Your Estate Planning 30-Day Challenge (2019 Edition)

Your Estate Planning 30-Day Challenge (2019 Edition)

As a giveback to our entire community, many of who are professional working moms, we are hosting a 30-Day Challenge for anyone who wants to complete your Estate Plan, which includes life insurance.

I have been involved in two probate situations during my lifetime, BOTH PAINFUL.

My father and his wife died suddenly in a tragic car accident on May 20, 2018, WITHOUT an estate plan. As if that was not enough hardship for my family, we quickly discovered that they intended to get an Estate Plan in order, but never did.

So they died without a will, trust or any written wishes. I shared that story, what I learned from my experience and practical actions you can take to protect your family from this unnecessary hardship or navigate a difficult Estate that you are responsible for.

It can be uncomfortable to talk about this subject. I’ve had so many conversations like this in my life about these matters that it has become normal. But I know it isn’t. It’s hard.

For your sake, and especially that of your loved ones, I ask that you take two actions from this Estate Planning 30-Day Challenge:

  1. Get your estate plan DONE (Includes a Trust, Pour-over Will, Advanced Healthcare Directive and more) especially if you have children. I’m attaching a webinar I did last year to educate our community and have included links to resources to get this entire process done.
  2. Make sure your loved ones have their Estate Plan complete or updated. Talk to your loved ones and make sure they have their Estate Plan complete or updated. You are welcomed to share the video and resources.

Trust me, I KNOW that one of the aspects of being a working professional mom includes having an endless list of tasks, all-important, that will never get done – it’s a well with no bottom.

That said, I am taking an extra few minutes I don’t have today to express again to anyone who will listen and attempt to impress upon everyone with or without children, married or single, to move the Estate Plan to the top of your list.

This is so important to me, that I have decided to conduct a 30-Day Challenge during the month of August to help support and empower everyone in our community to get this done. I’ll do a few FB lifestreams and will encourage you to take the actions to get this done. For something like this, if we do it together, we’ll all get it done!

If you have your Estate Plan completed and it doesn’t require any updates, use the Challenge to make sure all of your loved ones get theirs done.

From my end, I’m using the August Challenge to review my current plan with my husband for updates that I know we need to make, to support my friends, family, and community to get their Estate Plans complete.

If you would like to join me in this Challenge, please comment below with whom you are committed to having the Estate Plan completed with (no names, just your relationship is fine) by 8/30/19. If it is you, please be brave and raise your hand and commit to getting this done. The entire community will support you to get it done.

Ready to get started?

Alright, here’s your immediate action step for today…
Watch the Day One video for the 30-Day August Challenge below. Then, be sure to RETURN to this post WEEKLY to see the remaining videos:

WEEK ONE:

SUMMARY: 5 Key Steps to complete your Estate Plan:

  1. Hire an Estate Planning Attorney and/or Life Insurance professional (may require getting referrals, interviewing & getting quotes from three professionals in order to choose) 1). Estate Plans generally range from $500-$2,500. Life insurance professionals do not charge for their services. They are paid a % of the policy. Here is a resource to get you started on your selection: https://cpa-moms.com/partners-estate
  2. Do the “homework” of completing the questionnaires, having difficult discussions and making decisions about your wishes. In order to complete your Estate Plan, your attorney will give you a questionnaire to complete. You’ll also need to get your life insurance policies set up or updated. Some policies require an exam and blood work. The nurse came to our house. Others, just have you fill out a health questionnaire. Be 100% accurate because they do have the right to review your medical file, if they find that you did not disclose a known medical condition, then certain policies may pay the beneficiaries only the premiums paid and NOT the actual death benefit.
  3. Submit the questionnaire to have your attorney draft your Estate Plan for your review.
  4. Sign official documents (some may need to be notarized)
  5. Fund your Trust. Put your assets in the name of your Trust (property, bank account.) Ask your attorney about which assets to “fund” in the Trust.

WEEK TWO:

SUMMARY:

For those of you who have completed Step 1: Hire an Estate Planning Attorney and/or Life Insurance professional. Well done! You are leading the pack and are lightyears ahead of the majority of the population.

If you are just getting started it may be overwhelming to get this entire process done. If you can commit to one thing by the end of this challenge I encourage you to choose, hire, and engage an estate-planning attorney and a life insurance expert to get the process going.

