North Texas Black Business Blog
It's hard to believe that we are in the last quarter of the year! With 2018 coming to an end, now is a great time to make some easy and smart tax moves to help lower your tax bill and increase your tax refund come tax time.
Here are 10 quick and easy end of year tax tips you have time to take advantage of before the year ends:
1. Get organized: Sooner rather than later! It's never too early to gather receipts for tax deductible expenses and sources of income. Doing it now will help you ensure you're not forgetting anything significant and help you see a better snapshot of your finances ahead of the new year.
2. Defer bonuses: If your hard work paid off this year and you are expecting a year-end bonus, this extra money in your pocket may bump you up to another tax bracket and increase how much taxes you owe. If you can hold off on seeing any extra income this year, do it! See if your boss will pay you your bonus in January. You will still receive it close to year-end, but you won't have to pay taxes on it when you file your 2018 taxes. TurboTax TaxCaster can help you see where you stand with and without this income.
3. Accelerate deductions & defer income: There are a handful of tax deductions that are recognized in the year in which you pay them. For example, if you own a home and get a mortgage interest deduction, and if you make an extra mortgage payment on December 31, you can claim that additional tax deduction on this year's taxes. This lets you take the deduction immediately rather than wait an additional 12 months when you do your taxes for next year. Before using this strategy be aware that under the new tax law, if you purchased a new home after December 15, 2017, you can deduct the mortgage interest you paid based on a home loan up to $750,000 instead of $1,000,000 for homeowners who purchased before that date.
4. Donate to charity: The holiday season is coming, which is a great time to clean out your closet and household goods to give to those in need. You can help someone in need and reap the benefits of a tax deduction for non-cash and monetary donations donated to a qualified charitable organization if you can itemize your tax deductions.
If you volunteer at a qualified charitable organization, don't forget that you can deduct your mileage (14 cents of every mile) driven for charitable service. TurboTax ItsDeductible will accurately value and track your yearly-donated goods and mileage for volunteering. Make these donations count on your taxes by donating by December 31st. Even if you make a donation by credit card, you do not have to pay it off in 2018 to receive the tax deduction.
5. Take a class: Taking a course to advance your career and build your business is also a great way to boost your tax refund. Paying for next quarter's tuition by December 31 may give you a valuable tax credit up to $2,000 with the Lifetime Learning Credit.
6. Maximize your retirement: Another great way to reduce your taxable income while building your nest egg is to make a contribution to your retirement savings account. Whether you contribute to a 401(k) or a Traditional IRA, you can take a dollar for dollar reduction in your income and also save for the future. Additionally, if you are self-employed and contribute to SEP IRAs, you can deduct up to 25% of compensation or $55,000 for 2018.
7. Spend your FSA: If you have a Flexible Spending Account and have money left, get caught up on your doctor's visits. The old "use it or lose it" rule may not still apply, but if you have unused money in your FSA account on December 31, you may only be able to carry over up to $500 into your 2018 FSA or your plan may limit the amount of time to 2 1/2 months after the end of the plan year to use your funds.
8. Buy low, sell low: Chances are you have a few investments in your portfolio that have gone down in value, but did you know you can recognize your losses and use them to offset investment winners? To do this, you need to sell the losing investments and offset your losses against your gains recognized. If your losses exceed your gains, you can apply $3,000 of that against your regular income. Any extra will then be passed to the next tax year.
9. Estimate your household income for Marketplace Insurance: Are you applying for a subsidy or discounted insurance in the Health Insurance Marketplace this open enrollment season, which is from November 1st to December 15th for 2019 Marketplace insurance? If so, you will have to project your 2019 household income and family size when you apply. Start looking into any changes that may take place in 2019 (growing your family, job promotion, heading into retirement, etc.). These changes may affect the amount of subsidy you are given to help you pay for health insurance.
10. Increase your Marketplace Premium Tax Credit: If you received assistance for Marketplace insurance in the form of an Advanced Premium Tax Credit, one smart move you can make is to lower your adjustable gross income by contributing to your retirement plan, which may increase the premium tax credit you're eligible for when you file your 2018 taxes.
Don't worry about knowing these tax laws. TurboTax will ask you simple questions about you and give you the tax deductions and credits you are eligible for based on your answers.
