It’s still the “holiday” season right now with all of the New Year festivities happening, but I’ve just about had enough of cookies and sweets to last me through April. (Well, maybe one more will be alright.)

But as the holidays wind down, it means no more extended family (which might be a relief?), no more parties, no more presents. Just … daily life. And, in my opinion, this coming week is actually crucial to how the rest of your year goes, Christy.

Why? Because intentions and actions matter. No, I certainly don’t subscribe to a mystical law of attraction — but I DO believe that how we act out what we intend to do sets a subconscious belief system in place which can have an impact for months at a time.

In other words–do what you *intend* to do this week, and it’ll be much easier to carry that forward into more of 2014. At least, that’s been my experience.

What about you? Do you find the beginning of the year to be full of opportunity? Or is it full of discouragement? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Well, for my staff and me … it’s certainly full of preparation. This is one of our most intense years of groundwork for tax season, simply because the tax code is getting even MORE complex. While we do NOT need to report anything to the IRS in regard to healthcare and the ACA this year … we are certainly planning for what that will look like in the years ahead.

Also, an important note: Because of the government shutdown earlier in the fall, the IRS systems missed some crucial preparation days, and resultingly, the start of actual tax filing will not begin until January 31, 2014. This does NOT mean that we can’t begin the preparation process earlier (we can, if you really have your paperwork in order), but it does mean that the IRS won’t be issuing refunds or otherwise officially accepting returns until that point.

Now, on to what you should be thinking about for 2014…

Valerie McLaughlin’s
“Real World” Personal Strategy Note

New 2014, New Financial Goals
“No matter how dirty your past is, your future is still spotless.” – Drake

Not to make you feel guilty, but for every seven years you delay saving and investing for the future, you cut in half the income you would enjoy at the end of your life. So, let’s make 2014 the year we get on the right financial course, shall we?

Here are some suggestions to get started…

1) Set realistic goals. First, ask the right questions, and stay the course until you’ve found the answers. Goals that are shared are ten times more likely to be acted on. Don’t wait until you have everything set up, to seek out accountability.

2) Make those goals concrete, and then document them. Set your savings goals as a specific annual percentage of your adjusted gross income (AGI). It’s a great idea to save at least 10% of your AGI in tax-free retirement accounts and another 5% toward retirement in taxable investments. If you are behind on your savings, you may want to save even more in order to catch up.

3) Craft the best strategy to implement your goals, including prioritizing the appropriate retirement vehicles. Start by investing just enough to get the entire match from a company’s 401(k) plan (if you have one), and then fund your Roth IRA accounts next. After these two, make certain you have enough non-retirement savings.

4) And this is a BIG deal — automate your plan. Automating putting money in an employer-defined contribution plan is easy. Automating a taxable savings plan is just as painless. Most banks or brokers offer an automatic money link between an investment account and a checking account. They should also offer a monthly automatic transfer between the two accounts.

Going into further detail would actually entail sitting down and creating a true, full financial plan–which is impossible over email (but very do-able, in person).

But I will say one last thing: the most critical component of wealth management in the new year will be AGI minimization. With the new linkage between income and healthcare — and all of the related subsidies and reporting requirements, it’s never been more important to monitor what number upon which the IRS is basing their picture of you. Let us help you do it right.

I do hope all this helps, Christy. To your family’s financial and emotional peace…

Warmly,

Valerie McLaughlin
(410) 224-2600