Monday, February 28, 2011

The New Direction...

The “New direction” in your life…

Some people say:"and think" in order to start a new project, a new chapter in life, a change, career move, etc. you need money, resources, time, effort, etc. or a combination of all.

I say: "not true". The only thing you need is the will power to do it and set some time aside for your new direction.

I've received a lot of emails these past few months, with all kinds of questions and requests, and this issue will be all about your issues, and how some other people will do about it.

I received an email from this lady in South Los Angeles. Let us call her Doris. She has two siblings and a part-time job as an office receptionist. Doris is divorced for the past three years, and she lives in a rental apartment. She explained to me she is having a hard time to make the month some times. The only income she has is from child support and her part- time job.

With this economy we can't take anything from granted, nor rely on others for our convenience. I would say we got to do what we got to do to make ends meet. And the more independent we are from others, it is the best.

Going back to Doris, she asked me if I would help her find a better job, a cheaper place to live, or any ideas. And also she asked me to help her with her taxes this year.

Later on, when I was going through her numbers, I noticed a few inconsistencies that trigger other issues. She told me about her failed attempts to be a real estate agent, working as an entertainer, etc, but her end up working part -time as a receptionist instead.

I felt bad for Doris, in a way her story reminded me when I was in the low a few years back. I tried to cheer her up, we were having such a good time doing her taxes, "my clients refer to me as the funniest tax preparer they have ever met."

While I was going to my regular,"Tax Questionnaire", she kept going back to tell me how she likes to meet new people, and talking about issues, and how she always wanted to be working in a fast-paced job environment.

Then is when I suggest Doris not to wait until someone or somebody, "discovers her"our dialog was something like:

Me: Girlfriend, you have places to go, people to meet, and things to do on your own

Doris: You think so?

Me: Yeah AH

Doris: Nah AH

Me: Yeah AH

Doris: Nah AH

(Yes, we were shaking heads in the last part of the dialog)

We have a good loud laugh, then I explained to her how convenient it would be for her to just start her own thing. I could tell Doris likes Clothing, make up and jewelry. So I suggested that Doris go to downtown LA (you can find anything you could ever desire for really cheap in there) get some of those good deals, and then just talk to her other girlfriends about it, and if someone wants to buy from her,"to just let her do so" but not before adding a good 15 to 30% on each item, and just take cash in the spot, do not sell credit... with this troubled times you don't want to risk that. I think you will do well.

I totally forgot about the whole issue, until Doris came back a few of days later to pick up her big fat refund check.

Doris: Enrique you are a witch!

Me: Well, in a way I’ve always new that… but what do you mean?

Doris: I did what you told me to do, and I made almost $400 in just one night!

For a moment, I panic and I just though to myself “we are not in Nevada and that is not tax deductible in California…. maybe medical pot but…”

Me: tell me about it

Doris: I went downtown, bought a whole bunch of stuff….. Invited my girlfriends, and pretty much sold out the same night!

After my soul went back into my body…

Me: you see girlfriend, Yeah AH

She was even happier to receive her refund check. I suggested that she invest her money in some income producing factor, and to keep choosing her items with the season, and to keep choosing her invitees the way I had explained to her before.

I've also suggested to Doris to keep her part-time job, to enroll in real estate school in the local community college during this time.

I'm really happy for Doris and also curious to follow up with her next year, and she is so happy that had sent my way a couple of new clients too.

Some times taking "a new direction" in your life doesn't come easy, some times you get hints, or some times it comes in the hardest way in the worst moments in life.

New direction video

Since I don't like to put clients on the spot as examples for the extreme cases, then I will use one of my own.

Back on the time, before I took the business creation and the tax preparations seriously; I was working full-time for a property management company and playing volleyball in a Hollywood league for fun. Back on those days I wanted to go to school for construction management and do something for me, but seem like we all choose whatever is easier for us, whatever takes the least amount of work to do.

