December 2012 Issue 1 ...Volume 2
Playing it Safe Safe and Charitable Giving Charitable giving is a time-honored tradition in the United States and is even enshrined in our tax code as a legitimate deductible expense. By Steve Dinnen Continue Page 3
Safety Pins Opportunities There are opportunities in life, but they are wasted and whither unless they are acted upon. By Norm Wilkens
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Personal Finance It’s Tax Time, Are You Ready? If you’re like most taxpayers, you find yourself with an ominous stack of “homework” around TAX TIME! By Thompson Myers and Associates, PC Continue Page 12
So, when are you going to retire?
by Raymond J. Ohlson CLU, CRC Have you ever had anyone ask you this question, “So, when are you going to retire?” Maybe a close friend, maybe a spouse, or maybe a business associate? I have had many people ask me that question, and I always give a simple answer, “I hope I never have to retire.” Now, before you think I am some type of “workaholic,” that is not true. I work hard when I work, and I also like to enjoy myself. But, I truly love what I do, and I have my own business. So, at this point, I don’t have to worry about someone firing me. I say “at this point,” because my wife
Safe Retirement Shrinkage After the millennium recession we witnessed several makers of bagged foods (cereals, chips, pretzels and such) reduce the quantity of the contents without reducing the size of the bag or the cost. By Dr. Jack Marrion
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Safe for Life Is Your Pet Ready for Winter? Changing your body takes time -- often months and years. It’s human nature to want instant changes, but change is a perpetual process. By Dr. Erin Zargin
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Safety Pins ... From Fear to Safety Continued In simple terms, I have both a job that I love and an exit strategy. So, as long as I can add value and keep my health, don’t you touch my office keys! Nonetheless, I am keenly aware that not all Americans are as excited about their jobs as I am about mine. I also realize that many people are in a situation where they will be forced to retire, perhaps before they are ready. Other folks might lose their jobs due to termination, and, unfortunately, some people may develop an ailment or illness which cuts short their working years. But, back to the original question: “When are you going to retire?” Or, I might want to ask you, “When should you retire?” First, let me give you the bad news. I don’t have an answer! And, most people won’t. But, this decision is very personal and very important. Yes, it’s hard to believe, and often hard to accept, but that final working day does come. So, let’s take a look at everything you should consider. Even though those ads on television show a man and a woman strolling on the beach, drinking champagne, and playing with their kids on the sailboat, in the real world, for most people, that’s not how it is. So, it’s time to grab your records and take stock of where you are right now. Oh, and if you’re married, grab your spouse too!
The following are some frequently asked questions to help you determine when the time is right for you to retire: 1. Should you, and /or your spouse, start taking social security early, now, or later? 2. What will be the difference in income when you do start drawing your Social Security benefits? 3. If you’re married, which social security check will go away at the death of a spouse? 4. Do you have enough cash to make up that difference? 5. What about your health? Do you have longterm care coverage? If not, have you set aside enough cash to cover those potential Back to Table of Contents
medical expenses? 6. Are you thinking about retiring before age 65? Where will you get health insurance? 7. Can you continue working? Will you then be able to stay on your employer’s health plan? 8. Have you made a list of essential and discretionary expenses? 9. How long will your money last? 10. What will be your household needs? 11. What plans, dreams, or goals do you still have to accomplish (your “bucket list”)? 12. Finally, does it make sense to delay your retirement? These are just some of the questions that you should answer. And, if you are close to the traditional retirement age, it’s best to start thinking about these questions right now. Procrastination can really hurt you when you do retire! Dealing with all of these questions – honestly and realistically – can make the difference between a tranquil or torrid retirement. In my opinion … better be safe and plan now than be sorry you didn’t when that final day of work comes around!
About the Author: Raymond J. Ohlson CLU, CRC, CEO & President of The Ohlson Group, Inc. and SMP International, LLC Mr. Ohlson entered the insurance business while completing his Bachelor of Science Degree at Ball State University. He quickly qualified for the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) of which he is a Life Member. He also received his Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation from the American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Mr. Ohlson, a former life insurance company president, currently sits on college and hospital boards and is a published author. Raymond J. Ohlson can be reached at: email@example.com.
