It seems everyone has a tale of a bad rental experience. If you rent anything – a home, a piece of equipment, or a car – here are some hints that can make it a positive experience.
Read all agreements. Read the lease agreement thoroughly prior to signing. Ask for clarification of anything you do not understand. Look for clauses in the agreement that might suggest the property owner has problems with its current tenants. If the agreement seems unfriendly, don’t sign it.
Negotiate up front. Be ready to negotiate your lease terms up front. If anything is unclear in the lease, have it clarified and put in writing. Be very clear about security deposits, first and last month’s rent, and services included in the lease.
Follow the terms. Be the tenant that pays a little early, not the one that always pays late. That way if you ever need a little extra time to pay, you have established the necessary trust to do so.
Proactive disclosure. If you think you will need a temporary exception to part of the lease, try to include it in your upfront negotiations. If this is not possible, consider proactively disclosing the exception to your property owner.
Keep the property clean. This is especially important if you have a pet in your rental property. When landlords come into your home, you will build confidence if the place looks like you treat it as if you owned it. The same is true with rental equipment. Always return it cleaner than you received it.
Know the owner and neighbors. Building a relationship with the property owner and your neighbors helps. If your neighbor has a problem with you, wouldn’t you rather have them come to you than to your landlord? Establishing a good working relationship with a landlord will help you when you need help with a problem in your home or with the equipment you rent.
Leave with a smile. This is especially true for home and vacation rentals. Before you leave, have the property cleaned and hassle-free for the landlord. Request a reference from the landlord for future rentals.
When facing life’s inevitable bumps in the road, an emergency fund is essential to maintaining financial security. Planning for emergencies is like buying insurance: you pay into an account and hope you’ll never have to use it. But life happens. Cars break down. Roofs leak. Kids get injured. Having money in the bank to cover those unexpected expenses can reduce stress and keep you from relying on credit cards and loans to make ends meet.
Here are four easy and effective ways to establish and maintain an emergency fund.
- Start small. Many financial planners advise setting aside enough money to cover at least six months of expenses. That’s a worthy goal. But for many people it’s also a daunting task, an objective that will take years – not months – to achieve. So set a realistic and achievable amount for your emergency fund, and then get in the habit of contributing regularly. Then don’t touch the account except for real emergencies. Leave it alone and it will grow.
- Pump it up. When you get a bonus, cost-of-living adjustment, tax refund, or windfall, consider using a portion of that money to bolster your emergency account. Fight the temptation to increase spending with every new dollar that comes along.
- Make it automatic. With online banking, it’s easy to set up routine transfers from your regular checking account to a separate savings account. If allowed by your employer, allocate a portion of each paycheck to an emergency fund. Consider establishing the account at a financial institution other than your regular bank. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” If the money never shows up in your regular checking account, you’ll be less likely to use it for everyday spending.
- Sell stuff and slash expenses. Think about selling some of your unused stuff through yard sales, online auctions, or consignment shops. This can generate cash to bolster your emergency fund. Take a hard look at your budget and consider everything fair game: expensive dinners, vacations, cable television, and so on. You may find that a surprising number of dollars can be freed up and stashed away in savings. The key, of course, is to direct those savings – immediately, if possible – away from regular spending and into your emergency account.
If you’d like more ideas for setting financial goals or building up an emergency fund, give us a call.
The statistics are staggering. The majority of Americans do not save for retirement or have not saved enough for retirement. Make sure you’re taking these three steps to be financially prepared for your retirement. Nearly half (45 percent) of working-age households don’t have any retirement assets, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security. Of those working-age households close to retirement (age 55 and older) nearly two-thirds have less than one year’s worth of their annual salary in retirement savings.
So how much do you actually need to retire comfortably? There are many variables to consider, including retirement age, available pensions, and investment return assumptions. Mutual fund broker, Fidelity, estimates you need enough savings to replace roughly 85 percent of your pre-retirement income. Many experts estimate you will have to save between 8 and 12 times your pre-retirement annual income to reach this goal.
But the amount you need depends on when you plan to retire. For example, Fidelity estimates a person planning on retiring at age 65 will need to save 12 times their pre-retirement income. By delaying retirement by just five years, to age 70, your savings estimate lowers to 8 times your annual income.
This may be why an increasing number of Americans plan on delaying retirement or working during retirement. A majority (51 percent) of workers surveyed in 2016 by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies said they plan on working during retirement.
Some ideas to consider now
These are sobering realities, but there are actions you can take to be in a better position during your golden years.
