Richard A. Lindsey, CPA

Lindsey & Waldo, LLC – Certified Public Accountants

  • Oct 27

    Business people seem quite willing to throw lots of money at the newest, unproven tactic for acquiring new customers/clients/patients when they would be better off plugging the holes in their existing processes that are leaking profits…

    Often right into their competitors’ pockets.

    Here are a couple of areas where you could quickly seal the holes and perhaps, double your profits.

    Probably the biggest area of opportunity for most people is following up with non-buyers. Often there is none. No systematized, automated strategy to follow up with prospects to turn them into customers.

    Of course, you have to capture the prospect’s information first and that’s another possible leak. But, if you’ve done something to capture their name and address or email, then you have the ability to stay in touch and perhaps move them from simply interested to paying customer. The higher the cost of your product or service, the more important this is.

    Capturing prospect’s information is an absolute must! It can be done online or offline, in-person, or by phone. Even though it’s easier than ever, many make no attempt whatsoever and it’s costing them thousands and thousands of dollars.

    Most business owners, when asked where their best leads come from, invariably say it’s a referral from an existing or past customer/client/patient. Yet most stumble across these referrals by chance. Almost none have a systematic approach to generating a steady stream of referrals.

    What if you weekly, monthly, or even just quarterly provided your referral sources with the tools they needed to refer others to you, such as useful reports, newsletters, emails, and instructions on your ideal customer and how to introduce others to you. You could create an “unpaid sales army.” By the way, your best referral sources might not ever have been customers. There are others who might champion your product or service. It’s not about who you know, it’s about how well you know them. If you’re curious, look up BNI.com

    Plugging holes in your leaky profit bucket is often all you need to do to provide for all the growth you can handle. It just takes a commitment on your part.

  • Oct 13

    As we transition from our income earning years to our retirement years we begin to realize that each period has a different set of tax pitfalls. Here are 5 of the most common. Each of which can be avoided with a little planning.

    Missing the tax impact on Social Security
    A portion of your Social Security benefits may be taxable. The formulas are complicated (see example later), but in general terms, if your “Modified Adjusted Gross Income” (MAGI) exceeds $25,000 ($32,000 for joint filers) then it’s likely 15% of your Social Security benefits will be taxable at your ordinary income rates. If your “provisional income” exceeds $34,000 ($44,000 for joint filers) then up to 85% of your benefits could be taxable. Receiving income such as retirement benefits or IRA distributions which cause your income to jump from one level to the next can have a severe impact. You’ll pay income tax on the distribution, plus you’ll increase the portion of Social Security benefits which are taxable, sometimes doubling the tax burden.

    Missing the difference between growth, income, and cash flow
    Growth is what you need your portfolio to do in order to have enough money to last your entire retirement. Income is what you will have to pay taxes on, and cash flow is the after tax cash you have to spend on your needs and desires. The goal is to have sufficient cash flow to live your life like you want while paying the least amount of tax possible, and, at the same time, leaving enough in your portfolio for it to continue to grow at a rate that keeps up with, or exceeds, inflation.

    Missing a required minimum distribution
    Failure to take a required minimum distribution could subject you to penalties as high as 50 percent of the missed distribution. You must take required minimum distributions from any qualified plan or traditional IRA once you reach age 70 ½, and every year thereafter. Don’t rely on your bank, or broker, or anybody else to remind you about this. They will not pay the penalty for you! Roth IRAs are exempt from this requirement.

    Missing beneficiaries on qualified accounts
    Without a named beneficiary, the money in a qualified account reverts to your estate. The name, or names, listed on the account supersedes anything named in your will or trust, so it’s also a good idea to name a successor beneficiary.

    Missing the right beneficiaries
    It is generally best to name individuals as beneficiaries instead of your estate or a trust. You also want to avoid multiple beneficiaries with wide age differences. The minimum distribution will be determined using the “life span” of the oldest beneficiary. To avoid this pitfall, consider dividing your IRAs into separate accounts, each with a different beneficiary.