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Playing it Safe
Safe and Charitable Giving ... By Steve Dinnen Yearning for world peace but can’t quite pull it off on your own? Why not link with Armed Forces with Physicians for Social Responsibility, a Washington-based charitable organization that promotes the quest for such tranquility. Interested in human rights? Dash off a check to Amnesty International. And if you’re into ending hunger, Bread for the World is the place to be. All of these are, of course, charities, and all of them may be very safe, worthwhile causes/ organizations on which to spend your money to help do some good on this globe. Back to Table of Contents
Charitable giving is a timehonored tradition in the United States and is even enshrined in our tax code as a legitimate deductible expense. Thus, you can save some tax dollars if you’re willing to open your wallet to worthwhile causes. There are thousands of charities (half of whom have seem to have clogged my mailbox with solicitations during the past few months). I welcome many of these charitable solicitations: however, I admit I must ignore most because my pockets are only so deep. But the most important question
you and I must answer is, “Where do I begin?” The answer is to find a charity that works on projects or causes that interest you. Personally, I try to support charities that relieve human suffering, especially in poor parts of the world. I figure the least we can do is try to give people a shot at the basics, such as food and shelter. This organization (www.heifer.org) for example, has a distinguished record in buying animals – chickens, rabbits, water buffalo, and so forth – for people who then either raise their livestock to ( Page 3 )
Playing it Safe ... Safe and Charitable Giving Continued feed themselves or to sell for cash. I also favor charities that work on clean water, stamping out malaria, or other diseases that bedevil the third world. These organizations are working for folks who simply don’t have the means to cure what ails them. Some of this charity work is hands-on, and I have traveled to both Guatemala and El Salvador to help with sanitation and health projects. But let’s face it: I am not an expert in confronting these issues. Nor do I necessarily have the time to travel. So I usually find it is more efficient to put some money into the hands of those more expert. Charitable work dollars and efforts need not stretch to Latin America. I have also found plenty of worthwhile charities right in my backyard, helping local people while bettering my community. But, regardless
of where you spend your money, you want to know it’s being put to good use. So, I try to avoid charities with impressive buildings or bloated CEO salaries. Can a charity that spends 94.6 percent of its money on fundraising be expected to accomplish anything more than spending more money on fundraising? I crossed them off my list after spotting that sorry statistic on www.charitynavigator.org. Yes, some charities don’t really accomplish much, but groups such as charitynavigator or the American Institute of Philanthropy help you sort the good from the not-so-good. It’s important to spend money on causes you support, but it’s just as important to make sure that it’s being spent wisely and safely. In short: find a charity you can “relate to,” but then check ‘em out completely before parting with your hard-earned cash!
About the Author: Steve Dinnen Steve is a freelance writer specializing in financial and travel news. He received his Bachelors Degree from Drake University and his Master of Journalism from Oklahoma University. Mr. Dinnen served as Sr. Business Reporter for the Des Moines Register, Business News Editor for the Indianapolis Star and served as Editor (freelance) for the Christian Science Monitor of its weekly personal finance column. Steve can be reached at : Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Playing it Safe ... Why Is the Unemployment Rate Still So High?
