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New Year – Now What?

Happy New Year! It’s 2019. Cheers! Here’s to the New Year and New Beginnings!

For some of us, we stayed up til midnight to see the New Year come in, and others stayed up to make sure that the old year went away! Each year we have the same amount of days. It’s 365 days no matter what year it is (unless of course it’s Leap Year). The only difference is what we decide to do with our days .

So, what resolutions did you make this year? Setting goals is a great way to gain clarity. However, while goals are good, it’s also important to have realistic expectations and acquire consistent habits that will help you to obtain your goal. If your goal is to make more money this year then you should start off by setting a specific and rational amount you want to achieve and work toward it. It doesn’t matter if your amount is $5,000 or $50,000. Be honest with yourself about what’s feasible and what consistent habits you will need to establish in order for your financial goals to come to fruition. Do you need to save more, work a second job or earn more money by getting a pay raise or applying for a different job that pays more? Basic questions like these are easy to ask yourself but sometimes more difficult to answer without a well thought out plan.

Remember, it’s a New Year! There is plenty of time to make mistakes and start anew! Don’t worry if things don’t go as planned right away. The key is to just set the goal. Be realistic and start the plan. 1)Remember, be honest with yourself and your expectations. 2) Work on starting out with one goal at a time. This will help keep you from getting too distracted or overwhelmed. 3) Track your progress (this will help you stay accountable). 4. Ask for help if you need it. Sometimes it just takes another voice to encourage you and keep you on track!

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2019. It’s Your Year! Make it a great one!

Change is in the Air


Tax change, that is. My last post went through the basics of your tax return. I want to stick with the tax topic for one more week to give you a quick guide to understanding how the new tax laws will impact your 2018 tax return. Remember, knowledge is power! (Note: this is a very high-level overview. As with all things tax, there are “if, and’s, and but’s” to everything. This is simply to help you identify questions you should be discussing with your tax advisor.)
Rates – for married filing joint taxpayers, the rates are lower for 2018 than for 2017 at all but the lowest (10%) bracket. The amount of the rate decrease varies by income level so take a look at the rate tables to see what has happened to your rate.
Income – yep it’s still taxable – no change to the “normal” items like wages, dividends, capital gains, etc. The only “common” change is in relation to alimony received so make sure you talk to your tax advisor if you are divorcing. This provision relates to divorce agreements after 2018.
Adjustments – there were not a lot of changes in this area but a couple worth noting:
• Alimony paid will no longer be an adjustment for agreements after 2018.
• Domestic production activities deduction is no longer available. See line 35 of your 1040 to

Area 2017 & Prior 2018 to 2025
Medical Expenses > 10% of AGI is deductible > 7.5% of AGI is deductible (for 2018-2019)
SALT – State & Local Taxes Unlimited Limited to $10k total (that’s state taxes + property taxes)
Mortgage Interest Acquisition debt limited to $1.1 million in order for interest to be deductible Acquisition debt limited to $750k – HELOC interest not deductible
Gifts to Charity Limited to 50% of AGI Increased to 60% of AGI
Casualty & Theft Losses > 10% of income deductible No deduction
Job & Misc Deductions > 2% of AGI is deductible No deduction (this is your tax prep fee & investment management fee and well as unreimbursed job expenses)
Limitation on itemized deductions Itemized deductions limited for higher income levels Repealed – no limitation

Standard Deduction – doubled. Look at line 40 of your 2017 tax return. If it is less than $24,000 for married filing jointly, you won’t need to itemize for 2018 (assuming no changes in these areas). That makes some of the Itemized deduction changes/limitations mentioned above meaningless. This is the big area to consider as you are looking at your tax situation for 2018.
20% Deduction for “qualified business income” from certain “flow-through” entities and sole proprietorships – this relates to certain K-1 income from S-Corps and partnerships but also potentially from Schedule C businesses. This is an area that is quite complex and has a lot of exclusions so if you have K-1 income, definitely discuss this with your tax advisor to see if you will qualify, and if so, what the impact will be.
Personal Exemptions – gone. Ouch, the $4,050 per dependent reduction in AGI to get to taxable income has been repealed. Look at line 42 of your 2017 tax return to see the impact. At high income levels, these phased out anyway, so it may not impact you.
There are many, many more components to this tax legislation, but I wanted to hit the high points so that you have some idea of the new rules for the tax game. It’s your money so make sure you understand the rules you are forced to play by!