    For those two of you who are interested, here’s the example I promised:
    John and Jane Smith have an adjusted gross income of $44,000 for 2016. John receives Social Security benefits of $7,200 per year and together they receive $6,000 a year in interest from tax-exempt municipal bonds. On their joint return, the couple would make the following calculations:

  • Sep 1

    What is a champion? By definition, it’s someone who excels above all others. Generally, it refers to a world class athlete, but it could just as easily apply to a top businessperson. Nancy Holland Morgan, a two time Olympic skier, has identified seven traits that can help us understand how we too can get to the top of our game and become champions.

    You have to really like what you are doing. If you don’t have a love of the activity, an enthusiasm that turns into a burning, white-hot desire, then it may be time to sit down and reassess your life’s interest. Without it, you will not have the passion necessary to sustain the drive. Without passion, none of the other traits will even matter.

    Achieving success invariably means having to learn new techniques, master new skills, develop new strengths, or obtain new knowledge. But more often than not, as we learn new skills and techniques, we don’t get it right the first time. We have to practice. Repetition, practice, review, effort, feedback, all go into learning the fundamentals. Commitment to learning is an absolute necessity for improvement in any activity.

    Combine your desire with commitment to training, and you begin to formulate a thoughtful plan to improve your performance. But, all the desire and commitment in the world won’t do you any good unless you have a goal. Champions set goals based on their strengths and weaknesses. Their plans revolve around reaching new thresholds based on increasing their strengths and overcoming their weaknesses. Champions know that to compete seriously for their personal best, they must surrender themselves to the goal.

    The first three traits prepare us for the fourth: tenacity. Life is a series of tests; we have to pass each one to go on to the next. As we move higher up the mastery scale, we take the chance of falling harder and longer. The falls are always painful. But, we must learn to get up after each fall and continue onward.

    No one today makes it to the top alone. All champions surround themselves with a support team. The strength of others is crucial to achieving the goal of championship status. Your support team may be only your closest family members, it may be a friendship circle, or it may consist of a paid staff of advisors. Your team’s job is to keep you in the right attitude as you gain altitude.

    Do something every day that scares you just a little — not something life threatening, but something that causes you enough discomfort that you will become accustomed to pushing the envelope of your performance. Get to love your zone of discomfort. It means that we are in an awkward phase of learning a new skill or strategy to help us achieve a higher level of performance. Some people seem to move in and out of the discomfort zone more easily. This is generally either because they have more experience living in the zone of discomfort or they have learned to fake it better than others!

    People like to be around those who have an aura of self-confidence and positive self-esteem. Self-confidence means you believe in the potential of achieving your goals. High self-esteem means you are satisfied with your talents and are able to recognize and appreciate the talents of others. This is not about being arrogant, but rather a more humble expression that you are comfortable with yourself, your accomplishments, and your talents.

    Being a champion starts and ends from within. To achieve success, you must start with a strong desire and end with the courage to maintain positive self-esteem and confidence in your ability. But in between is where the real work takes place. Championship status takes every bit of inner strength and external leveraging you can muster. With hard work, the rewards will be those of a champion.

  • Jul 21

    Many Americans appear to be living one big expense away from disaster. A 2014 Federal Reserve poll discovered the startling fact that almost half of all U.S. households could not come up with $400 to cover an emergency expense. They would need to sell something, or borrow cash, to do so.

    If you find yourself belonging to that category, then I have some ideas (11 of them, in fact) I think will help. In my experience, if you want to get out of a hole, you study the behavior of those who have already made it out. And you do everything you can to copy that behavior.

    Yes, some people have been fortunate enough to inherit wealth, etc. But many, MANY more of those who have wealth came about it in a different way.

    Now, so that YOU do not find yourself in the unfortunate place of not being able to scrape up $400 in an emergency … read this now.