Why Is the Unemployment Rate Still So High? by Dr. Michael Hicks
In short, it took nearly all of us to make this happen. A growing undercurrent of economists is now warning about structural unemployment (a skills mismatch) that leaves millions without jobs. This led to a question asked by one online commenter, “How did structural unemployment come about from a housing market collapse?” Good question. The Great Recession wasn’t simply caused by a housing market collapse; it was more than that. The economic unwinding in which we still live required lots of failures. We needed home buyers willing to suspend belief over unrealistic future price growth, lenders unconcerned with creditworthiness, financial engineers unaware of changing risk profiles, a government backing large mortgage buyers, the Federal Reserve maintaining low interest rates, workers skipping out on higher education to take jobs in construction, and millions of households taking on consumer debt in the belief that their home value would rise forever. In short, it took nearly all of us to make this happen. So, it would be pretty improbable if after all of this, there weren’t a significant number of workers with skills that Back to Table of Contents
are no longer in demand. That is structural unemployment. The size of it today, perhaps 2 percent of our workforce, is striking. There is more to the story. The economics we learn in high school and college tends to treat the adjustment of markets as a smooth and relatively rapid process. That is true enough for some, but there’s enough imperfection in markets to cause mischief. The failures of markets have animated much economic research over the past two decades, including your columnist’s humble doctoral dissertation. So what insights might have we uncovered about great recessions and unemployment? Suppose that financial or housing bubbles breed bubbles elsewhere. These bubbles may be in labor markets for construction workers, or in factory work for construction materials or household appliances or cars. Once one bubble bursts, the others follow suit. I cannot resist explaining these market adjustments the way economist attempt to explain it mathematically. I will use two examples borrowed from the physical sciences. ( Page 5 )
Playing it Safe ... Why Is the Unemployment Rate Still So High? First, think plate tectonics (the way continents move). Force builds as huge land masses press against one another over long periods of time, but is released in an instant. This is an earthquake. Second, think of punctuated equilibrium in evolution surmised and made popular by Stephen Jay Gould. Instead of evolution happening slowly and smoothly over time, some great stress or environmental change on species led to rapid evolutionary changes. Once the adaption was finished, the species spent a lengthy time without noticeable change, with the cycle repeating itself, not slowly over time, but in rapid bursts. Either of these two phenomena can be used to explain (mathematically) why this recent shock has led to a particularly large level of structural unemployment. But we don’t really have to rely on naturalists on these matters. The economist David Ricardo wrote about this problem 44 years before Darwin and a full century before plate tectonics. What he observed is what plagues us today, many workers without the right skills facing long bouts of unemployment.
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About the Author ... Dr. Michael Hicks Dr. Michael Hicks is an Associate Professor of Economics and Director of Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research. Mike has economics degrees from Virginia Military Institute and the University of Tennessee and has been on the faculty at the University of Tennessee, Marshall University and the Air Force Institute of Technology. In addition to writing a syndicated weekly column on economic policy, he has written three books, more than 30 scholarly papers and over 150 technical reports. He has testified before U.S. House and Senate committees, several state legislatures and in federal and state courts. His research has been cited by most national outlets including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, CNBC, Fox Business, MSNBC, CSPAN, Al Jazeera, and others. Mike is an infantry Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves and has served in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, in both peacekeeping and combat. He’s married to the former Janet Thomas, a Butler University graduate, and has a daughter aged twelve, and two sons, aged eleven and seven. Phone: 765-285-5926 Fax: 765-285-8024 Email: email@example.com
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Safety Pins Opportunity By Norm Wilkens
