3% of Businesses are Soaring!

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When I sit down with my Salt Lake County business owner clients (whether in person or on the phone), we try to look at EVERY aspect of their business, not just their books. And there is often great clarity when we peek at what is *behind* the books (marketing, sales, management, asset management, etc.).

The good news for my business owner clients from Salt Lake County is that when we put in place clear metrics and financial reports, they shed clear light on strategic decisions.

But the problem I've often found, is that OUTSIDE of the financial reports we're able to create for our clients, there are very few additional metrics in place to evaluate if they're headed in the right direction -- from a strategic, tactical and growth-oriented perspective.

Sure, financial numbers are great -- but what are your GOALS? And, I don't just mean sales goals.What do you want your business to look like two years from now?Five years from now?

And what are you doing to get there?

Too often, business owners are so busy working "in" their business, that they don't have the time to work ON these sorts of things properly.
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3-Reasons to Raise Your Prices

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I take a look around the small business world sometimes, and I get a little sad.

It's heartbreaking to watch small businesses in Salt Lake County go out of business or not bring home enough bacon simply because they get trapped into thinking about their pricing in the wrong way.

When you differentiate yourself based on price, you simply cannot provide value. You end up competing on the wrong playing field, and it's not one in which you are built to win.

Yes, price war competitors have been in operation since the days of the Greek agora, but it's important to understand that if YOU want to build a sustainable, scalable -- and one day SALE-able -- business, a core foundational piece of that puzzle is that you must be charging enough for your goods and services.
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Be the ROAR

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BE THE ROAR. The idea is to be world-class at one thing your company does, rather than be mediocre at everything. This concept is expressed very well in Jason Fried’s book REWORK. ( https://amzn.to/2NoLrGX ).

Here in Salt Lake County, we are surrounded with world-class businesses. Business that have one thing that they do better than any other company in the world! It was exciting to do the research for this article because it was surprisingly difficult to choose from all the superb businesses serving the real estate industry.

We are looking at Utah businesses that demonstrate world-class performance:

1. Find a Niche where you can serve in a way no other business does,

2. Stay Connected, so when a prospect is ready to buy, your company is top-of-mind, and
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A Family Budget Plan

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"Don't just count your years, make your years count." - Ernest Meyers

In my previous note, I wrote about some "big picture" exercises to have with your partner, or for your own financial reconfiguration.

Those were: 1) Writing Your Money Story and 2) Imagining Your Ideal Financial Scenario. Both of these exercises were to lay the foundation for getting practical -- because the practical outworking that comes from these exercises is where steady foundations are built, or becomes the place at which change actually occurs.

So, this is a small bit of practical advice, building upon those first exercises...

Create Your Family Budget Plan Now
As a couple, begin with the assumption that you will pool your money.

Couples enjoy an economic bonus because two can live more cheaply than both could alone. However, do not expect to achieve financial peace without a plan!

I highly recommend that you plan to live on one salary for the first several years. This is a challenge that too few couples in Salt Lake County accept. If you max your lifestyle to pay for a mortgage, car payments, gym memberships, and the like, you will have no flexibility to adjust when children come. Your first years of marriage offer a great opportunity to save for an emergency fund and a down payment on your first house.

Start by tracking your current expenses to give you a starting point for creating your own budget. Budgeting is like healthy eating. You need to maintain balance and avoid excessive indulgences. 

Going through this exercise will likely reveal who has the greater interest in paying the bills. Even when only one of you will be paying the bills, you can only build trust if you decide together how your money will be spent.

Remember to allocate some savings. After all, as I've written, wealth is not what you spend but what you save and invest.

Now you can build a financial fortress that re-writes your story, and which takes you to the place of your greatest hopes.

Until next week,

Janet Behm

Janet Behm is a CPA for Utah Real Estate Accountants.  To contact Janet, please visit the Business Directory located at:  https://www.utahreia.org/VendorListings.aspx

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Two Financial Exercises to Strengthen your Family

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All of the tax media outlets (and even some non-tax ones) were shouting about a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that showed that (gasp) millions of taxpayers are underwithholding, and that they will face a tax bill come 2019. Apparently, there was an increase of 3% of those who will owe the IRS due to not adjusting withholding per the new tax law.
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An Effective Lead Generation Strategy From Business Owner To Another

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 An Effective Lead Generation Strategy From Business Owner To Another
"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Advertising is obviously a crucial ingredient of any effective business plan, yet it actually works against many businesses -- especially small businesses. You see, most small businesses mimic what they see the "big boys" doing (I mean, big mammoth corporations or large, well-established ecommerce stores that have gone viral), and that's like a thoroughbred horse jockey trying to imitate an elephant trainer.