    Becoming a household that will be able to ride through instability and uncertainty is only going to become MORE important in future years, not less. So, that being the case, here is a portrait of those who are able to achieve this status.

    You’ll notice that these are just as significantly about your mindset as you relate to your finances, as about your behaviors.

    Here’s what the Financially Secure look like …

    1) He always spends less than he earns. In fact, his mantra is that over the long run, you’re better off if you strive to be anonymously rich rather than deceptively poor.

    2) She knows that patience is truth. The odds are you won’t become a millionaire overnight. If you’re like her, your security will be accumulated gradually by diligently saving your money over multiple decades.

    3) He pays off his credit cards in full every month. He’s smart enough to understand that if he can’t afford to pay cash for something, then he can’t afford it.

    4) She realized early on that money does not buy happiness. If you’re looking for financial joy, you need to focus on attaining financial freedom.

    5) He understands that money is like a toddler; it is incapable of managing itself. After all, you can’t expect your money to grow and mature as it should without some form of credible money management.

    6) She’s a big believer in paying yourself first. It’s an essential tenet of personal finance and a great way to build your savings and instill financial discipline.

    7) She also knows that the few millionaires that reached that milestone without a plan got there only because of dumb luck. It’s not enough to simply “declare” to the universe that you want to be financially free. This is not a “Secret”.

    8) When it came time to set his savings goals, he wasn’t afraid to think big. Financial success demands that you have a vision that is significantly larger than you can currently deliver upon.

    9) He realizes that stuff happens, and that’s why you’re a fool if you don’t insure yourself against risk. Remember that the potential for bankruptcy is always just around the corner, and can be triggered from multiple sources: the death of the family’s key breadwinner, divorce, or disability that leads to a loss of work.

    10) She understands that time is an ally of the young. She was fortunate (and smart) enough to begin saving in her twenties, so she could take maximum advantage of the power of compounding interest on her nest egg.

    11) He’s not impressed that you drive an over-priced luxury car and live in a McMansion that’s two sizes too big for your family of four. Little about external “signals” of wealth actually matter to him.

    And a little bonus, if you will: She doesn’t pay taxes which could have been avoided with a simple phone call to her tax professional. She plans ahead, before tax time.

    “You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.” – Brian Tracy

  • Apr 27

    In business, doing what others don’t do can often give you an edge. It can position you head and shoulders above your competition. It helps you stand out in a positive way, and when you do, people are attracted to you and your business, and your success grows stronger, deeper, and more durable.

    Asking for feedback is a simple way to gather information for improving our businesses, but many of us never take the time to ask. We get so wrapped up in the day-to-day running of the business that we fail to pause and ask people, “How are we doing?” Others are simply intimidated by the process – and afraid of what they’ll hear.

    According to the book The 29% Solution by Ivan Misner and Michelle R. Donovan there are five main reasons why we don’t ask for feedback: (1) we’re afraid the response will be negative; (2) we don’t know who to ask; (3) we don’t know when to ask; (4) we don’t know how to ask; (5) we don’t want to take up other people’s time. With all these objections, the thought of asking for feedback can give us heartburn, but it’s worth the pain; the potential for growth can be tremendous.

    Whether positive or negative, feedback should be considered constructive, because it helps our business develop new products, improve existing services, and sometimes adopt a whole new approach.

    Fear of a negative response may be what keeps many of us from asking for feedback. Nobody is eager to be criticized. But, as difficult as it to receive, negative feedback is actually a gift. It’s a reality check; it reminds us that no matter how good we are, we can always improve. It’s also a reminder that we can never make everyone happy. If you’re willing to ask for feedback, you’re going to get some negative feedback along the way. It’s your attitude toward it that will turn that negative feedback into an opportunity. Don’t ask for feedback unless you’re ready to hear it – and respond to it constructively.

    Whom should you ask for feedback? One answer is everybody. Ask your coworkers, supervisors, subordinates, partners, customers.

