Five Productivity Tips for Des Moines Busy Bodies

Five Productivity Tips for Des Moines Busy Bodies

With Labor Day behind us, fall is just around the corner.

(And a quick tax note: so are estimated taxes, if that applies to you. Due the 16th of this month. Consider yourself reminded. Though I will probably remind you once more.)

Now … fall. This can be a happy transition (as it is for many), though I do know that some of my Des Moines clients wish the summer never stopped. It’s a season that can get hectic with travel, weddings, and taking time off in general — and it should be a time to enjoy the outdoors. But fall can deliver routine again, and routine is a great step toward productivity.

So, with all that in mind, I thought I’d offer you some thoughts today about how I try to make sure that autumn is the start of something great.

It requires focus.

Five Productivity Tips for Des Moines Busy Bodies

“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” -Peter Drucker

Here are a few productivity tips to utilize as we step into a new season, as your routine continues (or starts?). And if you’re always in “scramble mode”, think of ways to incorporate these methods into your daily life.

1. Choose Your “Focus Times”
No one knows you quite like yourself. I can’t tell you when the best time of day is for work and productivity. However, it’s important you nail down that time. In the morning? As a night owl? Whenever you feel most productive, mark that time off on your calendar — no one else can touch it. That’s your time to buckle down and get your MOST IMPORTANT tasks done efficiently.

2. “Do Not Disturb”
The first two steps on this list go hand-in-hand, but this is so important, it warranted its own paragraph.

Whether you are in the middle of a “focus time” or not, get in the habit of using the “Do Not Disturb” mode on your phone or computer while you work. It’s no surprise that technology is distracting. But consider this: according to research from the University of California, it takes an average of 25 minutes to regain focus after your first distraction.

Think checking in on social media takes just a few seconds? Think again, and make “Do Not Disturb” a part of your routine.

3. Don’t Accept Pointless Meetings

In the past, we’ve discussed how to run effective meetings — something easier said than done.

But there are many statistics that discuss the ramifications of unimportant meetings. An Inc. Magazine article, highlighting a survey from Doodle, cites the following:

  • “Poorly organized meetings mean I don’t have enough time to do the rest of my work” (44 percent)
  • “Unclear actions lead to confusion” (43 percent)
  • “Bad organization results in a loss of focus on projects” (38 percent)
  • “Irrelevant attendees slow progress” (31 percent)

If you are the recipient of costly meetings, start a new routine of saying “no” if you see it as unimportant to your job success (and you’re in the position of having permission to voice that opinion). Not only will shedding meetings help your productivity, it will inevitably save others time as well.

4. Accept Help From Others!

Exclamation added because many do not use this to their advantage.

We often think asking for help means burdening others. But it often has the opposite effect. Think about who you ask to take you to the airport, or help you move into a new house. Those are your closest friends!

You have people that care about you, and productivity sometimes looks like not doing it all on your own.

5. Small Breaks

Remember those social media distractions? That’s not what we mean by “small breaks” here.

But scheduling a few daily breaks into your routine can greatly increase productivity.

Again, as long as the breaks are purposeful and consistent.

Maybe every day at 10AM you walk outside around the block. Maybe everyday at 2PM you water the plants. Something to keep your mind sharp without mindlessly drifting into cyberspace — only you will know the perfect activities to fill these breaks, but I highly encourage a regular mind refresh so that you stay as productive as possible.

How are those five for a start?

Even if you focus on one or two this week, try them out! We all need productivity reminders from time to time. Let’s keep refining our days so that friends, family and ourselves benefit from better practices.



Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA

Estate Planning For Des Moines Singles

Estate Planning For Des Moines Singles

Many of our Des Moines clients are married. What I have to say today is still relevant, conceptually (and even in some of the details).

So don’t skip on by.

As I have talked about before, estate planning is something that many families continue to neglect.

I’m not here to toot that horn again today. But there is actually more to the story for the “unattached” out there than you might think, so I’m picking up that ball today.

One thing I WILL say to those families, many of whom are sending children back to school: this school year, make your children’s FINANCIAL education a priority. Many schools don’t ever cover these topics in any kind of substantive detail … the ball is in your court.

So if you don’t have finances on the syllabus, add it yourself. Your future generations will thank you.

And speaking of future generations…

Estate Planning For Des Moines Singles

“Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.” -George Edward Woodberry

In reality, estate planning is just as important for single people as it is for couples and families.

