Setting and Making Realistic Financial New Year’s Resolutions

It is almost that time of season when you will begin to ponder your new year’s resolution.  Will it be exercise?  Will it be a new diet? Or will it have something to do with improving your family finances.  Making resolutions (or goals) can be a very difficult process because it often makes you face some of your own realities like it or not.   When you decide to set goals that are realistic, I have been a big cheerleader over the years to use the S-M-A-R-T goal setting system.  Here is how it works. *S is for Specific– Be very specific about what you are trying to accomplish.  Don’t tell yourself you want to pay down debt.  Instead, give yourself a specific goal such as paying off $10,000 of debt. *M is for Measurable– Have a way to track your progress.   In the last example, make a chart for paying off $833 a month and cross it off each month ...

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Your 2013 Year End Smart Money Moves

Believe it or not, 2013 will be a footnote in the history books in just three weeks.   As you scurry around to shopping malls and local outlet stores to find presents and stocking stuffers; make sure you don’t forget important money items, that can be worth a lot more than a plate of cookies on the fireplace mantle.  We often overlook some of these items, because we simply run out of time or they just pass by us because we don’t know about them at all.  Here are some year end ideas from the Your Smart Money Moves Column. Do you have a will/living trust? If they don’t have a written one, then the state they live in will have one for them.  My guess is that you don’t want the state to decide how your parent’s assets should be distributed.    The will has many features to it, but most importantly it allows for your parents to essentially say which ...

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What Tax Deductions Can I Take For Using My Car?

As the tax year ends and you scramble to pull together your year end tax deductions, people often ask us whether they can get  a deduction for using their automobile.  It’s important to understand these rules for both employees and business owners alike as this could mean big bucks in your pocket come tax time. According to the IRS Topic 510 business use of a car (http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc510.html), you can generally figure the amount of your deductible car expense using one of two methods: the standard mileage rate method or the actual expense method. If you qualify to use both methods, before choosing a method, you may want to figure your deduction both ways to see which gives you a larger deduction. Please refer to Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift and Car Expenses, for the current standard mileage rate. If you use the standard mileage rate, you can add to your deduction any parking fees and tolls incurred for business purposes. ...

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5 Tips To A Successful Garage Sale

If you need some extra cash, one thing to consider during the holiday season (don’t wait til’ it warms up) is to have a year end garage sale.   Garage sales can be really profitable or just end up being a day outside getting rid of a few pieces of junk you don’t want in the house anymore.   If you are seriously thinking about making your garage sale a money making day, here are five of my tips to a successful garage sale. Place Like Items With Like Pricing On The Same Table –  It is really important to use a Sharpie and clearly mark the pricing on each of your tables.  You don’t want people to come up to your house and have to ask you every five minutes what items cost at each table.   If you have items you are going to mark for $1 or $5, it will be much easier to put them together at one table ...

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How To Lower Your 2011 Income Taxes

The color of the trees  are changing during the beautiful fall season, and that also means it’s time to begin thinking about strategies for minimizing your 2011 income taxes before the year has come to a completion.    Remember, that when it comes to lowering income taxes, you generally have to large rock strategies.   Above the line deductions are tax deductions that reduce the amount that will end up on the taxable income line to determine how much tax you should have paid for 2011.   Below the line deductions, which mainly have to deal with tax credits that will offset the tax you owe dollar for dollar in most cases.     It is important to note that there are many strategies to keep your income taxes down, but here are four you should consider before the clock strikes midnight in 2011.  Max out your contributions to your employer sponsored retirement plan –   For most of you this will be your 401(k), 403(b), ...

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Is A Roth 401(k) Right For Me?

Since 1997, Roth IRA accounts have been around as an investment vehicle. In the past several years, participants at many work places have been offered the opportunity to do a Roth 401(k). Readers have e-mailed me over the past year about whether or not the Roth 401(k) is a good idea. The Roth 401(k) follows many of the same rules as your current Traditional 401(k). There are two very large distinctions between doing a Traditional 401(k) and a Roth 401(k): 1) How contributions are taxed – In a traditional 401(k) plan, all of your contributions will be put in your plan on a pre-tax basis.  Thus, your reportable w-2 income at year end will be lowered by the amount of Traditional 401(k) contributions that you make over the course of the year. In a Roth 401(k), your contributions will be taxed now and put in your plan on an after tax basis.  Thus, you will have no change in your ...

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Rental Income: Here Is The Bad News

Attention owners of rental homes and properties . . . You aren’t going to like one of the tax changes that appears to be on the horizon for 2011 as part of the revenue offset of the recent Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010. The legislation would require an IRS Form 1099 for rental property expense payments.  The provision would subject all recipients of rental income from real estate to the 1099 reporting requirement, with the exception for taxpayers that rent their principal residence on a temporary basis, receive minimal amount of rental income, or would experience a hardship under this provision.  This provision would give the Department of Treasury the authority to determine what constitutes a “minimal amount” of rental income and what constitutes a “hardship.”  According to JCT, this provision would increase revenue by $2.546 billion over 10 years.  (source:  www.gop.gov/bill/111/2/hr5297senateamendment) In simple terms, the bill makes recipients of rental income fall underneath the same information ...

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