To your financial (and tax) success!
Tana

Information is taken from sources believed to be accurate, but you should not rely on this information except as the basis for discussion with a knowledgeable tax professional.
Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are the personal views of Tana Gildea and are not to be construed as individual advice or as the advice or opinions of Homrich Berg; They should not be considered recommendations as each person’s financial situation is unique to her; they may or may not apply to your situation. If you believe that something communicated may be relevant to your situation, Tana strongly encourages you to consult with your individual tax or financial advisor prior to taking action so that the totality of your unique situation is considered.

Be Where You Are

2018 is two months behind us and many of our new year’s resolutions have already fallen by the wayside. The luster of the new year and the anticipation of the possibilities in front of us may have been washed away with the rain, snow and gloom of the winter months. The gray days drain away our drive.

Ah, this is where we are as March is underway. The sun is starting to shine, but that cold wind pushes us back inside. And how about your relationship with your money? How is it holding up after the flurry of holiday spending and the arrival of the bills? How are you feeling about the way that 2017 wrapped up? Let’s take a moment and think back through the year and note a couple of things that you wish had gone a bit differently financially. Where do you want a do-over?

List two things that weigh on you from last year. Own them – “ya, wish I hadn’t done that.” Now, list what you wish you would have done differently. That is the lesson learned! The feeling of regret is not there to weigh you down; it is there to guide you to something better. Sure, you had to pay a little tuition to get one of life’s lessons, but that’s ok – this is where you are. Now you know better. Now you can set yourself up for success in 2018! Use that regret to fuel your journey to success.

Now, list two or three or four or more things that you are really proud of. “Ya, I totally rocked that!” Let’s take a minute to bask in the awesomeness of financial control and acuity. Wow, that feels so much better. We definitely want to feel more of this.
So what steps can you take to stand firmly where you are, full of the knowledge of past successes and opportunities for do-overs this year, and plan for your 2018 success?

Ready, set, shake off the gray, embrace your goals and make 2018 your year of financial prowess.
To your financial success!

Tana

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are the personal views of Tana Gildea and are not to be construed as individual advice or the advice or opinions of Homrich Berg. They should not be considered recommendations as each person’s financial situation is unique to her; they may or may not apply to your situation. If you believe that something communicated may be relevant to your situation, Tana strongly encourages you to consult with your individual tax or financial advisor prior to taking action so that the totality of your unique situation is considered.

What’s Your Story?

I just finished reading a lovely book about the magical Waverley women*. If you are a Waverley, you are odd but have a talent that borders on the magical. The Matteson men in the story are prominent business leaders while the Young’s are known for their physical strength. It is a source of pride for some, rebellion for others, but the stories about these families are long-lived and well-known. It makes it easy to know where everyone stands.
Of course, not everyone is ever any one thing all the time and certainly all members of a family aren’t the same. It is interesting the myths that can surround people or families, and it reminded me of a woman who approached me after one of my presentations. She told me how her father always talked about the “Smith family money curse.” The curse being that every time they got a little ahead, something came along to wipe out the reserves. The woman had heard the stories so often that she, and everyone, just believed that their family couldn’t get ahead. (Of course, the other way to view this is that they are fortunate to have extra resources in a time of trouble, but that’s a different blog!)
The interesting thing is the stories. The stories hold the power and can shape our beliefs. What stories are told about your family, both your immediate family and your family of origin? In particular, what money stories surround you and your people? Was grandpa known as someone “with the Midas touch” or maybe someone who had “a hole in his pocket?” Maybe great-grandma was a financial whiz who was ahead of her time (and hopefully handed down this great skill to her kids and grandkids.)
Stories can be powerful because they create beliefs. Those beliefs will take on a life of their own if our faith in them is strong enough. The big question is whether those beliefs are serving you and moving you in a positive direction. If they are, facts don’t really matter. Cling to those stories: “yes, I have grandpa’s Midas touch.” Go with it! If the beliefs are not so great and are holding you back, let’s dig for facts and start dispelling the myth. Even if grandpa had a “hole in his pocket,” you can carefully examine your own pockets and shore up all those seams! It is your choice. Just as the Smith daughter made the choice not to participate in the Smith family money curse, you can choose which part of the family lore you’d like to own and which you can leave to the mists of time.

To your financial stories and the success they may bring,

Tana

*First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen (but read Garden Spells first as you’ll want to meet the Waverley’s properly.) These are perfect books for a cold day when curling up with a blanket, a cup of tea, and a great book are a perfect escape from the drudgery of your to-do list.

Finish Strong!

2017 is flying by! Today as I write this, we enter the 4th quarter of 2017. How is it going? For me, each quarter is a transition point, a signpost to acknowledge that time is passing, and I need to pay attention. As I have written in the past, this has been a year of frenzy for me personally and professionally and seems to be a blur. I am consciously choosing to stop and be aware in this moment, to stop moving and reacting in a frantic way and to consciously choose how I experience the last quarter of this year. I very much want it to be different from the last 3!