This week’s recommendations based on where you are in the process:

  1. If you’ve already started, use this challenge to get your estate plan completed
  2. If you already have an estate plan, use this challenge to get it reviewed and updated, including your insurance
  3. If you have never done an estate plan and/or insurance, use this challenge to get that professional hired, have your first meeting with them to establish a timeline to get it done

Don’t forget you can share the link to this blog post with your friends and family for them to join the challenge as well.

I applaud you for taking this on! And it’s a gift you’ll leave behind for your loved ones who will thank you as well!

Stay tuned for the next week’s update…

(For those of you who can’t wait to race ahead, here is a recording of a webinar I did last year: Estate Planning for Everyday People
And here’s the estate planning resource page to learn more about and contact with each of the experts.

WEEK THREE:

SUMMARY:

We are now halfway through the 30-Day Estate Planning Challenge, so for those who have taken your first steps in starting or updating your estate plan, CONGRATULATIONS! This is the beginning to peace of mind for you and your family.

After reviewing all of your comments and concerns regarding this topic, communication with family seems to be a recurring issue that many of you are having. Speaking to family on such a personal and uncomfortable issue can be very challenging. I’m sure thoughts come up such as, “Will certain members of my family feel as though I’m after something?”. What may be an uncomfortable topic with family now, will save you or your family a headache of uncomfortable conversations later.

This week’s recommendations based on where you are in the process:
1. Take ONE step today! Whether its simply making an appointment professional or even speaking to your spouse regarding what your wishes are. It’s never too late to take one step to moving your estate plan forward.
2. Take advantage of the resources provided in this blog. Visit our estate planning resource page for more information on estate planning and experts that are available to help you in this process. Also, there are free worksheets available for you to take advantage of!

Don’t forget you can share the link to this blog post with your friends and family for them to join the challenge as well. Please continue to comment and share your journey with us! Looking forward to another productive week!

Stay tuned for next week’s update…

WEEK FOUR:

WEEK FIVE:

SUMMARY:

We are now bringing our 30-Day Estate Planning Challenge to an end, so I would like to go over how to effectively complete and move forward from a challenge.

1. Define a measurable outcome: Organize goals around your calendar. 30 to 90 day challenges are the most desirable timeframes due to the fact that if the finish line is too far away, its hard to see the finish line and stay focused and motivated. Longer or more detailed goals that would need a year to complete, break them down into shorter term goals to hold yourself accountable. Try to start on the 1st of every month in order to have a clear start and finish time. 

2. Have accountability: Share your goal or challenge with the people you KNOW will hold you accountable. Choose the people who will be tough on you to complete what you set out to accomplish. Weekly check-ins are a great way to keep you on track throughout the challenge. 

3. Completion: In order to truly complete a challenge you must evaluate what the result is. Let’s relate to the challenge as a game, you must be able to play, complete and then leave it in the past. If the game leaves you in an upset it’s not truly complete. If everything is not finished, it’s OKAY! Look at what you originally set out to complete. Acknowledge what you said you were going to do complete, what you did not complete and all of the unexpected benefits. 

I want to thank ALL of you who participated in this challenge, its brings me so much joy watching al of you succeed! Please continue to share your success and incompletions with me and the rest of the community. 

Stay tuned for our SEPTEMBER WELLNESS CHALLENGE! 


**The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.**

Employee vs. Independent Contractor Bookkeepers?

Employee vs. Independent Contractor Bookkeepers?

If you are someone who can spot a good accountant from a bad, has the desire to manage the HR component of having employees, like paying worker’s comp insurance, and don’t mind not being able to fire someone without worry about a lawsuit then an employee might be the best option.

Employees are dedicated to the company (meaning – not working for any other company), but also have that dreaded employee mindset. Most entrepreneurs we work with need people to think like them, act like them, and understand what it is to have your own business, even if it is a consulting service. Employees are limited in what they know. If they don’t know something, there isn’t anyone else on the “team” to ask. If the company outgrows them, there is no place for them to contribute and the hiring and knowledge transfer has to start over from scratch.

It makes sense for companies of a certain size to have accountants on staff, but for most entrepreneurs, it is too limiting to what they need and they simply can’t afford to make the wrong choice, usually can’t pay the employee desired benefits, and don’t have an HR team that can manage the hiring process.

