[IMGCAP(1)]Starting the year right means getting things organized, in order and getting started on the right foot.
Here is a checklist of some things to do:
- Stop marking SALY (Same As Last Year) next to your New Year’s resolutions. Make one or two big-time life goal resolutions that you will do.
- Determine the most important things in your life and act like that is so.
- Value your time. Each day, identify and do your most important thing first; touch things once; make “do it now” your mantra—don’t delay. Buy and read my book Power Bites that describes all of these (OK, a subtle commercial).
- Check your personal insurance coverage. Make sure you have adequate liability, uninsured motorist, umbrella and workers compensation insurance at your home and the right type and amount of life insurance to provide for your family
- Do some tax planning for yourself. Manage investments to benefit from tax savings such as reconfiguring your investments with long-term fixed income securities in tax sheltered accounts and equities in taxable accounts, or if actively trading, put your trading activities in the tax sheltered accounts
- Get rid of clutter. See the separate checklist that follows
- Stop being stupid. Treat your family, business and relationships the way they should be treated with the right priorities and expenditure of time and energy. Do not spend your time unwisely
- Don’t deal or work with “jerks.” Have a “No Jerk Rule!” Don’t suffer fools. Don’t waste time arguing with stubborn people who refuse to listen to reason or logic
- Review or get a will, or get it updated. The same goes for your business buy-sell agreement.
- Review or get a practice or business continuation agreement if you are a sole proprietor.
- Stop texting and dialing numbers when driving. Also, slow down. Getting stopped by a patrolman will eat up more time than 20 times of driving within the speed limit. And, skip the road rage—why get mad at an idiot?
- Call former partners and friends, brothers and sisters, and others you were once close with to wish them a happy new year. Life’s too short to dissipate energy-holding grudges against people whose funeral you might go to. Clear the air—someone has to take a first step—why not you? Why not now?
- Go through your pile of business cards and call those you want to stay in touch with or want to rekindle a relationship with and wish them a happy new year. If you no longer care about that person, throw the card away.
- Write and mail a letter for every financial account you have informing the bank, broker, custodian or insurance company that the account should be considered active and not subject to escheat laws.
- File a claim to recover unclaimed funds the state might have for you.
- Go to every bank you have a safe deposit box with to show activity.
- Examine all accounts, annuities and investments to make sure they are in line with your needs and goals.
- Review professional license expiration dates and follow up that you receive renewal forms.
- Request and review a copy of your credit report.
- Change batteries in smoke and CO detectors, all flash lights, clock radios and all electronic equipment where you have battery back-up.
- Review the tax assessment for your homes and, if applicable, start the process for tax reduction.
- Develop a disaster plan. Make sure you have extra batteries, food that won’t spoil (such as peanut butter, crackers and canned goods), emergency numbers to call, that your valuables are documented, and that important papers, photos, health information and insurance policies are secured or digitized and kept off site.
- Think healthy. Your body is made to travel a certain mileage with the right fuel, maintenance and care: maximize that mileage.
- Join a gym.
- Go to the gym you joined.
- Get your annual medical check-up this year.
- Plan to take that once in a lifetime vacation this year.
- Be nicer and don’t deal with people that are not nice.
- Be grateful for all of your blessings!
This is a big list—but all are important and things you will wish you did if a problem develops in one of these areas. Take care of yourself!
Start the New Year Without Clutter
This is a suggested list of what to declutter yourself with in the coming New Year. Some things can be sold, given away to friends or relatives, donated to a charity or thrown in the trash (while being careful to shred papers with personal and confidential information).
- Playbills, Reader’s Digests, National Geographic’s, Harvard Business Reviews and similar magazines that you just can’t part with even though you haven’t opened them in years;
- Old magazines or newspapers of “historic” events;
- The magazine pile you haven’t been able to get to;
- Stamp, coin, baseball card or similar collections that you no longer care about. If you still actively collect, make arrangements for its disposal after your death.
- Books you haven’t looked at in years, school text books and books you received as gifts that you never read;
- High school and college notebooks;
- Old diaries;
- Trophies from your childhood or your children’s childhood;
- Halloween costumes;
- Clothing, shoes and hats you haven’t worn in 42 years;
- All the great ties you bought, wore once or twice and are now completely out of style and even if they came back in style, you would be out of style;
- Boxes with stuff you haven’t looked at in 12 years;
- Family bikes that haven’t been used in 17 years;
- Nobody plays 33 rpm records anymore—maybe get rid of your seven boxes;
- Old tax records, receipts, cancelled checks and brokerage statements (see link below to a list of what records you should retain);
- Old insurance policies;
- Plastic gift baskets, ribbons and wrapping papers;
- Dolls and teddy bears that lost their sentimentality;
- Old pet carriers (you haven’t had a dog or cat for nine years!);
- Expired prescription and over-the-counter drugs and toiletries;
- Toothbrush collection from your infrequent dentist visits over the last 50 years;
- Partially filled liquor bottles you haven’t touched in years—or start “touching” them now
- Old cameras;
- VHS tapes you either purchased or recorded—you no longer have a VHS machine. If they have emotional value, such as from a wedding, bar mitzvah or christening transfer to a DVD.
- I know you will keep the 14 boxes of photos you have, your high school yearbook and similar other important things. Try to consolidate or digitize them.
- Your army uniform and school jersey and jacket no longer fit you—throw them out. Also, get rid of the cleats.
- The box of stuff from the closet and drawers you cleaned out nine years ago and are actually afraid to see what’s inside;
- The 107 framed prints that haven’t been on a wall since you moved from your three houses ago;
- Things and stuff—you know what these are;
- Consolidate your brokerage and IRA accounts.
- Consolidate and reduce the number of mutual funds you have. Ditto for savings and CD accounts.
- Sell or donate stocks where you own an insignificant number of shares to reduce your mail.
- If, per chance, you have stock certificates or DRIPs, send or transfer them to a brokerage account, or get rid of them by donating them to a charity.
If in doubt Declutter!
For a listing of what records to keep, see my Dec. 24, 2013 blog.
If you want these checklists in a Word file, email me at email@example.com.
Thanks for reading my blogs. May you have a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year!
Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner emeritus at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz (published by CPATrendlines) and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition” (published by the AICPA). Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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