When I was in the Radio Department at Butler University, I was part of a theatre concept creating half-hour dramas for broadcast. The name of the program was “When Opportunity Meets Desire” and was a part of a show called “Index Theatre – Your Catalog to Fine Entertainment.” The whole concept was to create story lines that pointed out that things don’t just happen, often there is significant planning as well as skill involved in making the conclusion fit the path to success. I know that goes without saying, as I have learned through my business experiences. There are opportunities in life, but they are wasted and whither unless they are acted upon. Two distinct life lessons point to the conclusion being presented in this short essay. Over the past years, a number of articles as well as books have featured the life story of Sam Walton who certainly had a vision, and he moved on it in a very timely fashion. We would call Mr. Walton a visionary today, but all the vision in the world doesn’t mean a thing unless it is acted upon. Sam Walton took a basic concept in retail business and literally changed the way we shop. He built a kernel of an idea into the largest retail empire in the world. It has been stated that you are never more than fifteen minutes from a WalMart or Sam’s Club. Imagine the thought process you would have to go through to create such an operation? He had a background in retail, but nothing to compare with the dream that became a reality. Sam Walton was a maverick in his approach to business. He did not build his dream in a normal fashion – he never utilized the tried and tested means of approaching his retail operations, but invented his own methods of analyzing marketing potential. He went looking for areas in Back to Table of Contents
rural America where there were few stores and sometimes even fewer customers. He knew if he built the kind of store filled with products people liked and wanted, and priced them reasonably, he could bring them to his new idea called a “big box” store. Both Mr. Walton and the folks behind Target Stores came up with similar concepts within a short time span of each other some sixty years ago. Both of these companies were highly ( Page 7 )
Safety Pins ... Safe and Charitable Giving Continued successful in their endeavors. To quote a famous line from FIELD OF DREAMS, “If you build it, they will come.” Mr. Walton could certainly take his place along with the Rockerfellers, Carnegies and others like them. He was inventive, thrifty, determined and skillful in his drive to success. Yet, until he died, he avoided all the trappings of success and wealth. He drove the same red truck to work; enjoyed a day of fishing or hunting, and would meet and greet all the town folks and have a cup of coffee at the local diner in Bentonville, Arkansas. Until the business grew to be overwhelmingly large, he knew by name most of the people who worked for him. If you wanted to do business with Sam, you had to come to Arkansas. In fact, you had better set up an office in Bentonville, or miss out on multiple opportunities. He wanted to know the top people of the companies in which he was going to conduct business. And, they did come at his insistence. Now, for the second part of the opportunities – this time not realized. I know of an example where a young entrepreneur came to a city in the Midwest over fifty years ago seeking investment monies for a new idea. He called on investment banks and real estate companies seeking funding. He was turned away at first because he didn’t have the “look of success”. Through persistence and keeping his eye on the goal, finally those who did see the potential and grasped the vision with him were rewarded. Too bad for the people who didn’t take advantage of the ideas this fellow was proposing because he built his concept into one of the largest retail shopping experiences here and abroad. Today, his idea is worth billions. Another gentleman, at the same time, also in a small Midwestern town, was seeking a banking relationship with a hometown or regional outlet. He was trying to create a manufacturing concern in electronics, and wanted to move into the programming side of the business. He was Back to Table of Contents
turned down repeatedly, and ended up taking his business to Chicago much to the regret of those financial advisors who didn’t have the vision he had for the future of his idea. I often saw him flying in second class back and forth to Chicago in those days carrying a briefcase full of ideas for investment, and the “Windy City” was listening and acting. To be successful, it is important to realize that opportunities are all around us on a daily basis. We have to recognize when those ideas meet the desires and fulfill the dreams for all concerned, and act upon them. About the Author: Norm Wilkens A nationally recognized speaker and writer, Norman Wilkens has traveled to forty-seven of the fifty states speaking on topics of marketing, advertising and public relations. His most noteworthy subjects include: Healthcare Marketing; Multi-generational travel and Baby Boomers - their contribution to society and economics. He is presently serving as Midwestern Contributor to California’s AAA WESTWAYS Magazine. Among Wilkens’ current activities are the Butler University Alumni Board of Directors; Butler’s Central Indiana Alumni Chapter Board; Chairman of the Board of Visitors for the new Communication College of Butler; Board of Directors of Ruth Lilly Educational Foundation; Salvation Army of Indiana Advisory Board and as an Elder at Second Presbyterian Church of Indiana. Email: NormWilkens@aol.com
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THE SAFE MONEY VIDEOS & AUDIOS Yep, that’s right. It’s movie time and it is free. So, get out the popcorn, pour a glass of your favorite beverage and relax. But, make sure you have a piece of paper and a pencil. You’ll want to call in to get more info when the number flashes across the screen. Now, please turn off you cell phones and enjoy our featured presentations.