If you have questions, you can connect live via one-way video, on demand, to a TurboTax Live CPA or Enrolled Agent to get your tax questions answered. A TurboTax Live CPA or Enrolled Agent can even review, sign, and file your return.
Having a budget is essential to helping you beat debt and win with money. It's the map you need to get where you want to go in your journey. That's why we've debunked some of the top budgeting myths so you can start winning with money!
1. I don't have time to budget.
If you're not doing a budget because you don't think you have the time, consider taking a fresh look at your priorities. You might be surprised at how many "things" you could let go of in order to get your finances back in shape. You know, those things that really aren't as important as taking control of your money.
It's true that you might spend a few hours a month mapping out your expenses when you first start budgeting. But after those first few months, it's pretty much smooth sailing! You're simply plugging in numbers and letting math do the rest.
2. Making a budget is difficult and I hate math.
Speaking of math, this isn't rocket science. If you can do basic third-grade math, you can make a budget. Your income minus your outgo needs to equal zero. That's it!
Seriously, hating math is a pretty lame excuse. Instead of hating math, why not hate being in debt? Don't stay away from the budget because "math is too hard?" It's not. Don't forget our free budgeting app EveryDollar--it does the math for you!
3. Budgeting is boring.
You'd be amazed at how many people don't make a budget every month because they think it's boring. You know what else is boring? Credit card statements. And collector calls. And bankruptcy court ... actually, all of that is pretty awful.
If you're a free spirit when it comes to budgeting, stop and take a breath. You can do this! Once you get the hang of it, making a budget isn't bad at all. And as time goes by, you might even find it a little fun. Imagine that! Get your spreadsheet-loving, planner of a spouse or friend to help give you that extra push.
Budgeting is key to helping you get out of debt. And being debt-free? Now that's fun.
4. I can do a budget in my head.
If you can seriously do a zero-based budget in your head every single month, we'll assume you're the most brilliant person on the planet. Could you please help our government make a budget?
A budget in your head isn't a budget. It's just a kinda-sorta-vague-idea-of-what's-being-spent thing. For a budget to work, it needs to be something you can track. And if you're married and doing a budget in your head, that means only one of you is involved in the decision making--and that's a definite no-no! You need to be working together.
5. I budget by keeping track of everything I spend.
That's a start, but it's not a budget. When you only track spending, you're always looking at the past and never looking forward.
Your budget is your game plan for the upcoming month. You're planning what you'll do with the money you haven't spent yet. When you keep receipts or use your online bank statements to see what you spent last month, you're doing just that--looking at last month.
You need to plan for your future spending while looking at your past spending, not just one or the other. If you're already tracking your spending, the budget is just a natural next step.
6. A budget is too restrictive.
You don't want to give up your Saturday morning coffee and bagel at the corner cafe, we get it. Don't worry! You can keep your weekly caffeine and schmear combo, just put it in the budget.
What does that mean? When you create your monthly budget, be sure to include things you enjoy. Budget for that weekend treat, Friday night takeout, or trip to the movies. Having a budget doesn’t mean you can't have fun anymore. Believe it or not, a budget actually gives you the freedom to spend your money!
7. There are always unexpected expenses, so why bother to budget?
Sure, things can come up unexpectedly. But that doesn't mean your budget has to suffer because of it! In our experience, things aren't always as "unexpected" as they seem. You know your friend's baby shower is coming up next month, you know when your car registration is due, and you know Christmas is in December every year. Be sure to plan for those type of things in your budget.
And if you find you really, truly keep having unexpected costs to cover, add a "miscellaneous" category in your budget. Use it as the catch all you can dip into when something unexpected arises. Just remember not to abuse it.
8. Budgeting means I can"t go out to eat anymore. I hate cooking!
You hate cooking! Join the club! First of all, the rumors are true. You can actually eat at home without having to cook. Keep a rotation of PB&J, soup, tuna and salad on hand, and you'll be set! But really, it's worth it to learn how to cook a few good meals. Pro tip: The slow cooker is your friend.
