September 15, 2017
Retirement planning is extremely important, but some people lose all of their money from scammers. The monetary cost of financial elder abuse has been estimated to be from $3 to $36 billion. While that’s a large range, the numbers tell a frightening story. What are the scams, big and small, that seniors need to be wary of?
1. Pump and Dump Investment – telemarketers often call seniors to sell them shares of a new company which sound too good to be true (trust us, it is). Once the share prices shoot up, the marketers dump their shares and collect their “hard earned” money, leaving seniors with a boat load of worthless stock.
The best way to avoid this scam is to either do independent research on the Internet from trusted sources like Yahoo Finance or work with a licensed professional.
2. Medicare Open-Enrollment – Every fall, right before Medicare Open Enrollment begins, scammers who claim to represent the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services call unsuspecting seniors about new Medicare identification cards. The ploy works by having the seniors give their bank account info and their social security numbers.
This is why it’s important to never respond to phone calls asking for sensitive personal information! In addition, Medicare does not call, e-mail, or visit anyone asking for that kind of information.
3. Anti-Aging – perhaps not as potentially disastrous as the above two scams, bogus anti-aging products can still put a serious dent in senior financials. "Anti-aging quackery and hucksterism are pervasive on the Internet and in clinics advertising anti-aging treatments," writes Thomas Perls, MD, MPH, of the New England Centenarian Study, Boston Medical Center.
You can typically spot a bogus anti-aging product by the excessive use of testimonials and “scientific” evidence, and absurd claims that they have helped thousands of people, even though you’ve never heard of them.
Remember, don’t believe everything you read. Now more than ever, false information is floating around, and people will use it to take your money! We help seniors find legitimate means of growing their savings and do the often difficult task of sorting the bad from the good.
August 31, 2017
As summer comes to a close, the fourth quarter is upon us. Often times, businesses stress out about how to successfully close out the year. There are many things businesses of all sizes can do to prepare for the fourth quarter.
1. Prepare Your Marketing Campaign and Promotions
The fourth quarter is the perfect time to try and clear out your inventory and increase revenue. Using your social media channels to share holiday specials or new promotions will gain you both exposure and potentially more sales. Also, use your social media to drive customers to your website. There, you can gain insight about your customers, encourage them to purchase your product or service and simply increase brand awareness. Ensuring your marketing campaign is top notch will help you in this upcoming quarter.
2. Take Advantage of the Holiday Season
The holiday’s round out the fourth quarter and for many companies, this is where the most money is made. For small businesses, take this time to highlight what makes small businesses better for holiday shopping. For all of the large businesses, use the holidays as a big push for your products that are being discontinued. There will always be people taking big holiday shopping trips so use this season to really sell your product or service. Providing customers with great deals or promotions never hurts either.
3. Review All of Your Expenses
During this time, review all of your business's expenses. This could range from mileage to employee spending. Decide which ones were necessary and which ones could be cut back in the next year. This is the time to cut costs so expense evaluation will make you more prepared going forward.
4. Set Company Goals
Before the fourth quarter begins, set your company goals for the end of the year and the upcoming year. This includes revenue. How much do you want your company or business to make in the next year? These goals could also include benchmarks. How many customers would you like to gain or what’s your ideal ROI? Once you have these goals set, decided what steps you need to take as an organization to reach those goals. Discussing all of these things will help you get ready for what’s to come.
5. Train Your Employees
This busy time of the year can be stressful for employees. Take time before the last quarter begins to train your team members on new strategies, give them insight on what is to come and be sure to give them the necessary tools to close out the year strong.
The fourth quarter can be the most crucial time of the year. Following these steps with make sure your company is ready to take on the last quarter head on.
August 15, 2017
Early last month, The Plan Sponsor Council of America (PSCA) released results of a survey that intended to get people’s thoughts on a new tax preference for retirement savings plans.
So what does this mean?
This new plan would include reducing or eliminating pre-tax contributions to raise tax revenues and offset losses in tax receipts from lowering marginal income tax rates.
The survey found that more than 90 percent of respondents indicated that they agree that eliminating or reducing pre-tax contributions to retirement savings plans is a bad idea.
These proposals could impact millions of Americans that participate in tax-qualified retirement savings programs.
Strategic retirement planning is important and it’s never too early to start. Here at BIG, we can help you prepare for your future as well as for tax reforms. Looking ahead at future expenses is the first step to preparing for retirement. This will allow you to be ready for whatever expenses are to come and not let the cost of retirement or reforms get in your way.
Most importantly, you can work with us to create strategies to not only preserve but help grow your retirement balances while determining your spending amounts.
Tax reforms can come and go but your retirement savings should stay the same. Work with us now and we can ensure a successful financial future.
July 26, 2017
Whether you’re already in the trenches fighting to launch your dream company or contemplating quitting your job to start your own venture, it’s important to remember you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. While your idea may be revolutionary, the keys to success are universal. Every successful startup does the following very well.
Ever heard of “shareyourworld.com”? We didn’t think so. It was the first video hosting service, which even came before YouTube. While the idea was obviously amazing, the timing wasn’t right and the website never became a household name. Just because you have a great idea, doesn’t mean it will change the world. It’s important to pick the best moment to begin.
