John J. Bowman Jr Accountant, personal finance, Uncategorized

How to Maintain Financial Stability

If you’re looking for a better financial future, then maintaining stability should be at the top of the list of things you may want to focus on.  However, maintaining a financially stable bank account may often seem easier than it actually is. As you do your research, you will find yourself creating a path to help you reach your financial goals.  Build your path beginning with a few of these staple tips to help maintain and build your financial stability.

Set Your Goals

If you are going to get to your target of financial stability, you have to know what that looks like for you. After all, you can’t hit a target you can’t see. Set attainable goals that will act as stepping stones to your goal.  Keep in mind, unrealistic goals can often do more harm than good; keep your goals within realistic reach.

Always think SMART

Achieving goals requires SMART thinking.  SMART stands for, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. For instance, saying you want to have more money is not a goal.  However, saying you want to contribute 20% of your paycheck into your savings account for the next year, is setting a SMART goal for yourself to reach.

Seek Help From Mentors

It would be very safe for you to assume that there are people in your life who have similar financial goals, and have taken the necessary steps to achieve them.  Seek their guidance and ask for assistance if you need it. Additionally, look for books, teachers, seminars, and any kind of connection with a mentor or source of information that can help you get where you want to go. Now that you know your goal, you can be more selective in picking your program to get you there.

Cut Down on Spending

Spending on things you don’t need is the quickest way to decrease your financial stability. However, it remains a very common problem for many Americans. Understanding the smaller things that you may not realize you’re consistently spending on, is a great way to start.  Go further by making a list of all the things you spend money on in your life that you can cut out if you want to. Doing this will give you a great look into how much money you could really be saving.

When it comes to finances, it is something that is on everyone’s mind but few people take enough action on. Instead of suffering financially as an entrepreneur, you can have financial stability. But it won’t happen overnight. Use the tips above and start going in the right direction in your financial life. Eventually, you will be in a place of complete security and peace of mind.

 

This article was originally posted on jbowmanaccountant.com

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

Essential Money Tips for Before and After Retirement

Throughout life, there are many different financial phases and stages that someone goes through.  From opening your first savings account to buying your first house, and so on.  It is important to build your financial structure over time, to ensure the best possible financial stability as you embark on a lifelong journey.  Here are a few simple money tips to follow before and after your retire.

Open a Savings Account

The first savings account you open independently is an important part of your quest to build financial stability, and a retirement plan that will keep you comfortable.  Start with your preferred banking institution, and sit down with a personal banker. Find out what type of savings accounts your bank offers, if there are any fees or perks, and do your best to contribute to it every paycheck.

Pay Down Your Debt

Outstanding debt is a major issue for many American adults.  Student loans, mortgages, credit cards, and car loans are all components of consumer or household debt.  In fact, by 2018, Americans accumulated a new record of $13 trillion in debt.  It is important, and wildly beneficial, to start tackling outstanding debt as soon as possible.  Establish payment plans for your student loans, and work on paying off credit card debt.

Consider Your Budget When Buying Your First House

Buying your first home can be very exciting; however, it can also be extremely expensive.  Always consider your budget when house hunting. Think about and understand what you can afford, while still being able to live comfortably, rather than what you want to afford.  Take time to do the required research on loans, mortgages, and lenders; a first home can often come with renovations, you will want to have some money set aside for this as well.

Invest In Retirement

Though it could be years away, it is essential to your future retirement to start planning as soon as possible.  Take a look into 401K plans that your company may offer, if they match or not, and if so, how much. If your company doesn’t offer a 401K, take a look into some independent options, like an individual 401K or an IRA (Individual Retirement Account).

Know Your Budget

While you will have resources like social security, and the retirement plans that you contributed to over the years, it’s important to understand your budget after you retire.  Not having a flowing steady income that you may be used to, can sometimes make understanding what your budget is a little more difficult. After you retire, take a look at the money you are still collecting, and your expenses; and don’t forget, part-time work is always available to stay busy and still collect an income.

Consider Downsizing

The idea of downsizing can be frightening, depending on what you’re used to.  First, try not to look at it in a negative light. Downsizing can be a great way to enjoy retirement and cut down some living expenses.  Not only can you potentially save on your living expenses, but also reduce upkeep, home maintenance, and taxes.

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Documentation For Tax Season

For some, it may be the most wonderful time of the year- Tax Season! Whether or not this is true for your situation, filing taxes is a civic duty, therefore there is no way out. Here are some of the most common forms of documentation you will need in order to file your taxes. Happy filing!

Personal and Identification

First and foremost, the most important thing you’ll need to have alongside you when filing your taxes is your social security number. This is a form of identification that is used to identify you as a taxpayer, and without it, you will not be able to file your taxes. If you have misplaced your social security number, be sure to contact your social security office. Bringing a copy of last year’s taxes may be helpful to you as well, especially if you’re filing on your own. This will help you answer any simple questions that you may have during the filing process. If you’re expecting direct deposit, bring along your bank account and routing information for an easy way to receive your processed return.

