Budgeting

Tax and Financial Updates

There have been a lot of tax and financial announcements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some tax, unemployment and loan updates.

Tax Filing and Payment Due Dates Extended

The Treasury Secretary announce that the tax deadline for all businesses and individuals is delayed from April 15th to July 15th. Additionally, they will be able to make payments without interest or penalties. Initially, the extension was only for paying your taxes, but now it is for both filing and paying. So far, there isn’t any news from the State of NJ

Unemployment

If you were laid off, then do not hesitate to collect unemployment through your state’s Department of Labor website, even if it is temporary. Be aware that some of the websites have crashed due to the high volume of claimants. Also, for business owners, such as officers who own 5% or more of a corporation, you generally cannot collect unemployment.

SBA Loans

The SBA will offer low-interest loans of up to $2 million with low interest rates and long repayment terms. To qualify, you must show: a lack of working capital and loss of revenue related to COVID-19, financing is not available elsewhere (i.e., a rejection from your bank that you are currently using), your state’s governor will need to request that the Disaster Assistance Loans be open to their state, and meet the lending requirements.

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Wanna Be More Comfortable Financially?

Isn’t this what everyone says, that they want to be more comfortable financially? There are two ironies that are common with this thought, but you can do something about it.

Scenario #1

In this scenario you are making a good living, saving plenty, built up a good portfolio of assets, and have little to no debts. You should feel secure and comfortable, but yet you do not. Due to the fact that finances are very, very emotions based would be the reason for this, but I’ll let the psychologists figure out the exact reason. Whatever the reason may be, there may be two solutions to help change your perspective in this case: be thankful for your strong finances and be more generous with your giving. Remember, you can’t take it with you at the end, and there are others that can use some help right now.

Scenario #2

This is probably a more common scenario, but also relates to everything else in life. You need to make more money, save more, pay off your debts, and make your finances more secure and comfortable. Ironically, every action you take is in direct contradiction to obtaining healthier finances, from impulsive spending, failing to save, purchasing on credit, and a lack of serious actions to make more money. Maybe the reason is because you’re getting by, although not in a financially healthy manner, or maybe you feel like you are being restricted if you save a purchase for another day. Either way, it’s not working out well and you need to make changes. Even if the changes are very, very small changes, such as saving just 1% of your income, you will be surprised by how effective this can be to get the momentum going.

Last Thought

I’m not sure which scenario is better or which one is easier to fix. Would you rather think you are not financially comfortable, but really are, or not be comfortable, but prevent yourself from getting there?

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Are You Keeping Track of the Right Metrics?

Financial information tends to bore most people except for accountants, accountants, and accountants. Even though the thought of looking through and analyzing numbers may scare you, there are some metrics that drive your financial results and should be measured carefully. They are usually more exciting to keep track of because they can also help predict your results. Here are some examples:

Customer Metrics

Volume: Examples of customer metrics can include: the number of patients, clients, or customers seen/visits per day, week, or month. An increase in this number will increase your sales, however, there may be a delay in actual cash received.

Sales per customer: Are your customers purchasing more or less from you? An easy way to increase sales is to increase the amount of sales to each customer.

Multiple Location Metrics

Same store sales or sales by location: If you have multiple locations, you must keep track of your sales by location. Ideally, you want to keep financials by location, but sales per location is a good starting point. You should compare the sales versus the same period last year and also with other locations.

Net profit by location: It’s great if your sales are doing well in one location, but if the profitability is poor, then you need to know this to make improvements or to shut down that location. Time and resources need to be spent at locations that will achieve the highest return.

Sales or Billings per Employee or by Employee

Sales results: Which employees are performing well, and which are not? What if you operate a real estate office and do not know which agents are your top performers and which are not performing?

Billings: For non-sales positions, especially professional services firms, a crucial number is billings per employee. A low amount may mean that you are over staffed or have inefficient operations. It is also critical to know billings per individual employee.

Leads & Sales Generation

# of leads: Are you receiving more inquiries or less inquiries compared to last month or last year at this time? An increase in leads should result in an increase of sales, but this is just the starting point.

Appointments scheduled: What is the percentage of inquiries that set appointments? You need to make sure that you are able to schedule appointments from your leads.

Appointments closed: A high closing ratio is the ultimate goal and a sign of sales productivity.

Customer acquisition cost: Ideally, you want to obtain customers at the lowest cost possible with the least amount of effort. The longer you retain a customer then the more you can spend trying to acquire them, but if you spend too much money on obtaining one-time customers then your profitability will suffer greatly.

