John J. Bowman Jr. Accountant, personal finance, tax, Uncategorized

Preparing for Tax Season

Tax season can be a stressful, but rewarding time, depending on your work and financial situation.  With tax time right around the corner, you’re probably anticipating receiving your W-2 from your employer in the mail, and any other necessary documents, within the next few weeks.  Today, your taxes can be managed in numerous ways from a personal accountant, a nationwide accounting service, or even, an app on your phone that doesn’t require a visit to an office; the way you choose to have your taxes done is really based on your personal preference.  One thing, however, that everyone has in common regardless of how your taxes are done, is how you should prepare for tax time to make it easy on yourself, or your tax professional. Here are a few key ways to better prepare for tax time:

Figure Out Your Preference

As previously mentioned, today, your taxes can be done in various ways.  The first step to preparing for tax time, is figuring out how, and who, you want to do your taxes.  Do you plan on doing them yourself? Or would you prefer to have them done by an accountant or a tax-preparation service?  Keep a few things in mind. If you plan to do them yourself, you want to make sure you have all of the right information and know about the deductions that you’re entitled to.  If you plan on hiring an accountant or tax-preparation service, make sure you do the necessary research so you know who you’re working with.

Get Your Forms in Order

Everyone has a different financial situation, and there are multiple tax forms one will need depending on their situation.  To get yourself best prepared, figure out which forms are necessary for you during tax time, and get them in order. If you’re unsure, you can always take a look at the IRS website or consult a professional you may know.  

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This article was originally published on jbowmanaccountant.info 

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blog, John J. Bowman Jr. Accountant, personal finance, Uncategorized

Great Ways to Boost Your Credit

One of the many ways we are “defined” by society, is by our credit score and history.  Your credit information has a very significant impact on not only your personal finances but also a majority of your life and different events you may experiences, such as buying your first home.  The first step in credit management is establishing your credit score. Once this is done, it’s important to remember that you’ll want to continue to build your credit up in various ways; you can do this by gradually making small credit charges or larger transactions such as financing or leasing your first vehicle.  Always remember that any credit charges you make need to be paid back within a specific period of time, and late payments can negatively impact your score, as well as result in late charges and higher interest payments. Here are some great tips for boosting your credit:

Make Payments On-Time

Whenever you make a credit charge, you should keep the payment due date noted somewhere where it will help you remember.  Credit cards are a great tool for boosting your credit when they are used properly; however, they can do more harm than good when they aren’t managed correctly.  Any credit card charges you make should always be paid on early or on time. This will give you a good rapport with the credit company, as well as boost your score.  You’ll also avoid any late charges, and you’ll have a better chance of getting future credit cards and other purchases with low-interest rates.

Avoid Making Minimum Payments

While minimum payments are an option that you’ll usually see when you’re making a payment, it’s best to pay your bills in full if you can…

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blog, John J. Bowman Jr. Accountant, personal finance, Uncategorized

How to Curb Overspending and Avoid Debt

One of the most common problems adults deal with every month is efficiently managing their finances.  Depending on your salary, and your regular monthly expenses, you may find yourself struggling to stay afloat or save some extra money.  If you’re wondering where your paycheck is going, you may want to take a deep look into your spending habits. While you may be covering all of your necessary bills, you may also be overspending on things you don’t necessarily need.  Not to worry; this is something many adults deal with, and there are plenty of solutions to help better manage your habits.  Here’s how:

Track All Spending

The first and most obvious step to curbing your overspending is tracking your spending in general.  Every week, you should track where your money is going. By the end of the month, you should have a compiled list of what you’re spending each week, and where you can cut back.  Seems like an easy task, and something you really wouldn’t need to track; however, the smallest purchases can really add up and make a significant impact if you have enough of them.  For example, if you’re someone who goes out to lunch on your break from work, you’re likely spending almost $10 a day, if not more! This ad’s up to a minimum of $50 that you could be using for necessary bills, or putting into your savings account!

Know Your Spending Triggers

It’s not uncommon to spend based on your emotional or psychological triggers.  Things like your mood, environment, friends, etc., can really dictate the way you’re spending.  Take notice of this. Recognize what you’re feeling, or doing when you’re out splurging on things you don’t need.  For example, if you’re an emotional spender, you may find the need to go on a spree if you’re feeling down or even happy.  However, when you’re trying to save money, this can be detrimental to your savings plan. Be aware of your triggers, and do what you can to supplement them in ways other than swiping your credit or debit card…

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blog, John J. Bowman Jr. Accountant, personal finance, Uncategorized

Steps to Setting Up a 529 College Savings Plan

As a parent, your number one concern is always your children and how you can best provide for them.  While they may be young still, the future of their education is likely only a few years away, and as time goes on, college tuition costs are increasing drastically.  This may concern you, especially if you’re still paying off your own loans from your college days! Luckily, there’s hope, and a great way to get your little one’s future college finances in order.  The solution: a 529 college savings plan. Wondering the best way to set one up? Here are some simple tips:

Pick a Plan that Works Best for You

When it comes to 529 plans, it’s not as simple as just one.  There are two main types of 529 saving plans that you can choose from.  You can decide if a prepaid plan works best for you, or if an investment plan is a better choice.  If you decide on a prepaid plan, you can think of it as a locked-in plan. You generally pay for a year or a portion of the tuition ahead of time, locking in the price.  Depending on your state, the requirement can vary. Investment plans give you the ability to choose how you want to invest your funds, and how you can use the money depending on the institution that’s chosen down the road.

