Top Ten Things Everyone Should Plan On
The list I have prepared is based upon my life experience and not meant to be the “be all end all” of life’s decisions. It is meant to be a partial guideline that if one follows these basic principles, they will find that life’s other decisions come easier.
One – Center Your Life on Things Spiritual and be Charitable
This is not meant to be preachy because a relationship with the creator of the universe is and should be a very personal thing. If you choose to ignore things spiritual, then you are missing out on something very special. The creator of the physical wants to help you live a better life. Ignoring the advice of the one who made it all and understands it all seems silly and unwise. Listening for that guiding voice in every decision you make will help you make better decisions. When you listen to that voice you will hear the call to be charitable of your time and your blessings. You should have your Spiritual Luggage packed because you never know when you will be called to meet the Creator.
Two – Continually Educate Yourself and Keep Your Mind Active
As a child, we all hunger for knowledge. We explore, question, solve problems and approach every day with a certain awe and desire to learn something new. As we age, formal education becomes more of a burden than a desire for some. Some of us just want to get it over with and move on with our lives. The desire for independence is important for maturing, but we should never lose that desire to learn. Keeping the mind active with daily exercises. This can be done with brain teasers or memorization and recitation.
Three – Live Beneath Your Means
This one is probably the hardest for most of us. We all want to live comfortably and possess the same kinds of things that all our friends seem to have. Some people can find a way to do this to the extreme which I would have a hard time doing. One couple, both CPAs, chose to live in a tent and have a very minimal lifestyle while at the same time earning a good income. Another couple sold their home, purchased a semi-truck with a sleeper and lived on the road for many years while profiting from their modest lifestyle. We should all do everything we can to have a consistent portion of our income that is not needed for monthly expenses. Work out a budget that works and stick to it.
Four – Stay Healthy and Active
Diet and exercise, duh. When we are younger, we get used to not having to work too hard to stay healthy. As we age it seems that suddenly we find it harder and harder to be fit. A portion of every day should be devoted to physical activity. Find thirty minutes a day to do something that gets your heart rate up. Park in the spot farthest from the store. Take the stairs when you can. Find a way to eat only what you need to stay and maintain a healthy weight.
Five – Minimize Debt
If you could go through life never in debt, that would be very unusual in the USA. Remember the story of the CPAs that lived in a tent? They were never in debt, paid for the automobiles and other daily expenses without incurring debt. Once they had saved enough money to purchase a home, they did so. When they retired debt free, they lived comfortably off the interest from their savings. Most of us cannot imagine having to wait so long for things like homes and cars and choose to purchase them with credit. Then paying interest for the life of the loan, 5, 10, 15, 30+ years. You might be astonished to know how much interest charges we pay during our lifetime. The easiest way to get out of debt quickly is to focus on paying off the smallest outstanding debt first, then apply that monthly portion to the next largest debt. As you cancel out one debt and compound the payments with each eliminated account, soon all that will be left is the largest debt, and that one can be eliminated much sooner than the original payment contract. All it takes is making it a priority and sticking with the plan.
Six – Save For Unusual Expenses
Once you have your monthly budget in place, there will almost certainly be a time when unexpected expenses will occur. We should all have at least one month of normal family income in a liquid account like a checking or savings account. When you have one of these unusual expenses, pay for it out of this account and replenish the account as quickly as possible.
Seven – Save For Income Replacement
We never know if or when someone will lose their income. It can happen because of business reasons, health reasons, family needs, government interference, or something else. It is a good idea to have an account set aside that is reserved for this purpose. It should be a non-qualified investment account because it needs to be at least one year’s family income. Investment accounts can be liquidated quickly and can even be set up to allow them to be connected directly to a checking account. That can allow for direct transfers to and from the investment account. If you temporarily lose your income, you will draw from this account. Once you have reestablished your income, you would replenish this account.
Eight – Insure Wisely
There is an insurance policy for almost any kind of calamity you might face. Life, Auto, Health, Homeowner, Liability, Home Warranty, Accident, Cancer, Extended Warranty, Long-Term Care, Disability, Unemployment, just to name a few. Insurance needs change throughout your life. Don’t get over or under insured.
Nine – Share Your Wisdom
As you live these principles, you will start to notice how wise they are. You should not keep them to yourself but share your experience with others. Not in a braggadocio’s way, but in a helpful general informational way. Tell about your struggles and how you overcame them. Talk about how hard it was, not how easy it seemed afterwards. Encourage, don’t criticize. Love, don’t judge.
Ten – Save For Retirement Years
A portion of your income should always be saved for later. Someday you may want to be in a position that you no longer must work. It is a great position in which to be. Some people love what they do and will work for as long as they can physically and mentally do it. Other people want to retire and spend time in leisure activity enjoying travel or other things they could not do while employed. This should typically be the last stockpile you save into unless your employer has a match. In that case, save whatever amount will be matched by your employer until all the other stockpiles are fully-funded. Once your emergency and income replacement stockpiles are fully-funded, focus on this retirement stockpile and fund it to the limit.
In the tax preparation process, we will often find missed opportunities. Most people look to their investment adviser for returns on their money. This is an important quality, but sometimes tax avoidance can help one retain gains that they might have otherwise lost to taxes.
Recently a couple took a large distribution from their IRAs and paid off their home and made some upgrades to their property. This distribution caused a $2,000 taxable event because their income was significant enough that their Social Security for that year was also taxable. Had they simply taken half of the distribution one year and the other half the following year, their taxable event would have dropped to $0. The amount of interest paid on the mortgage for those six months would have been approximately $200. Mathematically speaking, the client would have been ten times better off had they been able to follow our advice.
You cannot go back in time and change the past. In tax preparation, we must examine what our clients did, not what they should have or could have done. Tax Planning is the process of helping people make tax-efficient decisions every year. We strive to do this with our clients. Basically, there are three places that one’s savings will go:
– Client’s Estate
Our default position is to help the client minimize taxes before, during, and after retirement.