Category Archives: Financial Advice

Plan on Estate Planning in 2020

Next year is almost here. In just a few weeks, 2020 will arrive. Are you ready?

Yes, it is an election year. It is a leap year. It is a new year to plan and move ahead with those plans. 

Should it also be your “Estate Planning Year”? Yes. As hard as it may be to think about, let alone talk about dying and what happens with all our stuff when that happens… it is a fact of life. 

So, while we have covered the topic of estate planning in other blogs, it is a subject that is worth revisiting. As this year winds down, you can act now to plan for your estate and help protect your family and loved ones. 

As you sit down with your trusted financial and estate planning advisor, keep these five points in mind:

  1. Life Insurance: There was a popular radio commercial about life insurance many years ago that said “Life insurance isn’t for the deceased. It’s for the living!” It seemed like a trite, non-sensical statement but it is so true. Life insurance is primarily used to protect a loved one from loss of income when the spouse or family member dies. Life insurance is a tax-free income that the beneficiary may use for income and expenses. If you’re not sure where to begin with life insurance policies, go to www.consumersadvocate.org/life-insurance/ for the latest reviews.      
  2. Beneficiary Designations: Life insurance, 401(k)s, IRAs and personal property all will be owned by someone upon the owner’s death. So, designate beneficiaries for all of these items. Review and update those beneficiaries every few years. Backup beneficiaries can also be named should the first beneficiary pass away.
  3. Charitable giving: Non-profit organizations receive billions of dollars each year from the generous giving of estates. Legacy giving is popular for churches, temples, alma maters, non-profits, civic groups and other legally designated 501 ( c ) 3  organizations. You can also discuss with your financial advisor the advantages of setting up a CRAT (Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust). 
  4. Form a Trust: Discuss with your estate planning advisor revocable or irrevocable trusts. Discuss your wants and needs and find out if one of these options matches your goals for estate planning.                             
  5. Reduce debt load: Pay off your debts! It is that simple. Your estate may end up paying those debts off which means leaving less for your heirs. Begin now at paying off credit cards, liens, and loans. 

Why work on estate planning now when there’s always tomorrow? It’s a lot of work! Truth is, making an appointment to start the estate planning process, making a plan, and then working towards that plan will set you and your family up for success! Don’t wait, act now. 

A.K. Burton, PC, has an experienced estate planning advisor and attorney on our staff who can help you do it all. We can begin now and take you through the entire process, professionally and compassionately. Contact us at (301) 365-1974 to schedule a consultation. Our accounting firm serves the Bethesda, Rockville, and Montgomery County, Maryland areas.    

Financial Advisor: Five Year-End Retirement Planning Strategies

This is the time of the year when most people are thinking of the holidays and what presents they may be buying for their friends and family. Few people are thinking about retirement planning and that is understandable. Amidst all the turkey, football and naps, you are tempted to take time off from all the work hubbub. 

Yet, the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are the perfect times to begin retirement planning. The business year is ending. The tax year is ending. If there was a time to start a retirement investment portfolio, it’s now!

So, here a few retirement planning strategies your financial advisor may tell you:

  1. Charitable contributions: At this time of year, donations to non-profits are at a yearly high. People feel driven to donate to causes such as homeless shelters, food banks, disease research, and other charitable organizations. So, they can do a QCD or Qualified Charitable Distribution. It is complicated but basically works like this: People with IRAs subject to a required minimum distribution have not yet taken it for the year, they can then use the qualified charitable distribution (QCD) provision. Thus, they can make their contributions directly from their IRA. It is then counted toward the RMD and be excluded from income. Thus it creates a tax deduction in addition to the standard deduction. It applies only to IRAs, not to plans, and only IRA owners or beneficiaries who are at least 701/2 qualify. Donor-advised funds and private foundations are not eligible. No gifts can be accepted, either. This must be done by December 31, 2019. 
  2. Roth IRA Conversions: Since 2018, conversions cannot be reversed. Now, they are permanent and the tax is due after funds are converted. Roth conversions qualify for this year if the funds are converted from the IRA or plan by year’s end. There are a lot of things to keep in mind here such as Social Security taxability, Medicare Part B/D premium increases, financial aid and other considerations. Please consult with your financial advisor on this strategy. 
  3. Split inherited IRAs by December 31: If the owner of the IRA died last year and had a number of named beneficiaries, those beneficiaries can use their life expectancy for calculating required minimum distributions. The IRAs are split into separate shares before the year is over following the IRA owner’s death. 
  4. Pay off debt: If you can pay more on your mortgage payments and pay it off early, you can then pay more money into your IRA. Pay off credit cards, car loans, and balloon loans. 
  5. Plan where you will live when you retire: Every state is ranked on which is best or worst to retire in. You choose where you want to live and then calculate how much you will need to retire and begin investing now to do that. There are a number of websites such as www.moneywise.com which rank the states as to which is most retirement-friendly and how much income you need to make to live “comfortably.” 

There are a number of other financial moves you can make before the end of the year. So, the best step to take? Consult your financial advisor. They can help you to make the smart moves NOW, before the holidays and the year-end. 

