4 Personal Finance Tips For A Strong 2020

2019 is quickly coming to a close. Get ahead of the game and get your money in order for 2020. Don’t know where to begin? No worries! Here are some helpful tips.

Get Organized

You can file taxes after the new year, so now’s a good time to get all your ducks in a row. In January and early February, you’ll be receiving important documents in the mail including your W2, mortgage interest statement (1098), or student loan interest statement (1098-E.) Most companies, by law, have until January 31 to mail statements, so keep an eye out.

Designate a single location where you’ll keep these documents so they are easily accessible when you’re ready to file taxes. You can use a folder, drawer, box or another container. Put a large “taxes” label on it and use the container for tax-related documents only, not other mail or bills. But you may want to keep it near where you sort mail, so you can immediately put the documents in their home.

Then start gathering other items you’ll need for filing taxes, including charitable contribution and expense receipts. Qualified expenses depend on your situation, but could include expenses related to childcare, medical, work (mileage, supplies, relocation) and education. Donohoo Accounting Services can help you navigate the complicated tax structure. In addition to income tax preparation, we handle payroll tax prep, tax levies and liens, back taxes, end tax penalties, estate tax return preparation and more.

Make Year-End Charitable Contributions

Many charities do a final fundraising push at the end of the year, so you’ll probably receive solicitations asking for support. If you want to help non-profit organizations while also possibly reducing your taxable income, make your donations by December 31. Contributions are deductible in the year made. Thus, donations charged to a credit card before the end of the year will count in that year – even if the credit card bill isn’t paid until later. You’ll want to make sure the charity is eligible. Many times, the charity will note its “501c3” status, which is IRS speak for tax-exempt. You can also use the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search. If you live in the Greater Cincinnati area, check out our blog for four great local non-profit organizations.

Take an Assessment of Where You Stand Financially

Now’s a good time to take a hard look at your income, debt, expenses, retirement funds, college and emergency savings. Are you on track to meet financial goals? If yes – great! If no – why are you falling short? To properly move forward into the next year, you need a realistic picture of where you are now. Put pen to paper and write down all the numbers. It helps to see everything in black and white.

Make a Financial New Year’s Resolution (Or Better Yet – Create A Plan You’ll Stick With All Year)

Once you know where you stand currently, you can create a plan for 2020. Perhaps you want an emergency savings fund. You never know when the furnace is going to go out, someone in your family has a medical issue or there’s a company layoff. Experts say you should have enough emergency savings to cover three to sixth months of expenses. Maybe you have all your financial bases covered but want to take an exotic vacation? Set the goal, create a plan and start saving for that overseas beach trip.

Although it’s a busy holiday season, set aside time to get your money in order for the new year. Once you’re ready to file taxes, turn to Donohoo Accounting Services, locally owned and operated by Cincinnati native, Duane Donohoo. Give us a call at 513-528-3982 to arrange your complimentary consultation to see how we can help find the most deductions possible for your personal taxes. And don’t forget to check us out on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn for our latest updates!

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Tips for Completing the FAFSA

Planning ahead is vital for a successful academic year and it’s never too early to start thinking about financial aid for next year. The 2020-21 FAFSA is available for filing beginning October 1 and getting an early start means you’ll have plenty of time to complete and submit your financial aid well before the deadline. Whether you’re a student or a parent, filling out FAFSA can be complicated and time-consuming, so it’s important to be careful in order to avoid costly mistakes. With these helpful tips, you can avoid dreading the deadline and rest easy knowing next year’s financial aid is secured.

Fill It Out Early

You may think that you have plenty of time to fill your FAFSA out, but putting off finishing it can cost you. Filling it out and submitting your FAFSA as soon as it’s available provides you with the opportunity to get the most financial aid available, as some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. In some instances, states and colleges run out of money early, so make sure to complete your FAFSA early to avoid being left high and dry for the next academic year.

Get A FSA ID Before Starting Your FAFSA

Your FSA ID is an important part of completing your FAFSA as it allows you to electronically sign your FAFSA and submit it and access other Department of Education websites. Each FSA ID is unique and both parents and students will need to create their own separate IDs in order to avoid any delays that may result from a mix-up.

Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT)

One of the requirements for completing your FAFSA is supplying your financial information. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool lets you avoid the difficulty of finding old tax returns or risk entering the wrong data. In a few simple clicks, you can import your tax information quickly and accurately, reducing the risk of any errors. Simply click “Link to IRS” to use it.

Carefully Review Information Before Submitting Your FAFSA

Even the simplest mistake can have a serious impact your financial aid, delaying your application or affecting the amount of financial aid you receive, so before you submit your FAFSA it’s important to make sure everything is complete. Common mistakes include leaving too many fields blank, forgetting to list the colleges you plan to attend, or misplaced commas and decimal points. Mistakes often come from failing to read or misunderstanding directions so while you’re reviewing your information make sure you’ve filled everything out according to the instructions.

Sign and Submit

Until you’ve signed and submitted your FAFSA it’s still incomplete. Once you’ve reviewed all of your information and checked or corrected and mistakes you can submit your FAFSA electronically using your FSA ID.