Before you spend a dime on your company, you need to have a clean and detailed budget, and stick to it. Even if you have funding, you don’t want to waste any money on unnecessary expenses, as you may need cash down the road to avert an unforeseen crisis. Keeping your business financially sound requires self-discipline and expertise from either you, or someone you can trust.
Speaking of unforeseen crises, it’s imperative for startups and their founders to be flexible. While having a strong belief in yourself and your plans is crucial, most likely not everything about your plan is perfect, whether it’s something as specific as your branding or possibly even your entire business structure. So be willing to change if the evidence points to you adapting! After all, it worked for Steve Jobs and Pixar.
These aren’t the only things that matter when it comes to success in the business world, but every great company has mastered the above. We recognize doing so isn’t easy! To learn more, keep devouring information and seek guidance from the right places.
July 18, 2017
April 15th, the date which keeps tax accountants awake at night, has come and gone. But with that sigh of relief, an unfamiliar sense of dread can come; the question, “what do I do now?” may come to mind. Well, the answer is plenty.
Accountants do quite a bit more than taxes. Like here at BIG, accountants can help companies and individuals determine and reach their financial goals. Corporations need their financial data analyzed so they can make savvy business decisions, and individuals need help either bolstering their retirement accounts or growing other areas.
Did you really think tax season was over? People love to procrastinate, and are willing to file an extension if it means they can continue to delay work. While obviously the amount of extension work is substantially less than the normal filing period, it is still work that needs to be done by someone.
Workshops And Seminars
A lot of accountants are introverted and try to steer clear of the limelight, but this is an excellent way to create additional revenue. People like Tony Robbins have achieved great success because the general public is hungry to learn more about finances, especially from people with credentials like CPAs. With that said, tutoring people on a software program like Excel is something even the most shy of accountants is capable of.
The end of tax season definitely calls for celebration. But don’t rest on your laurels for too long! There’s a lot of people out there who need financial help, and accountants are some of the most qualified experts to dispense advice.
June 29, 2017
Whether you’re in your 20s and haven’t even thought about retirement yet, or in your 50s and dream of retirement every day, it’s important to either start or continue saving. A mix of universal retirement advice with some little known tricks can be used to boost your savings for what are supposed to be your most relaxing years.
Invest Aggressively – a high percentage of your portfolio should be in stocks, especially if you are younger since you have more time to endure the ups and downs of the market. But don’t invest in individual stocks. Instead, select mutual funds or exchange-traded stocks in order to add some needed diversity to your portfolio.
Sign Up for a 401(k) – this advice is not just for our clients in their 20s; many baby boomers do not take advantage of what is essentially free money! If your workplace has a 401(k), you need to participate. Most employers will match your contributions. In addition, any money you deposit into the account will not be taxed now, so less of your income will be taxed. Use a 401(k) calculator to plan accordingly.
No 401(k)? No Problem – if your workplace doesn’t have a matching 401(k), then open a Roth IRA. Roth IRAs are funded with money that has already been taxed from your normal paycheck. However, when you withdraw and use the money in retirement, it will be tax-free. A tip from the wise is to have money from your paycheck automatically deposited into your Roth IRA.
Don’t let current expenses be an excuse to keep you from saving for retirement! A little financial planning now will save you a lifetime of regret.
June 15, 2017
Don’t let the nice weather fool you; competition is heating up. And if you don’t maintain a strong awareness of your business and its finances, then you’ll no longer be able to complain about the pain and hassle of managing your business’s money; because it will be gone. So, let’s keep your dreams healthy and alive by doing the following this summer.
1. Choose the right accounting software – not every accounting software is going to work for every business. Even if you have already have software, do your due diligence and click around the Internet to make sure you’ve picked the right one. With that said, the real pressing need is to move your financial data from desktop software to the cloud if you haven’t done so yet.
2. Do you have a professional bookkeeper? –we often find entrepreneurs aren’t thrilled about doing the bookkeeping for their business, which actually makes a lot of sense. Most people aren’t numbers people, and those with big ideas typically like to focus on the forest instead of the individual trees. If you’re finding that you’re spending a disproportionate amount of time doing the accounting for your business instead of running it, it’s probably time for some outside help. In the end, you’ll make more money since you’ll have more time doing what you do best.
3. Work with a trustworthy credit union – credit unions are ideal for small business owners. Credit unions do not have to answer to the whims of shareholders, so they are able to focus on you and your business’s needs. In addition, they generally keep profits local, so there’s a higher chance of them either investing in you or other area entrepreneurs in the future.
Keeping track of your finances will enable you to take opportunities which would not otherwise exist. Like we said, just because it’s nice outside doesn’t mean it’s okay to get loose with your money or get distracted! You’ve come too far to let a little hiccup derail your dreams from coming true.
