Uncategorized

I spent how much on groceries?? In one month??

We all have those moments. You open the credit card bill and blink. You look again and then check a third time to make sure you’re seeing correctly. Yet the number remains the same.

Spending
You start scrolling through the bill and as you look, you nod. “Yes, that makes sense.” “Oh right, I bought that this month!” “Wait – that was this billing cycle?”

Looking through the individual charges, the total starts to make sense. Mentally you note that you spent way too much on clothing this month or groceries or Amazon orders. You make the decision then and there to be more careful going forward. You pay the bill and promptly forget about the whole thing.

Until… The next month rolls around and the entire event repeats itself.

As a part of my job as the family office manager in my accounting firm, I provide bookkeeping services for individuals. I download all the bank and credit card transactions each month and categorize them in accounting software. Whether a person is looking to create a budget or just wondering how their money is being spent, it is invaluable to have a system to track spending and monitor cash flow.

Household Budget

When forming a new business, companies spend time and resources developing accounting systems and processes so that they can evaluate whether they are achieving their goals. If a company does not have proper accounting with accurate numbers, they have no measure of their profitability and growth.

Similarly, individuals need to gauge whether they are reaching personal financial goals. Am I saving money for retirement? Will there be an inheritance for my heirs? Or on a more immediate level – Can we afford to go on that luxury vacation this year? How will we pay for college for our children?

There are many online software programs which track cash flow and aggregate accounts so that one can view everything in one place. Mint.com is a great example of a software where you can list all your accounts and track expenses. For a person whose financial situation is complex, however, with other non-liquid assets, an outsourced service may be a good fit for you. By subscribing to a system of accounting for your personal finances, you will gain vital insights which will guide you to achieve your financial objectives.

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Baby, Balance, Family Life, Parenting, Uncategorized, Work from Home, Work-life balance

Something to prove

As a working mom, I often feel this overwhelming need to excel in all areas of my life. When I am home, I want to be sure that no one (mainly, me) thinks that I am not prioritizing my family and giving them the care and attention they deserve. And at work, I put so much effort into showing them that although I have a family now, I am still a team player and that I can be counted on to get the job done.

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Until recently, I never would have called myself a feminist. I thought that discrimination was a thing of the past and that today, in the twenty-first century, it is so uncommon that I, (amazing as I am,) would never have to worry about it.

Motherhood has changed all that for me. Realistically speaking, I now have limitations that I cannot just push through or ignore. I cannot be at work until all hours of the night on any given night and if I do need to stay late, arrangements need to be made for someone to watch Manny. This new “commitment” of becoming a parent means that there is someone in my life that needs to be put first in every situation. I must make sure he is properly cared for and has everything he needs both emotionally and physically before I can worry about myself or others.

At work, this meant a major shift for me in certain ways. I cut my hours so that I could be home earlier to spend some time with my son before bedtime, and I began working from home two days a week.

In many ways, though, nothing changed. My workload remained the same; I still prepare the same number of returns (don’t ask how that works in terms of cutting hours) and I took on a new project of heading our Family Office Services.

Career-wise, I seem to be thriving.

Why, then, do I feel this constant need to prove myself? Why, as a working mother, do I feel I need to show my boss, as well as the other partners in the firm and my co-workers, that they did not lose anything when I became a mother? That I am not working less, or slacking off, or shirking my duties because I am slightly more limited in certain ways.

On the days I work from home, I am nervous to go to the bathroom in case someone might call my extension (I have an office phone at home, too) and think that I am out on the beach. The first few weeks after I returned from work, I made sure to mention in almost every conversation with anyone in the office that my son is not home on the days I work at home. He is at the babysitter’s, because how could I work properly if he was in the house?

Not only do I feel the need to prove myself for me, but I feel I need to prove myself for the sake of others. For all the women out there balancing so many priorities, struggling to find that balance, I want to show the world – it can be done! If you are thoughtful and innovative, committed and driven, then you can have a career and family. One need not contradict the other.

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The world has made many great strides in fighting discrimination. The last barrier we need to break through is not the glass ceiling. It is the mental barrier that many of our male superiors seem to have.

We live in the twenty-first century; an age of technology where flex arrangements are the norm (both for men and women) in many workplaces; an age of emotional awareness, where everyone strives to be more efficient.

And yes, we live in an era when you can be a GREAT mom and a GREAT employee!