    When is the best time to ask for feedback? That depends. A professional development trainer might ask for feedback several times. During a session, so it can be tailored, the end of a session, and three or four months afterwards. She’ll ask different questions at different times. Someone selling a product might need to give the customer time to use it, or might not. Someone selling professional services might want to ask shortly after the services have been delivered.

    What if you don’t know how to ask for feedback? The easiest, and most logical, way is make it part of your sales process. Many companies use a questionnaire; some hand it out upon completion of the assignment, some e-mail it afterward, and some mail it as a follow-up in a few weeks. How you choose to do it depends on your customer base.

    The last reservation that a lot of us have is that we are reluctant to take someone else’s time by asking for feedback. What a cop-out. Adults have the option of saying no. It’s our responsibility to ask. Increase the likelihood that you’ll get useful feedback by making the request simple and timely. If it’s too complicated, or if you set a hurry-up deadline, your requests may end up in the circular file. Make the deadline too far off, and people will set it aside and forget it.

    I dare you – do something few others do. Stand out from the crowd. Ask for feedback. And be ready to turn it into opportunities for your business.

  • Jan 20

    In the book Masters of Networking, Don Morgan asserts that there are three ways to increase the power of your network and improve its ability to help you achieve goals. Fortunately, he says, anyone can create this leverage by understanding three fundamental characteristics of human nature. However, he goes on, only those dedicated to becoming master networkers will commit to mastering the arts of friendship, generosity, and character. The person who creates this trilogy of leverage will be on the road to unlocking the full power of networks.

    Friends like to help friends. And at some point in your life, you’ve probably helped a good friend do something that you might not have enjoyed doing— painting a room, helping out with the move–just because he was your friend. You really couldn’t avoid it. If you make good friends of your networking associates, you gain the same kind of leverage.

    How do you turn networking associates into good friends? There’s nothing complicated or mysterious about it, Morgan says. Think back how you and your best friend became friends. You went places together, did things together, talked about things, and one day you realize that you have been best friends for some time without even realizing it.

    That’s what you do with your networking partners. Go places with them, do things with them, help them when they need help. Soon you’ll discover that associates have become good friends. Not all of them, of course, but the more effort you put into it, the more friends you’ll make. And the more powerful your network will be in helping you achieve goals.

    You’re at a party. You’re given several presents. You don’t have anything to give in return. How do you feel? A little less than wonderful, right? It’s human nature to want to give a gift in return.

    The same holds true in networking circles, when you give something to a networking associate- a business referral, emotional support- she’ll want to give you something in return. Perhaps you won’t get a return gift immediately. However, the more you give your networking partners, the more inclined they will be to reciprocate.

    A true gift is an unconditional gift; you give without expecting anything in return. However, usually you get something back anyway. First, you gain the satisfaction of helping a friend. Second, human nature dictates that you will get something in return. When you least expect it, you may receive a gift worth far more to you than the time and effort you expended.

    The most lasting impression others have of you is the first impression: the way you looked and behaved when they first met you. If that’s a bad impression, it may take a long time to overcome and others may be reluctant to get involved with you. A master networker understands this and puts a lot of effort into creating a good first impression by dressing and behaving appropriately at all times.

    However, your long-term image goes well beyond how you look at first glance. Equal in importance, according to Morgan, are three character attributes: responsibility, reliability, and readiness. The group needs some tasks done or problem handled, do you take responsibility? Can you be counted on to come through when the need arises? Are you quick to volunteer your services?

    Above and beyond the first visual impression you make, your responsibility for, reliability within, and readiness to participate in group activities become the most important aspects of your image in the long run. If the group sees you as an asset by virtue of your character, individuals in the group will trust you, rely on you, and enjoy associating with you. And they will feel more comfortable referring their friends and associates to you— and your business.

    In the end, this trilogy of networking leverage comes down to an old principle, known in some parts of the world as the “Golden Rule”. In BNI we just phrase it a little differently: “Givers Gain.”

