How much are you really paying for tax preparation?
What if I told you there was a hidden fee in your tax preparation bill. This hidden fee costs you serious money every time you file your taxes. This hidden fee shows up even when you prepare your own tax return. And it is totally avoidable. They sneak the fee in because you never see it and therefore never complain about it.
The hidden fee is hard to identify. It doesn’t show up as a line item on your accountant’s invoice or the online software payment page. Yet the fee digs hard into your wealth.
This same hidden fee looks different when you prepare your own tax return than from a professionally prepared return. The best way to expose this usurious fee is to handle it separately from how it is applied to DIY tax preparation and professionally prepared return.Read More
People pay me a lot of money for advice. It’s called consulting. Questions on taxes and money are what start the conversation. But once we get under the hood it becomes clear there is another motive. The real questions involve medical issues, raising children, starting a business and retirement.
It would be easy for me to give a short pat answer. It wouldn’t do much good, but I could do it. Instead, I ask a series of questions helping the client to come to her own conclusions. Some crazy tax guy from the backwoods of northeast Wisconsin will never have clever enough words to convey the right message. I have to help the client find there way there on their own. If I say “Yes” to the best business idea ever and the client is not ready or in the right mindset, they will fail.
And it always comes around to the finish line, aka, retirement. When can I retire? Should I retire?
I could give you a simple formula if you want. Better yet, skip the whole post and scroll to the bottom for the quick and easy answer, for all the good it will do you.
However, it might be better if I share a story and ask a few questions first.Read More
Here is what I said to Brooke, “Do you know what unconditional love is?” She nodded. “Well, mom, Heather and I love you unconditionally. We love you and will never stop loving you. Ever! I know we work hard to be frugal and save and invest. But this is why. Times like this! If we don’t spend whatever it takes to get you better, what good is having money? I don’t care what it costs. We will not be frugal when it comes to getting you better. I would give every dime I have just to have you.”Read More
The books the most successful people alive today recommend might surprise you. Elon Musk mentions The Lord of the Rings and Douglas Adams’s Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy more than once when listing must-read books.
These books might seem like strange choices, but when you think about it these and similar books start the engine of creative thinking. The technology Tesla uses to manufacture electric vehicles is not new technology. Some of the technology used is 18th century knowledge, even more from the 19th century and early 20th Century. The magic of Elon Musk is applying this knowledge in novel ways. Remember, electric cars came before the internal combustion engine (ICE). The ICE won until Musk built electric vehicles with existing technology that really worked. Then he revolutionized batteries.Read More
The timing could not have been worse for remote workers. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 nixed the deduction for work from home expenses and other unreimbursed employee business expenses.
Prior to the TCJA it wasn’t the best deduction in the world either. You had to itemize to get the deduction and it was combined with several other deductions and then reduced by 2% of your adjusted gross income. But it was at least available and with some planning could provide modest tax relief.
Self-employed people can still deduct these expenses on their or Schedule C. Same for farmers (Schedule F) and income property owners (Schedule E).
For employees, the deduction is now gone, unless you know the rules. With proper planning you can benefit by working from home, getting a tax benefit for work related expenses. The home office, the pro-rata share of utilities, insurance, property taxes and/or rent and mortgage interest can get tax-free treatment. Same for office supplies and equipment. And don’t forget business travel expenses.
Working from home has plenty of benefits: no office politics, no fighting traffic and every day is casual day. The downside is you have expenses at home that can’t be deducted on your tax return. We are going to fix that right now.Read More
When it comes to the blogs and other tracts providing information on building wealth, frugality carries most of the weight. And it makes sense. The greater the difference of income over spending is a strong determinant of the level of wealth an individual will achieve during their lifetime as compared to their income level.
As important as frugality is, spending is even more important, even if it doesn’t garner the required column inches the matter deserves. Spending less than you earn is the seed money for investments and without investments it is impossible to build significant wealth.
