A Hot Start to My Summer

I hope everyone’s summer is off to a hot start because mine sure is. On June 12 I attended Profit First’s Convocation a their headquarters in Boonton, New Jersey. While there I was able to talk with Mike Michalowicz, the creator of The Profit First Method and the author of some of my favorite books on financial advice. I was also able to meet with Rob Saharyn, the co-founder of Profit First. About a dozen of us were there for the event and were given a private tour of the headquarters, which was on the third floor of a repurposed factory. The building was beautiful with exposed brick and a modern design throughout. I also got to network with other Certified Profit First Professionals like myself. In fact, there are less than 200 individuals who are Certified Profit First Professionals but part of the event was discussing how we could get the word out on this program. Speaking of Profit First, I will be attending ProfitCON in September. This will be my second time at the event.

Earlier this month, I attended Scaling New Heights. This was my fourth time at the event and I am already signed up for next year’s event. Scaling New Heights is run by Woodard, a company that advises small business owners. This year’s event was “Face the Yeti,” which focused on facing your fears as a business owner. We had five different areas that we could focus on improving such as keeping up with technology and finding and retaining the right clients. I also learned more about an automated receipt bank used for data entry and T sheets.

With my birthday in July, I decided to get myself a little gift that is good for me personally and for my business. I am attending a business retreat at the Jersey Shore from June 16-19. This oceanside retreat has been dubbed “Mediate & Mastermind” and we will be staying at a bed and breakfast on Bay Head Beach.

Also in July I will be graduating from the Ignite Your Business Program. This program is offered by Asentiv, a company that helps entrepreneurs and small business owners like myself improve their networking and referral marketing.

Here’s to a fruitful and fun summer!

Back in my day…

Generational differences are nothing new.

While there are no exact dates to confirm who is a Millennial, the general understanding is that someone who was born during the early 1980s and the early 2000s is a Millennial. The generation that preceded the Millennials was Generation X and the generation coming after the Millennials is Generation Z. Millennials are the children of the baby boomers and older Generation Xers. The term “Millennial” comes from the link to the graduation dates of those born during the time period coinciding with the new millennium, expected to graduate in the year 2000.

As the demographics of our country change, so does the workforce. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, Millennials are now the largest generation in the US labor force and the largest living generation in the country. One out of every three workers is a Millennial. As the Baby Boomers retire and those from Generation X age, the Millennial generation will take up more and more of the labor force. Millennials are not just adding to the ranks from those born in the US. According to the same study by the Pew Research Center, immigrants coming to the US are usually in their prime working years. The study states that over the past five years, over half of newly arrived immigrant workers have been Millennials.

While Millennials may be the most educated generation, they are the most laden with student debt. Unlike in many other countries that have higher education costs offset by taxes, in the United States students are pretty much left out on their own. When funding gets cut, colleges and universities must fill the gap by raising tuition, cutting services and cutting staff. According to an article from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “over the past 20 years, the price of attending a four-year public college or university has grown significantly faster than the median income.” American students owe more than $1.3 trillion in student loans. That is the second largest consumer debt only to mortgage debt. Student debt also may not be discharged by bankruptcy, unlike mortgage debt.

As someone with two Millennial sons and a small business owner who employs a Millennial I’ve had plenty of opportunity to interact and observe people of this generation. They seem to seek value and purpose in what they do, whether it is their personal lives or in their occupations. I don’t recall this sort of idealism being around so prevalently when I was growing up. My generation had its ideals; they just didn’t seem as pervasive as of those of the Millennials. As different generations we will have different values that may cause conflict and create a sense of misunderstanding. I think Millennials have gotten sort of a bad rap and from my first hand experience, they’re not so different from every other generation.