Let's face it, we are all lazy bums

At this office the work environment was nice, the co-workers, the office location, etc. it was all nice. Except for a couple of little details that bothered all of us at this particular office.

One issue was the main boss was not available at the office to sign all the payable checks in the due date, for some reason the boss like to submit the checks out one day before the due date, have it postmarked in the post machine at the office and have the post man pick it up the next day.

The only problem was that the boss liked to go out a lot, he was away from the office most of the time, and when he was in the office it was to do his own thing, and he did not like to be bothered by the controller to sign the checks.

As you already guessed, the checks were postmarked late most of the time, and the company got to pay a lot in late fees, and boy the boss liked to blame everybody for that.

Let us add up to the story that the system at this office was way out dated (slow) because the boss was cheap enough not to invest the money on it.

When the bossy girlfriend (the bosse’s girlfriend who also work at this office) gave me the last pay check, I've noticed she miscalculated the amount; she overpaid me a whole lot. Then, the girlfriend gave me her speech of why they can't give me any severance pay or vacation, etc. until today I can’t believe how in the work she still works there.

And yes, I do believe I have enough material for a successful sitcom here.

And another little detail, the boss and his girlfriend dropped their dog at the office (every single day) to be baby sited by the employees while they went out for brunch with their friends, etc.

Guess this wasn't the most professional office I worked for.

The thing is, I put up with all this crap because I was learning so much about the business at this place, the priority for me was to learn as much as I could (as my immediate supervisor told me to) and get the hell out of there, and that's exactly what I did.

The day I was called into the bosses office to let me know that I was no longer an employee for that company (the new direction), I felt sad because my learning experience ended, for leaving my friends, and that's it.

My life turned into a new direction, I used the new acquired knowledge to land in another company that offered better pay and benefits, and the only problem was that they got scared the hell out of my spine problem.

I am a true believer of,"things happened for a reason" this big company was just turning into the new software system I was always interested on learning, so my learning experience was so slim that it was not a good match, the pay and benefits were excellent, but not everything in life can be measured with money, I think you agree with me.

After I have my doubts cleared and I was already in the hunt for another opportunity, I was called to the corporate office; the message was “please rush to the main office”.

I got there, and the same people who hired me were there in the conference room, I knew already what it was for so I was calm. What came next is the most estrange thing:

Carla : we have the owner of the company in the line
(HR Lady)

Me: ok

Owner: Enrique, the company has decided to take in a new direction, and unfortunately for you, the new direction doesn’t include you, thanks for your professionalism and Carla will take it from here.

Carla: here is your final check, and please do not forget to sign all this papers, they state you never got injured at this company, you have no future claims for it, etc.

Me: that’s true.

Later on I thought am I that important to have all these people in the conference room? Was it necessary for the owner of the company to participate as well?

Then better news kept on coming my way… I injured both of my knees, I need it surgery on both of them, and I had no insurance. So I was forced to quit playing volleyball.

Anyway, this was "the moment" when my life took on the real,"new direction" a couple of months later I got my own place, I landed to "the job" at the best place for property management, the system was already in place, everything flow so easily, my new boss Bridget was the best boss I ever had, no doubts about it, my co-workers were so knowledgeable about their areas, and so professional as well.

It was like working in the best place ever for me, I've learned a lot of good things in there, and I got paid to it too, too good to be true, but it wasn't, and it still remains as the best place I ever work.

Once in my new job, I got good use of my insurance and had both of knees “fixed”, I had to be out of the physical activity for a long while, so I concentrated on my new classes and that just happened in the right moment in the right time for me

And my classes were given just two blocks away from the new job place, this was meant to be, no doubts about it. At the end I graduate with distinction J

So my friends, when your life turns in a new direction, don't feel nervous, don't stress, and just go with the flow.

This issue was based on fictitional facts, any resemblance with real life is a mere coincidence... or maybe not

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tax planning & achieving your dreams

We are getting close to the middle of the 2010 Tax season and I can say I’ve been so busy with tax preparations.
Sometimes is exhausting, hours and hours of information research, old clients to meet, situation updates, job changes, questions to be asked, places to go, appointments to make, new clients to meet, etc.