If you’re looking for help with questions about making sure you have everything you need for your financial aid application, contact an experienced accountant like the ones at Donohoo Accounting Services. Schedule a free consultation at 513-528-3982 or email us today. Check us out on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn for our latest updates!

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Tips for Saving for College

Having a college degree is vital in today’s economy because a degree means higher wages, more career opportunities, greater job satisfaction and other benefits. But as college costs continue to increase it’s more important than ever to start saving for your children’s future as early as possible. These tips can help you get a head start and put your student on a path to higher education that leaves them with as little student debt as possible.

Put Yourself In The Right Financial Position To Start Saving

Parents are encouraged to start saving for their child’s college fund as early as possible, but before you do it’s important to make sure you’re in the right financial position. Paying off credit card or your own student loan debt, establishing an emergency savings account, as well as saving for retirement are important financial milestones to complete before establishing a college fund. Completing these milestones will help put you in the right financial position to start saving.

Research College Costs

With college costs continuing to rise, it’s important to make sure you’re saving enough to cover your future student’s tuition, living expenses, materials and fees. Researching and comparing the costs of attending public colleges both in and out of state with private universities and community colleges gives you an idea of what kind of costs to expect. This allows you to determine a time frame and budget.

Explore Different Savings Options

There’s a variety of different savings options available to start your college fund, and researching available plans will help you find the one that’s right for you. Education Savings Accounts (ESA) offer parents the opportunity to save $2,000 per year, per child that grows tax-free. While the money can be withdrawn tax-free when it’s ready to be used, you must meet a certain income limit to qualify and contributions are limited to $2,000 a year.

529 plans are an alternative to those looking to contribute more than $2,000 or don’t meet the income limits of an ESA. The high contribution rates offer the opportunity to quickly meet your goal and like the ESA, your money grows tax-free. While 529 plans provide parents great saving opportunities for a single child, restrictions may apply if the parents decide to transfer the funds to another child.

Find Out If You Qualify for Certain Tax Breaks

Qualifying for available tax breaks helps provide you with more money that can be put toward educational costs. If you’re eligible for the American Opportunity Tax Credit, you can get a credit of up to $2,500 that covers certain educational expenses while the Lifetime Learning Credit covers costs other than tuition and books including activity fees.

For help with questions about the best ways to save for your child’s future, contact an experienced accountant like the ones at Donohoo Accounting Services. Schedule a free consultation at 513-528-3982 or email us today. And don’t forget to check us out on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn for our latest updates!

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10 Tips for Navigating Open Enrollment

Beginning each fall, many employers kick off their open enrollment period. This is a time when employees have the opportunity to enroll in — or make changes to — their health insurance benefits. As the open enrollment season approaches, now is an excellent time to review your current health insurance coverage, determine what benefits or funds you have left to use before the close of the coverage year, and consider your insurance needs for the upcoming year.

Basic Information Required

If you are a new benefits enrollee or if you are making changes to your medical coverage, you will need some basic information for the family members you wish to cover. You will need to have Social Security numbers and birthdates of the family members you will be covering. Additionally, if any of your family members are covered by secondary health insurance plans, you will need to have those policy numbers and the name, birth date, and Social Security number of the policyholder.

Current Providers and Medications

To accurately compare your current coverage with the insurance plans you have to choose from during open enrollment, make a list of the names of your current healthcare providers. Include doctors, specialists and hospitals or healthcare systems for each family member to see if they are included in your employer’s benefit plan network. Also, gather a list of regularly-taken medications for each family member – the name and dosage – as well as the name and address of your preferred pharmacy. Knowing your co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs will be key to determining the correct plan for you and your family.

Summary of Benefits

Review the benefit plans’ summary of benefits and comparison tables if more than one option is available to you. Be sure to compare the procedures and medications that are covered, and not covered, by each plan. Also consider each plan’s level of coverage for preventive care, such as annual physicals, mammograms and well-child visits.

Cost Comparison

Estimate how much you can afford to spend on healthcare in a year and compare the premiums, deductibles and co-pays. Then, total what you spent in the previous year on doctor visits and medicine. Remember to list annual or seasonal doctor visits and treatments for chronic conditions like asthma, as well as behavioral health costs for therapy or counseling. If your records are inaccurate, use an online healthcare cost calculator to help you estimate your spending.

Also consider co-insurance costs (for health insurance plans that have separate prescription drug plans), and your annual spending using your medical savings account (MSA) or flexible spending account (FSA). To predict your MSA/FSA spending for the coming year, total your costs for over-the-counter medications, chiropractic care, vitamins/supplements, and alternative medicines and treatments. If your unused MSA/FSA funds don’t roll over, be sure to use them before your spending deadline.

Could you use some assistance making decisions about the costs of healthcare during open enrollment season and how it can impact your other financial needs? An excellent resource is an experienced accountant like those at Donohoo Accounting Services. Schedule a free consultation at 513-528-3982 or email us today.

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