    To find a BNI chapter near you, visit BNI.com.

  • Jan 6

    A thoughtful estate plan can make your heirs lives easier. But it is your parents’ estate planning that will make your life easier.

    Not every family has fostered the ability to speak openly in love. But if you have begun that process, here is an outline of what grown children need to know about their parents’ business. In fact, adults of any age should update their estate plan every year.

    And, as a parent, if you are willing to share some of this information with your children—especially if one of them is also the executor of the estate— they’ll appreciate having the facts and be more prepared emotionally when the time comes. They will know your wishes ultimately anyway, and good communication will lessen any surprises ahead of time. They will benefit from knowing the answers to the following questions:

    Do you have enough saved for a comfortable retirement? Many financial planners use a safe withdrawal rate by age to make sure the clients will still have enough money toward the end of their retirement. But, this isn’t always the case, and is worth looking into. If your spending is under this withdrawal rate, you have more than enough and probably can leave a legacy to your heirs. But, if you are over this rate, you may run out of money and have to compromise your standard of living abruptly. It may be uncomfortable, even embarrassing, for parents to share their finances with their children, but grown children often want to know how their parents are doing.

    Where are the important documents? The five documents your children should be able to retrieve quickly are: a will; a living will; a power of attorney; a directory of basic information; and the latest end-of-year financial statements.

    The directory of information should list the assets of your estate, along with the account or policy numbers and contact phone numbers. It also helps to indicate your intentions for the distribution of each asset, which will help confirm you have the correct titling and beneficiary designations on every portion of your estate.

    You may have structured your will to divide your estate equally among your children. But, if you have tried to make it easy for one child to access your bank accounts by adding his or her name, you have overridden your estate plan and left that child joint tenancy with complete rights of survivorship. This can be a problem.

    Titling and beneficiary designations are legal estate planning actions. It’s best to review them with your legal advisor. Various types of assets are best designated differently in the estate plan. This is not the occasion for do-it-yourself thrift. It is a rare family that has compiled and reviewed a complete list of estate assets: bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, real estate holding, life insurance, health savings accounts, and so on.

    Are there any special bequeaths? Any promises you have made should be documented. Your good intentions won’t matter if you aren’t around to implement them. If you have promised money to a charity, and want that obligation kept, document it. If you have promised to loan a child money, document it. If you have promised to help fund your grandchildren’s college education, document it. Without documentation, none of these promises can be kept if you aren’t around to make the decisions.

    Are there plans to remarry? If parents have remarried, intergenerational estate planning is even more critical. Prenuptial agreements and careful estate planning are required in the case of second marriages, to avoid disinherited children or grandchildren from the first marriage. The default is rarely a good option.

    Do you have any prepaid funeral arrangements? Do you want to be buried or cremated? Do you have any preferences for a memorial service? Although it may seem macabre to plan your own funeral, a memorial service takes time and thought. It will be that much more special and comforting to your family when it is filled with your favorite music and readings. Encourage your children’s interest in your estate planning. Most of the time, their intentions are honorable. They may simply want to understand your values and therefore your wishes.

  • Nov 22

    Gwen Jorgensen recently became the first U.S. woman to win Olympic gold in the triathlon, crossing the finish line with a time of 1:56:16.

    Jorgensen earned a master’s degree in accounting at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, passed the CPA, and took a position as a tax accountant with the EY corporate tax group. She didn’t even take up triathlon until after college. In college, Jorgensen was a runner and swimmer, and was approached by USA Triathlon looking for college athletes they thought would be successful in the sport. She initially turned USA Triathlon down, but they convinced her to try the sport as a hobby while working for EY.

    With the help of one of the tax partners at EY, Jorgensen was able to work a flexible schedule to accommodate travel for competitions and time to train for the 2012 Olympics in London. After the London Olympics, she decided to put her accounting career on hold in order to devote her time to training.