The Metrics are Endless

There is an endless amount of metrics, and each industry has their own set of metrics that are measured, but sometimes metrics can be borrowed from outside your industry to make your own business more profitable. Review your situation to see which metrics will have the most impact to keep your success moving forward.

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Should Married Couples Keep Their Money in Separate Accounts?

It’s not uncommon for married couples to keep their money in separate accounts, specifically checking accounts. With retirement accounts, each spouse must have their money in a separate account, including IRA’s and 401k’s, but is it ideal for a married couple to have separate checking accounts vs. a joint account, and why is this important?

Exceptions

There are some situations where funds must be kept separate, such as the case of a spouse with some sort of addiction (spending, gambling, substance) or mental issue, but this must be done to protect the family. I’m not referring to this situation.

Business Analogy

Can you imagine starting a business with a partner and then telling them that there needs to be separate accounts for the business that they bring in vs. the business that you bring in? In some cases, you may be able to know this information, but it can start to get grey very quickly. If everything was separate, then how are you partners? Who pays which bills and when? Should each partner know what the other is doing financially? I have never heard of a business that has done this and if they have, then I would like to know how it worked out. On a practical level, it is no longer a partnership. If a husband and wife have separate accounts then how can they behave like partners, financially speaking?

Unity

Having a joint checking account forces both spouses to work together and communicate about finances. Finances permeate through all aspects of a family from simple matters to more complex matters. A joint checking account keeps both spouses on the same page, and helps to keep them accountable to each other. It also helps to minimize selfishness and sets a focus on the family. With separate accounts, you can easily spend money on your own needs instead of putting the needs of your spouse and family first.

Asset protection

Do you want to know how to protect your assets in a marriage? Protect the health of the marriage so you do not have to worry about divorce. Practically speaking, what are you really protecting if you have separate checking accounts? The point of a checking account is not to save money, but it is used to pay for the operating expenses of the family.

Interdependence vs. Independence

It’s great to be independent, but interdependence is a more mature, evolved, and higher level of thinking. Independence states that “I” am important while interdependence shows that “we” are important. Which would you rather be?

Give it a Test Drive

If you are currently keeping your checking accounts separate, then why not give a joint checking account a chance? Try it out for 3 – 6 months and see if it changes the nature of your relationship. If they get better then let me know, but if things get worse, then don’t tell your spouse that you got the idea from this article.

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Do You Make a Good Living and are Actually Poor? You Probably Need to Stop Doing These 3 Things.

We spend so much of our time working, working, and then working some more to make a good living, but do you have anything to show for it? I don’t mean showing off, but rather having a strong financial foundation with minimal debts, savings, investments, and other valuable assets. If not, then keep reading . . .

#1: Stop Justifying Every Expense

Expenses can always be justified and rationalized even when they aren’t. It’s okay to spend money, but it should be in line with your economic situation. The funny thing is that as your income increases, your spending almost always increases in tandem, and sometimes even more than the increase of income. Relax, and spend a little slower while saving more. Remember, the goal of savings is to support yourself and your family for emergencies, large expenses such as college, and when you eventually stop working and retire.

Step #2: Caring What Others Think

Guess what? No one cares about your material possessions except on a superficial level. Sometimes people will briefly talk about you because you drive an older car (even though it may be a luxury car that is fully paid for), live in an older house, have crabgrass growing on your lawn (unfortunately it dies in the winter, otherwise it is nice and thick in my opinion), take non-Disney vacations (aren’t you exhausted afterwards anyway?), and don’t wear Uggs or brand names on your shirts and jeans (I like that only those rare individuals with fine taste in men’s shoes appreciate the awfully expensive shoes I wear though). The bottom line is not to stretch yourself to seek status or to impress others, but to spend according to your state in life.

Step #3: Saving Last

This is one of those times that math doesn’t make sense. You need to save first otherwise there will be no savings left over. You would think that the order doesn’t matter, but is does matter in the real world. Also, save up on a percentage basis, so that when your income grows, your savings grow also.

Summing it Up

These bad habits are prevalent among those that earn $50k, $500k, or more. Bad habits will follow you through your life regardless of where you are economically. Once you recognize this, hopefully you will be able to change course instead of feeling like you are always running and getting nowhere.

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How to Destroy Your Business Success in 6 Steps

Sometimes to be successful means to avoid doing the things that will destroy your success. It’s easy to go down the wrong path and it’s important to be aware of this.

