, during these crazy times.

But I’m fighting to care, and not just tune EVERYTHING out. There is great wisdom in keeping our minds uncluttered by the 24-7 cycle of chaos and fear that we can find online and on the news channels … but there are also times when our thoughts, and our prayers, really still matter. And we can’t just tune it all out.

So, let’s stand with our friends across the pond, and stand against senseless brutality, in all of its forms.

And sometimes it takes a distant tragedy like this to remind us of the fragility of life, and how we should also fight to protect what matters most to us.

One of the best ways we can fight to do that is to take the seemingly-inconvenient step of establishing good plans for whatever might come. Just as you would want to have emergency plans in place for your household should immediate disaster strike, it’s very important to have plans in place for our loved ones and most precious possessions (children, spouse, home, finances).

You may be asking yourself, what is estate planning? This is a great question to explore and get a strategy in place for. In fact, there are six reasons (at least!) that all of my The Woodlands clients should have some kind of estate plan in place, and do it this year…

What Is Estate Planning? Six Good Reasons Everyone Should Have An Estate Plan In The Woodlands

“There is greatness in doing something you hate for the sake of someone you love.”  – Shmuley Boteach

Many well-meaning (and very loving) The Woodlands parents haven’t yet established an estate plan. That is a sad reality.

Yes, perhaps they’ve downloaded a fill-in-the-blank will from a software service, but unfortunately, with many situations, these don’t cover every important component of your wishes.

Or, they may rationalize that they are too young or don’t have enough money to reap the benefits of a plan.

Many of my clients have already made proper preparations, but I’m aware that YOU might be reading this and have not yet set this up.

Well, here are six good reasons that EVERYONE should have a good estate plan…

1) Loss of capacity. What if you become incompetent and unable to manage your own affairs? Without a plan the courts will select the person to manage your affairs. With a plan, you pick that person (through a power of attorney).

2) Minor children. Who will raise your children if you die? Without a plan, a court will make that decision. With a plan, you are able to nominate the guardian of your choice.

3) Blended families. What if your family is the result of multiple marriages? Without a plan, children from different marriages may not be treated as you would wish. With a plan, you determine what goes to your current spouse and to the children from a prior marriage or marriages.

4) Keeping assets in the family. Would you prefer that your assets stay in your own family? Without a plan, your child’s spouse may wind up with your money if your child passes away prematurely. If your child divorces his or her current spouse, half of your assets could go to the spouse. With a plan, you can set up a trust that ensures that your assets will stay in your family and, for example, pass to your grandchildren.

5) Retirement accounts. Do you have an IRA or similar retirement account? Without a plan, your designated beneficiary for the retirement account funds may not reflect your current wishes and may result in burdensome tax consequences for your heirs (although the rules regarding the designation of a beneficiary have been eased considerably). With a plan, you can choose the optimal beneficiary.

6) Avoiding probate. Without a plan, your estate may be subject to delays and excess fees (depending on the state), and your assets will be a matter of public record. With a plan, you can structure things so that probate can be avoided entirely.

I do hope you carefully consider this. And if you’d like a recommendation for a good estate planning solution, I’m glad to offer that to you. Just shoot me an email by clicking the email button in the upper corner of this page.

Most of all, I’m grateful for your trust, and for your referrals.

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems

(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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Millennials In The Woodlands Workplace

Millennials In The WorkplaceMemorial Day is behind us, and our lives move forward.

Mere words, even a full day of memorializing cannot measure the worth and honor due to our fallen service men and women. For many of us, a 3-day weekend ushers in the summer … and maybe that’s because the task of memorializing itself seems not to be enough.

I’m reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s words from the Gettysburg Address:

We can not consecrate–we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.

A federal holiday seems to be a paltry tribute, but we can add our gratitude, and that matters a lot. Despite our current cultural chaos, we are blessed to live in this nation, and I’m grateful for the freedom I have, as a The Woodlands business owner and as a citizen, to conduct my life the way I see fit.

And I do have great hope for our next generation. It seems that every generation looks to the youth with trepidation for the future. But no doubt, so did the fathers and mothers of what we (now) call The Greatest Generation.

That said, though … I offer this as a public service of sorts. Forward this along to that graduating young person in your life, and allow me to be the bearer of harsh reality.

