personal finance

Three Steps to Stop Freaking Out About Your Finances

Three Steps to Stop Freaking Out About Your Finances

Before we begin, I’d like to introduce you to the pyramid of financial awesome.

The pyramid of financial awesomeness, lays out everything you need to do to get your personal financial life together. You start at bottom and then progress upward.

In this post, I’m going to walk you through the three things you can do to build a solid foundation.

How to Shift Your Mindset Around Money

How to Shift Your Mindset Around Money

I usually hate Maroon 5. But it’s Saturday night in Little Tokyo and a stranger is absolutely slaying his version of ‘Sunday Morning’. The crowd is feeling it and the next thing I know I’m totally grooving to the only thing crappier than an actual Maroon 5 song - a cover of a Maroon 5 song. But I don’t care that I look like a loser. After all, it’s a karaoke bar.

Stop Not Understanding Life Insurance: The Definitive Guide

Imagine a room full of people running the odds on how long a stranger will live or die and then making bets on those odds. It could sound like an interesting scene in a movie, where questionable characters indulge in some casual underground gambling, but what I’m actually describing is a room full of underwriters in the life insurance industry.

When you look at it that way, doesn’t the insurance industry sound fascinating? It’s one of the biggest industries in the world and it’s all based on risks and making bets.

Do You Need a Will?

"I have an app on my phone and it reminds me 5 times a day that I’m going to die,” is exactly what one of my friends told me recently. I stopped and thought about what she said, coming to the conclusion that I didn’t find it morbid. In fact, I think it’s a little weird that we don’t talk about dying more often; that we go around living our lives, putting things off as if we have all the time in the world.

Paco’s Law: Expenses expand to reach the limits of what's available to spend

I’m sure you’ve heard of Murphy’s law; an old adage that states "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” And then there is Parkinson's law that basically boils down to: work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

Now, I’d like to introduce you to Paco’s law.

How to Be "Financially Responsible"

How to Be Financially Responsible | The Basics of Financial Responsibility

One of the most frequent financial struggles that people talk to me or email me about is having trouble being "fiscally responsible".

When it comes to doing the things one ought to do with their money, according to what I've learned from the industry and society at large, we fall short in a few common ways. Most people have trouble saving when you know you should save, curbing spending on bull shit that you don't need and understanding how the financial markets and economics. I get it. I make weird choices too. A lot of us do it because we're emotional creatures that act on our feelings

 

What Do You Need to File Your Taxes? Your Tax Prep Checklist

What Do You Need to File Your Taxes? Your Tax Prep Checklist.jpg

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, friends. Yes, welcome to the joys of tax season!

The tax checklist below can be used to help you find and organize the tax documents that you’ll need to prepare and file your taxes.

 

Personal Information

  • Your social security number or tax ID number
  • Your spouse's full name and social security number or tax ID number

I f you have a dependent or dependents, here’s what you’ll need to gather:

  • Dates of birth and social security numbers or tax ID numbers of your dependents
  • Childcare records (including the provider's tax ID number) if applicable
  • Income of other adults in your home
  • Form 8332 showing that the child’s custodial parent is releasing their right to claim a child to you, the noncustodial parent (this may or may not be applicable to you)

 

Records of Your Income

If you were employed during the year:

  • Forms W-2

If you received any unemployment benefits:

  • Unemployment, state tax refund (1099-G)

If you received income from being self-employed:

  • Forms 1099-MISC that you receive for work you or your business performed.
  • Schedules K-1 (usually your business’ accountant will prepare these)
  • Records of all expenses — check registers or credit card statements, and receipts. If you have been keeping track of these things through bookkeeping, your expenses should get reported to your annual profit and loss statement.
  • Business-use asset information (cost, date placed in service, etc.) for depreciation. If you have been keeping track of these things through bookkeeping, some of this data will show up on a balance sheet and some of the data your accountant will help you figure out.
  • Office in home information, if applicable. What’s the square footage of the space you use for business only? How much is your monthly rent or mortgage?
  • Record of estimated tax payments (Form 1040ES), if you made any.