May 30, 2017
Building and growing a small business may seem like an insurmountable task initially and often seems to get even more confusing and stressful as time goes on. That’s why it’s wise to seek the advice from those who have been there before. These are some of the most universal tips:
1. Have a support network – often business owners like to think of themselves as lone wolf entrepreneurs who can do it all by themselves; this is a very bad idea. It’s important to avoid isolating yourself. Learn from other business owners through networking events and the Internet, stay in touch with family and friends for motivation, and remind yourself that while you’re setting an unforged path, you don’t have to do it alone.
2. Delegate when possible – speaking of not doing it alone, it’s important to have others work for you. Many business owners are either control freaks who spin themselves silly by trying to do everything, or try to save money by not paying for services like accounting and bookkeeping. Why you shouldn’t do this is actually pretty simple; if you can generate $100 of revenue doing what you’re really good at, but have to spend an entire day doing all of your bookkeeping when it could cost just $20 for an accountant to do it in an hour, wouldn’t you actually be saving/making more money by hiring the accountant? The facts speak for themselves.
3. Keep your day job…for now – we get it; your idea is awesome, you’re excited, and you want to spend all of your time working on it. And you will need to eventually do this; just not yet. It is very easy to run out of money during the early stages of a business venture, which will usually lead to entrepreneurs giving up. You’d be doing yourself a huge disservice not to start your company off on the best foot for a lucrative future.
This is only some of our advice to keep in mind when building your business. We understand that the beginning is the hardest part, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us with your questions!
May 17, 2017
Just because tax season is over, doesn’t mean that you’re done with nasty taxes for good (though even we wish this were the case!). Do yourself a favor and avoid the toxic anxiety tax season welcomes by taking just a few easy steps to stay organized for next year.
1. Look over your withholdings – no one wants to have more money taken away from them than necessary obviously. So it always shocks us when people who have employers that withhold money from their paycheck automatically don’t take the time to make sure the correct amount is getting taken out!
2. Evaluate your retirement plan – be honest; are you really saving enough for retirement? Most Americans have no idea, as a Bank of America Merrily Lynch survey found that 81% of Americans don’t know how much money they will need for retirement! So it’s very important to be aware that IRS limits on tax-deductible IRA contributions can change from year to year.
3. Make an income forecast and estimate possible taxes – all businesses regularly project how much revenue they expect to gain over the year in order to gauge expenses. Treat yourself and your family like your own business and do some serious thinking about how much money you’ll think you’ll have over the year, including possible major expenses (especially unexpected ones), and what you might have to pay in taxes.
Taxes aren’t fun, but that doesn’t mean they have to be torture. Do your future self a big favor and ease the stress by taking some easy proactive steps. Your future self will want to hug you for your efforts!
May 3, 2017
Tax and Health-Care Reform Back in the Spotlight
Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) failed in late March. In the immediate aftermath, it appeared that health-care reform efforts would be set aside in favor of advancing a tax reform agenda.1 Then, in a one-two punch that surprised many, the White House called for a vote on a revised repeal-and-replace health-care plan and announced the broad outline of a new tax reform plan.2 It would be a mistake to consider the two completely separate efforts, because in some ways they are actually closely connected.
White House announces new tax proposals in broad terms
The tax reform plan announced by the White House includes reducing the current seven tax brackets to just three: 10%, 25%, and 35%. It proposes doubling the standard deduction amount and eliminating both the alternative minimum tax (AMT) and the federal estate tax. The plan would preserve existing deductions for home mortgage interest and charitable donations, but would eliminate most other deductions, including the ability to deduct state and local taxes.3 Essentially, this was a "stake in the sand" to establish a starting point for negotiations with Congress. Details must be determined, and changes are likely as discussions progress.
Tax provisions also a part of health-care reform
The ACA contains significant tax provisions, including the 3.8% net investment income tax and the 0.9% Medicare payroll surtax, which both target high-income individuals. The initial repeal-and-replacement effort would have eliminated or modified many ACA tax provisions — that's almost certain to be true for a revised plan as well. And any health-care reform package is likely to balance lost tax revenue with reductions or limits to subsidies and Medicaid outlays. If the ACA tax provisions are not addressed in a health-care reform package, they're likely to be included as part of the tax reform discussion, increasing the scope and complexity of the tax debate. In fact, the White House tax reform announcement specifically called for repeal of the 3.8% net investment income tax.4
Further complicating the issue, Republican legislators — who lack 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a Democratic filibuster — plan to use a process called budget reconciliation to pass both health and tax reform legislation with a simple majority vote. Under budget reconciliation rules, any reform measure must not increase the federal deficit beyond a 10-year period. This restriction means that unless tax cuts are offset by revenue savings elsewhere (e.g., spending cuts or reduced deductions), they must expire after 10 years.
1) See for example Nick Timiraos and Richard Rubin, "GOP Shifts Focus to Next Target: Tax Code Revamp," Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2017
2) John T. Bennett, "White House: Final Health Care Deal Unlikely This Week," Roll Call, April 26, 2017, and Briefing by Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Commerce, and Gary Cohn, Director of the National Economic Council, April 26, 2017, whitehouse.gov
3,4) Briefing by Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Commerce, and Gary Cohn, Director of the National Economic Council, April 26, 2017, whitehouse.gov