New Year: What’s In Your Notebook?

Keep important data in a Notebook

It’s a new year: what’s in your notebook? You know, that one with all of your passwords, account numbers, doctor names, and that very important song that must be played at your funeral.

Yeah, that notebook. Where is it? It might reside digitally on your computer or in the cloud, or it might be a pile of papers in a file cabinet, or it might be in an old-fashioned 3-ring binder. The new year is a good time to ask: how easily can someone who needs it find it?

Who Might Need the Notebook and When?

Everyone needs a someone in mind for the notebook. Your someone (Kate Hufnagel, the Digital Wrangler, calls this Your Person) is who will step in for you and help to handle things when you can’t. If an immediate someone does not spring to mind, consider asking a professional to be that someone – an attorney, accountant, or professional fiduciary, for example.

When will someone step in? At a time when you need the notebook, but can’t get to it. We can imagine all kinds of accidents and tragedies that might bring about a need for the notebook. Rather than dwell on those, let’s imagine that you are suddenly swept away on an all-expenses paid trip out of the country to a remote island with spotty cell coverage.

While you are whale-watching and snorkeling the reefs for an indefinite period, things still need to be handled back home. Bills to be paid. Taxes to be filed. Gifts to be given. People to be notified of your absence and introduced to Your Person who is handling things.

What Goes in the Notebook?

In essence, the Notebook is a central place you keep information that your someone will need in case something happens to you.

Common and essential items in the Notebook include:

  • Your five basic estate planning documents: original will (drafted by an attorney in the state where you reside), living will, health care power of attorney, durable power of attorney, and HIPAA designations.
  • Advanced estate planning documents: trusts, partnership agreements, business buy/sell agreements, shareholder agreements, etc.
  • Insurance policies. ALL of them: life, long term care, health, property, car, boat, liability, and any others.
  • Contact information for professional advisers: attorneys, bankers, accountants, investment advisers, insurance agents, and (of course) your Certified Financial Planner™.
  • Also, if your adviser has an assistant or paraprofessional who knows you and your situation, write down their contact information and a little note to that effect. (“Sharon is the assistant and she runs the whole place.”).
  • All of your health care providers – doctors, dentist, optometrist, veterinarian (who is going to take care of Fluffy?). Put similar information by each one – what they helped you with and if any office or nursing staff know you and your history.
  • Important to remember also, anything handled online: digital password manager, online user ids and passwords, bank statements, investment accounts, real estate deeds and mortgages. So much of our financial lives nowadays keys off of our email address. Can they even get into your email? (See also: Document Your Digital Assets for more online stuff to consider.)

Extra Items for the Notebook

In addition, not-as-essential items some people include are:

  • An “ethical will” outlining your values. This often gives family members guidance when they are unsure what you would want. Writer Susan Turnbull’s book, The Wealth of Your Life, can help guide you through this process.
  • An end-of-life health care management booklet, like Five Wishes.
  • An Aging Plan – describing your wishes for the potential time of life when you may need assistance with activities of daily living, transportation, and housing transitions.

Notebook Update Season

It’s a good time of year to check in on your notebook. The end of January brings tax notices from bank accounts, investment accounts, mortgage statements, health insurance, employers, IRA providers, and more. Take this opportunity to pull together scattered pieces of your financial life. Consider collecting everything not only for the accountant, but also for Your Person.

One way to keep the notebook updated is to check each tax statement and match it up with a corresponding account in the notebook. Perhaps you forgot about those I-bonds you bought on Treasury Direct – no paper statements, all online. Better add that account to the notebook. All those deductions for insurance from your employer – would someone know how to contact the insurance companies if needed? Would the insurance companies talk to them? That contact info, power of attorney forms, and beneficiary designations are good updates for the notebook too.

Think of your notebook as a bread crumb trail helping Your Person work backward from that remote island to the place where you are sitting with paid bills, up to date connections, easily-accessed email and your personal address book at your disposal. A little effort each year will save Your Person many headaches later.

Got a notebook you love already? Comment below on what makes it uniquely yours. Share your best ideas.

For more on this topic, see The Mindful Money Mentality: How To Find Balance in Your Financial Future. Struggling with issues mentioned here? – Schedule a call.

Continue ReadingNew Year: What’s In Your Notebook?

New Year: Got Your Notebook?

Keep important data in a Notebook

It’s a new year: got your notebook? You know, that one with all of your passwords, account numbers, doctor names, and that very important song that must be played at your funeral.

Yeah, that notebook. Where is it? It might reside digitally on your computer or in the cloud, or it might be a pile of papers in a file cabinet, or it might be in an old-fashioned 3-ring binder. The new year is a good time to ask: how easily can someone who needs it find it?