You have an entirely different agenda as a small business owner in Salt Lake County than does a larger business.
Many large corporations are engaged more with "marketing" than they are with direct advertising (which is what I addressed last week).

You see, to run a successful ad for a small business, it must do one of two things -- and do these ONLY:
1)  Generate Sales, or
2)  Generate Sales Leads.

Even better -- do it in a measurable, quantifiable way.

The best part -- when you do this right, then you have no problem "getting your name out there" ... but you'll also make money in the process.

Unfortunately, most businesses simply attempt to "get their name out there," and it's very likely that they won't generate sales OR sales leads with such advertising.

Business owners don't expect nearly enough from their advertising, and they don't hold it accountable for results. So they waste thousands of dollars, and then they start pounding their sales people for orders on the 26th of every month.

So ... what about when you're trying to generate leads? Well, don't try to accomplish overmuch at that stage.

You must remember that all you're really trying to do for lead generation is to get people to "raise their hands" and identify themselves as someone who has a problem -- and tell you who they are.

Anything more than that, will actually reduce your response. The purpose of pure lead generation advertising is NOT for you to tell them all about yourself -- not in the first step anyway.

The only purpose is for them to tell you who they are.

When you do this correctly, it's simple and effective.  And most importantly, nobody feels like you're chasing them.

And THAT'S a power position you want.


Feel very free to forward this article to a business associate or client you know who could benefit from our assistance -- or simply send them our way? While these particular articles usually relate to business strategy, as you know, we specialize in tax preparation and planning for families and business owners.

You can find our listing in the Business Directory found on this site.

Warmly,

Janet Behm
Utah Real Estate Accountants
 
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The Real Estate Investors Guide for Choosing an Executor of Your Estate Plan

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We love what we do. 

I'm not sure if it's always obvious, but perhaps you can take a cue from the fact that I take the time to post you these sorts of notes on a regular basis, if not by other factors.

We love this stuff, and consequently, we work hard for our Salt Lake County clients.

Crafting elegant, tax-saving and easy-to-understand strategies to help you save on your taxes is a joy.And, of course, removing from our clients the annoying hassle of dealing closely with government paperwork, deadlines and personnel -- while not exactly a "joy" -- provides us with great satisfaction because we know that we get to serve our clients and help them not have to deal with stuff that isn't exactly "fun".

But sometimes (usually a rare instance), there are circumstances in which, despite great planning and implementation of strategy, things go sideways.

That is REALLY not fun.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about estate planning, and I do want to touch on it one more time here today -- despite the fact that it isn't our primary area of service. It's such a critical part of a family's financial picture, but it doesn't really get focused on, occasionally only until it's too late.

You see, even the most well-crafted estate plan can be ruined by a poor choice of executor.

Of course, we can always do our best to help our Salt Lake County clients and and their families deal with it and navigate through this poor choice, once it becomes apparent -- we have definitely handled that sort of thing.

But it's always better if the choice is made well.

So, this week, I have some words about this, as you consider your current executor, and whether they fit the profile ...

And by the way, this is just as important for the single person as it is for those who have families to think about.  Last year I lost my brother-in-law, Thad.  He was an "old bachelor".  He had a trust, so we were able distribute his one asset, a Mazda Miata, without losing stride.

Janet Behm's Guide For Choosing An Executor Of Your Estate Plan
“Many receive advice, only the wise profit from it.” - Harper Lee

Whenever you have any kind of estate plan in place, your executor is the person who manages the process when it is actually "executed". They are what is called a "fiduciary", which means he or she must be someone who will act in good faith when handling your affairs. He or she cannot take advantage of his or her position, or unfairly profit from financial transactions from your estate. The executor will meet the standard of a fiduciary duty if he or she does a competent, honest job.
 
You want your fiduciary to be both trustworthy and capable of handling the tasks.You have to have complete faith in him or her. Make sure he or she understands the responsibility of the job and is willing to accept it. This obviously should require a discussion before you make your Will.

Oh, and if you make NO plan, the state will be the one who chooses your executor through a process called probate.
 
It sounds a bit strange, but name someone who is healthy and likely to be around after your death. To be secure, you should definitely select at least one successor executor to serve if your first choice is unable or unwilling to do so when the time comes.
 
For many people, the choice is obvious -- their spouse. Others select a close friend, a grown child or other close relative. If no obvious person comes to mind, make a list of your possible selections and use common sense (and this article as your guide) to make the wisest choice.

Remember, as I wrote last week ...

An executor must:
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MORE SCAMS: ALERT!

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"Don't let the same dog bite you twice." - Chuck Berry


The most common forms of scams targeting taxpayers occur beforeApril 15th(or the 18th, as it was this year), but as tax planning and correspondence continues year-round, so do the fraudsters.