I am looking closely at my spending (a lot) and saving (not enough). That, for me, is a symptom of living at too fast a pace – no time to plan or prepare or think ahead – let me just grab it, order it, drive through – frantic, frantic – no time for looking at my spending plan – just get it done. This is the time for me to stop and say “enough.” Settle down, take a breath, align with what is important. Here are some things that I am thinking about for this last quarter:

• What is truly important to me? Does my spending match up to that?
• Where is my money going? Is that supporting and enriching my life?
• Do I feel financially safe? How can I use my money to improve that?
• Have I done everything possible to minimize my tax bill this year?

o Keeping close track of charitable deductions
o Maximizing retirement savings plans
o Keeping my files organized so that tax prep is painless
o Keeping up with all of my business expenses
o Fully funding my health savings account

• Do I have a plan to manage the holidays without debt?

o How can I recognize my family and friends in a way that does not jeopardize my goals and my financial health?
o What will bring joy to my holidays rather than stress?
o What gifts can I give that will be the most meaningful? (Likely that has little to do with money.)

I hope you will join me in a quick time out to think, to plan, and to prepare for this last quarter of the year. Too, too soon I will be writing about 2018! Savor the moment. Seize the day. Finish the year strong and confident in your plans.
To your financial (and 4th quarter) success!

Tana

Spring Forward

I was honored to speak at Lori’s WOYN Breakfast Series on April 28 and so enjoyed my time at the Commerce Club with all of the ladies who were able to attend. (If you have not attended one, take a look at the upcoming schedule and see if you can get it on your calendar!)
While I don’t have the space to go through everything that I presented to them, I did want to share my approach for springing forward with your finances. Think about an area of your financial life that you are dissatisfied with. Take a moment and write it down. Now let’s SPRING forward to improve that situation:

See the situation – view the situation objectively. If emotions are coming up, explore the what, when, why, and how to become clear about why it is emotional for you. Then view it with your actual mind – get rid of the “always,” “never,” and “can’t” statements. List out the facts of the situation and how you would like it to change.
Plan a new approach – what specific action step could you take today to move you from where you are to where you want to be? Continue to list the actions necessary to take another small step.

o     Get the swirling thoughts and ideas out of your head and write it down;
o     Bullet points are best – 1, 2, 3, 4 – that objectifies it, breaks it into smaller pieces, and gives you a specific action step to focus on.
o      Nothing is more empowering than making a plan;
o      Nothing kills fear, guilt, and shame like a plan!

Recruit a positive emotion to feel the way you want to feel
o      Grab hold of the feeling that you want to embody:
o      Confident,
o      Capable,
o      Competent, (we often avoid when we feel incompetent!)
o       In control;
o       Use emotion to power you forward rather than drag you down!

Invest the time
o      This is not going to change overnight;
o       Let go of frustration;
o       Try, try again;
o       It’s a process.
Narrow your focus
o     Pick your biggest battle, the thing/area that is most important to you or is the source of the most frustration,
o     You can’t change everything at once,
o      It is a process,
o      Sometimes you fall a little backward before you spring forward.
Give yourself credit
o      Little victories are cause for big recognition and celebration;
o      You didn’t create the bad habits in a day and you won’t change them that quickly either.
o      Understand that under stress, it all falls apart; it’s ok – just pick yourself up and start anew.

Put some spring in your step by taking one issue that is weighing you down and springing forward to a better place. It may take some time but small steps can take you around the world if you just keep on stepping.

To your financial success,

Tana

When is the last time you checked your Integrity?

It describes a person who is integrated, blended into a whole, as opposed to a person of many parts, many faces, many disconnects. James Stockdale from Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

I love this description of integrity. We (or maybe it’s just me) tend to think of character or honesty when we hear the word integrity, but James gives us a different spin on it that really makes me think of integrity more in terms of “integrated” and the connotation of wholeness and connectedness. Are we dealing with our financial lives in an integrated way? Just because we don’t cheat on our taxes, do pay our fair share, and don’t steal the post-its from the office doesn’t mean that we are dealing with our financial lives in an “integrated, blended into a whole” way.

Prioritizing Financial Life

Do you have conflicts in your financial lives? Duh – of course. Other than Bill Gates and Oprah, most of us have conflicting pulls on our money – pay down the debt, save for college, save for retirement, fix the leaky roof, get new tires, braces for the kids, take a vacation. The list of needs goes on and on and the paycheck runs out much too quickly. This is a life that does have conflicting parts.