Having a budget doesn't mean you never set foot in a restaurant again. You just have to budget for it. Add a date night or girls' night out line item to your budget. Add a column for Chipotle, Chick-Fil-A and everything in between if you want to. The point is, just make sure you have room for it in the budget before you spend any money there.
9. It's not the right time for me.
Is it ever going to be the right and most optimal time? Not really. Something will always come up. That's life.
Are you putting off starting a budget just because you have a birthday or anniversary coming up? Don't let that be your excuse! If anything, you need a budget now more than ever.
A budget helps you figure out how much you want to spend on the gifts and festivities. Sure, every month will look different, but here's the great thing: You know the date of those holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. They don’t ever change! Put them in your budget months in advance so you can start saving.
10. I make plenty of money . . . I don't need a budget.
If you think doing a budget is only for people who have trouble making ends meet, think again. Dave has made a budget every month since he went broke nearly 30 years ago. It doesn't matter if you have $100 to your name or if you're a millionaire--you need to tell your money where to go. Everyone needs a budget!
We hate that so many people fall for these budgeting myths and excuses, but you don't have to be one of them! You have the power to take control of your money, all you need to do is take the first step.
Don't be tricked into thinking you can't make a change and take control of your money. You can! Sign up for our free budgeting app, EveryDollar, and get started today!
Family #1 manages to pay off $40,000 in debt in two years on a $35,000 annual income. Family #2 makes $100,000 a year but can't seem to make the slightest dent in the same amount of debt.
One of these families is on their way to becoming debt-free. The other is making the same mistakes they have been for years.
Why is that?
While many factors could be in play here, one of the most likely reasons is the second family has created a habit of overspending. They earn a great income, but they probably spend beyond their budget, which leaves them with less money and causes a lot of tension around the house. That's a difficult and stressful way to live.
The people who overcome that stress realize they have to handle money differently and make some lifestyle changes. When they make those adjustments, they begin to establish certain characteristics that are super important when it comes to becoming debt-free and staying that way. As Dave always says, personal finance is 80 percent behavior and 20 percent head knowledge.
So, what are some of the behaviors of people who are becoming debt-free?
Traits of People Who Experience Debt-Free Living
1. They Are Countercultural
Despite normal convention, these people realize debt isn't a tool. Society tells us "you have to have a credit card to survive," "you can't go to college without student loans," and "you’ll always have a car payment." But those who are experiencing debt-free living don't buy into these norms. Credit cards aren't necessary for their everyday lives. Car payments don't take a chunk of money from their budgets. They treat debt like leftovers they find at the back of their fridge. Whether it's debt or week-old meatloaf, they get rid of it! Debt is normal. So be weird!
2. They Use Self-Control
According to Dave, adults make a plan and follow it. Children do what feels good. Someone who really wants to get out of debt has the willpower to walk right past the shoe section or the flat-screen TV aisle without making an impulse purchase. They aren't swayed to buy something simply because it's on sale that day. They are wise enough to know purchasing something isn't going to erase all their problems and make them feel better. Why? Because they know not to buy those things unless they can pay cash. They are willing to wait, work and save.
3. They Are Confident
A person who believes in their money plan doesn't care what others think of them. They're fine with driving an older car, because it doesn't have a payment. They don't need to take expensive vacations just to post a glamorous photo on social media. They actually look at price tags and not only at brand names. Why? Because they have given up on trying to keep up with the Joneses.
And guess what? This kind of steadfast discipline frees up more money to attack their debts. With each debt they pay off, their confidence grows by leaps and bounds.
4. They Are Goal-Driven
No-brainer, right? Debt-free living is a goal, so people who want to accomplish it keep that objective in front of them. They set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and have an expiration date. They determine what they want to do and map out their strategy to make it happen.
5. They Are Gazelle Intense
If you've taken Financial Peace University, you probably remember Dave talking about gazelle intensity. That's when you are so fed up with debt you run as fast as you can (like a gazelle) in the opposite direction. This means they are looking to squeeze every single dollar they can from their budget. They are couponing, looking for sales at every turn, and even working a side hustle. They are all in.
6. They Are Not Materialistic
Someone who is materialistic places too much emphasis on "stuff." They borrow up to their eyeballs to pay for their vacation, car and oversized house. The person who is determined to get out of debt knows money doesn't buy happiness, so they don't fall into the trap of wanting as much stuff as they can get. They have become content with what they have and aren't seeking to buy their happiness.