Baby, Balance, Family Life, Parenting, Uncategorized, Work-life balance

Mommy Guilt

My mom lent me a book called “Toddlers and Parents” by T. Berry Brazelton a few weeks back, and I finally had a chance to begin reading it yesterday afternoon.

The book, written in 1974, details the challenges and triumphs of raising a toddler. While it was written over forty years ago, and parenting techniques continue to change and evolve, the struggles he discusses are still relevant today. The book has different chapters featuring separate sets of parents and children, focusing on a number of different parenting situations such as a stay-at-home mom, working parents, single parents, and sibling rivalry, among others.

He writes by showing a “day in the life” of each home, describing the events of the day and noting the psychological/physiological reasons behind that behavior in the child or parent. As I read the book, I find myself nodding along and even exclaiming to my husband – “This is me! That is exactly how I feel!”

In the second chapter (that’s as far as I got so far, though I’ll share more as I read more,) he describes the Tucker family and their fifteen-month old daughter, Kara. Mrs. Tucker is working full-time and he describes how she struggles with the guilt of leaving her child with a caretaker and going to work. At the same time, she loves her job and gets fulfillment out of it.

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He writes, “This is the biggest danger for women and their children – this unconscious, often unexpressed feeling of “cheating,” of guilt about any satisfaction in life besides being the “womanly” role of housekeeping and caring for children… woman’s instinctive need to do a good job as a mother as well as to be free to do other things…”

This really hit home with me, personally. I love my son – he is truly the light of my life. He is the cutest, most delicious thing in the world and when he smiles at me, I feel like a million dollars.

At the same time, it is not always so easy being home with him the whole day. I appreciate that I go to work and have some time to myself, where I can interact with other adults and have conversations that are slightly more intellectual than ba ba ba. And that makes me feel guilty. Exactly as Dr. Brazelton describes, I feel as if I am hurting my son by liking my job and looking forward to going to work each day. Although in my situation, staying at home with my son is not an option, as we need the income from my job, maybe I shouldn’t enjoy it so much. Maybe I shouldn’t get so much satisfaction and fulfillment from it.

He continues, “I am not foolish enough to think that a mother who stays home full of resentment does better by her children than one who leads a more fulfilled, rounded life. Having a fulfilling role besides being a housewife may well give a mother more positive feelings and less negative ones with which to surround her children.”

The point we working moms need to focus on is how having a job can make us into better parents.

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Regardless of the reason you choose to work – whether it’s to maintain your sanity or because your family needs the income or a bit of both – you can enjoy your job. Love your job.

That way, when you come home from work – you can love your children. When you come home, you feel calm and happy and good about yourself, which enables you to use those positive emotions in your interactions with your children.

 

Uncategorized

Ask. Research. Plan.

Oftentimes, clients will inform me of important events and impactful financial decisions they made in the prior year. If only they would have picked up the phone and called me before-hand, I would have been able to research for them and advise them how they could perform these activities in a way that would  benefit them financially and result in tax-savings.

For example, a business client of mine sold a property they owned at a massive gain last year. Each partner’s allocated gain was more than half-a-million dollars. They only informed us that the property was sold after the sale had been finalized already and the funds had been divided up among the partners.

When I began working on the partners’ individual returns, I noticed that if they had waited one more year, they would have been allowed to claim certain losses against the income and the entire gain would not have been taxable. However, since I only found out after the sale took place, there was nothing I could do for the client to avoid paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes.

This happens so many times in so many different ways. Clients will open new businesses or business will be booming for them this year in comparison to last year and they fail to mention it. Only when March/April comes around do they mention “by-the-way…” and by then it’s almost too late to do anything.

Financial-Advisor

It is so important to have a dedicated person in your life with whom you consult about significant decisions which impact your life financially. Whether a person is getting married, divorced, having children, starting a new business, buying/selling a home, opening an investment account, retiring or dying (we all do eventually), find someone to talk to. Call your accountant, financial advisor or someone you know with investment and financial management experience and discuss with them your plans before you go through with them.

It is much easier to fix errors before they happen; to prevent issues from arising before your plans go through. Once the event has occurred, there is very little you can do to save yourself from the ramifications.

Plan ahead, do your research and consult with a professional.