Enjoy time with your family and friends. Those memories are priceless. But, retirement isn’t. So, call your financial advisor today and take those first or additional steps that will make your retirement better and smarter. 

A.K. Burton, PC, has experienced financial advisors who can advise you on retirement planning, no matter what your occupation or age. Call us at (301) 365-1974 for a consultation. Our accounting firm serves the Bethesda, Rockville, and Montgomery County, Maryland areas.   

Ask a Financial Advisor: Should You Do Your Startup Business Now?

We have all seen the headlines: “Best economy in fifty years!” 

We’ve also seen the story about the person who lost their job and said they weren’t going to work for “the man” anymore. So, they started their own business and now are multi-millionaires! 

Great economy. 

Wealthy entrepreneur. 

There are plenty of success stories. There are also plenty of failures. Starting a business is a risky venture which can make or break an individual and their investors. It should be done carefully and with research. 

Before you hand in your two-week notice, pack your office and take out a loan to start your new business, it is important, from a financial advisor’s view, to consider these factors:

  1. Starting a new business by yourself is almost impossible: You will not be able to do it all on your own. You may need a business coach to help you prepare. You may need the advice of a financial advisor to set up a budget. You may need an accountant to do your bookkeeping. You may need an admin assistant to take phone calls and do your records. You may also need to create a team of subcontractors. In other words: You will need a support system. 
  2. Start-up is a way to not make money for a while (i.e. years): If you had planned to replace your income during your startup time period, you will be disappointed. Many new entrepreneurs go without paying themselves for years, sometimes five years or more until the business begins to pay. Most income goes into paying for rent, utilities, equipment, Wifi, fees, and payroll. You may need to keep your present job just to pay the bills or depend on your spouse, family or investors to pay your personal expenses. It may pay off eventually but, in the meantime, you may live a Spartan lifestyle. 
  3. Take care of your mental and physical health: We’ve heard the horror stories of doing 20-hour workdays and working seven days a week. That cannot last long. The body and mind will shut down. A new startup will require long hours but doing a ridiculous schedule will only burn the new entrepreneur out. Share your difficult times with your spouse, family, church/temple or networking group. Get 6-8 hours of regular sleep, eat three meals a day, exercise fifteen minutes a day, reduce alcohol consumption and dependence on drugs to keep you going. Finally, practice humility. You cannot work all day, every day. You won’t survive. Put your mental and physical health first. 
  4. Be comfortable with change: Life is all about adapting to change and leading a startup can be quite chaotic. Be ready to accept changes, some big (moving the business to a new storefront) and some small (changing copiers). Change may also signify success. Embrace it and roll with it. Most changes are not negative, even if they take a while to adapt. 
  5. No job is too low or too dirty: Running your own business, at first, may mean cleaning your bathroom, emptying your trash, mopping the floor, dusting the desk and doing the inventory. You are part of a team and that means not being afraid to get your hands dirty. 
  6. Keep a tight watch on your finances: As a financial advisor, I have seen startups that have been disciplined in their spending and others that have become debt-ridden as expenses got out of control. Either hire an experienced bookkeeper to watch every expense or have someone on the company keep tabs on expenses. Most business failures come from out of control spending that is not paid for by income. Debt is part of doing a startup but it can send businesses crashing to the ground, too, never to return. Bottom line: watch every penny and be disciplined in spending.   

After reading the above, you may still be asking: Should I start my own business? You have to make that decision on your own after getting seasoned and smart advice. If you can handle all that we talked about, you may be ready to start your own business. 

A.K. Burton, PC, works with small businesses and entrepreneurs every day. Our experienced legal and financial advisors can help you with planning, budgeting, and payroll.  Contact our friendly and experienced staff at (301) 365-1974 or email info@cpa-maryland.com. A.K. Burton, PC serves the Bethesda, Rockville, and Montgomery County areas. 

Seven Reasons to be Thankful for Your Financial Advisor

Thanksgiving is almost here. You’ve invited family, friends, and in-laws. The food is ready to go and it’s holiday time!

There are many reasons to be thankful: for good health, better employment, a new addition to the family, or just knowing you have made it through another year with challenges. You’re making it! Whether it’s been a great year or terrible year, we can always reflect on our lives and find something in which to be thankful.

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During the holiday season, we are all so busy wrapped up in what we’ve got going on that we overlook many of the more subtle reasons to be thankful. Let’s take a moment and be thankful for the accountant or financial advisor for your business. Here are seven reasons be thankful:

  1. Help in setting up your business: Financial advisors are experts in small business start-ups. They have the knowledge and experience in applying for LLCs (or other legal designations), creating a business plan and giving budgeting advice.
  2. Small business regulation: No business owner wants to deal with federal, state and local regulations. They are time killers and extremely frustrating. Financial advisors can update you on current regulations, labor laws and OSHA requirements. Small business accountants can relieve you of the burdens of regulatory research. You will get the list and advice on any and all regulations affecting your small business.
  3. Auditing your business: Speaking of burdens, keeping track of your income and expenses can also be agonizing. You’d rather read “War and Peace” than personally audit your business books. It’s a common feeling and understandable. Accountants bring an unbiased eye to your books. They can audit them and give you a concise report. Plus they can help you head off any accounting dangers at the pass by correcting issues and getting you on the right track.
  4. Tax savings: The IRS is constantly changing tax laws. It can be confounding, even for accountants! However, it’s our job to be on top of all changes and to apply those changes to your tax returns. Financial advisors not only know the current tax laws, but they help you legally reduce your tax bill. They may be able to save you thousands of dollars. But even if it’s a few dollars, at least you aren’t paying it to the government! That is a win no matter how much you save.
  5. Correct tax payments: Taxes. They are a pain but they have to be paid. You want to make sure you pay the right amount on time. Whether you’re self-employed or unsure if you’ve withheld enough from your paycheck, we’ve got you covered. At A.K. Burton PC, our accountants review all your pertinent information and create estimated tax payments. These estimates tell you how much to pay and when.
  6. Offload the work: Any smart business owner who has employees or subcontractors, has to offload work in order to make money and accomplish business goals. You can’t do it all yourself. Hiring accountant who specializes on your business’ financial side, gives you time to focus on all the other tasks you can never seem to get to.
  7. Buying or selling your business: You may be investigating the purchase or merger of another business. It may take your business to the next level. There are many financial aspects to consider. Your financial advisor can take you through each step and work with your attorney in buying or merging the business.

Running a successful small business is both a joy and a pain. Our financial advisors at A.K. Burton, PC can eliminate some of that pain by meeting all of your small business needs. And for that, you can be thankful. This holiday season at A.K. Burton, PC, we are thankful for our clients and serving you. Happy Thanksgiving!

A.K. Burton, PC, which serves the Washington,D.C. and Bethesda, Md area, has experienced and licensed financial advisors who can help you make sense of your small business bookkeeping. Contact us at (301) 365-1974 for more information or email info@cpa-maryland.com.

        

      

Ten Smart Ways to Save Money in 2017

The famous humorist, Will Rogers, once said, “Too many people spend money they earned…to buy things they don’t want…to impress people that they don’t like.”

It is a timeless quote that characterizes so many of us, both personally and professionally. We buy too much, get into debt and find our lives spiraling out of control as our income can no longer support our lifestyle or business.saving money A K Burton

But this is a New Year. And there is hope. 2017 is here and whatever happened or failed to happen last year is history. You can truly start anew with better financial habits.

So, here are Ten Quick Smart Ways to Save Money in 2017:

  1. Pay off Debts: This is the most important one of all. Pay off your debts, maybe starting from the lowest to the largest, as quickly as you can. It may mean fewer meals out or holding off on doing vacation this year, but meet with a financial expert and create pay plans to pay them off. Once this is done, you may be surprised at how your life will improve.
  2. Use Coupons: Just about every grocery store has coupons, most are now in their apps, for their customers. Make a grocery list and use the coupons (or their MVP or preferred customer card) when you buy.
  3. Brew coffee at home: The fufu coffee beverages at $4.00 and more, add up quickly on a weekly basis. Buy several pounds of coffee and brew it at home before you leave for work. Treat yourself on Friday with one Starbucks drink or other similar coffee shop. You may save $500 a year just doing this!
  4. Fill up your car: Gas is expensive, especially in the metropolitan areas. If you can fill up your car instead of getting a few dollars’ worth, you can save quite a bit of money in the long run.
  5. Buy movies online: Going to see a movie can be $15 per person or higher. Plus, the popcorn and candy adds to the outrageous price. Instead, load Amazon Prime or Netflix to your devices and TV. The yearly price may be less than you pay for one or two movies with the family.
  6. Combine errands: We travel so much around the Washington, D.C. Beltway! It may take several hours to just run an errand or two because of the traffic. So, save time and money by combining your errands (grocery, gas, appointments, visits, etc.) if possible. Less stress and expense!
  7. Compare Fees on mobile phone plans: There are many different phone plans now. You may have completed your 2-year contract so look around. There are several vendors which charge only a monthly fee for unlimited usage.
  8. Eat Out Less: This is a tough one and I can understand the reluctance. Eating out is fun at your favorite restaurants. But this can cost hundreds even thousands of dollars a year. So, eat out maybe once a week as a treat. Save up that money for paying off debts, children’s education or home improvements, etc.
  9. Keep a Spending Journal: Record your expenses for several months and see where your hard-earned income is going. This is a proven way to cool the spending jets and get on track for smarter spending.
  10. Volunteer: This may sound kind of weird but hear me out. When you are volunteering and helping the underprivileged in your community it does three things: Makes you appreciate what you do have, gives you an opportunity to share your skills with an agency that is assisting others and, lastly, when you are volunteering you are not out spending. Everyone gains from helping others.

I hope this has been a help to you. Get this year off to the right track by saving your hard-earned money and improving your life and others.

If you need a financial advisor for personal or professional financial counseling from tax planning, to payroll, to choice of Business/Financial Entity planning and many other services, A. K. Burton, PC, can meet all your private and business accounting needs. Call us at (301) 365-1974 for more information.