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Tax Tips to Lower Your 2016 Tax Bill

Tax Tips to Lower Your 2016 Tax Bill

You still have time to cut your taxes — and make smart moves to lower next year’s as well. As a certified CPA myself, I am swimming through a pile of tax returns for my clients! I wanted you to have some good info on how to lower your 2016 tax bill, if you haven’t filed yet.  Here are some effective tips from SANDRA BLOCK, Senior Associate Editor, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

Most taxpayers approach the tax-filing deadline with a mixture of fear and loathing. But this year, there are reasons to be more sanguine. For one thing, because 2016 was an election year, Congress didn’t tinker much with the tax code. If your personal circumstances didn’t change last year, your tax bill probably won’t change much, either. And if you’re a do-it-yourself filer, you don’t have to get up to speed on a slew of new rules.

Because April 15 falls on a Saturday this year and April 17 is a holiday in Washington, D.C., you have until Tuesday, April 18, to file your federal tax return.

VIDEO: How to Prepare for Tax Season

Here are some ways you can still trim your 2016 tax bill, plus potential speed bumps.

Contribute to an IRA.

If you’re not enrolled in a 401(k) or other workplace retirement plan, you can deduct an IRA contribution of up to $5,500 ($6,500 if you’re 50 or older), no matter how high your income. You have until April 18 to make a 2016 contribution to your IRA.

Fund a health savings account.

You also have until April 18 to set up and fund a health savings account for 2016. To qualify, you must have had an HSA-eligible insurance policy at least since December 1.

Get credit for tuition payments.

The American Opportunity tax credit, worth up to $2,500 per eligible student for the first four years of college, is a valuable tax break for parents of college students.

Health care housekeeping.

President Trump has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but it was still in effect in 2016, so you’ll have to deal with it on your tax return. To avoid a “shared responsibility payment”—longhand for a penalty—you must prove that you had qualifying health insurance in 2016 or were eligible for an exemption.

Want to investigate these ideas  a little deeper? Additional details HERE

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Spring Cleaning Your Finances to Make Life Easier

The Money Nerve

There is something refreshing about the advent of spring; it’s officially time for reviewing and renewing! This week, we take a look at spring cleaning your finances.

Ask, “WHY,” before spring cleaning your finances

Why do you budget, save, spend, insure, invest and plan the way that you do? Are you happy with how your finances are working for you? Write down some clear and definitive ideas to sweep away old habits and create a more satisfying result.

Review your budget

Balance all your bank accounts and take a second look your past six months of credit card charges to see if all adds up correctly and that there are no billing errors.

What??? You don’t have a budget. Today is a good day to write down your income and your expenses. With that knowledge, you can now plan and direct your dollars into more focused streams!

Set a few primary, short-term goals

For example, you could set a goal for paying off the credit card with the lowest balance. Set yourself up to hit your new objectives. As you achieve success with your smaller financial projects, you gain confidence to complete larger intentions! And that is a win-win for you and your wallet!

Clear Out the Clutter

Take a serious look at everything you own. Give deep thought to want you want to be most important in your life. Set up actions steps to turn that visual intention into reality. Too much stuff? Distill it down. It’s easier to take care of less. And you keep what is most valuable to you. Too many accounts to manage? Pare down to three accounts, now you have more money at each institution and have created more “klout” for yourself. Utilize direct deposit and automate a small percentage to savings each week.

Streamlining your efforts help to clear your mind, and allow you to focus on creating a proactive life. You will find that spring cleaning your finances, and stating goals result in intentional living.

Find more #moneynerve tips – Enjoy this new vodcast: Funny Money Talks!

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Gratitude

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Where is your “Gratitude Meter” set? Do you find something to be thankful for each day or do you rush through life unaware and unhappy? The action of being thankful, appreciative or expressing gratitude can be a powerful tool for living a meaningful life. Studies show that we can deliberately pursue an appreciation for the goodness in our lives, the result is an increase in our well-being and happiness.

Focus on the goodness in your life, and you retrain your brain to look for abundance. Try this instead of dwelling on the lack of “things.” Scientific studies demonstrate that fear and negativity increase cortisol.  This “fight or flight” hormone narrows your perspective because you perceive danger in your life. Developing a positive mindset increases the mood neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine), in your body. A positive mindset also encourages people to “broaden and build” life skills. Begin to actively seek new opportunities and utilize your small successes to achieve a more abundant and meaningful life.