Here’s how to be great, whatever venture you find yourself taking…

Millennials In The Workplace
“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work.” -Vincent T. Lombardi

You’re young and ambitious, a perfect representative of the new wave of millennials in the workplace. Your energy may take you far, but fair or not, you’ve got to prove yourself to your boss and your colleagues. So, as someone who has been doing this for a little bit longer perhaps, here are some pointers on how to earn their respect…

I know you value being “real”. So, on your resume and in person, resist the urge to embellish your accomplishments or brag about your talent. Let your achievements speak for themselves.

Handle the stress. Show that you can keep your cool when things don’t go according to plan. If you wilt under pressure, managers and co-workers won’t trust you with responsibility.

Cultivate the right relationships. Don’t just kiss up to the boss (but don’t ignore him or her either). Identify people who can help you, and whom you can help, and establish long-term relationships with the potential to benefit both of you.

Learn to communicate! Your email, reports, and notes should be grammatically correct and free of LOL, JK, etc., k? Read everything over carefully to be sure you’re making the point you intend, in appropriate language. Leave out the jokes, and concentrate on content that’s clear and easy to follow.

Don’t complain. Not everything is a perfect social justice moment. You may be disappointed or angered by a manager’s decision. Don’t take it to Twitter. Live with it. If you get a reputation for agitating, you’ll have a much harder time convincing people that they should give you their attention and trust.

Show some humility. You may have gotten straight A’s in college, and you may have the greatest idea for a new product EVAR. But if you insist on telling people how smart you are, you’ll alienate co-workers and managers who would otherwise be willing to help you. Show some maturity, and listen to the people around you with respect.

Perhaps this doesn’t go down as smoothly as it should in order to be perfectly received. But acting on this advice might just set you up for the kind of long-term success that you have always hoped for.

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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Weems’ Guide To Keeping Financial Records

financial recordsThe other day, the New York Times ran a story that spoke to one of my favorite topics: keeping our minds clear.

The subject was the seemingly-endless barrage of news stories about the current administration, and the challenges of navigating your mind to be free of it all.

Whomever you voted for, whatever your political persuasion (and I’m making a point here that transcends politics, however fascinating or dire they might be at the moment) — perhaps one of our greatest challenges in this cultural moment is retaining our focus on what truly makes our hearts come alive.

I’m not suggesting that you keep your head in the sand — but that you would be mindful of what you’re feeding your mind upon.

Because right now, the world is SWIMMING in negativity. And you need to be serious and proactive about protecting yourself from it. Because — if you don’t — it’ll kill your career, kill your business, kill your dreams and everything you really care about.

The mass news media is NOT your friend. Neither are these ever-increasing niche-oriented outlets who yell with (and at) their particular choirs and who point out the massive failures of “the other side”.

They feed on fear, and they sell paranoia, division and hyperbole. It’s what they do.
And not only must you protect YOURSELF from this drip, drip, drip of chaos and depression, you need to fight it on behalf of your co-workers, your friends and (especially) your children and family.

Now then. Let’s move to something a little lighter — and more oriented around what you can actually control: your finances, specifically your financial records.

So, speaking of keeping ourselves clear…

Weems’ Guide To Keeping Financial Records
“Our lives are frittered away by detail; simplify, simplify.” -Henry David Thoreau

With spring in full swing, let’s apply those cleaning instincts to our financial world one of these days, shall we?

This is a guide I post every so often, because even in the days of cloud-document storage, it’s important to have hard copies lying around — in a safe place, of course. If you don’t have a full safe, these are the sort of documents for which you may want to invest in a fire safe, at least.

But here is what you should consider for how long to keep them … and which ones you can safely trash.

Taxes: Seven years
Weems’ Reasons Why:
There are three, actually:

1) The IRS has three years from your filing date to audit your return if it suspects good-faith errors.
2)  The three-year deadline also applies if you’d like to make some sort of amendment because you discover a mistake in your return and can claim a refund.
3)  The IRS has six years to challenge your return if it thinks you underreported your gross income.

All this adds up to keeping that info for seven years. Beyond that, there’s no reason — except for posterity.

IRA contribution records: Permanently
Weems’ Reasons Why:

You’ll need to be able to prove that you already paid tax on this money when the time comes to withdraw.

Bank records: Usually just one year
Weems’ Reasons Why:

Those related to your taxes, The Woodlands business expenses, home improvements and mortgage payments will obviously need to be included for next year’s taxes. But unless there is some sort of emotional or posterity reason, get rid of everything after one year.

Brokerage statements: Until you sell
Weems’ Reasons Why:

To prove whether or not you have a capital gain or loss for tax purposes; after this point, shred it.

