Delayed Gratification: Staying Focused to Get Ahead (Later) in Des Moines

Delayed Gratification: Staying Focused to Get Ahead (Later) in Des Moines

For sports fans, that was quite a run last week. The NHL crowned its champion (and the nation’s capital seemed like it was one massive street party for the weekend), the rest of the NBA conceded to the Golden State Warriors, and we witnessed another Triple Crown in horse racing.

Now, well … there’s baseball.

But this is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned, and for anyone who is a sports fan, because it allows you even greater incentive to free your mind from these smaller (albeit enjoyable) things, and to move your life forward in a fruitful direction.

Last week, I wrote about FOCUS, and the difficulties which the summer can bring to that task. And it is a “task”, because as I said, it’s not just the summer that preys against our personal productivity … it’s everything that *we* allow in.

I thought I’d take up the subject once more today, but before I do, a few quick tax things for Des Moines taxpayers:

1) Reminder that estimated taxes for the 2nd quarter of 2018 are due Friday, June 15th. Let us know if you need any help with that. We’re in your corner.

2) (This shouldn’t apply to any existing clients) Thursday, June 14th is the deadline to avoid more serious late-filing penalties for your 2017 taxes. If, for some reason, you (or perhaps one of your friends) has NOT filed their taxes yet, a higher penalty scheme kicks in after Thursday. This is because the IRS offers a 60-day window after the initial filing deadline (April 17th this year), during which penalties are smaller.

So, I know you’re not a delinquent … but if you have a friend who might be, let’s help them avoid any further unnecessary fees.

And again, we’re here to help: (515) 707-0884

And speaking of delinquency. Let’s talk again about your focus. Because it’s something we all need to become more and more ruthless about in this heavily-distracted age…

Delayed Gratification: Staying Focused to Get Ahead (Later) in Des Moines
“You are the only person on earth who can use your ability.” – Zig Ziglar

Recently, I was reading about a study done years ago regarding the effects of instant gratification…

Edited excerpt from Wikipedia
Mischel’s famous research study, “The Marshmallow Test,” showed the importance of impulse control and delayed gratification for academic, emotional and social success.

In the 1960s at the preschool on the Stanford University campus, Mischel put marshmallows in front of a room full of 4-year-olds. He told them they could have one marshmallow now, but if they could wait several minutes, they could have two. Some children eagerly grabbed a marshmallow and ate it. Others waited, some having to cover their eyes in order not to see the tempting treat and one child even licked the table around the marshmallow!

Mischel followed the group and found that, 14 years later, the “grabbers” suffered low self-esteem and were viewed by others as stubborn, prone to envy and easily frustrated. The “waiters” were better copers, more socially competent and self-assertive, trustworthy, dependable and more academically successful. This group even scored about 210 points higher on their SATs.

Fascinating study.

And though there have been recent attempts to duplicate this famous study that have failed, the results and the underlying principle therein provide an important lesson for those of us who want to move our lives forward with intention.

Business thought leader, Jim Rohn, could see it a mile away, when he wrote about the harvest.

Paraphrasing Mr. Rohn: it’s about planning, focus and execution (and later … harvesting) vs. chasing the fad of the week, getting distracted and wasting time you can’t ever get back.

How many “get rich yesterday guru” emails did YOU get today? How many shiny-object advertisements were attempting to allure you out of what you knew you needed to get done?

How many “pressing” business or organization questions did you manage, rather than focusing on growth-oriented tasks for your vocation or business? How much time do they waste?

How many rabbits can you chase at one time?

Now, more than ever, in this digitally-saturated age: Plan, focus, execute and harvest.

Be ruthless about your time. Don’t let the guru of the week waste it by trying to convince you that there’s a golden goose and only they know where it is… and trust me, it’s not in Des Moines. The real experts produce results for themselves AND help multitudes of others do the same.

The guru of the week produces results for the guru of the week and their insider buddies.

Don’t bite.

And, separately — chances are very good that you’re personally executing tasks which could be easily handled by a $15/hr employee/helper (or $10/hr even) … and which are keeping you from pursuing what only you were put on this earth to do.

There really is a tyranny of the urgent.

Fight against it. Instead: Do at least one thing today to grow yourself or your vocational calling. That is your most important task.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve you, and for your referrals…

Warmly,

Ann Hartz
(515) 707-0884
Ann M. Hartz, CPA

Focus Training For Folks In Des Moines

Focus Training For Folks In Des Moines

Now that we’re into June, it really does feel like summer is here. The air conditioning kicks in, the days are hotter … and, if you’re like me, “focus” becomes something I have to set myself towards. It doesn’t just “happen” — especially when the days are hot.

It might be simply because tax season is now fully behind us, and we’ve already turned the page into year-round work. No matter the fact that we work with our Des Moines clients all year, there really is something very focusing about that April 15th deadline every year (or the 18th, in this year’s case).