Take a moment each day to express gratitude for the goodness in your life. This intentional action sets the tone for the rest of the day. Some people like to begin their day with a meditation or mantra of gratitude. Your thoughts direct your efforts, creating the best results, at work or home, as the day unfolds.

Others prefer towrite down their activities and review the goodness of the day each night. Being thankful for all the moments and people in our daily life can change our intentions. Learn to flip frustrations or challenges to create new opportunities for choosing what is important over time.

As the holiday season approaches, many people focus on gift-giving, thankfulness, and an abundant life. Remember to keep that sense of choosing happiness and caring when the fine china is put up. Keeping an attitude of gratitude throughout the year can relieve stress and generate a more optimistic view. A mindset of cultivating kindness can often have positive effects that we can’t even imagine. Like a small pebble thrown into a pond, the ripples of good will and thoughtful interactions can have a huge impact on many people, some of whom you may never meet!

In gratitude ~ Bob

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Destination: Celebrating a Successful Life!

prosperity-wealth

Being rich is not a destination. Fine-tune your success with targeted goals and conscious choices. Here is how to create and celebrate your life – the way you imagined it could be! 

SUCCESS consists of three things:
• Know what is available to you
• Know what you want
• Know what the next step is once you are successful

Being rich is not a destination. Each of us has our unique perspective and vision of what success means to us. What is your image of wealth and success? Can you visualize yourself in a prosperous place in life? Define what is most important to you for the next year. If you can “see” it, you stand a much better chance of creating it.

Some people value a good steady job as a sign of success; others may value more time with family, a big annual vacation, a new car for their spouse or saving to purchase a home. As you state what is important, you will be more aware of your daily activities and begin to focus your attention on actions that will make your goals materialize.

Pursuing a new path toward financial success can create unexpected reactions and results: you may get some pushback from friends, coworkers or family members. That is okay. You are not staying in the same comfortable path. You are evolving toward a new direction, and that can make others uneasy. Continue on your journey! Reap the benefits.

As you gain traction and reach your goals, be sure to stop and celebrate your life. Pause. Enjoy the moment. Don’t let negative emotions become roadblocks. Know that you can continue to move forward with intention and clarity. Cheers!

Here’s a quick video for you to reflect on. If you are looking for some new financial tools, be sure to check out these new online financial platforms and apps I have collected — as a resource for you.

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FINDING YOUR FINANCIAL GPS

3x3 From A-ZReady to start a NEW PATH?

By setting a financial GPS, you can navigate more efficiently to reach your goals. Using this analogy of traveling through time to reach your next destination is an excellent way to approach your finances. As you journey through life, new opportunities arise, and you have the choice to make changes to hit that next target. Even as you move closer to some of your goals (or destinations) and “things” are on the right track, it is inevitable that roadblocks or challenges will pop up.

When you look at a map or plug a route into your GPS system, you will see numerous roads lead to the same destination. One choice may be the scenic route. Another faster option might be to take the highway, and if you plan several stops to run errands or take in more experiences, your choice might meander a bit – although you have packed more action into your trip. All three choices ultimately lead to the planned location. We must know where we are to make savvy decisions that lead us to the targeted destination

If your only goal is to be rich, your goal may not be specific enough. A financial GPS is no good unless you plug in a dream, a goal or a destination. How can your finances get on board if you do not know where you are going? A grandiose idea such as “being rich” is not a destination. Plugging in a smaller, more strategic financial goals provide you with a meaningful roadmap that brings positive results. You may choose to save $10 per week, freeze the credit cards for one month or save for a big vacation or a home.

Becoming aware of your Money Nerve and exploring what upsets you, helps to redefine your financial GPS. Blindly following the crowd, allowing emotions to rule your decision-making or ignoring money issues – these reactions keep you from attaining your desired financial goals.  Drop old habits that no longer work for your current situation. Stop making choices based on outdated information.

As you recognize your Money Nerve flaring up, take control and empower your financial life. Examine your current lifestyle without blame, make thoughtful changes, and choose proactive actions each day — expand your perspective! Create a life with purpose and a sense of abundance today.

Follow @TheMoneyNerve on Facebook.

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A BETTER LIFE

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A Better Life- Since the beginning of mankind’s existence, people have searched for a way to build a better life. Even in today’s world, with all of our knowledge and a vast amount of wealth and resources, we all still yearn for the best life we can create. It is a universal sense of making our world a better place to be.

What is a better life? Some people say it is enough food, a roof over our heads, education, and the opportunity to better ourselves, and enjoy a balance of work and recreation. Become more proactive by living fully every day; it is imperative to think ahead and plan a rough outline of what is important to you and what you wish to achieve over time.

