Help Me Help You
What do Jerry Maguire and the Boy Scout motto have to do with tax preparation? As you will soon see, the connection is quite important. There is a semi poignant scene in Jerry Maguire where Jerry, having come to his wits end with his client, repeats several times, “Help ME…Help you. Help me help you. Help Mee help Youu!” The part of the very well-known Boy Scout motto I would like to bring to your attention is, “Be prepared.”
So again we ask, what do Jerry Maguire and the Boy Scout motto have to with tax preparation? I’d like to answer that question with a list. Here are five ways you can help me help you all the while making your inner boy scout proud.
- Be prepared. Come to your appointment prepared. If you receive a tax organizer, use it as a guide.
- Open all your documents. This saves time and gets you familiar with what they contain and may generate further questions. For example, your brokerage statements may contain stock transactions without cost basis, you will need to obtain that data for the completion of your tax return. It will save time if you have already done that prior to your meeting.
- Ask questions. Come to the meeting with two or three pressing questions regarding your taxes or personal finances. While the meeting is primarily for the tax return preparation, I believe we “earn our fee” by providing guidance regarding these questions. If you have “big” questions, the tax meeting is probably not the time to consider them. Please schedule a meeting outside the filing season to consider them.
- Keep in touch outside the filing season, especially if you are paying estimated tax. For example, you are self-employed and your income has risen significantly. Send us a quick email. We may have some ideas for you as well as make sure your tax situation is considered. No surprises!
- Only invest in what you understand. If you do not know what a REMIC is, do not buy it. If you are not versed in the intricacies of oil and gas, walk on by. If you use a financial advisor, they should meet with you from time to time. If they do not, find someone who does. Come prepared to that meeting. Ask questions. If you do not know or understand what they are saying, keep pressing until they can explain in a way you can understand it. That is partly why you hired them, isn’t it? Ask them to show you your return on investment versus similarly invested funds or benchmarks. The basic rule of thumb is your account should beat the return on investment of the benchmark. Otherwise, why are they necessary? At least understand the value addition your advisor brings to the table so the fees make sense, and understand how they are compensated. It is your money and you ultimately control it.
Make 2015 the year you are more prepared. Keep these tips handy and refer to them throughout the year. Think of it as helping me…help you.
© 2015 Fran Molinari