Household bills: From one year to permanently
Weems’ Reasons Why:

When the canceled check from a paid bill has been returned, you can shred the bill with a clear conscience. However, bills for big purchases — such as jewelry, rugs, appliances, antiques, cars, collectibles, furniture, computers, etc. — should be kept in an insurance file for proof of their value in the event of loss or damage.

Credit card receipts and statements: 45 days/Seven years
Weems’ Reasons Why:

Some families don’t even bother to match up their statements, but if you do so, shred the receipts once you’ve verified everything. There’s no reason to keep everyday receipts beyond this point. For tax-related purchases, you need only keep the statements for seven years — after that, shred it, baby!

Paycheck stubs: One year
Weems’ Reasons Why:

This is to verify that when you receive your annual W-2 form from your employer, the information from your stubs match. If so, shred all of the stubs … if not, request a corrected form, known as a W-2c. After that’s been handled — shred.

House/condominium records: Six years/permanently
Weems’ Reasons Why:

You’ll want to keep all records documenting the purchase price and the cost of permanent improvements — such as remodeling, additions and installations as well as records of expenses incurred in selling and buying the property, such as legal fees and your real estate agent’s commission, for six years after you sell your home.

Holding on to these records is important because any improvements you make on your The Woodlands house, as well as expenses in selling it, are added to the original purchase price or cost basis. Therefore, you lower your capital gains tax when you sell your house.

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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Dreaming Big Must Come Before Financial Planning by Aurelia Weems

Financial PlanYou’d probably be surprised if you sat in on some of the meetings I have with some of my tax planning and preparation clients.

This is by no means the majority of my clients, but there is certainly a good subset of people who have piled away a ton of financial resources … but who are bored, tired and a little numb.

And, of course, there are those among my The Woodlands clientele who have not yet reached the financial (or otherwise) zenith they’ve been working so hard towards, and yet they are still stuck in the grind of “everyday living”. Often, they haven’t taken the time to re-assess whether or not what they’re shooting for is, in fact, the place where they will be most alive.

They haven’t taken the time to dream. And, more importantly, they haven’t put a concrete plan to whatever dreams they might have had in earlier days. They’re dragged around by their nose by whatever circumstance comes their way.

Maybe “they” is you?

It’s never too late.

Before I get there I did want to urge you to consider something in light of this past year’s tax return: adjust your withholding.

You’ll want to do this by submitting a new W-4 to your payroll office regardless of whether you got a big tax refund this year or ended up owing Uncle Sam some money.

Ideally, you want to pay in through withholding (and estimated taxes for some of us) as close to your eventual bill as possible. That will mean you will have your money in your hands throughout the year, instead of having to wait for the U.S. Treasury to cut you a check or directly deposit the money.

It’s a small thing, but it makes the tax process so much less painful.

Now, assuming you’ve got your withholding where you want it to be, let’s talk about avoiding that numb haze I’ve seen so often.

In fact, why don’t you consider printing out this note, shutting down your computer, and doing a little dream-planning right now?

Here’s a suggested format…

Dreaming Big Must Come Before Financial Planning by Aurelia Weems
“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward.” -Soren Kierkegaard

Get a piece of paper and make a list of all the things you want to do during your lifetime–no matter how crazy or undoable some of those things might seem. If you want to go on an African safari and become a famous gorilla researcher, then write it down. If you want to sip coffee at a Left Bank café in Paris, then by all means, put it on your list.

Include all the seemingly mundane things you want to do, too. Do you want to spend more time with your children, your spouse, or your parents? Write it down. Don’t hold back. Be as wild and daring as you want to be. Let yourself dream big.

Once you have finished the above exercise (and not necessarily in the same sitting) take another piece of paper and ask yourself, “If I had a million dollars in the bank that was exclusively for me–and I had no responsibilities and knew I would not need the money in the future–how would I choose to spend a perfect day?” Maybe you want to write a novel, talk to a friend, or own a ranch and raise goats. Whatever it is, write out your perfect sort of day. These are not necessarily the big event things you want to experience, but your idea of your perfect day of living. Again, don’t hold back.

People are often surprised at how powerful these two exercises are.

How do they help you?

They help you know what are your ACTUAL big dreams. They help you see clearly where your priorities reside. And they help you see how far away you are from, or close you are to, your dreams and your more ideal daily existence.

And once you know that, then you can lay out a plan that lets you use your precious time for what you really want in life.

This can be really fun, if you let it be so. Shut off your cynicism, take fifteen minutes … and send me an email about your experience with it. 