In fact, many estate planning attorneys believe that singles need it more. For married people, it is pretty much assumed that a spouse, even in the absence of any planning, is going to be the person that the court is going to appoint as the guardian over your personal and health care decisions and conservator over your financial matters.

But, if you’re single, you need to appoint someone to make your personal, health care, and financial decisions, or the court will decide for you — and it may not be the person you would want.

A common misconception among most singles is that they don’t have much money, so they don’t need estate planning.

But typically they find they have more assets than they think. Singles often have a life insurance policy through an employer, perhaps a retirement account fed by their paychecks, equity if they own a home, and sometimes accidental death benefits from credit cards. Once their estate has been settled, a parent, sibling, niece or nephew will most likely end up with this modest inheritance.

However, it is important for anyone, single or married, to create a real plan in order to designate who will be responsible for our health care and financial decisions when we are no longer able to do so ourselves. You may have every intention of leaving your nephew your “vintage” Xbox, but without estate planning in place, the court may sell it off in an estate sale so the money can be distributed.

Besides, your nephew probably doesn’t want it anyway.



Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA

Three New Tax Implications for Buying or Selling a House in the Des Moines Area

Three New Tax Implications for Buying or Selling a House in the Des Moines Area

Sometimes real estate is more art than science.

Because every homebuyer’s situation is nuanced from home to realtor to geographic location, there’s no cut-and-dried way to go about it, and that’s whether you’re investing, moving or selling.

But there are a few things you should know about — whether you’re a long-time homeowner or just beginning your search. Because buying a home is one more thing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) affected last year — so it’s time for a little homebuying update and explanation of the changes that have occurred.

There are three, in particular, that you should keep in mind.

Three New Tax Implications for Buying or Selling a House in the Des Moines Area

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” -Maya Angelou

If you have any additional questions about the following information, please reach out with a phone call. I’d love to discuss these tips and more in greater detail: (515) 259-7779

Lower Deduction Cap

Currently, Des Moines homebuyers are only allowed to deduct mortgage interest they spend on up to $750K in debt for a new home. If the buyer is filing separately while married, the total is $375K.

Prior to the TCJA, total mortgages (of up to $1M) were fully deductible if they were owned as primary residences.

Also, if you bought your home before the TCJA went into effect, and plan to refinance your home, the “up to $1M” of total deductible mortgages rule still applies.

Property Tax Deduction

We’ve talked a little in the past about state and local tax (SALT).

In short, there is a $10K SALT deduction limit that applies to items like real estate and local income taxes. Before the TCJA there was no limit. Now, homebuyers need to pay a little more attention when it comes to SALT regulations.

(I’m here to help with this too!)

Tax Breaks for Sellers
This is kind of a “bonus” tip, but I figure if you or someone you know is buying a home, there is a chance that selling a house also applies to the situation.

In that case, the tax implications of selling a house can be positive.

Something the TCJA did not affect was the fact you don’t have to pay capital gains taxes on the profit you make from selling a home. Now, you still need to meet the requirements for living in the house long enough to earn money from the sale. But this perk could make the stress of buying and selling a house worthwhile for your bank account.

I hope these brief tips help you or someone you know.

Even though the TCJA shifted some laws around, note that the law is liable to change in 2025. It’s not set in stone, and things could change in just a few years’ time.

All the more reason to form a relationship with a trusted Des Moines expert for all the changes (most likely) to come.



Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA

A Powerful Example of Tax Planning For Des Moines Families And Individuals

A Powerful Example of Tax Planning For Des Moines Families And Individuals

It’s wild to think that there are only four more months in 2019.

As we get older, time sure does fly. And unfortunately, many get stuck in a rut from year to year. Specifically related to taxes — many do not look at, or even think about, their tax situation until the winter or early spring. But if you can take just one piece of advice from today:

Not only can you start planning your taxes in advance, it is by far the wisest thing you can do for an accurate, stress-free April (or at least less stress than usual).

And if planning ahead is the first item of importance, having someone to plan with is a close second. If you are planning your taxes alone, please give me a call so we can meet and discuss everything from strategy to accuracy when addressing your taxes.

Let’s examine a hypothetical situation, and the kind of strategy we could put in place together…

A Powerful Example of Tax Planning For Des Moines Families And Individuals

“Stop setting goals. Goals are pure fantasy unless you have a specific plan to achieve them.” -Stephen Covey

Pretend you were considering taking money out of a pension (401k) to finance a down payment on a house. This kind of strategy happens all the time. However, to complete the transaction without consulting a knowledgeable Des Moines professional beforehand might result in a four- (or five-) figure mistake.