But as I said: focus is a decision. And whether you’re an employee, retired, a Des Moines business owner, or some other vocational expression — really, WHOMEVER you are — living a life of intentionality has never been more difficult.

Devices, screens, “the internet of things” — all of it is pulling against our mind, our imaginations and our wills. Much of that influence is very positive, obviously (who doesn’t love ordering food with a click and a swipe??) … but it’s probably no big surprise that this digitally-overwhelming world can be a little distracting.

Yes, this topic isn’t *exactly* financial, and clearly not tax-related. I don’t pretend to be any kind of “life coach”.

But we like to see our role here at Ann M. Hartz, CPA as more than merely transactional. We’re in your corner, for all kinds of decisions that affect your finances — and this issue can certainly become a financial drain as well.

So again … focus is a decision.

And here are some things that might be hurting it for you.

Focus Training For Folks In Des Moines
“What’s right isn’t always popular. What’s popular isn’t always right.” -Howard Cosell

Just because you work harder doesn’t mean that you are accomplishing anything of actual significance.

In fact, many times it’s the opposite.

Busyness does NOT equal effectiveness.

Sometimes, you find that you are “working harder” because you have fallen into a pit of poor productivity and efficiency.

What I have found to be helpful is recognizing how there are certain habits and practices that are very likely sucking all of the life-force from your day’s productivity.

As an idea starter for focus training, here are four things that very well might be killing your momentum. For you, these might not be an issue, so I urge you, therefore, to consider what really is robbing your attention these days.

These are not all merely related to DIGITAL OVERLOAD, either.

But all of them are decisions — those that are made, and those that are avoided.

1. App Addiction
If you’re constantly checking Facebook, answering or originating random text messages, or have any social media account alerts turned on, you’ll never be as productive as you could be.

One simple way to decrease your Facebook use is to remove the app from your phone. Even if you just use the browser to access it, it’s that extra step or two that it requires that can help your weaker self resist the constant dopamine hit of social media activity.

2. Email Addiction
Turn off your alerts here, too. Don’t leave your inbox continually open when you are engaged in real work.

Because whenever you click on that “Get Mail” button, your brain drip feeds small doses of Something-Important-Is-About-To-Happen-Juice (i.e. dopamine).

Except, it’s hardly ever actually urgent. It can usually wait for your actual focused attention.

So try this out for just one week and see if you don’t accomplish more than you thought possible.

3. Other People’s Emergencies
Emergencies aside, send your calls to voicemail first and return them only during set times (and perhaps even state those times on your voicemail greeting). This has three instant benefits.

First, it tells people you are a focused person, which they will respect and even appreciate. Second, it makes you a focused person — keeping you on task and freeing you from interruptions you can’t anticipate.

Third, you can determine if you’re the right person to handle the call or if it can be delegated.

4. Delegation
As I’ve said, there is a big difference between being busy and being productive. Want to know where you’re just “busy”? Keep track of everything you do every 30 minutes, every day, for one week. Then take all the items that aren’t moving you toward your goals and stop doing them, delegate them to someone else, or hire someone to do them for you.

What will you do with all that extra time? Concentrate only on activities and processes that make money or move you ahead.

The key to more productivity is not more work. The key is more focus. Creating your “Not To Do” List will reset your priorities, refresh your morale, and could even remake your career.

Don’t let your best energy be sucked out of your day.

I’m grateful for our chance to serve you and your family  — and we are dedicated to your thriving. Which means we want to protect you from all of what could tear you down…

Warmly,

Ann Hartz
(515) 707-0884
Ann M. Hartz, CPA

Instilling Financial Literacy For Kids In Des Moines

Instilling Financial Literacy For Kids In Des Moines

Memorial Day weekend can often feel a little disjointed.

There we are with our burgers, our pools, our picnics — all while we are supposedly remembering the sacrifice of so many thousands who laid down their lives in the line of duty for this country, and for the sake of our constitutional freedoms.

However, when you talk to veterans from Des Moines (as I get the chance to do in the course of our tax preparation work), they do often tell you that these very freedoms (the ones much bigger than backyard barbecues, of course) are exactly why those sacrifices are worthwhile.

So I suppose that despite how jarring it can feel, parades and picnics are exactly the right sort of thing to honor those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.

And so we pause and remember.

Memorial Day is much more than simply the “start of summer”.

Moving forward … now that summer *is* here, for many Des Moines families, children are much more “underfoot” than they are during the school year.