Step #1: Saddling Your Business with Debt

Conventional wisdom states that there is smart debt vs. dumb debt or a similar description of two kinds of debt. Although there is some truth to this, the bottom line is that large amounts of debt will cause a huge handicap to your business, especially a start-up. Even if you are doing well it will not feel like it when you have massive debt payments each month or sometimes on a daily or weekly basis if you took out a predatory lender loan. When you have easy access to large amounts of debt it numbs your sense of being financially cautious, prudence, and allows you to spend your money on things that can easily be justified but are not necessary.

Step #2: Poor People Management

See what happens if you constantly treat your employees, vendors, and customers disrespectfully. The end result will be high turnover, sabotage, lack of a sense of shared purpose, losing customers, and everything else negative. It is amazing to see how little attention is paid to the management of people in a poor performing business.

Step #3: Over Working Yourself

There are times when you need to work more or work more rigorously, but if done for too long, then your productivity will decline, decision making becomes worse, and you may find yourself in the hospital for stress induced health reasons.

Step #4: Not Listening to the Right Advisors

Unemployed Uncle Jimmy with a string of failed businesses will not provide you with the advice you need, and if he does provide you with advice, then do the opposite. Or, which is also very commonplace, is to seek the advice of the wrong professional. Make sure the professional that you confide in is an expert with the advice you are looking for.

Step #5: Personal Issues

This is somewhat related to step #2, but more on a personal level. If you are going through difficult times on a personal level, then this will ultimately translate into poor business performance.  A common example is taking care of a sick family member that needs you. If you need to focus more fully on your family situation, then delay starting a business, or for an existing business try to delegate more of your business responsibilities to trusted employees.

Step #6: Ignore Marketing and Sales

Many years ago, I met with a brand new business owner to discuss his business and try to help him out. During our discussion, I asked what he was doing for marketing, and he said that he did very little because he didn’t want to spend money on marketing because marketing costs money. I’m not sure of my exact reply, but he was no longer in business within a few months’ time.

Summing it Up

Some of these steps may seem obvious, but they are common due to the fact that it is hard to take a step back, access a situation, swallow your pride, and say to yourself, “Hey, I need some help because I am not always right.” We should probably all say that more often.

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Do These 6 Things Differently than Others if You Want to Get Ahead Financially

Do you ever wonder what the difference is between those who get ahead and those who are constantly struggling? There is a pattern of actions that are taken repeatedly by those who get ahead, while the opposite is true of those who struggle.

Action #1: Delayed Gratification

The financial impact of delaying gratification for future success is astounding. The best example is an expensive car or high-end home. These things are great, but if you know that you will be stretched to purchase them, then give it some time before doing so. Once your finances enable you to comfortably purchase these items then go for it if it fits into your overall financial goals.

Action #2: Seek Advice from the Right People and Listen to Them

It is always a good idea to seek the advice of those we trust, but they must also have competence to provide you with the proper advice. Do not ask your brother in law that has declared bankruptcy twice and is reckless with money for financial advice. On second thought, you may want to ask for his advice and do the exact opposite! Also, seek the advice of a qualified professional or successful mentor who has relevant experience.

Another, related aspect of seeking advice knowing who is trying to work with you and who is working against you. Don’t beat up the people that are on your side and don’t let the bad fruits in the gate.

Action #3: Save and Invest Constantly

Even a small amount of saving/investing can add up over time. Also, investing does not have to only be in the stock market, but can consist of growing your business to make it more valuable, purchasing rental properties, investing in or purchasing other businesses, etc.

Action #4: Be Cautious When Incurring Debt

Debt has its proper place, but it is misused quite often. Many of us are lured into large, unnecessary purchases or poor investments because we can finance them over. Even if the debt is helpful for the production of income, it still may not be the best course of action. Debt also makes us lazy, meaning that it is easy for us to make decisions without really thinking them through fully.

Action #5: Have Endurance

Don’t give up too easily. It may take several tries to get where you want to go, but you need to keep on getting back up when you falter. Yes, it hurts when you get derailed, financially or otherwise, as life happens, but keep on moving forward.

Action #6: Don’t Make Decisions Based Solely on Emotions

Just because someone made you angry doesn’t mean that you need to let them go. Can you imagine telling off your boss (very bad move), or firing a key employee or vendor because you overreacted to a non-fatal mistake that they made? Trust me, you will suffer financially for this.

To Sum it Up

Did you notice that most of the above are based upon emotions and relationships? Healthy emotions and relationships will help you to be get ahead and make the journey more pleasant, while knee-jerk reactions, seeking instant gratification, and unhealthy relationships will create a roadblock to getting ahead.

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Why You Shouldn’t Sell Your First Home

The common scenario is this: purchase a small, starter home and then move after 5 to 10 years into another, much larger home. But is this a prudent move or are there other options?