Business owners should not be saddled with this time consuming process. In terms of risk management, accountants that are comfortable in their stable, steady position (where no one else really understands what they are doing) are in a place of trust and have a higher opportunity to commit fraud. It happens and there are ways to mitigate the risk of it happening to you.

My vote is stick with a part-time independent contractor until your business grows enough to warrant the additional fixed cost and salary burden. Usually around $1m of revenue, it makes sense to hire and pay an accountant $30-40k/yr. Rule of thumb accounting services run ~ 2-3% of gross revenues.

Are Accounting Consulting Firms The Best Option For Small Businesses?

Are Accounting Consulting Firms The Best Option For Small Businesses?

 

Consulting firms are in a word…expensive. Yes, you can get talent without having to hire an employee or worry about the quality of the work, but you pay for it. If the accountants are employees to the firm, this is a less expensive model for you as the client, but you are now having your books managed by someone who has an employee mindset, probably not getting paid what their worth, and waiting for the opportunity to go consult on their own. Expect turnover.

The other non-employee consulting company model has a typical mark-up of 50-70% if they work with independents. This is reasonable if you consider the amount of HR/people administration, legal & insurance risk, and client management that is involved in running an accounting consulting firm (think Enron.) The better the talent, expect to pay double.

If you hire a CPA firm, in most cases (not all), the person who actually performs the work is in fact a bookkeeper whose work is reviewed by the CPA. You think you are paying for a CPA, but the work is being done be a bookkeeper.

In our business model, the CPA does the work, not a bookkeeper. How can you tell? Ask.

If the consulting or tax firm bookkeeping rate is inexpensive, the primary reason for this is usually because the person you are working with isn’t performing the work. This is very common in CPA firms. The CPA doesn’t do the work, they just review the work a bookkeeper they have on staff completed. A CPA typically charges $100-$300/hr, so if you aren’t sure…ask.

This model is fine because the bookkeeper’s work is being reviewed by a professional. However, it simply isn’t what most people think they are paying for.

Should I Use A Placement Company For Finding A Good Accountant?

Should I Use A Placement Company For Finding A Good Accountant?

 

If hiring an employee makes sense for your business, and you don’t have an HR person on your team, I wouldn’t recommend winging it. Placement companies are not taking responsibility for the quality of work that employee produces, but they are taking responsibility for the quality of the person you hire.

There are lots of upsides of using a placement company. The greatest one that I can think of is LEVERAGE. It is time consuming to find, screen, and test for the right talent. If you don’t have the expertise, it is close to impossible to determine if the person you are hiring is truly qualified.

The biggest downside is that you usually have to pay for the placement at the time of hire. This fee is usually 30% of first year salary which is payable up front. It is worth it if you consider the cost of employee turnover when you hire the wrong person for your team, but again this is not usually the best option for an entrepreneur. And, all of the downsides of having an employee still exist, except the process of finding and hiring that person which you leverage the placement company for.

The employee you hire is still just one person, they have a limit to their skills and abilities, and have an employee mindset. Also, the placement company/client relationship ends when the placement happens. Who is there to make sure your needs are met after that? Again, it may make sense for some businesses.

We think the Agency model is a much better way for companies looking for an independent contractor. Our Agency is the perfect blend of “consulting firm” type services and relationship management combined with placement services (without the fees). For an employee search – use a placement firm that specializes in accounting talent.

Dangers Of The Low Cost Bookkeeper

Dangers Of The Low Cost Bookkeeper

For those that have never gone through the process of replacing their bookkeeper or have never worked with a professional accountant, let us share some of the lessons we learned the hard way. When we started our company, we were an accounting firm that believed that there was a way to include low cost data entry and bookkeeping professionals in the accounting service delivery and save our clients even more money.

In our commitment to keep prices low, we hired, trained, and supervised bookkeepers in the early stages of our business. We had CPAs review the work prior to delivering the work to the business owner. We charged $15 an hour for data entry, $30 an hour for the bookkeeping work and double for CPA review.

We discovered that after the review, clean-up, and correction, it always cost more in total no matter how well trained the lower skilled accountant was.

Our conclusion was universal (no matter how small or large the scope of work is,) it is less expensive to our clients to have a CPA provide the bookkeeping services than have a CPA clean-up, follow-up, train, and manage the work of a well trained bookkeeper. Depending on your volume of accounting activity, and the complexity or inherent risk of your business, we have found that the efficiencies of one accounting expert at $100 per hour cost the company about the same amount for a less proficient bookkeeper at $30 per hour.