So I have an idea for you: Might I suggest the summer to be the PERFECT time to rework your children’s relationship with money? Here are some thoughts on financial literacy for kids that might help start the conversation…

Instilling Financial Literacy For Kids In Des Moines
“Adversity doesn’t test character, it reveals it.” James Lane Allen

Teaching children to save money when they’re young can help them deal with financial emergencies when they’re older. Here’s how to get them started, even this summer…

Encourage kids to save *something* over the summer. 
Whether you’ve got a 10-year-old stashing away a dollar or a teenager opening a savings or checking account, get your children in the habit of saving no matter how small the amount. Start them small over the course of the summer, and have them build towards something for the end of the season that will be a real treat.

Help kids balance treats and sacrifices. 
Work with your kids to set and meet small goals, which will allow for small indulgences along the way. Once these smaller goals are met, allow them a little withdrawal to buy something for themselves. Go for the little victories in the beginning.

Instill the idea of an emergency fund. 
Loose change can add up, so don’t let kids toss pennies or leave them lying on the ground. These can become the perfect seeds for the concept of an emergency fund (which will help them as they grow into adulthood).

Set an example. 
Children don’t miss much. If they don’t see you saving, they might wonder why they have to save. Share with them what YOU are saving towards so they can see the process of building towards a victory.

Keep kids away from credit as long as possible. 
Credit card companies expend lots of effort on marketing to teenagers. And with the rise of app-related money systems, many children with smartphone access have even readier availability to the kinds of “time-saving” money traps that so often ensnare adults. Make sure your kids understand what credit pitfalls could lie ahead.

Schedule money meetings. 
Meet with your child at regular intervals to discuss their savings and emergency accounts, answer questions, and discuss money issues he or she might encounter. Especially if they are working a summer job in Des Moines, helping your children to see where their money is going over each month of the summer will help them to get financial clarity.

Which of course, leads to…

Help children set up a real budget. 
The earlier that young people learn to manage a budget, the easier things will be down the line. Younger ones can start learning by jotting their pluses and minuses down on a piece of paper, while older kids can be introduced to budgeting on software and apps.

The main thing is that you should not rely upon “school” to train your children in financial literacy.

And the summer is a great time to get started.

Warmly,

Ann Hartz
(515) 707-0884
Ann M. Hartz, CPA

How To Manage Money For Des Moines Millennials

How To Manage Money For Des Moines Millennials

I’ll tell you what…

The month of May is beginning to look a lot like December.

Definitely not because it’s cold out there, but with so much “end of school year” stuff happening these days, from graduation parties (ranging from pre-k “graduations” all the way up through college and beyond), to weddings (both royal and otherwise), to sports seasons wrapping up, to Memorial Day plans … well, I know some Des Moines parents who are longing for those “quieter” days during the winter holiday clamor.

I guess we all find ways to look ahead, and OUT of our current circumstances.

Which is why I’d like to take a moment and address my younger readers today. Specifically the recent graduates, but really anyone on the sunnier side of 30 years old.

Though, to be clear, this is advice that would behoove you to pay attention to, no matter your stage of life.

How To Manage Money For Des Moines Millennials
“Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.” -Tom Stoppard

One thing not often taught in schools is how to manage money and prepare for retirement.

Many students, whether they attend college or go straight into the workforce after high school, don’t grasp the importance of saving for later in life and are waiting too long to start stashing away money for retirement. When we start working with younger Des Moines clients, these are the sorts of things about which we have conversations…

Think about saving before a life event forces you to. 
Major life events such as the death of a family member, being laid off from a job, or a debilitating physical injury can occur before we consider the impact they could have on our financial future.

Don’t be caught off guard. Begin to build a nest egg to ensure the financial security of your (future) family.

Technology can’t replace the human touch. 
For all the conveniences that technology provides us, it still can’t replace the experience of a connection with another person.

An experienced personal financial advisor can ask the right questions, provide ongoing guidance, and be an important resource for those who want to plan for retirement. A computerized advisor or even a live advisor supporting an automated advisor service often doesn’t deliver the same depth of advice or relationship.

Don’t give up too quickly. 
Let time be your ally.

Investing in the stock market with retirement savings can feel like a roller coaster ride. There will be plenty of ups and downs, but the descent is no time to jump off, even if you do get jittery. Market history suggests that eventually things may work out, if you allow enough time.

Think about taxes before they think about you.
In the early years of your career, taxes seem more like a mere inconvenience than a tangible thing to plan around. But the reality is that you can set up your financial life NOW to prevent your future self from having to pay more taxes than you ought.

Whether that’s starting in on a Roth IRA or other tax-savings strategies, don’t be fooled that the larger standard deduction moving forward will suffice for you when your career reaches maturity. Get advice now for how you can plan ahead for whatever comes.

I wonder if you know someone who can help you with that?

Warmly,

Ann Hartz
(515) 707-0884

Ann M. Hartz, CPA

Ann Hartz’s Three Tips For Resisting Financial Process Automation

Ann Hartz’s Three Tips For Resisting Financial Process Automation

Did you see Google’s demonstration of their new virtual assistant technology, Duplex, last week?