7. They Are Willing to Make Sacrifices
Eating out, going to movies every week, and getting the premium cable package--these are the types of things a person might have to avoid while becoming debt-free. But keep in mind: Budget cuts are just temporary. Once the debt is gone, there is more room in the budget for those dinner-and-a-movie dates.
Want to Be Debt-Free? You Can Do This!
When you take a closer look at debt, you start to see it for what it is--something that holds you back. Once you see that, it's easier to be patient, make sacrifices, and feel confident in your ability to pay it off. Before you know it, you'll be enjoying debt-free living too!
Do you have what it takes to be debt-free? Your journey can start
today just by taking the first step and believing you can change your
life. Join the 5 million people who have learned how to take control of
your money. Find a group today!
By Chris Hogan
If you're frustrated by all the retirement planning advice (including our own) that puts a 401(k) in the central role, you're not alone. Over one-third of all workers don't have access to an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan. And though some employees have a 401(k), not all receive an employer match, which is a certain contribution percentage sometimes offered by employers.
Wondering what's the best option for you? Here's how to save for retirement when you don't have a 401(k).
Saving for Retirement Without a 401k
Open a Roth IRA.
Though you may not be able to save for retirement with a 401(k) or 401(k) match, you can take full advantage of a Roth IRA. Currently, you can contribute $5,500 a year to your Roth IRA-or $6,500 if you're 50 or older. You can choose from thousands of mutual funds, making it easy to diversify your investments evenly between the four categories: growth, growth and income, aggressive growth and international.
Though you may not be able to save for retirement with a 401(k) or 401(k) match, you can take full advantage of a Roth IRA. -Chris Hogan
Best of all, since you pay taxes on the money when you initially contribute, you will be able to draw your savings in retirement tax-free. That means if you contribute the maximum amount each year, you could potentially have a nest egg worth almost $1.5 million after 30 years. And you won't have to pay a penny in income taxes to use it in retirement.
What are the Roth IRA requirements?
To be eligible to fully contribute to a Roth IRA, you must:
- Have an earned income
- Have a modified adjusted gross income-total adjusted gross income (which is the total gross income minus deductions) plus any tax-exempt interest income--that's less than $189,000 for married couples filing jointly or $120,000 for single people
Now pay attention, because this is important. Married couples can have two Roth IRAs even if one spouse does not have an earned income. You can contribute the maximum to both accounts, a total of $11,000 a year. For many people, fully funding two Roth IRAs will be enough to reach the goal of investing 15% of their income for retirement.
What about a traditional IRA?
If your income is too high to contribute to a Roth IRA, you can go with a traditional IRA. Like a Roth IRA, you can contribute up to $5,500 annually, $6,500 annually if you're 50 or older, and you and your spouse can both have an account.
If your income is too high to contribute to a Roth IRA, you can go with a traditional IRA. --Chris Hogan
That's where the similarities end. Unlike a Roth IRA, you don't have to make less than a certain amount to be eligible to contribute to a traditional IRA because they don't have any annual income limits. But not only are you required to begin withdrawing after you turn 70 1/2, you also can't contribute any more money. And though contributions to a traditional IRA are tax deductible, you'll have to pay taxes on the money you withdraw from it in retirement.
Still with me? Now, let's look at some other options you can explore if you're self-employed.
Saving for Retirement if You're Self-Employed
If you are self-employed and don't have any employees, a one-participant 401(k) may be right up your alley. Contributions are tax deductible and you can contribute up to $18,500 annually. Then, on top of that, you can put in additional money of up to 25% of your income as long as what you contribute is less than $55,000 per year.
SEP-IRAs are primarily used by small-business owners who want to contribute to their employees' retirements, but freelancers and the self-employed can also use this option. You can contribute to your own retirement this way, but you can't exceed the lesser of either 25% of your income or $55,000.
What if I run a small business with employees?
Once you have employees, the rules of the road change a bit. A great choice is a SIMPLE IRA, which requires you to offer up to a 3% match for participating employees annually--and contributions are tax deductible. SIMPLE IRAs come with an individual annual limit of $12,500 (if you're under 50).