Memorial Day

This weekend summer “unofficially” arrives. Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial kick off to summer all across the country. Now that I live in Florida, I can think back to my times living in the Northeast where Memorial Day carried more weight for being the start to summer. Despite signaling the start of nice weather, beach trips and BBQs however, the true meaning of Memorial Day is to honor those who served in our country’s armed services. Without their sacrifice we would not enjoy the freedoms we may take for granted every day. Many people may wonder what the difference is between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, both holidays in which we honor our armed servicemen and women. The difference is quite easy; Memorial Day honors those who died while serving in our armed forces while Veteran’s Day honors all military veterans. So while many of us will enjoy a cookout or simply a relaxing day off, keep in mind the sacrifices made by those who served in our armed forces.

My summer is starting to get busy already. I’m looking forward to a few events I’ll be attending throughout the season. I’ll be attending Scaling New Heights in June on the 6th and 7th. Scaling New Heights will be held at the beautiful Disney Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando. Scaling New Heights is run by Woodard, a company that specializes in helping small businesses grow. They help people like me who run small businesses improve their networking and much more. Joe Woodard and his team do an amazing job putting on this annual event. This will be my 4th time attending Scaling New Heights. Shortly after that I’ll be going to a Profit First Event on June 12th. This event will be at their headquarters in New Jersey. I will be racking up the frequent flyer miles this summer!

I’ve written about my journey with Profit First in previous blog posts, but if you have not had a chance to take look at the book, here is a link to the first two chapters for free: https://s3.amazonaws.com/ProfitFirstProfessionals/Portal+Downloads/Certified+PFP+Marketing+Templates/Profit+First+Rev+2017+PFP+2+chapters.pdf

Another great free resource is the Profit First podcast available wherever you get your podcasts. (or just Google it!)

If you like the first two chapters and you have questions about using Profit First in your business, I’d love to talk! Please schedule a call with me at www.clarityfinances.com. Profit First has helped so many businesses be more profitable!

I just got back from attending my son AJ’s graduation from Cabrini University in Philadelphia. It was great getting back to Pennsylvania for a little bit. He’s already been putting his education to good use working as a social media consultant for Clarity Finances. We’re happy to have him aboard!

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

 

Wallet-Friendly Summer Activities

 

I always love a good cookout during the summer. Being outside among family and friends with some good food and drink can make for great times. Growing up in the Northeast, our summers were hot, humid and there were always plenty of barbeques. But now that I live in the southern part of the US in Florida, I now realize that barbeque is on another level in this part of the country. In the spirit of barbeques, for this week’s blog post I recommend some wallet friendly things that you can do with your friends and family this summer.

BBQ Map of the US by The BBQ Beat

Barbeques: The quintessential summer activity. Now that I live in the south, I see that cookouts are a big deal here. We may have some good cookouts up north where I’m from, but down here it is pretty much a lifestyle. Most of the dishes that we love to eat at our cookouts have southern roots. The roots of barbecuing come from cooks in the south needing to cook cheaper cuts of meat for longer to make them more palatable and tender. You will find that the various regions of the south even have their own bbq sauces. Florida does not really have it’s own style of sauce, but my favorite kind is Carolina style.

Picnics: Similar to a barbeque, picnics are a nice opportunity to eat outside during the summer months. Picnics can be a little more intimate, which makes them great for a date. By purchasing everything you need at the grocery store, you save money and know exactly what you’re getting to eat. All you have to do next is pick your favorite spot to eat outside whether it’s your favorite park or just your own back yard.

Minor League Baseball: When I think summer, I think baseball. With 244 teams across the US, the chances are that you have a team close by to you. Minor league baseball has the environment of the professional stadiums at a much more affordable price. Since minor league teams don’t have the star power of the major leagues (MLB) they put an extra emphasis on in-game entertainment and things like free giveaways to fans.

Museums: Is it too hot out to be outside? If so, go inside to the air conditioning! During the summer, museums are oases of A/C and artifacts. Don’t forget to check your local paper and things like Groupon for discounts on tickets.

