Thoughts on What Really Matters

bristlecone PineIn California’s White Mountains stands a lone bristlecone pine tree thought to be almost 5,000 years old. Nearby, its cousin Methuselah is believed to be younger—just over 4,849 years old. When these trees were mere sprigs rising from the forest floor, East Asian men had not yet invented a written language. Our time on earth is an average of 69 years, or .0138 the lifespan of Methuselah and his cousin. So within the blink of an eye lifespan, what really matters?

Studies about what matters most to Americans list: love, family, good health, financial security, and no regrets. While “regrets” are at the end of the list, they are actually sprinkled among the other things that matter.

Love. Love is good, free and perfect. But many of us experience our greatest regrets centered on love. Whether it’s our spouse, a family member, friends, our work, profession, or mission — in all these things, love (and forgiveness) matters.

Family. From our first moments of life, our parents and family define our future. We first learn to listen and work together within the family. Because we feel safe within family bonds, do we abuse that special trust and love? Maintaining strong family relationships really matters.

Good health. Health is connected to happiness. A recent book proposes that only 48% of happiness is genetic and 40% due to big events, like landing a big job or being in an accident. That leaves only 12% up to us. Maintaining our mental and physical health by maximizing our “happiness” portfolio matters.

Financial security. Americans are generally quite good at making money. When it comes to saving money, we don’t stack up. According to recent studies, the median savings for all working-age families in the U.S. is just $5,000. Many approaching retirement will experience much regret.

To the bristlecone pine trees, it matters that the sun shines, rains come, and that the soil tugging at its roots maintains nutrients. Human life is more complicated, but when we pay attention to what really matters, we improve our potential for a long life filled with happiness and few regrets.

Hidden Tax Deductions

Waiting until the end of the tax year to find, verify, and record potential tax deductions can take a toll on what otherwise could have been more productive time spent growing the business. To make life easier, you can hire a professional bookkeeper to do this for you or use an outside service, like us. For anyone just starting a new business, we’ve put together a list of a few of the most overlooked small-business tax deductions.

starbucks blog#1 Fees paid to your accountant, lawyer or business consultant
To run small business successfully, you need sound advice and a great accountant and bookkeeper. Fees paid to these professionals are “ordinary and necessary expenses directly related to operating your business” and are deductible in the tax year they were paid.

#2 Losses on bad debts
If you paid advance wages to hire a hot-shot “marketing expert” and she bailed on you 10 days into the job because your dress code was just a ‘bit too conservative’ for her, the IRS allows you to deduct those lost wages. You can claim a deduction for most bad business debt, but only if you included the amount owed to you in your gross income.

#3 Carryovers
Carryovers are overlooked deductions from previous years. These are not “carryouts” —so Starbucks to-go while driving to work is not deductible. What if, for example, you started a home-based business and your expenses in the first year were actually higher than your income? You can “carryover” the loss to a future year when you did earn income.

#4 Startup expenses
Start-up costs are out-of-pocket costs for both looking into buying a business and getting the business started. These might include analyzing the marketplace and buying capital equipment like trucks or computers. Then there’s domain name registration fees, website and advertising costs, wages for new employees, consultant fees, costs to secure goods or licensing—the list can be seem endless. It’s a critical time to stay focused on documenting every cost so your accountant can maximize your tax deductions.

The size of the business does matter in terms of complexity, but whether a small business or large enterprise, it pays to keep impeccable daily records. Or simply hire us to do that for you.