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by Dr. Jack Marrion
I was only a kid when a 16 ounce pound of coffee suddenly became 15 ounces, then 14, then 13, but other groceries stayed the same size for quite awhile. It wasn’t until the mid ‘90s that some ice cream makers very quietly reduced the size of their half gallon to 1.75 quarts, since reduced to 1.5 quarts. After the millennium recession we witnessed several makers of bagged foods (cereals, chips, pretzels and such) reduce the quantity of the contents without reducing the size of the bag or the cost. The biggest kick in the shorts was what happened to toilet paper. It was bad enough that the paper on a roll shrunk from 468.7 square feet to 352 square feet – a 25% reduction in product size with no reduction in product price – but the TP makers tried to tell us this was better because they were now offering “double rolls” which is a meaningless marketing claim (I filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission about this false advertising, unfortunately the response back was “seriously?”, so I don’t think the Feds will be intervening in the TP scandal anytime soon). However, the Feds did intervene in what I was earning on my savings. Back in 2007 the interest paid on my bank savings averaged 4.1%. As the Federal Reserve Board intervened the average CD rate rather quickly dropped to 2% by the end of 2008, it fell to 1% by the middle of 2009 and today the average one-year CD rate is 0.3%. CD interest income has shrunk by over 90% in 5 years. A fixed annuity can guarantee your income will increase in future years even if rates do not Every savings vehicle has been affected by yield shrinkage, but some offer more protection than others. Although current interest rates on fixed annuities have fallen just like other vehicles, fixed annuities guarantee that at least a minimum interest rate will always be earned, so money set aside to grow will continue to grow. ( Page 10 )
Safe Retirement ... Shrinkage Continued If the goal is income, fixed annuities offer a couple of ways to receive an income that will never go down and can even go up. One of these is through an income annuity that provides a set income for a specific number of years – or even for life. Another option that is rapidly growing in use is a lifetime withdrawal benefit that guarantees a minimum annual income and access to the cash value of the annuity. You can even find annuities where the income is guaranteed to increase each year even if interest rates do not. I don’t think the era of shrinkage is over. When I went to the paint store last month the sign on top said “paint $15/gallon” but the paint can said it contained three and three quarter quarts. I wouldn’t be surprised if the way they eventually deal with
the high price of gas is to say a gallon contain 3 quarts – and then brag about how the price is finally under $3 a “gallon”. However, in this steadily shrinking world there is one thing that won’t get smaller and that is the guarantee on your fixed annuity. About the Author: Dr. Jack Marrion Dr. Marrion’s research on senior decision making and the financial world have been featured in hundreds of publications including: Business Week, Kiplinger, Smart Money, and The Wall Street Journal. He is the author of six books and a frequent media guest. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Learn how your money is protected from loss in safe money places. You will find information about: • The FDIC • NCUA • Guaranty Associations You can find out how your money is protected if the bank or your insurer fails. Visit our website at safemoneyplaces.com and click the “How Safe Are They?” Tab.
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Personal Finance It’s Tax Time,
Are You Ready?
by Thompson Myers and Associates, PC If you’re like most taxpayers, you find yourself with an ominous stack of “homework” around TAX TIME! Unfortunately, the job of pulling together the records for your tax appointment is never easy, but the effort usually pays off when it comes to the extra tax you save! When you arrive at your appointment and are fully prepared, you’ll have more time to:
Consider every possible legal deduction; Better evaluate your options for reporting income and deductions to choose those that are best suited to your situation; Explore current law changes that affect your tax status; Talk about possible law changes and discuss tax planning alternatives that could reduce your future tax liability.
Choosing Your Best Alternatives The tax law allows a variety of
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methods for handling income and deductions on your return. Choices made at the time you prepare your return often affect not only the current year, but future returns as well. When you’re fully prepared for your appointment, you will have more time to explore all avenues available for lowering your tax. For example, the law allows choices in transactions like:
Sales of property. . . . If you’re receiving payments on a sales contract over a period of years, you are sometimes able to choose between reporting the whole gain in the year you sell or over a period of time as you receive payments from the
Depreciation. . . . You’re able to deduct the cost of your investment in certain business property using different methods. You can either depreciate the costs over a number of years; or, in certain cases, you can deduct them all in one year.
Where to Begin? Ideally, preparation for your tax appointment should begin in January of the tax year you’re working with. Right after the New Year, set up a safe storage location – a file drawer, a cupboard, a safe, etc. As you receive pertinent records, file
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Personal Finance ... It’s Tax Time, Are You Ready? Continued them right away, before they’re forgotten or lost. By making the practice a habit, you’ll find your job a lot easier when your actual appointment date rolls around.
should be brought to our attention so we can determine if you have any special reporting requirements. The penalties for not making and submitting the required reports can be draconian.