Many old sayings and fables allude to being organized and making intentional choices with money. Have you ever heard these sayings?

Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched ~ Aesop’s Fables. My modern day translation: Don’t put all your purchases on a credit card when you cannot even make the monthly payment.

A fool and his money are soon parted ~ Thomas Tusser. My modern translation: People who make stupid money decisions soon lose all of their money and become poor.

He who pays the piper calls the tune ~ Unknown. My modern day translation: A person who has the money to pay for services has the right to state how the money should be used and to receive exactly what he or she wants.

Money grows through sheer persistence ~ Japanese proverb. My modern day translation: Slow, steady steps toward improving your money decisions and enriching your live takes thoughtfulness.

A rich man is nothing more than a poor man with money ~ W.C. Fields. My modern day translation: You are who you are, no matter how many dollars are in your pocket

Don’t let making a living prevent you from making a life ~ John Wooden. My modern day translation: Remember what is most important in life; family, friends, respecting and loving others.

A man in debt is so far a slave ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson. My modern day translation: When you allow yourself to owe more money than you can repay, you have lost all control of your day-to-day decisions and can be manipulated by all. You have lost your freedom to live as you wish.

Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver ~ Ayn Rand. My modern day translation: You have the power. You can create a better life. Your actions have a direct impact on the results.

If one of these sayings resonates with you; write down and tape it to your mirror. Say it aloud every morning and consciously make daily decisions that lead to a better life!

(photo via http://easyway1234.blogspot.com/2016/05/dont-count-your-chickens-before-they.html)

 

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MONEY and RELATIONSHIPS

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Money and Relationships: two areas of life we all long for, have issues with and want the best of — all of the time!

The people in your life who have the greatest effect on your emotions and your personal finances could be business partners, spouses, significant others, or family members you have included in a business relationship. I call these people financial partners. What most of us neglect to do is engage our financial partners so that we are on the same page. The most frequent choice people make is to avoid confrontation when dealing with money and relationships. Financial habits cause the same problems over and over again. Ignoring fiscal issues will come back to haunt you. Stop the cycle by initiating conversation.

As you become more aware of your emotions and what triggers your Money Nerve, you will be more understanding of your partner’s Money Nerve. Now with your improved perspective of your “significant other”, your conversation can be more productive. You may still be annoyed and even upset by the reactions of others—and you creating tools to strengthen your relationship. I met with several engaged couples who realized the importance of discussing finances before getting married. One young man was not sure how to address the issue with his fiancé without hurting her feelings. He made a proactive choice saying; “I have arranged a meeting with my accountant so we can discuss how things change when we are married.” Exploring new options ahead of time, allowed the couple to investigate their goals and begin thinking as a team.

Some couples never communicate about their finances. Connie told James she had sent checks for the previous year’s estimated tax payments. Imagine James’s surprise when the government filed a lien against him. It was a shock for James to discover Connie was unable to deal with taxes. Instead of responding with anger, he decided to handle their taxes in the future.

Does this lack of communication affect your finances? Does your spouse spend beyond his or her means? Do you still refuse to confront the issue? Do you have hidden money problems in your relationship? Have you ever hidden a foolish purchase from your partner? Almost every day, I hear about relationships that have problems revolving around money. Bring those issues into the light and find a win-win solution for achieving your shared goals.

Check out this money quiz for you and your partner to take together and build a more cohesive approach:

Here are a few tips to jump-start your shared financial journey:
Setting primary goals
Select the most important common goals
Set a budget for spending and saving
Define small steps to make it easier

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JOURNALING BUILDS INSIGHT and MINDFULNESS

3x3 Journaling Builds InsightHave you ever thought you needed a body double so you could get everything done? Maybe your thoughts and actions are too scattered. Starting a journal may help. Journaling builds insight and mindfulness. This simple tool is highly productive, only requiring paper and a pen. You will deepen your connection with what is most important to you when writing your thoughts on paper. You may find it easier to think about strategies, visualize a solution and create new pathways for creative thinking.

Sometimes the process of slowing down to reflect and review your thoughts results in a deeper capacity for innovation and more forward thinking. A person’s mind can have up to 60,000 thoughts during the day. Mobile devices push us to make even more teeny-tiny decisions each hour. When writing, most people can only process about one hundred words per minute, so any thoughts recorded on paper have a higher percentage of “sticking” or being remembered.