In this specific situation, I would ask you a few simple, necessary questions. And then, depending on the answer, would likely advise you to roll the money ($10,000) into a Traditional IRA. That way, you could withdraw the money at a savings of $1,000. This is because money used for a first home, up to $10,000, is penalty-free when taken from an IRA but not a 401K.

That’s called strategy. When you benefit from that kind of strategy, it’s called tax planning. It’s not only related to housing, 401K or IRA allotment — I want to help you experience all-around financial success moving forward.

While we’re on the topic, here are other “penalty-free” retirement account withdrawal opportunities (Note: these are NOT “tax-free” — only penalty-free):

* Unreimbursed Medical Bills
* Total and/or Permanent Disability
* Health Insurance Premiums After 12 weeks of Unemployment
* Death
* Higher Education Costs
* Pending Senate Approval: Qualified Birth And Adoption Expenses

Also note that there are specific caveats to each of these options. We can discuss your best route when we talk about your individual situation. There are a few other obscure situations available, but again — these decisions are best made under consultation.

Although, when working with us, there’s no certified promise of saving money (because every situation is so nuanced and unique to each Des Moines client). But I can guarantee this: If you don’t speak with us in advance, we won’t have the chance to save you all we possibly could on your 2019 taxes.

Don’t wait until winter. Please don’t wait until spring. Let’s get some strategy started … right now.



Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA

Two Ways Towards Making Money In Marriage Harmonious For Des Moines Couples

Two Ways Towards Making Money In Marriage Harmonious For Des Moines Couples

Summer is nearing an end. Which also means, well, wedding season is slowing down.

If you’ve been married, you know that there is a big difference between the “wedding show”, and the real work of being married. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve seen for newlyweds is that they put just as much planning (if not far more) into the marriage, as they do the wedding.

It’s worth it, because the support gained from a good marriage far outlasts the rightful excitement of wedding days and honeymoons. And, putting on my green shades here, dual income is a HUGE bonus to getting married. Should it be one of the main reasons you get married? Of course not.

Is it okay to capitalize on its advantage and plan accordingly? Absolutely.

So let’s discuss two steps for the maturing process of managing your money in marriage. Because after the wedding, it really isn’t always easy to merge two financial lives.

Two Ways Towards Making Money In Marriage Harmonious For Des Moines Couples

“Money, like emotions, is something you must control to keep your life on the right track.” -Natasha Munson

Whether you’ve been married for years, aren’t married but talk regularly with married couples, or have kids who will soon enter into matrimony, please think about these things and how they could help.

Way #1: Your Money Story

A great exercise for Des Moines married couples is to write separate autobiographies on the relationship between you and the money you have acquired over the years. No matter how you’ve both earned money, there is a meaningful story behind each record.

This could be in paragraph form (no novels please) or just a bulleted list with some additional info. Regardless of how you write your “Money Story”, ask yourself a few key questions in the process:

  • What fears do you have about money?
  • Who helped you learn about money?
  • How do you envision two incomes (or one income) affecting marriage?
  • Other than the obvious needs (pay rent, etc.), why is money important to your marriage?

Are there other important questions to keep in mind while writing your “Money Story”? Yes, but here are a few to get started. Now go tell your spouse about this week’s new money exercise — and get writing!

Way #2: Dream Scenario

Think about this for a moment:

“Imagine you are fully financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs now and in the future. How would you live your life?”

That first sentence sounds like a bad intro to some sort of pyramid scheme, but true and honest financial independence is closer than you think! And if you’ve already gotten off to a great start, help others with this frame of mind.

With pen (still) in hand, complete another exercise: write down your “dream scenario” in regard to money in marriage. And use your imagination. Don’t hold back. Do you two want to own a lake house someday? Start a business? Travel the world? Have kids? Start a charity?

All of those decisions in marriage are huge financial commitments, but if you don’t write down your goals, you are less likely to pursue and complete them. That’s a fact.

Both of these simple-yet-effective exercises will create some great conversations in marriage — regardless if you’re engaged, newlyweds, or married for years. You just can’t communicate enough about money in marriage. Don’t view it as greediness; view it as marital readiness for whatever the future throws your way.

I am always a call away if you’d like to discuss ways to aid your marital financial situation.

Although “here comes the bride” is a beautiful occasion in life, it’s inevitably followed with “here comes the bills”.

And cake of course.



Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA

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