If you earn Rental Income from renting a property:

  • Records of income and expenses
  • Rental asset information (cost, date placed in service, etc.) for depreciation
  • Record of estimated tax payments made (Form 1040ES)

If you’re retired and you have Retirement Income from your retirement assets/accounts:

  • Pension/IRA/annuity income (1099-R) - You can usually find this online.
  • Traditional IRA basis - The amounts you contributed to the IRA that were already taxed
  • Social security/RRB income (1099-SSA, RRB-1099)

If you earned interest or dividends from your Savings & Investments  

  • Interest, dividend income (1099-INT, 1099-OID, 1099-DIV) - You can usually find these online.
  • If you sold stocks or other assets/property, how much income did you earn from these sales. This information is usually reported on a 1099-B, 1099-S
  • If form 1099-B doesn’t have the price you paid of the assets you sold, you’ll need to track that down.
  • If you have reimbursements from a Health Savings Account or long-term care reimbursements (1099-SA or 1099-LTC)
  • Expenses related to your investments - What fees do you pay for the privilege of investing your money?
  • Record of estimated tax payments made (Form 1040ES), if you made any

Other Income & Losses. These may or may not be applicable to you:

  • Gambling income (W-2G or records showing income, as well as expense records)
  • Any income from jury duty records
  • Hobby income and expenses
  • Prizes and awards
  • Trusts
  • Royalty Income 1099 Misc.
  • Any other 1099s received
  • Re cord of alimony paid/received with Ex-spouse’s name and SSN

 

Deductions

If you own a Home:

  • Forms 1098 or other mortgage interest statements
  • Real estate and personal property tax records
  • Receipts for energy-saving home improvements
  • All other 1098 series forms

If you made any Charitable Donations:

  • Cash amounts donated to houses of worship, schools, other charitable organizations. Usually the 501c(3) you donated to will provide you with receipt or letter that reflects the amount you donated.
  • Records of non-cash charitable donations
  • Amounts of mi les driven for charitable or medical purposes

Medical Expenses

  • Amounts paid to doctors, dentists, hospitals

Health Insurance - The forms and certificates will be automatically sent to you, so just make sure to keep them with all your tax docs.

  • Form 1095-A if you enrolled in an insurance plan through the Marketplace (Exchange)
  • Form 1095-B and/or 1095-C if you had insurance coverage through any other source (i.e . an employer, insurance company, government health plan such as Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, TRICARE, VA, etc.)
  • Marketplace exemption certificate (ECN) if you applied for and received an exemption from the Marketplace (Exchange)

If you had any Childcare Expenses:

  • Fees paid to a licensed day care center or family day care for care of an infant or preschooler.
  • Wages paid to a baby-sitter.
  • Don't  include expenses paid through a flexible spending account at work.

If you had any Educational Expenses:

  • Forms 1098-T from educational institutions
  • Form1098-E if you paid student loan interest
  • Receipts that itemize qualified educational expenses
  • Records of any scholarships or fellowships you received

State & Local Taxes or Sales Tax

  • Amount of state/local income tax paid (other than wage withholding), or amount of state and local sales tax paid
  • Invoice showing amount of vehicle sales tax paid

If you made any contributions to a Retirement Account & Other Savings

  • Form 5498-SA showing HSA contributions
  • Form 5498 showing IRA contributions
  • All other 5498 series forms (5498-QA, 5498-ESA)

Job Expenses & Tax Prep Fees

  • Employment related vehicle expenses (tolls, mileage, gas, maintenance, license, property tax, interest expense, parking)
  • For educators in grades K-12, receipts for classroom expenses
  • Employment-related expenses (dues, publications, tools, uniform cost and cleaning, travel)
  • Job-hunting expenses
  • Record of moving expenses not reimbursed by employer
  • Amount paid for preparation of last year’s tax return

If you suffered a Federally Declared Disaster

  • City/county you lived/worked/had property in
  • Records to support property losses (appraisal, clean up costs, etc.)
  • Records of rebuilding/repair costs
  • Insurance reimbursements/claims to be paid
  • FEMA assistance information
  • Check FEMA site to see if my your has been declared a federal disaster area

 

How to Be "Fiscally Responsible"

One of the most frequent financial struggles that people talk to me or email me about is having trouble being "fiscally responsible".

When it comes to doing the things one ought to do with their money, according to what I've learned from the industry and society at large, we fall short in a few common ways. Most people have trouble saving when you know you should save, curbing spending on bull shit that you don't need and understanding how the financial markets and economics. I get it. I make weird choices too. A lot of us do it because we're emotional creatures that act on our feelings

 

Understanding Credit Card Balance Transfers

A balance transfer is when you pay off a higher interest credit card with a lower interest credit card. You're transferring the balance from one credit card to another. A lot people use this strategy with their personal finances to get out of credit card debt. Credit card companies will often advertise balance transfer deals where no interest will be charged for a certain period of time. For example 0% interest (APR) on balance transfers for 12 months. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? It can be, but there are some things you should know before making the transfer.