There is one, largely overlooked option, that can have a great financial impact on your finances. The option is to move and then rent out your existing home. There are times when this makes sense, and other times when it doesn’t.

Makes sense: It makes sense to rent our your first home if the following are true:

  1. You have the funds for a down payment on a new home or you can access the equity of your home without getting too deep into debt. A combination of the two may be used also.
  2. The expected rent is greater than the expected expenses
  3. It will be easy to find a renter
  4. There is a strong possibility of continued appreciation of your first home
  5. You do not mind being a landlord
  6. You have a small cushion for times of vacancy, and are in a strong position financially

Doesn’t make sense: It doesn’t make sense to rent out your first home if the following are true:

  1. You do not have the funds for a down payment on a new home
  2. There is not much equity in your old home
  3. The expected rent is less than the expected expenses
  4. It will be difficult to find a renter
  5. The expected appreciation is either very low or the first home may depreciate
  6. You do not want to be a landlord. However, I challenge this assumption, because there are always things that you do not want to do but should do them anyway.
  7. Your financial situation is in turmoil

What’s interesting to note is that most people who sell their homes do not think of how much the transaction costs can be, especially as a percentage of the selling price or equity, until they are in the sales process. I do not mean that costs are hidden, but the costs are not factored into the equation when wanting to sell a house. Additionally, when you sell your first home, you most likely have to repair several items that can costs thousands of dollars that you do not realize the benefit of.

If you want to get ahead financially, you usually have to not do what everyone else is doing and take prudent chances. Part of prudence is to look at the worst case scenario. If the worst case scenario is that renting your first home has become a nightmare, then just sell it and move on.

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Are You the CEO of Your Business?

There are 3 phases of running a business with the ultimate phase of becoming the CEO. The first is that of an employee, the second of manager, and then CEO. Most business owners are in the first two phases and never achieve the CEO level. Why is this and what are the steps to become the CEO?

Every single phase is extremely important to a business, and every person in these positions is vital for the business to operate. However, if you want to be the CEO, then you must take steps in a different direction, which takes endurance. Let’s take a look at each step and how to move forward.

Employee: An employee is the one who is doing all of the work, whether physical or intellectual, such as a cook and server at a restaurant or a doctor and a nurse at a hospital, along with all of the other myriad positions. Many business owners become very wrapped up in the day to day operations and never take a break to become a manager or their business has not grown enough to support a manager.

Manager: The main job of a manager is to manage people, projects, and the overall flow of work. Although their main function is to manage these items, they will also need to jump in from time to time to help with tasks and get their hands dirty. Usually business owners are partly managers and partly employees because they are unable to fully let go of operations or their growth does not support a CEO position.

CEO: The CEO is the visionary of the business and is responsible for the business as a whole. Only high impact decisions should be made by the CEO, along with spending time on the utmost important items. A good CEO will do amazing things for a business, while a bad CEO can destroy a business in a relatively short period of time.

Unless your goal is to be an employee-owner or manager-owner, then you must take certain steps to become a true CEO. For some businesses, especially professional services businesses, this task is a little harder due to the technical expertise required to run the business.

Depending upon your goals and resources, the first step is to build up your team. Without a team of employees, you will never progress to the next level of manager. Once you have a team, you need to relinquish your everyday customer-service type activities and focus on managing your employees and the business. Lastly, you’ll need to hire managers to take over your duties to ultimately become the CEO. It only takes 3 steps! Of course, this is easier said then done, and there will be a multitude of roadblocks and challenges along the way.

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Should You Pay an Allowance to Your Children?

Don’t most children just get what they want nowadays so there is no need for an allowance? Maybe for some, but I am sure that has always been said. Here are the pros, cons, and a blended approach of an allowance:

Pros:

Value of money: An allowance can help children to realize the value of money and that they need to delay gratification for things that they want and need. However, the allowance should be reasonable and age appropriate.

Reward: It can also be a reward for helping out with household chores.

Cons:

Poor perception of hard work: If an allowance is not tied to any sort of responsibility it can be thought of as a “right” to receive money for doing nothing. Think of capitalism vs. socialism.

Responsibility to family: Why should you get paid to do the dishes or make your bed? Isn’t this a part of being a family and being responsible? There is an expression that charity begins at home.

Blended Approach:

Set chores, reasonable allowance: An allowance can be tied to completing a set amount of chores that are age appropriate for a small allowance. The allowance should not be too small, but not too large.

Reward for extras: A reward can be given for going above and beyond with helping out, but it doesn’t always have to be monetary. I know that I work harder with simple words of recognition, but ice-cream and Italian pastries are very effective also.

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