 

 

Baby, Balance, Family Life, Parenting, Uncategorized, Work-life balance

Mom’s the Winner

In many of my previous posts, I wrote about balance.

I find that we focus a lot on searching for balance, evaluating whether we have achieved balance and judging others on whether their lives are “balanced” well. What many of us fail to take into account is happiness.

We spend so much time calculating the hours we spend at work versus the hours we spend at home. We tally up the tasks we perform for our families and those we delegate to others. We look at our friends and say “Wow! She only works until three o’clock every day!” Or, “It could be so much worse, my friend’s husband is an accountant and he comes home at ten!” I come home at five-thirty and make a fresh dinner for my husband and I each night after giving the baby a bath and putting him to sleep, while my friend works less but she orders in three times a week.

Evening-Edition-Work-life-balance

Often, it seems so simple and straightforward: take the total hours a day you work, add in all the chores you do at home, plus the errands you run on weekends, subtract the hours someone else is caring for your child, subtract the chores and errands you outsource to others. The total you get is your level of accomplishment; how well you balance work and family.

This is not true and it’s not healthy. We cannot pat ourselves on the backs or beat ourselves up because we work more/less hours than our friends or manage to “perform” better by keeping house and cooking, etc.

You may be able to wake up at six with the kids, be at work by eight, rush home at four, give baths, make dinner, and put the kids, then quickly clean up the house and make dinner for hubby. After dinner, you clean up again, fold all the laundry, and then pack the kids up for the next day. By the time you sit down, it’s nine p.m. and you feel like a dish-rag. Is this what being a good mom/wife/employee means? 

Absolutely not. The first thing we all need to pay attention to is happiness. Am I happy, are the kids happy, is hubby happy? If no one’s happy, (or even just you are unhappy,) then no one wins. Your house might be clean and your kids may be eating homemade, organic food, but you are not the star mom you think you are. Chances are, if you are unhappy, your kids are unhappy and your husband is unhappy. Our moods affect everyone else.

While you may be providing for your family on a physical level, you are not providing on an emotional level, which is so much more important.

We each need to take a step back and evaluate – is everyone in my family happy? If the answer is yes, stop. You are good. It does not matter whether you made noodles for dinner tonight and there are clothes all over the floor of your bedroom while you sit on the couch reading a magazine at night (this may or may not be the case in my house some nights).

Why? Because if, even with the messy house and less than gourmet dinner, you are cheerful and calm as you put your children to sleep, and you greet your husband with a smile when he comes home, you are the winner. For that, you deserve a prize. Whether you work forty hours a week, fifteen or zero. Being a calm, happy mom and a positive wife is the best thing you could possibly be doing for your family.

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So stop counting up the hours and stop comparing yourself with your friends. Look around at your beautiful family and appreciate that you are being the best possible mom you can be by doing the very best that you can.

Happy Mothers Day!

Accounting, Budget, Finance, Uncategorized

Understanding your finances

One of the services my firm has started to offer recently is bill-paying and bookkeeping for high net-worth individuals. We are opening a family office, and this is a new service we are beginning to offer together with wealth management and advisory.

For the past few months, I have been slowly building a set of books for one such individual. Each month, I enter all the charges from his credit cards and bank accounts into a Quickbooks file and at month-end I reconcile each account. I am also tracking all his investments, reconciling those with the monthly statements, and accounting for his loans to various needy individuals or organizations.

I find this completely fascinating for a number of reasons. Although most of us are not spending $40,000+ a month on our credits cards and we’re not tracking millions of dollars of investments, it is so important for us to truly understand our finances. Do you really know how much you are spending each month and what you are spending it on?

Spending

For example, if you stop at Starbucks every morning on your way to work, you probably tell yourself – it’s only a few dollars. However, if you add up three dollars (or five, more likely, if you’re not getting a black coffee) a day for a month – that’s approximately ninety dollars for one month of coffee. Multiply that by twelve months, and you get one-thousand and eighty. When you think about it, it’s not just three dollars for a coffee, it’s a thousand. You could save over a thousand dollars just by making yourself a coffee in the office instead of picking it up on your way.

And that’s just coffee. There are so many other, larger, impulse purchases that we make each day that we just don’t pay attention to. Then, when we get our credit card bill, we’re surprised it’s so high. Yet scrolling through the bill, you look at each small charge and all of a sudden it makes sense. All those small charges just added up to a much larger bill!