As an accountant I see people from all spectrums of income. Frugality, even hyper-frugality, is the hallmark of those with modest levels of wealth. Even the lowest income earners can amass a half million or more in a working career when frugality is taken to religious levels, with the excess invested in equities like index funds.
Mid-levels of income also do well with only the single tool of frugality. As their wealth grows they sometimes seek out professionals to help them. These clients tend to want short consulting sessions once a year with a review at tax time.
Then come the serious achievers. These people sometimes have modest incomes, sometimes large incomes. Regardless their income level, these people smack it out of the park. Their level of wealth is well beyond what would be expected for their income level or level of frugality (the excess of income above spending).
Super-achievers in wealth building focus on spending more than frugality. They know spending is more important. And they know most spending drains their energy and wealth while proper spending can actually make them richer!Read More
Five months ago COVID-19 was just getting started. Fear was rampant. People and businesses made rushed decisions with long-term consequences. In the U.S. fewer than 10,000 people had died from the virus, yet fear was many more would die.
Over concerns clients and readers (that is you my kind friends) would make poor financial decisions, I published an article encouraging caution and recommended people relax, breathe deeply and think before making a decision. By thinking before acting, I felt my people would be in a better position to make decisions that would serve them well.
Then I watched my readers act and react on social media. The spread of COVID-19 should have run a chill down the spines of any normal human being. But social media does not bring out the “normal” in people. Some over-reacted with the attitude everyone should shelter in place forever. But as always happens, the disease became “normal” as we saw it every day. Before long people wanted to get out and act as if nothing was wrong or that the risk had ended. The middle, sensible, ground somehow lost out.
It is sad the intelligent solutions lost out. Again, social media was rife with conspiracy theories, questionable remedies and outright lies. Social distancing, washing hands and masks are three simple things everyone can do to slow the spread of the virus until a vaccine can end its rein of terror.
Logic didn’t work 5 months ago, so now I have to get blunt. This is a financial blog so there is a reason for the focus on a medical issue. Your reaction to COVID-19 is a large part of the way you think. If you conduct stupid, risky behavior with your life, you probably do even worse when it comes to money. The best way for me to convey this message is with the good cop/bad cop routine.
There are two parts to this post. Part 1 is a mild comedy sketch of the facts. In Part 2 we will put it together and pull out meaningful and valuable data you can use. This value will increase your wealth and allow you to live long enough to enjoy it. Remember, Part 1 is dark comedy and not my opinion. I don’t want hate mail before you read the whole story.
The faulty logic used in our dark humor skit is more than a risk to our physical health; it is the same mindset that harms you financially. We actually have people who believe 1,000 or more dead Americans a day isn’t that bad. There are people who think it is okay to carry on as if nothing has changed because only old people suffer the consequences. They forgot their Hemingway: Do not ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. (For exact quote use the link.) The clock keeps counting for all of us and since I see no old people saying, “I don’t care if young people do stuff that might kill me,” I assume today’s young people will want respectfully behavior from the future’s youth.Read More
Now that we are firmly in the dog days of summer (as I write and published this, not as you are probably reading it) it is time to turn our attention to how pets actually make us richer in so many ways, including financially. And since it is the dogs days of summer we will focus on cats. This isn’t to take anything away from dogs and dog lovers (we always had a dog on the farm growing up). Dogs are cash machines, same as cats. It’s just that your favorite accountant currently lives with two cats.
Now I can hear some folks out there taking exception to my premise that pets are a cash machine when pets actually cost money. Food, litter, toys and vet bills add up. A few years back a blogger in the FIRE community let the world know pets were a frivolous expense and in no way frugal. I disagreed then and now. Unless you have a herd of animals in your home, pets increase your health and wealth in many ways. And our furry family members do it in such a stealthy way.
Of course I’m biased. I enjoyed cats in the home since high school. We always had a dog or two around the farm when I was growing up. A farm dog is a great help when getting the cows in at milking time. They are also a great companion when working in the barn and fields. There is a wealth beyond financial that friendship brings. And cats take care of important business, too.Read More