Other general suggestions to consider for • Keep your annual income statements your appointment preparation include: • Segregate your records according to income and expense categories. For instance, file medical expense receipts in an envelope or folder, mortgage interest payment records in another, charitable donations in a third, etc. If you receive an organizer or questionnaire to complete before your appointment, make certain you fill out every section that applies to you. (Important: Read all explanations and follow instructions carefully to be sure you don’t miss important data – organizers are designed to remind you of transactions you may miss otherwise.) • Be sure to call our attention to any foreign bank account, foreign financial account or foreign trust in which you have an ownership interest, signature authority or control over. We also need to know about foreign inheritances and ownership of foreign assets. Generally any foreign financial dealings
separate from your other documents (e.g., W-2s from employers, 1099s from banks, stockbrokers, etc., and K-1s from partnerships). Be sure to take these documents to your appointment, including the instructions for K-1s!
• Write down questions you may have so you don’t forget to ask them at the appointment. Review last year’s return. Compare your income on that return to the income for the current year. For instance, a dividend from ABC stock on your prior-year return may remind you that you sold ABC this year and need to report the sale or that you haven’t yet received the 1099-DIV form for the current year. • Make certain that you have social security numbers for all your dependents. The IRS checks these carefully and can deny deductions for returns filed without them.
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Personal Finance ... It’s Tax Time, Are You Ready? Continued • Compare deductions from last year with your records for this year. Did you forget anything? • Collect any other documents and financial papers that you’re puzzled about. Prepare to bring these to your appointment so you can ask about them.
Accuracy Even for Details To ensure the greatest accuracy possible in all detail on your return, make sure you review personal data. Check name(s), address, social security number(s) and occupation(s) on last year’s return. Note any changes for this year. Although your telephone number isn’t required on your return, current home and work numbers are always helpful should questions occur during return preparation.
Marital Status Change If your marital status changed
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during the year, if you lived apart from your spouse or if your spouse died during the year, list dates and details. Bring copies of prenuptial, legal separation, divorce or property settlement agreements, if any, to your appointment. If your spouse passed away during the year, you should have a copy of his or her trust agreement or will available for review.
Dependents If you have qualifying dependents, you will need to provide the following for each: • First and last name • Social security number • Birth date • Number of months living in your home • Their income amount (both taxable and nontaxable) If you have dependent children over age 18, note how long they
were full-time students during the year. To qualify as your dependent, an individual must pass five strict dependency tests. If you think a person qualifies as your dependent (but you aren’t sure), tally the amounts you provided toward his/her support vs. the amounts he/she provided. This will simplify making a final decision about whether you really qualify for the dependency deduction.
Some Transactions Deserve Special Treatment Certain transactions require special treatment on your tax return. It’s a good idea to invest a little extra preparation effort when you have had the following transactions: Sales of Stock or Other Property: All sales of stocks, bonds, securities, real estate and any other type of property need to be reported on your return, even if you had no profit
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Personal Finance ... It’s Tax Time, Are You Ready? Continued or loss. List each sale, and have the purchase and sale documents available for each transaction. Purchase date, sale date, cost and selling price must all be noted on your return. Make sure this information is contained on the documents you bring to your appointment.
to the property. Remember, too, possible exclusion of gain applies only to a primary residence, and the amount of improvements made to other homes is required regardless of the gain amount. Be sure to bring a copy of the sale documents (usually the closing escrow statement) with you to the appointment.
Gifted or Inherited Property: If Purchase of a Home: Be sure you sell property that was given to bring a copy of the closing to you, you need to determine escrow statement if you when and for how much the purchased a home. original owner purchased it. If you sell property you inherited, Vehicle Purchase: If you you need to know the date of purchased a new plug-in electric the decedent’s death and the car (or cars) this year, you may property’s value at that time. qualify for a special credit. You may be able to find this Please bring the purchase information on estate tax returns statement to the appointment or in probate documents. with you. Reinvested Dividends: You may have sold stock or a mutual fund in which you participated in a dividend reinvestment program. If so, you will need to have records of each stock purchase made with the reinvested dividends. Sale of Home: The tax law provides special breaks for home sale gains, and you may be able to exclude all (or a part) of a gain on a home if you meet certain ownership, occupancy and holding period requirements. If you file a joint return with your spouse and your gain from the sale of the home exceeds $500,000 ($250,000 for other individuals), record the amounts you spent on improvements Back to Table of Contents
Home Energy-Related Expenditures: If you installed solar, geothermal or wind power generating systems, please bring the details of those purchases and the manufacturer’s credit qualification certification to your appointment. You may qualify for a substantial energy-related tax credit. Identity Theft: Identity theft is becoming more and more prevalent and can impact your tax filings. If you have reason to believe that your identity has been stolen, please contact this firm as soon as possible. The IRS provides special procedures for filing returns of taxpayers who have had their identity stolen.