If you did, like me, probably you were both amazed … and a little bit terrified of the implications. Essentially, Google is close to figuring out how to make it so that machines and robots can engage in regular human interaction — with the human being oblivious of the fact that they are engaging with a machine.

 (And apparently, I wasn’t the only one troubled by that concept, as Google quickly appended their policy by stating that their robots would indeed self-identify as such.)

 The fact is that we are barreling down the road towards ever-increasing automation, and only recently have people begun to pull off to the side for a moment and ask themselves: is all of this automation, speed and convenience a good thing?

 These are questions worth pondering as a society, as families in Des Moines, and even for the sake of our own souls.

 And, as I will posit to you today, for the sake of our wallets.

 But before I get there, and speaking of wallets, just Monday of this week, the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 law that outlawed sports gambling at the federal level. Which means that state and federal treasuries are about to salivate over all of the new tax revenue that legalized sports gambling might bring.

 It was a 7-2 decision. So, if you were on it at -4.5, you’re a winner.

 

<Groan>

 Sorry, couldn’t resist.

 And speaking of groan-worthy segues, it might prove to be a very good thing for you to resist the steady snowball of robot automation within your personal finances.

 

Here’s what I mean…

 Ann Hartz’s Three Tips For Resisting Financial Process Automation

“As our circle of knowledge expands, so does the circumference of darkness surrounding it.” – Albert Einstein

 What if we thought differently about autopay?

 What if we were to take a moment to consider the consequences of so much convenience, not just with scary robots intersecting our daily lives, but for the sake of what it might be doing to our pocketbooks?

 Small business owners in Des Moines and those with more complicated incomes know what it is to write checks for quarterly taxes, and, I believe, they tend to have a deeper sense for what they are paying, as a result.

 In fact, I think our country would be a different place if everyone had to write a personal check and send in their taxes like this. If people really saw what they pay (or don’t pay) I think they would feel differently about their tax burden.

 This is a common refrain among certain political observers — but it has me thinking about what it might mean for YOUR family …

 In fact, this is part of the genius of financial guru Dave Ramsey’s “envelope system” for family budgeting (whereby you place cash into specified envelopes, and pay only as much cash as remains in the envelope for different budget categories). “Automating away” our obligations can lull us into financial slumber.

 Which is why I now propose that you REMOVE financial process automation from certain checks that you write each month. (Again, this is aside from automated savings, as I’ve previously discussed.)

 Now, allow me to interject a word of caution: The only danger to this approach is that you run the risk of focusing too much on scrimping pennies. I certainly advocate wise budgeting, but it’s important to remember that thinking overmuch about saving money can constrict your mind away from important “risks”, which can often be worth taking — like starting that business, making a new investment, etc. Don’t let this technique keep you from expanding your financial mindset.

 

So, here are a few suggestions for what you might DE-automate, for the sake of personal clarity:

 1) Just once, receive your paycheck in cash (instead of ACH’d), or cash the full amount when you receive it. Because, have you ever HELD one paycheck’s worth of money before?  It’s really hard to fully comprehend how much you’re bringing in until you physically feel those stacks of $20s in your hand. I can guarantee you it’s a lot harder to spend it when you’re seeing it in person rather than online.  And it hurts frittering it away more, too.

 2) Pay your mortgage manually. Feel the burn of this large check, every time you write it. It will trickle into how you think about the other bills which you pay such that even if this is the only bill you take off of “auto-pay”, you’ll be wiser with your remaining funds each month.

 3) Only purchase vehicles for cash. If you had to pay outright, wouldn’t you end up with a cheaper car? Probably. Just because many are used to setting up loans and payments for vehicles, does NOT mean it’s wise — in fact, this is one of the primary markers for the “quiet millionaires” (those who are getting ahead financially, even on relatively smaller salaries). Yes, your pride might suffer when you’re not rolling around in a 2018 Audi through Des Moines … but considering the real cost of that vehicular pride-booster does wonders for calming your egoistic tendencies.

 

In short, paying in cash (or with a manual check) helps you to consider the following questions:

 * Is this ____ still WORTH it?

* Is there a way I can cut it down a bit?

* What’s the best way to pay for it right now? (c/c, check, cash?)

 

Again, some of this could literally take seconds, but the point of it all is that you STOP to think about it. With automation, you don’t get the “ping” every month because it’s already doing the thinking for you.

 You’ll learn a LOT more about the financial “you” this way than you would otherwise, I’m certain.

 It’s really about paying closer attention.

 And we could all use more of that in our lives.

 

Warmly,

Ann Hartz

(515) 707-0884

Ann M. Hartz, CPA  

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