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How to Raise a Financially Savvy Child

If you have children (or grandchildren) you have an opportunity to give them a jump-start on their journey to becoming financially responsible adults. While teaching your child about money and finances is easier when you start early, it's never too late to impart your wisdom. Here are some age-relevant suggestions to help develop a financially savvy young adult:

  • Preschool – Start by using bills and coins to teach them what the value of each is worth. Even if you don't get into the exact values, explain that a quarter is worth more than a dime and a dollar is worth more than a quarter. From there, explain that buying things at the store comes down to a choice based on how much money you have (you can't buy every toy you see!). Also, get them a piggy bank to start saving coins and small bills.
  • Grade school – Consider starting an allowance and developing a simple spending plan. Teach them how to read price tags and do comparison-shopping. Open a savings account to replace the piggy bank and teach them about interest and the importance of regular saving. Have them participate in family financial discussions about major purchases, vacations and other simple money decisions.
  • Middle school – Start connecting work with earning money. Start simple with babysitting, mowing lawns or walking dogs. Open a checking account and transition the simple spending plan into a budget to save funds to make larger purchases. If you have not already done so, it is a good time to introduce the importance of donating money to church or charity.
  • High school – Explain the job application and interview process. Work with them to get a part-time job to start building work experience. Add additional expense responsibility by transferring direct responsibility for things like gas, lunches and expenses for going out with friends. Introduce investing by explaining stocks, mutual funds, CDs and IRAs. Talk about financial mistakes and how to deal with them when they happen — try to use some of your real-life examples. If college is the goal after high school, include them in the financial planning decisions.
  • College – Teach them about borrowing money and all its future implications. Explain how credit cards can be a good companion to a budget, but warn of the dangers of mismanagement or not paying the bill in full each month. Discuss the importance of their credit score and how it affects future plans like buying a house. Talk about retirement savings and the importance of building their retirement account.

Knowing about money — how to earn it, use it, invest it and share it — is a valuable life skill. Simply talking with your children about its importance is often not enough. Find simple, age specific ways to build their financial IQ. A financially savvy child will hopefully lead to a financially wise adult.

 

Tips to Protect Yourself From Tax Scams

Too many people downplay the threat of identity theft because it hasn't been witnessed or experienced firsthand. This false sense of security can leave you exposed, especially during tax season. Here are some tips to keep your identity safe from scammers:

  1. Be naturally suspicious. Understand that there are people out there trying to get your information, and others willing to pay for it. With that knowledge, be suspicious of anyone asking for personal information — especially your Social Security number (SSN). Even when a known vendor asks for your SSN, ask what they will be using it for and refuse most requests unless you deem it necessary.
  2. File your tax return as soon as possible. A popular tax scam is to file a fake tax return and deposit the refund into the thief’s account, all before you get the chance to file your own return. You close the door on scammers once your tax return is filed with the IRS.
  3. Shred (don't just crumple) your documents. Get in the habit of shredding all paperwork before it’s thrown out to keep personal information from falling into the wrong hands. If you don’t own a shredder, contact your bank or other local community services as they often offer free shredding services on specific days.
  4. Keep your Social Security card safe. Only carry your Social Security card with you when it’s needed for a specific purpose. Your wallet or purse is not a good permanent spot for your card. Any criminal would have a treasure trove of personal data if it were to get lost or stolen along with your driver’s license and credit cards.
  5. Periodically check your credit reports. The three major collection agencies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) are legally required to provide you with a free credit report each year. Take advantage of this service and review the reports. Correct any errors and use this report to monitor your accounts for any potential identity theft.

Be smart when handling your personal information. Don’t get caught off guard by identity theft, especially by being careless. If you think you are a victim of a tax scam, alert the IRS right away and go to identitytheft.gov for more information.

7 tax free ideas to bolster your business benefits package

The benefits package offered by your business is extremely important to your employees. How important? A survey performed by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that benefits are directly tied to overall job satisfaction for 92 percent of employees. Even more importantly, 29 percent of employees cited the overall benefits package at their current employer as the top reason to look for new employment in the next 12 months.

Here are some tax-free benefit ideas to help beef up your benefits package and retain your employees:

  1. Health benefits. According to SHRM, health insurance still remains one of the most important employee benefits. Health insurance benefits come in all shapes and sizes, so you will need to constantly evaluate plans and costs. From a tax standpoint, employers can deduct this expense, and your employees do not report health insurance premiums or employer contributions to health savings accounts (HSAs) as additional income. This includes premiums paid for the employee and qualified family members. Even better, the employee portion of premiums can still be paid in pre-tax dollars.
  2. Dependent care benefits. Employers are able to provide employees with up to $5,000 per year in tax-free dependent care assistance under a qualified plan. There are a few ways to provide this benefit, but a common method is to set up a flexible spending account (FSA) that both the employer and employee can use to make contributions. The employer portion is tax-free and the employee portion reduces taxable income as long as the total benefit is $5,000 or less.
  3. Employee tuition reimbursement. By offering tuition reimbursement, you can add another quality benefit to your package while investing in your employee's career. Up to $5,250 of tuition expenses can be reimbursed tax-free to your employee each year.
  4. Credit card points. This is a good benefit for outside sales and employees that travel frequently. If you have a corporate credit card program, consider passing the points on to the employee. If you reimburse employee expenses under an accountable plan, estimate the value of points your employee earns on reimbursed business purchases and include it in your annual benefits presentation. Generally the IRS considers credit card points as rebates and not taxable income.
  5. Group term life insurance. You can generally exclude the cost of up to $50,000 of group term life insurance from your employee’s wages.
  6. Other fringe benefits. Some examples of other nontaxable fringe benefits are employee wellness programs, onsite fitness gyms, adoption assistance, retirement planning services and employee discounts.
  7. Small gifts. The IRS calls these “de minimis” benefits. Small-valued benefits are not included in income and can include things like the use of the company copy machine, occasional meals, small gifts and tickets to a sporting event.

With historically low unemployment levels, employees have more options than normal to look around if they aren’t satisfied. Your business’s benefits package is an important tool to help you keep your valued employees. While each is an additional expense to the employer, the perceived benefit by employees may far outweigh these costs.