Car Expenses: Where you have used one or more automobiles for business, list the expenses of each separately. The government requires that you provide your total mileage, business miles, and commuting miles for each car on your return, so be prepared to have them available. If you were reimbursed for mileage through an employer, know the reimbursement amount and whether the reimbursement is included in your W-2. Charitable Donations: Cash contributions (regardless of amount) must be substantiated with a bank record or written communication from the charity showing the name of the charitable organization, date and amount of the contribution. Cash donations put into a “Christmas kettle,” church collection plate, etc., are not deductible. For clothing and household contributions, the items donated must generally be in good or better condition, and items such as undergarments and socks are not deductible. A record of each item contributed must be kept, indicating the name and address of the charity, date and location of the contribution, and a reasonable description of the property. Contributions valued less than $250 and dropped off at an unattended location do not require a receipt. For contributions of $500 or more, the record must also include when and how the property was ( Page 15 )
Personal Finance ... It’s Tax Time, Are You Ready? Continued acquired and your cost basis in the property. For contributions valued at $5,000 or more and other types of contributions, please call this office for additional requirements. If you have questions about assembling your tax data prior to your appointment, please give this office a call.
About Thompson Myers & Associates, PC Accounting Firm Thompson Myers & Associates’ accounting and payroll staff have been delivering professional services to small businesses in Central Indiana for over 20 years. Having worked with hundreds of small business clients, we have significant expertise with a wide variety of service businesses in Indiana. We have especially strong experience and expertise in working with businesses in the healthcare (medical, dental, etc.) and foodservice (restaurants, caterers, etc.) industries. We recognize the value of a personal hands-on approach to doing business and earning clients for life. Thompson Myers & Associates is committed to carrying out our services with integrity, excellence, and respect for others. Our dedication and client support are beyond compare— focused on putting your best financial interests at the forefront. Phone Number: (317) 571-8080 Email: email@example.com Website: https://www.thompsonmyers.com/
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Safe For Life Is Your Pet Ready For Winter? Tips for keeping your pets safe and warm by Erin Zaring, D.V.M. You check your carâ€™s antifreeze level, you change your furnace filter, and you stick that funky plastic wrap over your windows, but do you remember to winterize your pets? The winter season, with festive holidays, cozy fires, and pretty snow showers, can also be a fun time for your pet. However, the winter months may present unique hazards to your pet, and youâ€™ll want to be prepared. Your first step should be to make sure that your pet has had a recent complete physical exam by your veterinarian. All pets should be examined once yearly, and older pets, especially those with chronic conditions, should be examined every six months. Also, make sure your pet is eating healthy food and is on a monthly parasite preventive all year long. Once your pet is healthy, well-fed, and parasite-free, you Back to Table of Contents
can follow the advice listed below to ensure that she has a safe winter season.
Keep pets indoors. Outdoor pets can get lost, stolen, injured, or even struck by a car, so keeping dogs and
cats inside is a good idea all year long. Moreover, during the winter, they face even more potential dangers. So if possible, keep your dogs and cats in your home.