After, I always get the great satisfaction of able to help so many people, in so many different places in life.

I can tell so many success histories, I'm not going to mention any names, but I can mention some different past situations and some current situations of the same people.

I met this lady who had two dependant children. She told me she got a refund of just about $ 2,000 for the past two years. Based on her particular information and all the expenses she had for the current year she was entitled to get a refund of more less $ 6,000

After that, I asked if the expenses and income were about the same during those past two years and the client said: "yes".

Add caption
This client had sitting an extra (about) $4,000 in the previous years that were not claimed, and I advised to let me take a look into them before the three year window overpass and then that becomes an "expired claim" in the eyes of old uncle Sam.

I have this other client who came across my path a few years ago, this client started a business and the only expense this client was writing off was "rent" and "automobile expenses". I asked him "why just those two main expenses?" and he said because his tax accountant told him those were the only ones he was entitled for the nature of his business, I was like WHAT?

To make the story short, I reviewed his previous tax returns, point the mistakes out, and offered him to claim the extra $3,000 that were sitting on each return.... And if he wanted more money he could take his last tax preparer to court too, my new client had a good laugh and took the first advice, but declined the second one... I was a little bit disappointed, "he took the fun part away"
Then there are always these cases with the new clients with no social securities, or any kind of ..... Anyway, that's solved with a simple form that allows people to get a number from the IRS that helps people to file taxes and it works kinds of a social security, but not quite.

Then there are the clients that want to save money for different goals in life like: house down payment, a new car, a wedding, a nice vacation, an exotic trip, new equipment for your work, shopping, etc. there you can always spend your nice big fat refund in whatever you want. My advice? Don't spend it, put it in a retirement account or a high yield interest account and forget about it, in just a few years I guaranteed you will have saved for yourself an interesting amount of money you can "invest", use for something income producing like: a career, a business, property, etc.

If you decide to invest your money in a retirement account, you have the option of fund your IRA or Roth IRA until the due date of the current tax season, meaning that you can use part or the total of your tax refund to fund your retirement account.

I have some clients that invest the maximun allowed for a single individual which is $5,000 per year. It seems to me this is a real smart move if you want to set aside money for the future, usually this will be money that will remain untouched until you decide otherwise (in a case of a Roth IRA) or simple IRA. The main difference with Roth is the fact that this account is funded with after tax money (earned money after taxes).

Using your retirement account to fund money for the down payment of property is also a smart move. This is a high interest savings account that has the flexibility that future property owners want.

I could be talking for hours and hours of the endless possibilities of how to invest your tax refund money, but I rather to tell you in person or by email, so do not waste any more time and contact me, you won't regret it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Dealing with unemployment - Part II

If you're desperate, DO NOT SHOW IT !
I know that second parts never overcome the first ones but I will try.

I left a few loose ends on my first Unemployment issue last time. I’ve also received a few supportive emails, thank you all for the congrats.... and for the nasty ones too.

The main issue I would like to tell you this time is about been flexible when you want to overcome unemployment, and please, please pay your taxes as you go when receiving your unemployment checks.

This next coming week, one of my dearest friend is moving out of the city of Angels and this reminded me of the hardship a lot of our friends, family members, neighbors, or just people we know are going through.

I am also a property manager in Mar Vista for a 50 unit building, so this last 2 years I’ve witnessed how almost half of my tenants just had moved out for different reasons.

Some time it is hard for me to witness things. I wish I did not but the nature of my job forces me to face it, deal with it and worse… tell people how to deal with things.

Like I mentioned on my first issue of Dealing with unemployment, I remind all my readers to remain “positive” but not only positive but be a “realistic positive” person.