When you take the time to go through your bills each month, and try to track how much you are spending, it is so much easier to save. When you look at your bill and see that you spent close to one hundred dollars at Starbucks this month, or that every third charge is to Amazon, you can start to think harder about your expenses. Is every Amazon order something I need (and this includes the occasional splurge or treat to yourself) or is this just something I saw and clicked on. Can I reduce my spending on online purchases or are they all necessities?

Bills

When I send my client his Profit & Loss statement for the month, he can see how much his family spent on clothing, groceries, Ubers, take-out, etc. He can choose whether to say, “Yup, everything looks good!” Or “Kids, why did you spending ten-thousand dollars on clothing this month?”

Ultimately, information is power. You can choose to keep spending as you are, or you can choose to look again and budget differently going forward.

Happy spending!

Chana

Balance, Current Events, Family Life, Parenting, Uncategorized, Work-life balance

Finding balance means saying no

What a week! (Month? Year?)
I know it’s been a while since I’ve written anything and that’s because tax season is upon us!
Our firm started its tax season the last week in January so this is already my third week of working crazy hours. Each week turns into one big blur and if you would ask me what happened, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you.
That being said, it’s not all bad. We are settling into a routine, my family and I, establishing a balance that (hopefully) works for everyone.
I am a big believer that the most important thing is to know your own limits. It’s impossible to be a good mom/wife/employee if you are pushing yourself to the max.
Here are some tips for setting limits for yourself and staying sane:
1. Say No
keep-calm-and-just-say-no-10
This is something I find quite difficult to do. I love helping my friends and family out and I hate disappointing others. However, it’s not healthy to help others if you are not going to have any time left to take care of yourself. Along the same lines, I love offering to help my friends, and I am learning that I can only offer when I feel up to helping. If I’m not making dinner for my own family, I should not offer to send food to a friend who recently gave birth.
2. Take Time for Yourself
me time
While this ones hard when you are a working mom, and especially if you’re working overtime, this is so important. I try to give myself at least 15-30 minutes of “chilling” time alone each night. Even if it means going to sleep a drop later than usual, I feel so much better when I have some time to relax on my own.
3. Cut Corners Where You Can
cutting corners
You don’t need to do everything and you don’t need to everything perfectly. If this means using paper-goods (something I don’t generally like doing), ordering food, or asking for help, definitely go ahead and do so. It’s impossible to do everything perfectly all the time, so you need to choose the areas of your life that are most worth your time and then figure out how to get by in the other areas.
For example, I will sometimes leave the dishes in the sink until the next day (gasp!) because I’d rather be a happy wife to my husband at night than a “cranky-pants” with a clean house. Often, I’ll make a simple dinner instead of something complicated so that I can log back in and get more work done at night. It’s important to constantly evaluate what’s the best use of your time and what will satisfy all your various responsibilities while keeping you sane.
4. Ask For (or hire) Help
help
I mentioned this one in number three, but it really deserves its own point. If you have a spouse, family member or friend you can ask for help, do so. If you can afford to, hire outside help. Many of us have the tendency to do everything ourselves and have trouble delegating or asking for help. It’s important to reach out for help when you need it because once again, you’re not doing anyone any favors if you end up overworking yourself to a point where you are unhappy, exhausted and overwhelmed.
5. Lastly, Don’t Stay Up All Night Watching Olympics
olympics
Okay, I’m kind of kidding on this one but since this week Olympics 2018 are going on, I am struggling with this. I love watching Olympics and rooting for my country (Go Canada!) (sorry USA, in this case, Canada’s my country). So each night, I need to remind myself that I am working the next day and I should go to sleep at a reasonable hour so that I am a functioning human being the next day.
In summary, it’s so important to know yourself, know your strengths and know your limits. This is something I am working on this tax season as my work/life balance is challenged. I am working to be present when I am with my family and prioritize what needs to get done, what can be delegated/postponed/cancelled, and of course, what I need to stay happy, healthy and calm.
Wishing everyone luck with finding that happy medium and the key to a balanced life!
More later,
Chana
Baby, Family Life, Parenting, Uncategorized

It all becomes routine

One of the most amazing things about life is the concept of routine. We get into a habit of doing things a certain way and our days start to look almost the same. While most adults thrive on routine and productivity increases when life runs on a “schedule” of sorts, for kids, a predictable routine is vital and often the kids set the schedule themselves.