Yearly Max (under 50 years old)
|Roth IRA||Any Earned Income||$5,500|
|Traditional IRA||Any Earned Income||$5,500|
|One-Participant 401(k)||Self-Employed||$18,500 (and anything up to 25% of income)|
|Simple IRA||Small Business||$12,500|
|SEP IRA||Freelancer/Self-Employed||25% of earned income|
What other options do I have?
If you work for a nonprofit or other tax-exempt organization, a 403(b) plan is another great pretax investment option that works a lot like a 401(k). You can use this plan to invest in mutual funds, but steer clear of annuities that are also usually offered in 403(b) plans.
Federal employees can save for retirement through the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). TSPs usually come with matching contributions and allow you to make after-tax contributions with the added plus of tax-free withdrawals when you retire. You can also choose how to split your TSP contribution between several unique options.
Use a taxable investment account.
If you don't have any of the above options or if you are able to save more once you max out a tax-deferred option, contributing to a taxable investment account is a great way to hit that 15% investment goal.
Be sure to put your higher taxed investments, like mutual funds, in your tax-deferred accounts--if you have the--and your lower taxed investments in your taxed account. You can ask one of our tax Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs) to help you decide which investment to have in which account.
Use direct deposit.
One of the best parts of a 401(k) plan is that your money is withheld from your paycheck automatically, saving you from accidentally spending money you should be saving. You don't even have to think about investing for retirement. It just happens!
You can recreate this powerful effect by setting up a direct deposit from your paycheck to your chosen investment option. Just because your money is being deposited automatically, however, doesn't give you permission to go on autopilot with your overall retirement plan. Be sure you're communicating regularly with your financial advisor to stay dialed in to your retirement future.
Remember, it's up to you!
Get started today!
An investing advisor will walk you through the paperwork and help you choose the mutual funds you'll invest in through any options you choose. You can even set up automatic contributions to make retirement saving as convenient as a 401(k).
An expert advisor can also show you other options if your income exceeds the limits of your first choice. Or, if you've maxed out your tax deductible investible income but still have money to invest, they can help with that too. You can find an experienced pro with our nationwide investing network, SmartVestor. Find your pro today!
About Chris Hogan
Chris Hogan is the #1 national best-selling author of Retire Inspired: It's Not an Age. It's a Financial Number and host of the Retire Inspired Podcast. A popular and dynamic speaker on the topics of personal finance, retirement and leadership, Hogan helps people across the country develop successful strategies to manage their money in both their personal lives and businesses. You can follow Hogan on Twitter and Instagram at @ChrisHogan360 and online at chrishogan360.com or facebook.com/chrishogan360.
If you're a forward-focused thinker, you may be dreaming about leaving the workforce to enjoy an easier life in retirement or you might even be considering retiring early. But a dream without a plan is just a wish.
To put some wheels on that dream, you need to consider passive income. There are plenty of different passive income options and explanations of how to build it. If you're new to the idea, I'm about to break it down for you.
What Is Passive Income?
Passive income is money you earn in a way that requires little to no effort. Some passive income ideas-like renting out property or building a blog-may take some work to get up and running, but they could eventually earn you money while you sleep.
Why Build Passive Income?
Your income is your greatest wealth-building tool-a tool that typically requires your active participation in the form of a full-time job. You know what I'm talking about! Even if you love your job, I'm willing to bet you wouldn't mind earning some extra income without the blood, sweat, tears, and time commitment of another job. In fact, there are several benefits. Building a passive income:
- Increases your wealth-building plan
- Creates an opportunity to retire early
- Protects you from a complete loss of income if you lose your job
- Provides an additional source of income when you're no longer able to work or if you outlive your retirement fund
How Much Money Can I Make?
Passive income generally won't make you wealthy overnight, so forget about any get-rich-quick schemes you've heard of. But steady, profitable passive income options can build some serious money over the long haul. We're talking anywhere from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars-depending on the income stream.
How to Build Passive Income
Passive income can be built in many ways, but first let's take a look at what it truly is and which income streams are available.
When we say "passive income," some people tend to think of investing because it can produce the largest results with the least amount of work. But your retirement plan and passive income should be thought of as two separate things.