Who Might Need the Notebook and When?

Everyone needs a someone in mind for the notebook. Your someone is who will step in for you and help to handle things when you can’t. If an immediate someone does not spring to mind, consider asking a professional to be that someone – an attorney, accountant, or professional fiduciary, for example.

When will someone step in? At a time when you need the notebook, but can’t get to it. Like the new commercial for disability insurance, we can imagine all kinds of accidents and tragedies that might bring about a need for the notebook. Rather than dwell on those, let’s imagine that you are suddenly swept away on an all-expenses paid trip out of the country to a remote island with spotty cell coverage.

While you are whale-watching and snorkeling the reefs for an indefinite period, things still need to be handled back home. Bills to be paid. Taxes to be filed. Gifts to be given. People to be notified of your absence and introduced to the someone who is handling things.

What Goes in the Notebook?

In essence, the Notebook is a central place you keep information that your someone will need in case something happens to you.

Common and essential items in the Notebook include:

  • Your five basic estate planning documents: original will (drafted by an attorney in the state where you reside), living will, health care power of attorney, durable power of attorney, and HIPAA designations.
  • Advanced estate planning documents: trusts, partnership agreements, business buy/sell agreements, shareholder agreements, etc.
  • Insurance policies. ALL of them: life, long term care, health, property, car, boat, liability, and any others.
  • Contact information for professional advisers: attorneys, bankers, accountants, investment advisers, insurance agents, and (of course) your Certified Financial Planner™.
  • Also, if your adviser has an assistant or paraprofessional who knows you and your situation, write down their contact information and a little note to that effect. (“Sharon is the assistant and she runs the whole place.”).
  • All of your health care providers – doctors, dentist, optometrist, veterinarian (who is going to take care of Fluffy?). Put similar information by each one – what they helped you with and if any office or nursing staff know you and your history.
  • Important to remember also, anything handled online: digital password manager, online user ids and passwords, bank statements, investment accounts, real estate deeds and mortgages. So much of our financial lives nowadays keys off of our email address. Can they even get into your email? (See: Document Your Digital Assets for more online stuff to consider.)

Extra Items for the Notebook

In addition, not-as-essential items some people include are:

  • An “ethical will” outlining your values. This often gives family members guidance when they are unsure what you would want. Writer Susan Turnbull’s book, The Wealth of Your Life, can help guide you through this process.
  • An end-of-life health care management booklet, like Five Wishes.
  • An Aging Plan – describing your wishes for the potential time of life when you may need assistance with activities of daily living, transportation, and housing transitions.

Notebook Update Season

It’s a good time of year to check in on your notebook. The end of January brings tax notices from bank accounts, investment accounts, mortgage statements, health insurance, employers, IRA providers, and more. Take this opportunity to pull together scattered pieces of your financial life. Consider collecting everything not only for the accountant, but also for your family or special someone.

One way to keep the notebook updated is to check each tax statement and match it up with a corresponding account in the notebook. Perhaps you forgot about those I-bonds you bought on Treasury Direct – no paper statements, all online. Better add that account to the notebook. All those deductions for insurance from your employer – would someone know how to contact the insurance companies if needed? Then would the insurance companies talk to them? That contact info, power of attorney forms, and beneficiary designations are good updates for the notebook too.

Think of your notebook as a bread crumb trail helping your loved ones work backward from that remote island to the place where you are sitting with paid bills, up to date connections, easily-accessed email and your personal address book at your disposal. A little effort each year will save your someone(s) many headaches later.

Got a notebook you love already? Comment below on what makes it uniquely yours. Share your best ideas.

For more on this topic, see The Mindful Money Mentality: How To Find Balance in Your Financial Future. Struggling with issues mentioned here? Tell me more – Schedule a call.

Continue ReadingNew Year: Got Your Notebook?

New Year: Where’s Your Notebook?

Keep important data in a Notebook

It’s a new year: where’s your notebook? You know, that one with all of your passwords, account numbers, doctor names, and that very important song that must be played at your funeral.

Yeah, that notebook. Where is it? It might be a digital file folder on your computer or in the cloud, or it might be a pile of papers in a file cabinet, or it might be nice and neat in an old-fashioned 3-ring binder. The new year is a good time to ask: how easily can someone who needs it find it?

Notebook Update for Tax Season

Right after New Year’s season comes tax season. The end of January brings tax notices from bank accounts, investment accounts, mortgage statements, health insurance, employers, IRA providers, and more. Many take this opportunity to pull together scattered pieces of their financial life. While you’re at it, consider collecting everything not only for the accountant, but also for your family. The Notebook is a vital reference for your loved ones, just in case you’re not around, or not able, to do it yourself. If you already have a Notebook, now is a good time to review it.