Open the Account

To open your 529 account, you’ll need to submit an application; this can generally be completed online; however, in some cases, you may need to mail it in.  Additionally, you’ll need to choose the right account to work with, whether it’s an Individual (Custodial), Trust, or Business account. From there, you’ll choose the custodian (likely yourself), and the beneficiary, (your child)…

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John J. Bowman Jr. Accountant, personal finance, Uncategorized

How to Manage Your 401(k)

In the early 1980s, the Internal Revenue Service introduced a tax-deferred method for US citizens to set aside savings for their retirement. Today, a 401K investment option is provided for employees by a great majority of the nation’s employers. A 401K plan allows a participant to set aside a portion of their pre-tax earnings until the age of 59 and 6 months, at which time they can begin taking taxed distributions with no penalty.

If you have your own 401K plan, there are some things you can do to enhance your profits and protect your savings. Here are a few strategies you should consider to help you properly manage your account:

Maximize Benefits

If your employer offers a proportionate matching benefit, it would be prudent for you to maximize the amount of your contribution in order to maximize the amount your employer is offering. This is a pure benefit that simply increases your employment benefits package.

Risk Assessment

Most 401K accounts allow the participant to manage their own investments. It’s your job to decide how much risk you are willing to take. Remember, the higher the risk might be, higher the returns will usually follow. As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to invest a least a portion of your account on high return investments. Also, you might want to consider taking extra risks if retirement is multiple decades away.

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John J. Bowman Jr. Accountant, personal finance, Uncategorized

Saving Tips for College Students

College is a time of education, exploration and adventure; it’s also a period where you likely need to save money. When you and most of your friends are trying to keep more funds in the bank, you can use some clever tips to help you get the most out of your money.

Review Your Meal Plan

If you’re constantly having money left over on your meal plan at the end of the semester, consider a more cost-effective plan. While the college might require you to have a certain meal plan during your first-year there, you will likely have more freedom as you earn more credits.

Shop For Textbooks Wisely

You’ve probably heard older students complaining about the cost of books if you’re new to campus. Skipping out on buying books is a bad idea because professors require them for a reason. Instead, ask your professor if it’s acceptable to use an older version or an online version of the book if one of those options is available for less. Also, you might be able to reduce the cost of books by taking them out from the library.

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blog, John J. Bowman Jr Accountant, personal finance, Uncategorized

Saving for Your Child’s College Education

With the rapidly rising cost of college tuition, parents are well-justified in their anxiousness about how to pay for their child’s education. There is a myriad of options for parents wanting to get a head start in saving for this big investment. Although it can often be overwhelming deciding what path to take when planning for your child’s educational future and how to pay for it, here are a few of the top options to consider for your savings plan:

529 College Plan

The gold standard of college saving is the 529 plan. Also known as Qualified Tuition Programs (QTP), this plan allows parents to invest after-tax money into a qualified fund and then withdraw that money and its gains tax-free to put toward use for educational expenses. With more than 30 states offering these type of plans, it pays to shop around to find the best fit for your individual needs.

Roth IRA

Although this type of investment is most associated with retirement savings, a Roth IRA can also be an invaluable vehicle when saving for college expenses. The withdraw rules are similar to the 529, however, investors can use the Roth dividends to also go toward retirement, giving this type of plan more flexibility should your child not pursue a higher education.

Prepaid College Tuition Plans

Self-explanatory in nature, these plans allow parents the benefit of pre-paying for college at today’s prices. By locking in current prices, parents can guard themselves against rapidly escalating costs while also saving money.

Coverdell Education Savings Account

This trust applies to both college education expenses as well as costs incurred at K-12 levels. Although the terms are more flexible, a Coverdell account comes with a $2,000 annual limit, making this choice a deterrent for families wishing to contribute more.

UGMA and UTMA Custodial Accounts

Although these accounts do not have as many tax advantages as its Roth or 529 counterparts, they can be gifted to a child for any reason. Unlike other investment accounts geared toward education, these accounts are placed in the child’s name, giving them full control over the money when the term expires. Conversely, since the child owns the fund, the amount of qualifying aid might be affected.

 

This article was originally posted on jbowmanaccountant.org

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