Local libraries: Another option if the heat is too much. Libraries are a resource that we should utilize no matter what the season. Just like museums, libraries may have special promotions during the summer and are both family and wallet friendly.

Farmer’s Markets: The fruits and veggies at a farmer’s market often times are cheaper than the grocery store and you’re also supporting local businesses by buying their products; you may even get to meet the farmer who grew your fruits and veggies. Now that I live in Florida, I love all the fresh fruits that are available to me. You can learn a lot about where you live by visiting your local farmer’s market. Uriah’s Urban Farms provides fresh produce to the University of South Florida campus and many restaurants in the Tampa area.

Take a hike: It’s tough to find something that can be as therapeutic as fresh air and the sounds of nature around you. You don’t have to go to a US National Park to enjoy the wonders of nature, but if you do, you should look into the passes offered by the National Parks Service. Don’t forget to hydrate and maybe bring a picnic. A great park close to me in Tampa is Lettuce Lake Regional Park.

A photo I took while at Lettuce Lake Regional Park.

Lettuce Lake Regional Park in Tampa, FL.

 

Gardening: If you like to be outside and to work with your hands, gardening may be for you. Even if you have a few herbs growing from a windowsill, having plants around enhances your surroundings and yourself. There are many studies on the benefits of having plants in your home and workplace, but I liked this one in particular from Texas A&M, which said how having plants around can have a calming effect and increase concentration.

Yard Sales: By having a yard sale, you accomplish a lot of things. First off, you get rid of stuff you weren’t using and make a little money. Yard sales also offer the opportunity to meet some of your neighbors as some communities hold their yard sales together. And although you just got rid of some of your stuff you can buy someone else’s stuff at a bargain price.

Take a nap/sunbathe: This takes minimal effort. All you need is a comfy place indoors if you want to beat the heat or a nice lounge chair outside if you also want to work on that tan. Pair with your favorite book, podcast or sangria recipe.

 

A Reflection With Eyes Set To The Future

 

 

It was always something that I wanted to do and it almost happened by accident: starting my own business.

After graduating with a degree in Finance from Penn State University it was my time to enter the working world. I needed to decide where I wanted to work. I originally saw my godmother work as a bookkeeper and thought that this was something I could see myself doing. I didn’t want to work as a stock broker or work for a bank so I found myself working in the bookkeeping departments of small businesses. I eventually became an Advanced Certified Pro Advisor in QuickBooks and was enjoying my work in the small business environment. And then around 2007 I was laid off.

While thinking about what my next job would be after being laid off, I realized that I had acquired the skills that enabled me to start my own business. My father and grandfather were entrepreneurs so it seemed natural to me to have your own business rather than work for someone else. I started networking by joining BNI (Business Network International), marketed myself and had the confidence in my existing knowledge in bookkeeping to start my own business, Clarity Finances.

And now here I am 10 years later!

When I was working for those other small businesses, my favorite thing was to actually meet the clients and see what they did in their own businesses to support their families and achieve their dreams. I see my clients as more than just clients and love getting to know them and seeing them accomplish their goals.

I want to have a giving component to my business and being my own boss lets me do that. I can choose where I give and make sure that these organizations match my principles. One such organization is Rotary International. Rotary International does good work all over the world and they are accountable. They’ve been around for over 110 years and do work in areas such as fighting disease, providing clean drinking water and much more. Another organization that I trust and choose to give to is The Unstoppable Foundation. Their focus is on educating children and making sure every child has access to the gift of education. Please follow the links to the respective organizations’ websites to learn more and even give to them if you feel inclined.

As far as the future goes, I would like to keep becoming a more efficient business with a focus on giving. I want to connect to other people, not just other business owners, who want to make the world a better place through philanthropy. I am also excited to implement what I am learning by being Profit First Professional. To me, Profit First is the way to get more efficient as a business and get me to where I want to be as a business that can give back in a big way. I want more collaboration and more connection. There is a lot of good that needs to be done in the world, and I’d like to do my part.