Earnings

A W-2 Form is required to file your taxes as this form shows how much money you’ve earned throughout the year. As long as you bring this form along, your taxes will be simple to file.

Investments

The tax filing process begins to get tricky after you learn where you’ve spent your money throughout the year. If you have any type of investments, such as property, stocks/bonds, or have done any type of freelance work, you should receive a 1099 form in the mail. This form will be required for the tax filing process, as you will enter how much of your earning from your W-2 was paid into taxes for your investments.

Education

If you are recently attending a higher education institution, you will receive a 1098-T form. This from is used to show how much you paid to higher education which will be written off when you file your taxes.

Interest Calculation

A 1098-E form will be sent to you if you have a mortgage, private loan, or debt (such as educational loans).

Records

Throughout the year, it’s important to keep track of records, whether digital or print receipts. Records should be kept for the following; job search/ work expenses (that you paid yourself), medical care payments, contributions or donations, childcare, rental expenses, educational expenses (supplies, transportation, etc.).

Additional

If you receive any additional forms or records in the mail from the IRS, you should bring them along. Your account will be able to determine which forms will be needed, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.

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Tax Penalties to Avoid

Tax time will be here before we know it! We talk an awful lot about what you need to do and have in order to file successfully. We don’t discuss enough what you should steer clear of. If you are penalized for any reason, you’ll end up owing more money. Take a look at the top four ways in which people accrue penalties. Be careful to avoid these pitfalls come tax season.

Late filing

The cut off for filing a tax return is April 15th and it’s the same date every year. To avoid receiving a late file penalty, file before the 15th or request an extension if absolutely necessary. Tax season can be stressful, but starting early to get everything completed before April 15th will save you some money and frustration.

Nonpayment Penalty

It’s not enough to just file your taxes by the 15th. You also need to pay your taxes by then as well. If you avoid paying what you owe by April 15th, you’ll end up owing a penalty equal to .5 percent of your due taxes. If that still is not unpleasant enough, you can end up owing up to 25 percent of your tax balance for nonpayment.

Math Errors

Most common on pen-and-paper tax returns, math errors can end up costing you. If you have poor math skills and end up paying less than the actually owed amount, the IRS can charge you interest on the remaining balance until it is paid off. Do yourself a favor and double check your math, file electronically, or hire an accountant.

Incorrect Charitable Donation

For non-cash donations, such as clothing or furniture, it’s imperative that you have proper documentation. When it comes to non-cash items that you plan to claim, make sure you have a copy of the itemized receipt. If you do not have proper documentation, you can be penalized during an audit for up to 25 percent.

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Do You Need Help Filing Your Taxes?

Check out several of Turbo Tax‘s tips for seriously maximizing the refund, or at least minimizing the amount you have to pay out to the government.

Get the Filing Status Right

If you’re married it may seem like a no brainer to file your taxes accordingly. After all, 96 percent of married couples did so back in 2009. But it may not be such an obvious choice. The IRS uses a metric called AGI (adjusted gross income) to determine whether or not some deductions can be claimed as medical expenses or other expenses. So, if one of you has had more medical expenses or business trips, file separately. Your separate AGIs will be lower, and you’ll be able to hit the number to take those deductions.

Small Miracles: Making the Most of Tiny Deductions

If you incur travel expenses for volunteer work, trips to your doctor, or even to a job interview, saving those receipts as a reocrd of the cost can support a claim to write it off. Again, AGI comes into play, so if it’s lower you may reach that percentage quicker.

Max out the IRA

If you have a Traditional IRA, each contribution lowers your total taxable income. Nice. It makes sense to add as much as you can, and once you hit age 50, the Catch Up Provision (which let’s you add more in addition to the max) lowers the income even further.

It’s All About the Timing

Make the first mortgage payment of the New Year before the end of December, so that the interest gets added to the mortgage interest deduction. Medical treatments and exams should also be done in the last few months of the year so that you can make the most of your medical deductions. Paying as much ahead of January as possible is a nice hidden trick for making the refund as great as it can be.

Stop Ignoring Earned Income Tax Credit

Why is it such a big deal? Each credit dollar drives down your taxes by one dollar. If you have kids in college, the American Opportunity Tax Credit may be a lifesaver–up to $1000 is refundable!

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‘Hardware failure’ disrupts IRS online apps mid-tax season

The IRS is in the midst of tax season — a bad time for the agency to have computer troubles.

But that’s what happened on Wednesday, when a supposed “hardware failure” disrupted access to several agency apps hosted on IRS.gov. The problems affected two of the agency’s most popular online apps: the e-file system that accepts tax returns submitted through authorized online preparers and the Where’s My Refund app, which is exactly what it says on the tin.

The IRS said Wednesday that the IT team is working on repairing the hardware malfunction, though many of the affected systems likely won’t be available until Friday at the earliest. However, the agency is still “assessing the scope of the outage,” according to a statement, meaning issues could persist longer.

The full article can be found on The Federal Times.

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