I’d love to help you formulate a financial plan to get there.

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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How To Buy Happiness In The Woodlands

Buy HappinessNot a huge amount of “tax news” these days … we’re watching Congressional movement on tax reform, Obamacare, etc. but right now, it’s all mostly just talk.

But that’s politics, I suppose. Which is a good argument for not diving too deeply into it.

Now … moving to things far more immediately relevant: I’ve written before about the surprising disconnect between significant means and deeper joy. That is to say, that one doesn’t always bring the other.

And wouldn’t you know, apparently it’s science.

I thought you’d be interested in the research I recently came across, because it’s more than just an “ooh, that’s interesting” kind of finding — but I believe that it can actually be applied to your daily life in order to maximize joy. Some of my The Woodlands tax clients with significant means may already be aware of what we’re talking about today, but in my opinion, this reality is true regardless of how many zeroes are in your bank account.

So, as we work with you to consider how we are able to best preserve your wealth from the grasping hands of the IRS and various state authorities, I think it it would be worthwhile for you and your spouse or partner to consider these dynamics.

How To Buy Happiness In The Woodlands
“A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner, so if one’s life is cold and bare he can blame none but himself.” -Louis L’Amour

It turns out that the conventional wisdom is wrong: it is possible to buy happiness — when you spend your money on others. Researchers at the University of British Columbia and Harvard University have found that people who buy gifts for others and make charitable donations report being happier than people who spend their money primarily on themselves.

Here are the details of the study they conducted…

The scientists studied 630 Americans and asked them to rate their general happiness, their annual income, and their monthly spending — including bills, gifts for themselves, gifts for others, and charitable contributions. Researchers also measured the rates of happiness for people who received profit-sharing bonuses from their employers of $3,000–$8,000.

Again, the researchers found that it was not how much money the participants received that predicted happiness levels, but rather how the recipients spent the money. Those who donated more of their bonuses to charity or used it for gifts for others rated themselves as happier than those who did not.

In a third look at this phenomenon, the researchers gave participants a $5 or a $20 bill and asked them to spend it before 5 p.m. on the same day. Half were given the
instruction to spend the money on themselves, half to spend it on others. The half who spent their money on others reported feeling better at the end of the day than those who didn’t. And this was regardless of the amount.

The researchers say that even spending a small amount on someone during the day can significantly improve our feelings of happiness.

So I ask you — what will you do with this information?

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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Aurelia Weems’ Three Ways To Live Out Your Retirement Lifestyle In Advance

Retirement LifestyleFirst off, now that May is upon us, we’re moving into a different mode. We have a few clients on extension (and with whom we will continue to correspond), but our attention is now more turned to other matters: tax planning (more about that soon), working with The Woodlands businesses and other individuals with year-round concerns, and other such things.

Many The Woodlands tax businesses don’t provide this service, but even though we’ve completed most of our clients’ returns, we WILL review any non-clients’ or new clients’ (including your friends’) previous years’ returns — at no charge.

Secondly — did you see the news about President Trump’s proposed tax reform?

Big stuff, if it passes … but it faces a skeptical Congress (including some in his own party who have deficit worries), a public who isn’t quite sure if it will happen, and, of course, the lobbyists for various interest groups who don’t want to see their particular favorite deductions go up in smoke.

If there is actual legislative progress on these proposals, I’ll be sure to keep you posted — in the meantime, I suggest you adopt *my* policy on such things: look for the actual action, not the PR. We’ll see what happens, if in fact something does.

Because future-casting is always a little tricky, I’ve found, when it comes to financial questions. The “numbers”, of course, are fairly easy for me or someone on my team to get a handle on. But when thinking about retirement, in particular, there are many things beyond the numbers to consider.

And I’m not convinced many financial counselors or advisors take all of it into consideration.

Aurelia Weems’ Three Ways To Live Out Your Retirement Lifestyle In Advance
“Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling and instinct, not by rule.” -Samuel Butler

People over 40 shouldn’t just plan for retirement, they should rehearse for it.  Because retirement can last 20 to 30 years, it’s more important than ever that “pre-retirees” (those who plan to retire in five to seven years) practice how they want to live without work as the organizational focus of their lives:

1. Try out different retirement lifestyles.
For example, many people dream of selling the family home and traveling in an RV or going abroad. Practice this by renting a camper and going on the road for a long vacation. You may discover that travel is exhausting or boring to you.