It seems counter intuitive, but after a year of measuring the results, we understood why entrepreneurs have such poor accounting records.

Instead of asking”how much do you cost,” consider how much it will save you or make you to hire an accounting expert.

Top 10 List Accounting Services For Entrepreneurs

Top 10 List Accounting Services For Entrepreneurs

An entrepreneur’s accountant should be doing more than just keeping the books. The entrepreneur’s accountant should be adding value to the business by providing the following services, asking the following questions, or handling the following business matters:

1 Keeping the Books & Reporting: data entered, reconciled, and “closing the books” on a monthly basis is an absolute requirement. Generating and providing monthly financial reporting. At a minimum, the monthly reporting package should include a Balance Sheet, P&L by month, P&L by business line, AR Aging, AP Aging, and a Cashflow report. These reports should be delivered to decision makers without having to request these reports within 2 weeks of every month-end. If an entrepreneur’s accountant has not performed any one of those tasks on a consistent monthly basis, there is no need to read further…it is time to find another professional.

2 Managing the daily, weekly or monthly Cashflow (frequency depends on how tight cash is)

3 Knowing who in the company is required to take a Payroll and when, including the business owners in certain corporate types. Knowing the IRS employee versus independent contractor rules and all of the required reporting for each. Knowing the worker’s comp insurance rules regarding payroll. Managing the payroll in-house or outsourcing. If outsourced, should be reporting, verifying and entering all payroll data into the accounting system. Maximizing tax savings strategies, including group Health insurance and HSAs, by working with insurance agents and tax preparer.

4 Knowing all of the tax reporting deadlines and rules for sales tax, payroll tax, 1099, business asset/property tax, income tax (including extensions) is a key accounting role. Even if the accountant doesn’t file the returns, the accountant is the one who should be pushing information well in advance of tax deadlines to the tax preparers

5 Providing tax preparers with quarterly or monthly financial reports to obtain tax liability estimates for the quarter and annualized for the year. The accountant should properly accrue for tax liabilities as they occur and communicate to the business owner, not wait until the end of the year to get the bad news from the tax CPA or in March/April when the taxes are due. Also, accountants should be providing tax saving strategy ideas to the business owner and work directly with the tax cpa to ensure all tax savings strategies have been communicated and considered by the business owner. If you don’t know your estimated tax liability for the year by the end of the first quarter and haven’t looked at your tax savings options at least once a year with your tax cpa, your accountant isn’t doing their job.

6 Know and question the basic legal structures and the tax pros/cons of choosing one entity structure over another. This includes information on all the steps required to form an entity and dissolve an entity. Also, accountants should know when it makes sense to incorporate financially. This information should be used to simplify the company structure, save taxes, ensure legal protections have been created to protect company assets and business owner assets & interests. The accountant isn’t an attorney, but should have ideas of what structures make sense and facilitate those discussions with the attorney and tax cpa for the business owner if the legal structure is unclear to the entrepreneur.

7 Know the legal filing deadlines for all entities, including foreign registrations (i.e. registering entities to do business in another state.) Accountants should either file and pay the annual legal filings or should outsource to a corporate maintenance company for every entity.

8 Always safeguard the company assets. This means making sure that measures to prevent fraud, including from the accountant themselves are in place (accountants don’t sign checks, owners do.) Safeguarding assets ensures that inventory and supplies and checks and equipment is accounted for and measures to prevent theft have been employed. The other aspect of safeguarding assets is managing the insurance and legal structure in cooperation with the business owner, insurance agent, and attorney.

9 Since most entrepreneurs co-mingling some personal activity with their business to take advantage of the tax savings in a corporation, accountants should know how to properly account for those transactions and should know all of the 4 different options entrepreneurs have for getting paid from the company, 3 of the 4 are non-taxable withdrawals to the business owner.

10 Provide timely financial information to assist the business owner with pricing and understanding how much profit is being generated for each major business line or product line, and to assist the business owner in setting budgets and forecasts for the year, including revenue targets, profit targets, ROI and other key financial ratio targets.

This top 10 list is the bare essentials for every entrepreneur. It doesn’t stop there, however, someone who can and does perform all of these functions is what we consider to be an entrepreneur’s CFO.