 

The Final Countdown

The clock is ticking down and the deadline will be even closer by the time you are done reading this post. Christmas is only about eight months away and Spring officially began three weeks ago so what are we counting down towards? Tax Day.

This year, the due date for tax day falls on April 18th, a Tuesday. The normal due date for Federal Income tax day is on April 15th so you may be wondering why the change of due date? According to efile.com, “due to April 15th being on a Saturday and the Washington D.C. Emancipation Day holiday being observed on April 17th instead of April 16, 2017, Tax Day is the following Tuesday.”

And just so you know, there is an extension for filing the tax forms but there is no extension for the payment of what you owe. If you do owe, you must make your payment by the tax deadline. If you are unsure about what the amount is that you may owe, get in touch with your tax adviser ASAP.

Tax season is a busy time around here at Clarity Finances, so we can relate on how hectic things can be come tax crunch time. Although we cannot do your taxes for you here at Clarity Finances, if you do get an extension and want assistance getting your numbers in order this is where we can assist you. Click the “contact” heading in the top right corner of the page or follow this link to get in touch with us.

I wanted to take a moment to wish everyone of the Jewish faith a Happy Passover, which began April 11th and will end on April 18th. Since this blog post will be out a few days before, I would also like to wish a happy Easter to those of the Christian faith.

A few weeks ago I put out a blog post titled A New Chance for Growth. This was about some financial mistakes to “give up” for Lent. Let me know if you decided to give any of my suggestions a try and how it went. If you came up with your financial mistakes to give up, let me know, as I am always interested in learning something new. Either way, I’d love to hear from you!

 

Becoming a Profit First Professional & Other Tidbits

I’m proud to announce that I am now officially part of the Profit First family! As you might have read in previous blog posts, I am a huge fan of the Profit First Method and the works of Mike Michalowicz. At the end of last October I attended ProfitCon16. I wrote about it in my blog here. For those unfamiliar with the Profit First Method, it is a system for businesses of all sizes that flips the scrip on how a business can be run. Leading up to the event I was excited for the networking opportunity and the chance to learn something new that I can implement in both my business and those of my clients.

Like I said in my post reflecting on my times at ProfitCon16, it was high-energy, entertaining and inspiring. I wanted to learn more about the Profit First Method so I figured the next step was certification. By fall of this year, I will be a certified Profit First Professional.

My goal is to apply the principles of the Profit First Method to Clarity Finances and to the businesses of my clients. I am already seeing the rewards from my membership in the networking opportunities offered by the Profit First community. The Profit First network is not just present in my local business communities; it has a global reach, which is another big factor in my pursuit of becoming certified.

I’m also proud to announce that this is the 10th year of operation for Clarity Finances! The past ten years have been amazing and I’ve got to work with some wonderful people along the way and I look forward to the future.

I’m also preparing for another big milestone, but my son is doing this one. In May, my son will graduate from Cabrini University. Just like his mom, he has worked hard throughout these past years for his degree, has had great experiences and made numerous friends. Like me, his eyes are on the future and what lies ahead and I couldn’t be more proud of him. I’ll also be attending Scaling New Heights in June of this year. This is a conference for accountants and bookkeepers that use QuickBooks in their business. This year, it is being held in Orlando, which gives me an opportunity to also check out Epcot and the World of Disney. In keeping up with philanthropic efforts, I’ll also be going on a short-term mission trip to Alabama in June.

If you have further interest in the works of Mike Michalowicz or Profit First, you can buy his books on Amazon.com or reach out to me and I’d love to discuss.

 

 

March Madness

With March comes the Madness. This could be madness from being snowed in by the recent storm Stella that blanketed parts of the country or it could be basketball related madness. I’ll stick with the latter as I’m sure you’re tired of shoveling, re-shoveling once you get plowed back in or even hearing about the storm if you live in parts of the country that didn’t get hit by Stella, like me, in Florida. Not to rub it in, but times like these are when I’m thankful that I relocated to the Sunshine State.