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Safe For Life ... Is Your Pet Winterized? Continued If pets must stay outside, take special measures to keep them safe and warm. • Provide a warm, dry shelter. You can purchase or build a dog or cat house that has insulated walls. (Learn how to build your own outdoor cat shelter at http:// www.erubbermaid.com/ roughneck-homes?mid=57) For bedding, use fresh straw. Avoid using blankets or towels, as they will retain moisture and make your pet cold. Make sure that the opening to your pet’s shelter is big enough for him to get in, but not so big that wind, rain, and snow can get in. • Provide constant access to clean water. It’s easy to remember that dogs and cats need water on a hot summer day, but they need water during cold months too. Cold, windy, dry days can cause an outdoor pet to dehydrate quickly. Check your pet’s water supply twice daily. • Outside pets that are not confined to a pen or kennel will take shelter in some pretty peculiar spots. Dogs can get trapped in drainage culverts, sheds, and garages. Cats will climb up into car and truck engine compartments to find warmth. Get into the habit of tapping on the hood or honking the horn before starting your car or truck. Back to Table of Contents
• Frozen ponds pose a danger to pets. We teach our children to stay off of icedover ponds and rivers, and we should keep our pets, especially our dogs, off the ice too. If there is a frozen body of water near your home, keep your dog under close supervision, ideally on a leash. Dogs can fall through the ice and freeze or drown. • Take special precautions with small dogs, dogs with sparse hair coats, and elderly dogs. Little dogs lose body heat quickly. Dogs that have little to no hair have no protection from the cold. For these dogs, a good rule of thumb is that if you need a coat, then your pet needs a coat. Old dogs frequently suffer from arthritis. Cold weather makes your old dog’s joints especially sore and stiff. Keep your senior dog inside as much as possible, give her a coat and dog booties to wear outside; don’t send her outside wet (or dry her off quickly if she becomes wet while outside), and make sure she has a soft bed on which to lie.
Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. • Frostbite most commonly affects the tips of the ears, the toes, the tip of the nose, and the tip of the tail. Skin that has frostbite
may appear very pale or blue-tinged. Eventually it may turn bright red or even black. The skin may peel, and the hair may fall out. Your veterinarian can examine your dog or cat and determine if she has frostbite. • A dog with hypothermia will shiver, seem weak, may collapse, will take weak shallow breaths, and will seem incoherent (like he’s in a daze). If you can safely use a rectal thermometer, you can take your dog’s temperature. A normal dog temperature is between 99.5°F and 102.5°F. If your dog’s temperature is less than 99°F, place him on a warm, dry bed, inside your house, cover him with warm blankets (fresh out of the dryer would be perfect), and try to get him to drink some warm water or eat warm canned food. If your dog’s temperature is less than 90 F, take him to your nearest veterinary emergency hospital. Your cat will probably not let you safely take her temperature! If you suspect that your cat is hypothermic, take her to the local veterinary emergency hospital right away.
Learn about winter toxins. Antifreeze (ethylene glycol) is very toxic, and, unfortunately, dogs and cats like its sweet taste. Less toxic antifreeze ( Page 18 )
Safe For Life ... Is Your Pet Winterized? Continued products contain propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol, but these products are still toxic if your pet consumes a large amount. Some antifreeze products have taste-aversive additives that are supposed to make antifreeze taste bad. Donâ€™t be naĂŻve about these products. We all know that dogs (and some cats) will eat anything, regardless of how foul it tastes! Salts and deicers can be toxic to your pets as well, so never let your dog or cat eat snow from roads or sidewalks. If you wonder if a product is safe for your pet, or if you are worried that your pet may have been exposed to a toxin, you can contact the: Animal Poison Control Center at: (888) 426-4435 or via their website, http://www.aspca.org/ pet-care/poison-control/.
Inside is best, but there are winter dangers in your home too. Just like people, pets are susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure you have a functioning carbon monoxide detector in your home. Space heaters can be knocked over by a playful dog, or your cat may bat his favorite toy underneath the heater, sparking a fire. Holiday candles can singe cat whiskers and also pose a fire threat. The winter months can be a fun time of the year for you and your pets. You just need to take some extra precautions to keep your pets warm and safe. With these tips and your love, your fur-kids will enjoy a safe and happy winter!
About the Author: Dr. Erin Zaring Dr. Erin Zaring is the veterinarian at Curbside Care Mobile Veterinary Clinic in Indianapolis. Curbside Care is a full service veterinary clinic that comes to your home. From annual exams & vaccines, to dental cleanings, x-rays, and surgery - they do it all right at your home! Curbside Care offers compassionate, individualized veterinary care in a low stress environment. Dr. Zaring provides house calls for dogs and cats in Carmel, Zionsville, Westfield, Fishers and the north side of Indianapolis. You can learn more at www.curbsidecare.com.
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