I feel like I have written a lot about tax-related matters recently in these blogs, and I suppose that means the tax-season hangover must have abated and I can once again stomach looking forward to the beginning of the next one. I am not the only one who should be doing this, though, as everyone can benefit by spending some time considering what their tax picture will look like when it comes time to file again.
Granted, for many this is an exercise that can be done in under 15 seconds. If your life and financial situations are much the same as they were last year, and you are happy with the final numbers on your tax return, then there is no reason to make any significant changes before it comes time to complete the forms again.
For those who are in different situations, however, spending a little more time on this mental exercise can help prevent a surprise bill in seven to nine months. And remember that this does not only have to be a change in your job situation. If you get married, divorced, have a kid, start going to school, or have a kid beginning college, these could all come with tax considerations that may lead to a significant change in your taxes.
However, this is also something worth paying attention to if you expect your income to change significantly from prior years. Entering new tax brackets is certainly not a bad thing (it is a rare situation where one should feel bad about making more money), but something that warrants being aware of its implications. This can be especially true for those who are self-employed or otherwise acquire much of their income without taxes already being withheld.
Thankfully, the IRS has a pretty strong tool to help one estimate your tax bill with its withholding calculator that you can check out at
https://apps.irs.gov/app/withholdingcalculator/. This will bring you through questions around both life events and income that will largely determine your tax picture. Knowing how much you have to pay now can help you prepare for the bill and prevent scrambling to come up with the money come April. And that preparation needs be no more intense than changing your withholding on your paycheck. To find out just how to do that, talk to whoever handles your payroll, but I promise that it is easier than you fear.
Beyond those concerns, it is not only those who can expect a larger tax bill that may want to pay attention to this area. If you are used to getting a large tax refund – and expect another – but are still paying out the same amount of tax money from your paycheck, maybe you want to adjust your withholding and keep more of that money. This may not end up being a huge amount, but it could serve you better in your bank account than the government’s.
No matter where you live on this spectrum, at least now you can’t say that I did not put out a warning about these issues before it is too late. And it may be the only one you get, for I swear that I do have other interests beyond taxes, even if it doesn’t always seem that way.
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It seems that there is an impulse to believe young people possess a measure of savvy lacking in those who are older. We also seem to believe that level of savvy decrease the older one gets. After all, senior citizens are the ones we worry most about falling victim to financial and tax scams, right?
Well, this article from Forbes.com says that it is actually millennials who are most likely to fall victim to such scams.
Just the headline of this article grabbed my surprised attention, but the numbers in the article blew me away even more. Almost 17 percent of millennials said that if a caller could verify the last four digits of a social security number, they would give away more personal information, as compared to 3.2 percent of Gen X-ers and two percent of Baby Boomers. It then shouldn’t be so surprising that millennials as a group feel they are less likely to be victims of identity theft.
In a way, this is a heartening statistic. People should grow up feeling safe and not afraid of the world, right? At the same time, though, we need to ensure that they also gain a sense of how to keep themselves safe.
That generation is growing up in a world where more is being shared as a general rule. Technology has made it easier to keep in contact with more people than ever before, and social media is leading to more being shared between those people than ever before.
There is much debate to be had in this area over what information is right to share, and with whom, but there are certain pieces that one must learn to keep private no matter what, Certain pieces of personal information can be used by scammers to negatively affect one financially, and the younger generations must be taught what information needs to be held close.
Ironically it seems that savvy that we credit the younger generation with can is often attached to technology, but it may be that same technology that is making them more susceptible to such scams.
Maybe the older generations need to keep in mind that there are things they do not know as well as younger generations, but there is also a wealth of knowledge they can pass on, and much of that comes from experience. After all, how much do children have to worry about handling finances? This is why just last week I wrote about making sure those holding summer jobs knew about the tax obligations of that work.
In fact, I recently read another article that says the millennial generation is financially timid. Now of course, this is a time in our country when many are feeling unsure and timid for a variety of reasons. But if we are going to carry through the ideas already uncovered here, doesn’t it stand to reason that one would be timid in areas where they don’t have a lot of a knowledge or confidence?
In conclusion, I think that financial issues are not something families always discuss, and this is understandable. First, they can often be a source of stress, and thus a less-than-enjoyable topic. Second, there rarely is much younger members of a family do that affects the situation. But let these stories be a slight warning that there is a measure of information that will only serve them well to have.
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I firmly stand by the belief that you cannot throw yourself into only one aspect of life and be successful. It may appear that the best business people do nothing but spend time on their business, but I think the truth is a little more nuanced. I tend to find that those who are that successful take positive aspects from other areas of life and translate them into their business.
And who doesn’t love a little diversion, too? Like the fact that I read this week that driverless cars in Australia are having trouble with kangaroos. Those hoppy little buggers apparently just aren’t as easy to track and manage as other animals.
Now I clearly do not have any stake in that game: I don’t work in technology; I don’t live in Australia; and I don’t envision myself in a driverless care anytime soon. It is still interesting, though, and can lead to a little musing on unexpected trials and how one cannot let a single instance hold back something more monumental.
I think there is also some whimsy involved here, too, in this convergence of the natural and mechanical worlds that is enjoyable on a visceral level. And finding those moments of joy in the unexpected might also be a key to success, or at least in one’s ability to feel positive about it.
Now, I do not know if it is due to the height of summer, or coming off the extra-long holiday weekend that has me feeling this way, but that little bit of recharging and joy that lies outside of a strict work focus does seem to lead to some renewed vigor in many. Does that fact then not go to prove that a short step away from work can do some good?
And then take a giant like Google, a company that has experienced such success that it has altered our vocabulary. Its innovations have spearheaded a great deal of the technological advances of the last 20 years, and it continually reaches into new directions, as well. Yet, at the same time, its workplace culture is famous for being more laid-back and open.
That attitude does not only stay in the workplace, though, for I recently read this article from PC Magazine that goes through some of the best Easter eggs that Google’s developers have written into its search engine. Now none of these are huge, groundbreaking, or what the company will ever be most known for, but they are fun.
So during this time when hopefully you had a chance to feel some more fun and enjoyment in your life, remember that those feelings should not be too far removed from work. When we envision what we want to be when we grow up, it is with a vision of what will be fulfilling on many levels, not just what provides a paycheck. Hold onto those aspects of your work that can still provide that joy, and remain open to the fun things to which it can lead.
And just maybe that will increase the size of your paycheck too.
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