- Contribute as much as possible every year to your employer provided retirement plans. With a 401(k) pretax retirement plan, for instance, up to $18,000 can be contributed each year, or $24,000 if you are age 50 or older.
- Contribute as much as possible to a Traditional or Roth IRA every year, up to the $5,500 maximum, or $6,500 if you are age 50 or older.
- If available, contribute as much as possible to a health savings account (HSA), which can be used to offset medical expenses, up to $3,400 a year, or $4,400 if you are age 55 or older.
If you’d like to review your tax-advantaged retirement strategy, call to schedule an appointment.
“Dad, I need some extra money to go to the movies with my friends.” If you are a parent, you’ve probably heard countless requests like this.
At some point your kids will discover they can no longer rely on you for all their financial needs. Because recent studies have found that teaching financial literacy is lacking in many schools, it’s up to parents to provide the fundamentals of finance to their children. Here are some concepts you can use to begin introducing your kids to the lessons of personal finance.
- Spend a little, save a little. Whether receiving a birthday gift or allowance money, teach your kids to get into the habit of saving a portion of what they receive. Help them create savings goals like the purchase of a bike or creation of a college fund.
- Don’t worry about what others have. Teach your children to avoid spending money to follow the crowd. Take a look at the unused toy bin to demonstrate the point. Chasing the need to own $200-$500 sneakers can lead poor financial habits in the future.
- Be money mindful. Remind your child to think before they spend money. Help them understand that wanting something doesn’t always mean that they need to have it. You can also help them to prioritize their spending. For example, saving for the running shoes your child might need for track may be more important than the money he or she would spend on a night at the movies with friends.
- Learning about finances is fun. Set aside some time each week to learn about a new personal finance topic together. You can help your child learn about checking accounts, setting up a budget, getting a small loan, or simple ways to start saving. Getting them interested in financial topics at a young age will help them throughout their lives.
- Tax talk. If your child is old enough to earn a paycheck, teach them tax basics. Walk them through their paycheck. Social security, Medicare, and withholdings are new concepts for them. Help them understand how the money is used. Don’t overlook other taxes as well. They also need to know that sales tax should be factored into the cost of items they choose to purchase.
It’s important to keep the conversation going. Encourage your children to ask questions, and get them involved with your household spending. There are many ways you can help them develop a healthy understanding of personal finance.
You may receive correspondence from the IRS that contains an error. What should you do?
Here are some quotes from actual IRS correspondence received by clients:
“Our records show we received a 1040X…for the tax year listed above. We’re sorry but we cannot find it.”
“Our records show you owe a balance due of $0.00. If we do not receive it within 30 days, appropriate collection steps will be taken.”
“Payment is due on your account. Please submit payments on or before June 31 to avoid late payment penalties and interest.”
It’s pretty tough to pay a balance due of $0.00 or submit a payment on June 31 when June has only 30 days. The message should be clear. If you receive a notice from the IRS, don’t automatically assume it is correct and then submit a payment to make it go away. The same is true for errors in any state tax agency notices. They are often in error. So what should you do?
Stay calm. Try not to overreact to the correspondence. This is easier said than done, but remember, the IRS sends out millions of notices each year. The vast majority of these notices attempt to correct simple oversights or common filing errors.
Open the envelope. You’d be surprised how often clients are so stressed by receiving a letter from the IRS that they cannot bear to open the envelope. If you fall into this category, try to remember that the first step in making the problem go away is to open the correspondence.
Review the letter. Make sure you understand exactly what the IRS thinks needs to be changed and determine whether or not you agree with their findings. Unfortunately, the IRS rarely sends correspondence to correct an oversight in your favor, but it sometimes happens.
Respond in a timely manner. The correspondence received should be very clear about what action the IRS believes you should take and within what timeframe. Ignore this information at your own risk. Delays in responses could generate penalties and additional interest payments.
Get help. You are not alone. Getting assistance from someone who deals with this all the time makes going through the process much smoother.
Correct the IRS error. Once the problem is understood, a clearly written response with copies of documentation will cure most IRS correspondence errors. Often the error is due to the inability of the IRS computers to conduct a simple reporting match. Pointing the information out on your tax return might be all it takes to solve the problem.
Certified mail is your friend. Send any response to the IRS via certified mail. This will provide proof of your timely correspondence. Lost mail can lead to delays, penalties, and additional interest on your tax bill.
Don’t assume it will go away. Until you receive definitive confirmation that the problem has been resolved, assume the IRS still thinks you owe the money. If you don’t receive correspondence confirming the correction, send a written follow-up.