The whole idea behind long-term investing is to create income for retirement. You want to make sure you're investing in your company retirement plan, like a 401(k)-if your fund choices are good and they offer a match-in addition to other tax-favored plans like a Roth IRA if they don't offer a Roth 401(k).
These are great options for building a solid retirement plan, but you will incur taxes and penalties for any withdrawals before a certain age. With retirement planning, you want to let your money grow for the long haul and not touch it!
On the other hand, we want to think about passive income as a type of low-effort income that can be accessed at any time. Let's take a look at some of these options below.
One way to build passive income after you're debt-free and have some cash saved up is by purchasing real estate and renting it out to tenants.
Before you buy rental property, pay off your own home first and purchase your investment property with cash. Don't ever go into debt to buy rental property! The last thing you need to do is take on the expense of owning another house or commercial building on top of a monthly mortgage payment! Cash only. Period.
I also suggest buying close by so you can personally keep an eye on the property. Find a real estate agent who knows your area well so you can buy property in a location that will attract renters.
Rental property can be a great source of extra income, but it isn't the most passive choice because you'll put a lot of time and effort into managing the property-unless you hire a property management company.
If you go the rental property route, you need to be in control of your property. I don't recommend real estate investment options-such as a real estate investment trust (REIT)-that pool your money into properties under its control while other people make decisions about your property for you.
Other Passive Income Ideas
Sell Digital Ad Space
If you have a brilliant idea that appeals to a specific audience, you could create something like an educational blog or a YouTube tutorial series to generate online traffic. If your content is engaging and it sees enough daily traffic, you could sell ad space on your blog or ad spots on your channel. After you put in the heavy lifting, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy streams of passive income.
Sell Digital Products
If you've discovered how to create content that produces enough traffic to host ads, you could make a product your audience would love to buy. That could be anything from a simple e-book to a complex app that generates income for years after it's released.
Store People's Stuff
People have a lot of stuff-and they're always looking for inexpensive ways to store it. What could be easier than having people pay you to store their stuff?Building passive income by offering storage could involve a large-scale investment of buying a storage facility (with cash!) or something simpler like offering your basement or shed. You'll just need to ensure their items are safe and secure.
Rent Out Useful Items
Do you have any items you don't use all the time that others would like to borrow? Useful items like a truck, trailer, trampoline, kayak, or even your own yard could earn you passive income as rental items. This also includes renting out spare rooms in your house with the help of websites like Airbnb. Hop on your favorite social media site, upload pictures of your items, set a price, and tell the world they're ready for rent.
Passive Income Tips
The list of passive income ideas could go on forever. As you search for the best fit, keep an eye out for ideas that show positive long-term track records. Do other people make money on the idea? Has it come back to bite someone who tried it? Some people ask me about passive income options like drink, vending, or other rental machines in public places. The bottom line? Don't fall for any passive income ideas that promise a quick return or require huge amounts of money upfront. They will sabotage your other financial goals. Look for ideas that are steady, profitable, and trustworthy. Do your research. And never go into debt!
"Don't fall for any passive income ideas that promise a quick return or require huge amounts of money upfront." -- Chris Hogan
Build Wealth That Lasts
Did any of these ideas interest you in building passive income? Want a clearer picture of how different income streams might fit into your overall wealth-building strategy? If so, connect with a financial professional through our SmartVestor program and create a game plan to start building wealth that lasts. A financial pro will look at all your income streams and help you develop a financial plan that meets your individual needs. Find a SmartVestor Pro today!
About Chris Hogan
Chris Hogan is a #1 national best-selling author, dynamic speaker and financial expert. For more than a decade, Hogan has served at Ramsey Solutions, spreading a message of hope to audiences across the country as a financial coach and Ramsey Personality. Hogan challenges and equips people to take control of their money and reach their financial goals, using The Chris Hogan Show, his national TV appearances, and live events across the nation. His second book, Everyday Millionaires: How Ordinary People Built Extraordinary Wealth--And How You Can Too, is based on the largest study of net-worth millionaires ever conducted. You can follow Chris Hogan on Twitter and Instagram at @ChrisHogan360 and online at chrishogan360.com or facebook.com/chrishogan360.