The same holds true for relocation dreams. Rent a home where you think you may want to retire to see if it really is where you’d like to move. The weather may not suit you, or the community may not be your cup of tea. Work out these details before you commit to an expensive change.

2. Live with your spouse 24 hours a day.
Most couples spend much of their early years working and, thus, spending much of their time apart. It may take some time to get used to the other person’s schedule, habits, and routines.

3. Practice living on that retirement budget. 
Most retirees’ income is significantly less than their preretirement income. Add up all the Social Security benefits, pension income, and 401(k) and IRA savings to calculate what you can realistically expect to live on each month. Then live on that amount for a month to determine what changes, if any, you need to make to your plans.

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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Tax Freedom Day And Amended Tax Returns For The Woodlands Taxpayers

amended tax returnWhen I say, “3.5 months of labor,” I’m not actually referring to the work we do here in our The Woodlands tax office on behalf of our clients. (Frankly, we work the entire year so that these past few months would NOT be as crazy as they might otherwise be.)

Nope, I’m referring to one of the big dates we mark every year around here: “Tax Freedom Day“. It’s the date when the nation as a whole* has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year.

(*I say “as a whole”, because 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 Sunday, April 23, 2017 (which is one day 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 2017 than they will on food, clothing, and housing combined.

amended tax return

That’s a sobering reality — but for me and my team, it is a helpful reminder for why we do what we do: We are about keeping your tax bill as low as legally and ethically possible.

Now, with that aside, if work on your return has been completed and you are not on extension, hopefully YOU have complete confidence in how things landed with your return this year. (If not, please do send me an email, and we can set up a time to discuss.)

But what about your friends?

Tax Freedom Day And Amended Tax Returns For The Woodlands Taxpayers
“Friendship is like money, easier made than kept.” -Samuel Butler

Our 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 2016. 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.

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 2016 returns (and 2015 and 2014). Not so.

Because according to the most recent report on the matter, issued by the General Accounting 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?

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 Tax Return.

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

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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A Tax Day Thank You From Aurelia Weems

Tax DayLifting my heavily-lidded eyes to peer up through the haze of government forms and procedures, I peek at the calendar, which today said: April 17.

(If any of the above sounded slightly poetic, that’s the coffee talking; I’m a The Woodlands tax accountant, after all.)

Yes, today is an extremely busy day for us here at Team Weems — it’s the day before the big deadline (Tax Day = Tuesday, April 18th, 2017). But as I am a person of ritual, I’m still taking the time to write to you on this, of all days. (Though you are likely to be actually receiving it later in the week, depending on how this day goes!)

It’s been a great tax season — and for us, it’s not really ever over.

Yes, we will have a respite because individual filing (and a slew of other things) are due tomorrow, but we don’t take the same kind of extended vacation of which many of our colleagues avail themselves upon tax season’s completion.

But this week gives me the chance to say (again): We are extremely grateful for your trust, and all of the other The Woodlands area families we got to meet with this year for tax preparation.

It’s always been our hope that we take a process that is so painful and time-consuming (with so much waste), and convert it into a profitable enterprise (for YOU) through smart tax preparation and planning and in overall financial coaching for our clients. We’re proud to say that we have seen those good stories this year, as we’ve continued to grow on the strength of your referrals.

I won’t be sharing strategic personal financial wisdom today (I hope you’ll forgive our needing to stay focused), but I would like to make one last request:

If you have filed your taxes with us would you…

A) Write something of your experience for people to know about in the future? Yelp and Google seem to be the place where many The Woodlands people are looking these days, and your words there would mean a great deal…

(And if for some reason you weren’t satisfied with our service, please write me back personally. I will do everything within my power to make it right, and will make it a priority, even this week.)

B) Share us on YOUR Facebook wall…?

Here’s something you could post on your profile, if so inclined:
“I had my taxes prepared by Aurelia Weems’s team, and had a great experience. And even now, they’re willing to review your tax return to make sure that everything was done right for you … Give them a callat: (936) 273-1188 and let them know I told you to call.” https://www.facebook.com/aewcpa

Or some such… thanks again.

I will end by saying this: I have been reminded, once again, this year: YOU are what makes this nation great. No matter what the politicians may want to take credit for, it’s people like you — the quiet ones who might not ever show up on the roll calls of any Forbes list, but who are doing so many incredible things (that WE get to see!) — who are responsible for any greatness that we might claim as a nation.

What a privilege it is to serve you. To know you. We are all so grateful.

Warmly,

Aurelia Weems
(936) 273-1188

Aurelia E Weems, CPA

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