    Looks like it was time well spent. It’s not every day a tax accountant from Wisconsin wins a gold medal in the Olympics.

  • Oct 14

    Q. My husband and I sold our home on Fowl River that we purchased in 1973 for $459,000, and reinvested the profits in a smaller condo in town. Will we be required to pay the new 3.8% Medicare surtax (now referred to as the net investment income tax) on the gain? I understand it applies when your income is above $250,000.

    A. The 3.8% net investment income tax applies to the lesser of the net investment income for the year, or the excess of modified adjusted gross income over the $250,000 threshold. However, it does not apply to items, such as the gain on the sale of your personal residence, which do not have to be reported on your tax return.

    Do you have a question for the Taxpert that you’d like to see answered in a future Taxing Times? Or perhaps just an issue you’d like the Taxpert to address? Send the Taxpert a note to Taxing Times, 1050 Hillcrest Rd., Ste A, Mobile, AL 36695 or an email to taxpert@CPAMobileAL.com.

  • Oct 3

    It never ceases to amaze me: I observe business people and salespeople allowing customers (and money) to leak out of their business. Many times without even realizing it.

    For example, I watch people go to Chamber, or other networking, events with the sole purpose of collecting as many business cards as they can. Somehow they seem to feel, the more cards they collect, the more contacts they can make, the more business they will generate. And they will be everywhere, at every event tangentially connected to their business. Others may view them as the king or queen of networking.

    Yet the business, the referrals, aren’t coming and they ask, “Why aren’t I getting referrals?”

    There could be several reasons such as forgetting to ask, focusing on the wrong people, having no system in place, or putting pressure on customers or referral partners unknowingly.

    Here are six things you can do to increase your referrals.

    Ask. Yes, it starts here. If you don’t ask you may get a few haphazard referrals, with the emphasis on few. If you learn how to properly ask your customers and partners for help, some will enthusiastically promote your product or service. In my experience, you’ll never get all of your customers to give you a referral, but you don’t know which ones will be ambassadors for you until you ask. Note: Referral partners don’t have to be customers. They could be friends, vendors, or others in a supportive group, who have, over time, come to know, like, and trust you.

    Make people comfortable giving you referrals. It’s important to remember that your customers don’t like to feel like they are selling their friends to you. For many, offering an inducement or a bribe in exchange for names not only makes them uncomfortable, but may cause them to question the quality of your goods or services.

    You may have customers or referral sources who would like to refer, but don’t know how. By giving them easy ways to refer their family and friends without making it feel like you are paying them, you will receive more and a better quality of referrals.

    Show appreciation. Remember to thank your referral partner or customer for the referrals. If privacy allows, let them know when a referral works out and give them an update. One of my favorite ways to do this is with a handwritten card. People like to be appreciated. When you take the time to do something so few do these days, send a handwritten card – NOT a text, NOT an email, NOT a tweet, a handwritten card – your referral source will be pleased and more willingly refer you the next time.

    Focus on the right relationship. You don’t have the time to have a great relationship with everyone you meet. It’s impossible! That’s why you have to focus your energy developing the right relationships. For example, would you spend the same energy on a customer who has only purchased one entry level item from you in the last year, as you would a CEO who purchased your product for every employee at her company?

    Put systems in place. You already know that you don’t have time to build quality relationships with everyone; however, you can put systems in place such as follow up procedures to help nurture and develop relationships so that you can have more of those quality relationships referring you.

    Grow referral partners. Being an active member of a closed networking group, like BNI, gives you the opportunity to develop relationships with potential referral partners without the distraction of direct competitors. Unlike other networking opportunities, BNI encourages your efforts to build quality relationships with referral partners. Those trusting relationships can develop into your most prolific referral partners.

    Generating referrals takes a well-designed system and consistent effort to operate reliably. But the pay-off is worth it. Referrals are one of the highest probability and most profitable sources of new customers.