Journaling can be free form; it can be doodles that mean something to you or your thoughts can be directed toward a particular problem or challenge. Some people carry a journal with them at all times and jot down inspiring ideas as they pop up during the day. Others may end the day with 10 minutes of quiet, introspective thoughts. There is no wrong or right way; each person is unique. The primary challenge for many individuals is to be consistent. Giving yourself permission to take 5-30 minutes to sit quietly and put your thoughts in order sounds like a huge chunk of time for many, but when compared to the 24 hours given to us each day, it isn’t that much time at all!

Journaling builds insight into why you act the way you do and can aid you in changing your perspective on people around you, your job and your life goals. Journaling builds mindfulness as you delve into the emotional side of your life and then look at your problems more objectively to make proactive, intentional actions that will make your life better.

Go ahead; purchase a small spiral notebook or a fancy leather bound book. Both will work just fine. Put that pen or pencil to paper & give yourself a chance. Let journaling build your insight and mindfulness!

~Bob

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Burden of College Loan Debt

3x3 TMN CollegeLoanDebtToday’s millennial generation is striving to live the same American dream their parents achieved, but many graduates are drowning under the burden of college loan debt, saddled with a variety of loans that will take decades to pay off. Everyone agrees that higher education translates into better jobs and workforce, but at what price? Not all college graduates are reaping the perceived payoff.

What can be done to assist this emerging workforce with navigating the massive burden of debt successfully? What are some ideas for helping this generation grow their careers while building wealth instead of suffocating from enormous college loan debt?

A few companies like the El Paso-based JAR Construction, are investigating loan assistance as one of the perks of employment. The companies feel this benefit aids in decreasing stress, gives their new employees options to pay down the debt and may also assist in employee retention.

http://www.elpasoinc.com/news/local_news/article_1f4ff13e-4782-11e6-9279-3fece6cbb319.html

There are now several credit cards that allow its users to transfer reward points and cash-back dollars to be used for payment toward student loans. Gradifi, a Boston-based startup that helps people pay down student loans, announced its partnership with a small bank to offer the card, backed by a checking account insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Cardholders will earn 1% rewards with the Gradifi MasterCard debit card on all signature-based purchases.
http://www.bankrate.com/finance/credit-cards/rewards-program-to-pay-off-student-loan.aspx#ixzz4E8KtreNn

Even if you are not a student and have multiple credit cards or have racked up more debt than you can handle, remember that small steps will win the bigger battle against debt. A good rule of thumb is to pay all minimum amounts due and concentrate on the lowest balance owed. Get that one account paid off, close out the account and then aim for the next one. A small success can give you the power to tackle more!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lule-demmissie/think-small-a-new-strateg_b_10772704.html

If you are looking for a way to destroy debt and find financial freedom in your life, be sure to explore “The Money Boom” workshop. My colleagues, David Auten and John Schneider (aka the DebtFreeGuys) and I will be hosting this one-day seminar on Saturday, August 6, in Denver, CO. You will be given proven techniques and tools to lay the foundation for living a life of abundance and security. Let us help you drop your debt!

Learn More Here:

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SPRING CLEANING YOUR FINANCES

Spring Clean 4x4 300 dpiWhat are you waiting for? It’s Time to Spring Clean your Finances! For most people, the idea of climbing Mount Everest is scary. The thought of walking along a narrow trail with a three-thousand-foot cliff at its edge may leave you frozen in your tracks. In a similar scenario, some people are terrified of facing their budgets, their level of spending and how they will live once they have retired.

Most people spend their lives confronting financial fear by ignoring it.

Join me for a quick and easy “Spring Cleaning your Finances challenge! For the next two weeks, I will be sharing easy tips for you to clean out what you don’t need and give you some tools to make the most of the income you have! Clear out the dust, drop that debt and take advantage of #TheMoneyNerve tips to “Spring Clean Your Finances!”

Please like and share the Money Nerve posts and feel free to share some of your favorite tips for saving money. Tag @themoneynerve and use the hashtags #SpringClean #TheMoneyNerve when sharing or posting. On Monday, May 2, one winner will be randomly selected from these social media posts to win a complimentary 30-minute financial session with me via Skype.

Financial fear can make you stop in your tracks. Not taking a look at your account balances, not making any decisions, ignoring your family, and not knowing when to take good advice are a few examples of how people start to freeze up. Now that tax time has ended, it is the perfect opportunity to review, refine and move forward financially. It is smart to re-organize your life: the house, the garage, the medicine cabinet, and your finances on an annual basis. Fine-tuning your goals will help to make the next year easier and more prosperous!

Let’s go!

Bob