One way to keep the notebook updated is to check each tax statement and match it up with a corresponding account in the notebook. Perhaps you forgot about those I-bonds you bought back in December on Treasury Direct. Better add that account to the Notebook. All those deductions for insurance from your employer – would someone know how to access the insurance companies if needed? That contact info is a good update for the notebook too.

What Goes in the Notebook?

In essence, the Notebook is a central place you keep stuff in case something happens to you. Many people have some kind of a notebook or desk drawer, but often have a few items missing.

Common and essential items in the Notebook include:

  • Your five basic estate planning documents: original will (drafted by an attorney in the state where you reside), living will, health care surrogate, durable power of attorney, and HIPAA designations.
  • Advanced estate planning documents: trusts, partnership agreements, business buy/sell agreements, shareholder agreements, etc.
  • Insurance policies. ALL of them: life, long term care, health, property, car, boat, liability, and any others.
  • Contact information for professional advisers: attorneys, bankers, accountants, investment advisers, insurance agents, and (of course) your Certified Financial Planner™.
  • Also, if your adviser has an assistant or paraprofessional who knows you and your situation, write down their contact information and a little note to that effect. (“Sharon is the assistant and she runs the whole place.”).
  • All of your health care providers – doctors, dentist, optometrist, veterinarian (who is going to take care of Fluffy?). Put similar information by each one – what they helped you with and if any office or nursing staff know you and your history.
  • Important to remember also, directions on how to find your financial stuff: digital password manager, online user ids and passwords, bank statements, investment accounts, real estate deeds and mortgages.

Extra Items for the Notebook

In addition, not-as-essential items some people include are:

  • An “ethical will” outlining your values. This often gives family members guidance when they are unsure what you would want. Writer Susan Turnbull’s book, The Wealth of Your Life, can help guide you through this process.
  • An end-of-life health care management booklet, like Five Wishes.
  • An Aging Plan – describing your wishes for the potential time of life when you may need assistance with activities of daily living, transportation, and housing transitions.

Think of your Notebook as a bread crumb trail helping your loved ones work backward in your footsteps. A little extra investment of time at tax season will be worth the effort.

Got a Notebook already? Comment below on what makes it uniquely yours. Share your best ideas.

For more on this topic, see The Mindful Money Mentality: How To Find Balance in Your Financial Future. Or to schedule a call to talk about Notebooks and staying organized, schedule a call.

Continue ReadingNew Year: Where’s Your Notebook?

Year-End Tax Questions

Tax calendar

Year-end tax questions are those questions to ask yourself, your accountant, or your Certified Financial Planner™ this time of year. Asking the questions in early November provides time to make year-end decisions before it’s too late. Some decisions can wait until Christmas week, but several are best done with a few weeks to spare.

Generally, they fall into 3 categories:
Year to date income?
Year to date deductions? and
What to do now?

Year to Date Income?

First, figure out your year to date income. How much have you made year to date? What does it look like you will make for this year? Common items that are forgotten:

Year to Date Deductions?

Next, look at year to date deductions. Everyone gets a 2021 standard deduction of $12,550 Single/$18,800 Head of Household/$25,100 Married Filing Jointly. Other deductions to consider, or if you itemize:

What To Do Now?

Finally, the goal with tax planning is to avoid reporting taxable income that’s barely over some kind of threshold or bracket. For example, though a bit extreme: A couple in their 60s with one spouse still working and one over 65 on Medicare reports $177,000 in 2021 taxable income. This is $1,000 over the threshold of $176,000 for the first (of 6) Medicare income brackets. The additional $1,000 in income costs the couple $713 in Medicare premium surcharges in 2023. That’s a marginal tax rate of 71.3%!

If your taxable income is on a critical tax threshold, you can strategize. A few easy examples:

  • Make sure you have maxed out your retirement account contributions for the year.
  • Or, turned 50? You get an extra catchup contribution to your retirement account.
  • Turned 55? You get an extra catchup contribution on a Health Savings Account (HSA). (More info here: Why an HSA Beats an IRA Any Day)
  • If you show business income, can you defer income or accelerate expenses between December and January?
  • If you believe you are in a lower tax bracket now than you will be in retirement, and additional income won’t bump you up against any of the other thresholds, consider a Roth conversion. But do it soon. It can take several weeks to accomplish, depending upon which company holds your accounts. And year-end gets busy for these.

Charitable Giving Options

Have a Year-end Tax Planning Meeting

Consequently, meeting with your accountant or Certified Financial Planner™ now might help you discover whether you are on the border of one of the many confusing tax code thresholds. Then you can decide what to do about it before it’s too late.

Schedule a 30-minute call to talk more about tax planning or money topics: https://bit.ly/3GWZNrc

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