Try to out pass your competitors, always !
I remember a couple of years ago the hardship of dealing unemployment myself… try to picture this… imagine yourself living at a friend house temporarily, trying so hard to get a job that just did not happened, been denied employment for having low credit score due to identity theft, not been eligible for unemployment… hard right? Oh, lets not forget having problems on both of my knees and needing surgery, and yes you guessed it, no health insurance neither.

I am a true believer of “things happen for a reason”, but lets go by parts.

And I also want to share this personnel experiences with you, so you see that if I was able to overcome that, so will you!!

I remember working on and off at accounting department of different property management companies for a few years (and choosing to overpay my taxes, ALWAYS), I have the most unbelievable stories on each place, but that will be “an entire different blog issue”. 

Prepare the best you can, and the world will be yours
I can say, that working at so different management companies gave me such a good outlook of this business, they all have so different management approaches, I think that was the good thing to rescue.

I was working in a real estate company at the time and entertaining the idea of going into construction management school, but for some reason I always have to delay it, reasons such as: one of my ex-roommates became literally crazy, not having enough time, working too much, not enough money, you name it.

Then the whole real estate crash happened, so no job, few months later, no savings, no housing, cero, and nada.

By then I have a pretty good understanding of the dos and not to do in that business.

Lesson #1: for me was “if a company wants to hire the best candidate” then “you better act, sound, look, walk, talk and smell like one”. At all the interviews I had attended, I noticed the interviewers were not well prepared, it was a quite rare the occasion that the interviewer was the person who will be my next boss, and usually the decision maker is the owner or the main manager of a company, not your future boss.

Be positive, do not despair, the sky is the limit
A friend once asked me “how do you manage to get all these jobs?”. When the economy started to go south, I had realized they were dozens and maybe hundreds hunting the same jobs I was looking for. So, not only you need to look, walk talk and smell like the best candidate, you need to have a little extra “something something” to bring to the table, and that is…

Lesson #2, “if you want to out due your competitors you better be FLEXIBLE”. If you not only look, walk, talk and smell like the best candidate, you will overpass all your competitors “by be willing to take a little less than what you expected”, and believe me, its much better get less, than nothing at all. And this not only applies to wages but everything else like benefits, job title, duties, larger commute, schedule, etc. I remember a couple of years ago having a friend who did not want to flex her job conditions… she is still looking.

There are work fields in the low right now, its not necessary to mention them, its not polite, well I’m not a polite guy anyway.

So, if you want to increase your chances to be employed you have to develop other ways to make money. I am telling you just the proven ways to escape unemployment, the ones that had worked with me. If you want to increase your chances then this is my next best suggestion…

Just me, cute am I ?
Lesson #3: “develop a second career”, another “source of income". I found all these extension classes at the local community college so helpful. You can find classes that could take your employability to new highs, and if you take classes in your current career it’ll definitely will make you look, talk, walk and smell like the best candidate any company wants.

This kind of boost not only works for the ones with an established career, but also for the ones looking to develop a new one. Here is my real life example… “a few years ago when I was in the low, I saw this ad at the local community college, this class cost was $ 95.00 + $25.00 for the book. And as of today the return of this class in a little more than three years for me is…. $40,150.00” the best $120.00 I EVER INVEST !!!

Pertaining to flexibility is willing to take more in your plate. I am not sure how to explain this one, but I think you get the idea.

Lesson #4:  "When you're right, you are right" if you are positive something good is going on, KEEP IT. Could you believe I had a few friends making fun of me when I mentioned I want to become a property manager? well just let me tell you they turn green of envy every time I mention how wonderful this second career turned out to be.. you meet new interesting people, you learn something new every day literally, you learn on how to multitask, I got a personal assistant, the nice people in the main office, etc ...  and the rent savings are just amazing    ;)

Well my friends, these are the main lessons that had gotten me rapid results. I hope and you find them helpful too.

And I apologize again for the delay on this issue, but as you may know I've been just drilled with tax preparations all day, every day and the weekends too.

I hope and this issue was more helpful than the first one. Feel free to email me and ask all the questions you want, I'll make sure you get the information you need.