It seems that once they get a taste of that sweet, sweet stolen money, they keep inventing more ways to engage you and your money.

So here are some newer ones for which to be on guard, as well as a reminder about some of the regular variety...

Real bank accounts sent fraudulent money
This is a new twist to a common problem: fake returns filed. But in this instance, the criminal sends funds to YOUR bank account ... and then comes to you, claiming that there has been some sort of error. They do this to prevent the IRS from raising an alarm for funds being deposited into unrelated accounts.

The scammers then contact you, either posing as an IRS representative calling about a refund error or as an agent of private collection agency going after tax debts. As fake agents, they tell you to send the funds back to the Treasury -- except it's really going into their hands. As collection agent impersonators, they instruct you to forward the money to their little fake collection agency.

Fake charities come calling
Every time a natural disaster strikes, these outfits pop up like moles to be squashed. They advertise and spread via social media and typically don't appreciate it when you ask difficult questions. That's why if you have any questions about a charity and the group seeking your contribution won't answer them...don't give. Legitimate  nonprofits are happy to prove that they are really doing the good work they advertise.

The IRS has set up an online tool to verify charitable organizations called "Select Check" that can help you navigate the murky waters of this area. In general, a good rule of thumb is to give to established charities, or those endorsed by trusted friends.

Fake withholding verification
In this doozy, the crooks will mail (or fax, if you can believe it) a letter to their scam targets, most often those who are international taxpayers or non-resident aliens. The letter tells them that although they are exempt from withholding and reporting income tax, they need to authenticate their information by entering personal and tax info on the enclosed, phony version of Form W-8BEN and faxing it to the crooks.

The first problem is that these forms are only supposed to be sent to a "withholding agent", and they often reference fictitious forms. Don't fall for this one -- run these sorts of things through us before complying.

Fake IRS agents calling you
This one has been a common tax scam as of late. The IRS estimates that2 milliontaxpayers have been called over the past year. And lest you think we're getting collectively wise, they also estimate that they have already gathered over $60 million in fraudulent funds. And they are still going at it. Watch out.

There are more out there like this, so if you suspect you're being targeted, here's what you should do... 
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2 Things Real Estate Investors Must Know About Estate Planning

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First, NOW is the time to act…Did I say NOW?!?!

You may have established an estate plan in the past, or you may not have gotten around to it, but it is critical that you ALWAYS have an up-to-date plan. 

Most people are smart enough to keep their car in good working order -- it requires oil changes, an annual physical check-up, etc. But I'm always surprised by the common misconception about how often they should have their estate plan reviewed.

You see, most people see estate planning as something you "do once" and never have to think about again. That's just flat incorrect. 

Just like your health can take a dramatic turn (for the better or worse) in a year, your estate planning decisions can change dramatically in a short period. Sometimes, something simple happens, such as an out-of-state move by the people you've identified to serve as the guardians for your minor children. That's just one of many good reasons to revisit your estate planning decisions.

Plus, though there's been a lot of talk in recent years about the higher estate tax threshold, there are many ways in which out-of-date plans can be "burned", by not complying with new laws.

Your estate plan is a "living and breathing" plan (at least when done right) and therefore has to be maintained to reflect your life as it is today. 

Second, PLEASE ensure you have chosen the proper executor. 

Whether you're dealing with significant sums, or with a more modest estate, choosing the person to handle these transactions is a critical decision for EVERY Salt Lake County family.

It's always a great idea to get professional advice in making these selections. But, if you choose to "go it alone" for some reason, here's what you need to keep in mind as you consider who will be your executor:

An executor must:  
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How Money Can Buy You Happiness

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 How Money Can Buy You Happiness

By Janet Behm, Utah Real Estate Accountants

Despite assertions to the contrary, science tells us thatmoney can buy happiness.To a point. From a recent study (my emphasis):

We report an analysis of more than 450,000 responses to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, a daily survey of 1,000 US residents conducted by the Gallup Organization. […] When plotted against income, life evaluation rises steadily. Emotional well-being also rises with log income, but there is no further progress beyond an annual income of ~$75,000. For reference, the federal poverty level for a family of four is currently $25,100.Once you reach a little over 3 times the poverty level in income, you've achieved peak happiness, as least far as money alone can reasonably get you.

This is something I've seen echoed in a number of studies. Once you have "enough" money to satisfy the basic items at the foot of the Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs pyramid – that is, you no longer must worry about food, shelter, security, and perhaps having a bit of extra discretionary money for the unknown – stacking even more money up doesn't do much, if anything, to help you scale the top of the pyramid.


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