From birth, Manny was an easy, happy baby, so I was never strict about getting him on a strict schedule. Nap time was when he seemed tired and meal-time was when he was hungry. It was apparent which was which, because if he had just awoken from a nap and seemed fussy, I was able to determine he was hungry. If he had eaten relatively recently and was starting to get cranky, he was most-likely tired.

Somehow, though, at almost six months, Manny is on a “schedule.” He takes three naps a day, at around nine am, twelve pm and three/three-thirty pm each day. He eats at five/five-thirty am, eight am and every three hours after that. With all my, “he’s not on a schedule, he doesn’t need to be”, apparently he is and he does. Somehow our days have become a predictable routine and it is so cool how he completely determined this on his own.

It is the best thing for him and it’s great for me too. I love my days with him and it makes parenting simpler when you know what to expect. The thing about routines though, is that they are constantly changing. You get into a great groove and then something comes along and everything shifts.

For example, two months ago, we were also in a predictable pattern of sorts. Manny would eat every two-and-a-half-to-three-hours, would be awake for about one hour at a time and then would sleep for forty-five minutes to one hour. Then, the three-nap schedule emerged recently and this new schedule became our routine.

Now, a new shift is starting and it’s a little less exciting and a little less predictable. It’s called teething. Ever heard of it? I am hoping that it will be short and we’ll go back to sleeping through the night, playing happily during the day and taking nice one-to-two hour naps soon.

If you have any tips for getting through the teething phase, feel free to share below!

More later,

Chana

Accounting, Tax Tips, Taxes, Uncategorized

Issuing 1099s

January 31st is the filing deadline for most 1099MISC forms. Anyone issuing a 1099MISC with an amount in box seven must have it ready for the end of the month. In our office, I am in charge of 1099s and everyone turns to me with their questions. While many people know the basic concept of a 1099 form, most people do not know how often it is actually required.

A 1099 is a form you must prepare if you pay an independent contractor for services in an amount above $600. This is the fact most people have heard of.

What many people do not realize is that it is not only independent contractors, or Schedule C filers, who are required to receive 1099s. Whenever you pay someone for an outside service, whether you are paying an individual or a company, you are required to prepare a 1099. The only exception is if the company fills out a W-9 for you and lists their exempt code, which most corporations have.

In our office, 1099 “season” always raises some interesting questions. Below are some of the things we’ve learned over the past few years:

Question: If an organization has a raffle as a fundraiser, are they required to issue 1099s to the winners?

Answer: It depends. If the raffle falls under the category of gambling or wagering, they may be required to issue a W-2G. (To better understand what is considered gambling, click here to read the IRS instructions.) Otherwise, prizes are reported in box three if their value is above $600 and the value is more than three-hundred times the purchase price of the ticket.

Question: Do you need to pay a household employee a 1099?

Answer: No, but you may be required to issue a W-2 to a household employee. This was actually a very lively discussion in the office last year. (I know that sounds nerdy, but we’re accountants, what do you expect?) If you have a full-time, or regular household employee such as a nanny, aid, housekeeper, etc., and you pay them a regular salary, you would be required to withhold social security and medicare tax as well as pay your half of these employment taxes. You would also be required to report their wages and withholdings on a W-2 form. This is something many people do not know. 1099 forms are only for business expenses.

Question: Are you required to issue a 1099 for rents?

Answer: Yes, if it is a business expense.

Question: Is it better to be paid on a W-2 or a 1099?

Answer: It depends. If you are a regular, salaried employee, you should be getting a W-2. If you are not, speak to your employer and try to have this corrected. The advantage of being a salaried employee is that your employee pays half of your employment taxes. If you are filing a Schedule C, your income is subject to self-employment tax which is after exemptions (no longer relevant as of 2018), itemized deductions and certain credits are calculated. On the other hand, being self-employed means that all your business expenses are directly deductible to offset your income which could wipe out your tax completely. From an employer’s perspective, they would obviously see the advantage of paying people on 1099s, as you avoid paying the employment taxes. However, if you have a regular, salaried employee, you should be issuing them a W-2 and not a 1099.

These are just some of the questions that have arisen in our office and we’ve spent time looking into. If you have any specific questions of your own, feel free to comment below and I will do my best to look into it for you.