It is much too easy to prioritize what is right in front of us (braces, leaky roof) and kick the can down the road on things like college savings and retirement. I do it all the time – “I’ll just get a few things for the house and next month, I will be able to focus on debt/college/retirement.” Next month will bring more leaks, more chipped paint, and more broken stuff that needs to be replaced. The circle of life has moved from the law of the jungle to Murphy’s law – if it can go wrong, it will.

Areas of financial focus

When this is life, we are not really living in integrity; we are living in a dis-integrated, pieces and parts way. It doesn’t feel good to be pulled in so many directions at the same time. It is hard to ignore those “squeaky wheels” that stare us in the face every day and keep our focus off the long-term. To be “living in integrity” does require a vision of wholeness, though. It isn’t easy (again, maybe it’s just me), but I think it is worthwhile for our mental wholeness and integrity (maybe integratedness.) Here are a few things that I am trying to think about as I work (always) on making my financial life “integrated” with what is truly important:

  • Is this use of money in alignment with what is really a priority for me or is it a momentary distraction – (healthy cooking is in alignment with my priorities, but really, is another cookbook necessary when I can get 10 million free recipes with two clicks?)
  • Is this use of money in alignment with my partner’s goals? (Do I really know my partner’s goals or do I just impose them on him? Let’s not ask him as the answer is likely to be embarrassing to me.)
  • Will this make me feel better about myself and my goals a week or a month from now? (Honestly, the $200 that I spent updating my laundry room (ok! $300) makes me so happy every single time that I walk in there – like 5-times-a-day kind of happy. That was worth it. The Kombucha brewing kit is stabbing me with guilt every time I walk by the barely-opened box.)
  • Where do I feel financially disconnected or dis-integrated – not falling apart disintegrated but not integrated, not connected, disjointed? Make a list, really. Writing it down gets it out of your head and into the light of day so that you can do something about it. Take the stuff you feel yucky about and write it down. The act of being honest is one of integrity (character kind of integrity) that will make you feel great about yourself. It is also one of honesty and wholeness. Embracing your greedy spoiled brat is an honest (if not particularly attractive) quality. Most of us have one so admitting it is the first step. Mine is super materialistic and demanding, ever-present, and quite vocal. I wish I could cultivate the minimalist mother-earth part of me that I know is in there, but she is quiet, shy, and probably off meditating somewhere while my spoiled brat is surfing amazon.com with my credit card. (Sigh – this is a never-ending inner battle).

 

True Confessions

When we live with integrity we are an integrated, complete whole rather than a dis-integrated, crumbling array of conflicting parts. Brian Johnson (aside – if you don’t know Brian, go to optimize.me – you are in for a treat! The quote above is from one of his Philosopher’s Notes ~ awesome!!)

  • Where do you feel like a “crumbling array of conflicting parts”? Just admit it. Write it down and stay honest.

Now that you have ‘fessed up, just stay present with how you feel about this. It is really ok and completely human to be a bit of mess in some areas (or so I tell myself.) We are pretty on top of it most of the time so allow yourself to have a few areas that you are working on. If you do feel a bit dis-integrated and disjointed, ponder it. Ask yourself, “what is one thing that I can do right now to become more integrated, more whole, more connected to my truth?” Now. Do. It. Do that one thing. You will feel so good, so happy, so proud of yourself, that maybe, tomorrow, you will do one more thing. Yep, you know – just do it.

To your financial success (and integrity)!

Tana

What are you are passionate about?

Last week, I talked about a different definition of generosity which involved having a giving plan which is “premeditated, calculated and designated.” So, I am moving in the direction of premeditation as a first step to creating a formal giving plan.

Another question that Andy Stanley asked to help move people forward in their generosity plan was: “What are the organizations that you are most passionate about?” Good question and as really good questions will tend to be, this one was thought-provoking. As my kids launch into their own independent lives, the organizations that have received my passion (and my time, talent, and treasure) are no longer relevant – their schools, their activities, their passions. So what are mine? Where do I want to make an impact?

I certainly care about many things and there are certainly more problems to be solved in the world than I can tackle here, but creating a focus does take some consideration. One place to get the juices flowing is at volunteermatch.org. This is a great place to browse by area and find your own areas of interest. You can find organizations that need volunteers (of course, they all need money) and get insights into what is being done locally, nationally, and internationally in your area of interest.