I’m no expert on college basketball or “bracketology” but I do know that a common theme in the NCAA tournament is upsets. To me, a casual sports fan, this is what makes the tournament interesting. Any team can win it all or upset a powerhouse school and forever be a part of sport’s history. No team is to be underestimated and being the bookkeeper that I am, this made me think of a few financial moves you can make that should not be underestimated. So here are my Final 4 Financial Moves that could help you get ahead and beat the odds like that #12 seed you have winning it all in your bracket.

 

1. Pay Off (smaller sized) Debt

Here I’m focusing in on small amounts of debt. A student loan or house payment may be the main loan in which you are paying off, but your smaller debts like on credit cards also need to be addressed so they don’t become unmanageable. As I’ve said previously, never pay only the minimum and know the difference between wants and needs when it comes to using plastic.

A study I found on com from the Journal of Marketing Research points out how paying off small debts can motivate you to then tackle large debt.

2. Donate to Charity

Donating to charity is not about getting ahead financially yourself, but helping others. You can make donations on many levels: locally, nationally and globally. Here are a few of my favorite charities:

Rotary International: I’m a member of my local Rotary Club and plan to keep donating to them because I trust in their mission. According to their website, Rotary International has helped with things like wiping out 99 percent of all polio cases.

Unstoppable Foundation: A non-profit humanitarian organization that builds schools in Africa, provides clean drinking water to impoverished communities and more. I particularly like their Proof of Progress, which tracks projects from beginning to end and reports back to donors on how their contribution helped someone less fortunate.

Local churches: Wherever I go, I look for a church that supports both global and local missions. On a local level, it’s nice to see a direct impact that charitable works do for communities.

Wounded Warriors Family Support: Supporting our troops should go beyond having a bumper sticker on your car. Wounded Warriors Family Support (WWFS) mission is “to provide support to the families of those who have been wounded, injured or killed during combat operations.”

Hotties 4 Humanity: One of my favorite charities local to the Philadelphia area. I have worked with them and attended several events. They are a charity that raises money for other local charities using fun networking events.

3. Join Clubs and Organizations

As I just mentioned, I am a member of my local Rotary Club. Joining an organization or club in your trade can provide networking opportunities, new skills to be learned and even an opportunity to help others like with the charity efforts of Rotary International.

4. Save for a Rainy Day/ Emergency Fund

You may want to purchase that new slick tablet you just saw on TV, but in the long run, it would be in your best interest to put that money you would’ve spent on a luxury into a rainy day or emergency fund. Everyone has a different ideal amount for their emergency fund, but there are numerous sources online to calculate how much you could need for your own emergency fund. A good source that I found was offered by Investopedia.

 

Just like the small school that you had to Google to see where it was located, these small actions are not to be underestimated. While they may not bring you instant wealth, they can help bring stability to you both financially and personally.

 

Julie

 

A New Chance for Growth

These needs are just a small part of the festivities in New Orleans, LA for Mardi Gras.

 

Tuesday of this week was Mardi Gras. I hope you got to enjoy some fasnachts, ate king cake or even got some beads thrown your way. As much as the festivities of New Orleans, LA and all over the world have gained renown for their revelry, we should still remember what brings about such merriment- the upcoming self-discipline of Lent.

If you are unfamiliar with Lent, it is a time of year observed by those of the Christian faith. Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the sort of last hurrah, hence the legendary revelry, before Lent. The season begins with Ash Wednesday and ends six weeks later with Easter Sunday. During this time period observers will offer penance, prayer and self-denial. The self-denial can be offered up in various ways. If you’re a big coffee drinker for example you could make your sacrifice by abstaining from your morning brew. Lent is not just a time for giving things up. Many people will choose to add something to their lives like additional exercise or to give to charities during this time.