I like the idea of “hand up” versus “hand out” and helping to create opportunities for others. I’ve written about Kiva.org before so you can look back at old blogs on that if you are interested in finding out more. I want to keep that going with more consistent donations. If that is an interest for you, search for team Graduate’s Guide and start lending today. You can pick from a variety of regions and specialty groups. It is not giving per se (unless you donate to Kiva.org directly), but it is providing capital for those in need of it and I keep the funds flowing back out as repayments are made. See if that might be a good place for you to start (with as little as $25).

I also really like organizations like Heifer International and Habitat for Humanity as well, and perhaps I will look to find an organization in Atlanta with a similar mission. Anyway, you get the idea of finding what you are passionate about and making a commitment to consistently do more. Many people look to their church or synagogue and that is great if you feel that doing so meets your need for the “generosity challenge.” I have given to my church out of habit more than anything else, and I think I want to expand my charitable interests a bit further.

What about you? Does Andy Stanley’s challenge about generosity make you a little uncomfortable? Does it shake up your ideas about yourself and what you do to support the organizations that you are passionate about? I do know that we all get into habits and sometimes it is good to shake up those habits, especially our money habits, and make sure they are still right for us, especially as our lives go through different stages and priorities and interests change.

Give it some thought and see if you want to take the “generosity challenge” and if you do, what will that look like for you and your community?

To your financial (and community) success!

 

Tana

 

Generosity Is Not a Feeling

That is a quote from Andy Stanley who is a pastor, writer, and speaker in Alpharetta. I recently attended a conference for financial planners, and he was one of the speakers. That statement really hit me because my acts of generosity are definitely inspired by the feeling I have in that moment: the child at the door raising money for band/sports/schools, the plea for funds at the charity dinner, the pictures of the starving animals on TV. Certainly I can be pushed into generosity, but is that really generosity? Andy would say, “absolutely not;” it’s a response to good marketing.

Andy describes generosity as the “premeditated, calculated, designated emancipation of personal assets.” Under that definition, I am not generous in the least!

Let’s look at that:

  1. Premeditated – planned in advance; an action and not a reaction (the child knocking on the door)
  2. Calculated – you know the amount
  3. Designated – you know where it is going
  4. Emancipation – you set your money free to do good in the world (how inspiring is the word emancipation!)

One thing that has always bothered me about my random acts of giving is that I am scattering seeds to the wind rather than purposely planting them where they will grow in a direction that is important and meaningful to me. That “designated” part was the initial source of unease for me but certainly premeditated and calculated are just as much an issue.

How do you rate under Andy’s definition of generosity? Is that definition meaningful for you? Maybe you have your own that makes sense in your life. Mine was based on responding to a need from someone else but did not ever really belong to me. What is my desire to share my blessings in a direction that touches my heart, and how do I go about doing that with some forethought?

This directly ties to Andy’s question: “what is your plan for supporting organizations and causes that you are passionate about?” Gulp. I am a major planner (uh, it’s actually part of my job title!), but I don’t have a plan in this area. I am as random and un-premeditated as you can get. Oh, good, another area of my financial world that needs work! What’s new?

So, I am moving in the direction of premeditation as a first step. What are the organizations that I am most passionate about? As my kids launch into their own independent lives, the organizations that have received my passion (and my time, talent, and treasure) are no longer relevant – their schools, their activities, their passions. So what are mine? Where do I want to make an impact?

Think about your own premeditation in this area. Is that meeting your heart’s desire? If not, take the step with me and start “meditating” on your own passion for changing the world.

To your financial success (and generosity),

Tana

Prosperity

Prosperity is the alignment of your beliefs, values, and actions.

Lorri Palko & Beth Egan

This is a unique way to look at the word prosperity. It puts a different spin on it and makes prosperity that much more attainable and controllable. “Alignment” is a great word to reflect what we truly want in our lives – for everything to be synched up, moving in the same direction, and flowing. We talk about the “stars aligning” or “everything falling in to place” as a nod to order and consistency.

As I was reflecting on that quote, I have a strong sense of the power that is inherent in aligning my beliefs, my values and my actions. The power of taking control, of being in charge, and of making things happen. We don’t wait around for prosperity to find us, we create it! So, to begin creating, consider:

  • What are your beliefs about your financial abilities? Your ability to make money, use it appropriately, and accumulate wealth.
  • What are your values around your financial life? What is the most important aspect of living authentically for yourself in this area?
  • What actions can you take today, tomorrow and going forward to make sure that you are living in prosperity by aligning what you belief, what you value, and what you do?

It is rarely the “big bang,” the grand gesture, or the sudden action that brings prosperity. It is the daily activities, the million small decisions, and the commitment to align your actions completely with what you believe and value.

To your financial prosperity!

Tana

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