As I’ve said in previous posts, I can’t but help to look at things from a financial angle and what better season than that of Lent? So in honor of this season, I’ll list a few financial dos and don’ts that people could try over the next 40 days. Even if you are not a religious person, this is still a good time to learn something new and to test one’s will power.

 

Some Things to Give Up:

Give up using the business accounts to pay for personal expenses

Make a clear distinction to what is for you personally and what is for the business.

Give up on trying to do your own payroll

Inaccuracies in payroll are not worth the savings that you get by doing them yourself.

Give up on not putting profits before expenses

Like I learned from Mike Michalowicz in his book “Profit First”, the equation business owners should be following is “sales-profits=expenses”

Give up not working to pay yourself

Business owners need to make a commitment to themselves alongside their business as a whole.

Give up not being properly insured

When disaster strikes, you’ll be happy to be insured. As much as we all dislike paying for it, insurance is there for a reason.

Give Up spending more than you make

This is Financials 101; either for your personal finances or your business, what you spend should never be greater than what you bring in.

Some Things to Practice More Often

Pay Off Debts

This relates directly to spending more than you make. If you spend more than you make, you’ll rack up debt. When you have debts, attack them! Don’t just pay the minimums because that is horrible for the long run.

Keep an eye on your personal finances

With things like the Wells Fargo hidden fees scandal in mind, take time to go over your bank accounts. We’re not all bookkeepers, but one should take some time to go over their bank accounts to look for fraudulent charges or questionable fees.

Shop around

Looking back to the previous example, if you are tired of questionable fees, higher bills or lackluster security, shop around. If you qualify, a credit card with a lower interest rate or cash back on purchases can save you money in the long run.

Know your own numbers

Do a little research on yourself. Find out your FICO score, your credit card limit and how your debts weigh up to your income to get a better picture of your finances.

 

These next 40 days of Lent offer a nice time to try out some of these financial dos and don’ts. If these suggestions seem like something that helped you out after the 40 days, it wouldn’t hurt to try them for the rest of the year or to make them regular habits. Let me know if you plan on trying any of these suggestions and want to follow up afterwards. Here’s to your next 40 days being a time of growth spiritually, personally and financially!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love & Money

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

 

 

Whether you’re single, married or in a relationship, Tuesday was Valentine’s Day and I hope that it was a great day for you regardless of your current relationship status. Restaurants are booked weeks in advance, (last minute) flowers and chocolates are bought and the next day we’re back to our lives.

As a bookkeeper, I can’t help but look at how things can be broken down from a financial perspective and love is no exception. Love and Money. These two things can go together like water and electricity; they can work together in unison with great results (see hydroelectric power) or when mixed together they can be dangerous.

But why do we go to the extra effort for those whom we love on this day that comes every year in February? Some skeptics may call it a “Hallmark Holiday,” meaning that it doesn’t carry the same weight as the likes of Christmas and Thanksgiving. We are hounded by commercials showing the latest diamond ring that costs a month’s salary and the newest model luxury car with a big bow on it in the driveway (I always wondered how much those bows cost and figure if I have to ask this question, I shouldn’t be worried about the car).

Photo Credit: Multigold99 – DeviantArt

So why do we do what we do for those we love? A short answer: love is not about money and money is not about love.

I think the quote at the top of this post could be a good barometer for any sort of relationship. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t buy that new piece of jewelry for your partner or to abandon all of your worldly possessions and live a life like that of Gandhi, but read that quote carefully one more time.

You read it again? What stood out to me were patience, protection, trust, hope and perseverance. Possessions, both literal and figurative, are not in the recipe of love. We’re not bragging about being in love or envying those who are, nor are we keeping track of transgressions. Love can be a source of hope and can help us persevere through the toughest of times.

In short, there is nothing wrong with getting your significant other gifts or making grand gestures every February 14th, just remember why you are getting them this gift or taking them to that fancy restaurant for dinner: love.