ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As we put the finishing touches on 2014, many of us will start setting goals for the new year.
In honor of the occasion, the Journal has consulted several local professionals with expertise in various financially related realms. We asked each for tips readers can take with them into 2015.
From an accountant to an estate planning attorney to a budget coach, here are some pointers from the pros.
Tom Broderick CPA and principal at the Albuquerque accounting firm BPW&C
When it comes to tax matters, don’t forget about the costs of not having health insurance.
“Beginning in 2014 all nonexempt U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are required to maintain minimum essential health-insurance coverage,” Broderick says. “The requirement was enacted through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Failure to maintain minimum essential health-insurance coverage could result in a penalty tax which will be charged beginning on 2014 individual income-tax returns (filed in 2015). The amount of the penalty is dependent upon the taxpayer’s level of income.”
According to healthcare.gov, those who don’t have coverage in 2014 will pay the higher of these two figures when filing their tax returns:
- 1 percent of yearly household income – calculated on the amount above the tax-filing threshold, about $10,000 for an individual (but no more than the national average premium for a bronze-level health-insurance plan)
- $95 per person and $47.50 for children under 18 (but no more than $285 per family). Penalties will rise for those who aren’t covered in 2015.
Vicki Van Horn Executive director for the New Mexico Project for Financial Literacy
Use the start of a new year to reflect on your financial values and habits. “It is really helpful to take some time to think about what your values and beliefs are around money, because beliefs drive behavior,” Van Horn says. If you want to do things differently, Van Horn says there are some “proven strategies for successfully changing financial behavior:”
- Nudge yourself into better default behavior. Consider, for example, adding 1 percent of any raise to your 401(k) withholding. “You don’t miss what you don’t see,” she says.
- Simplify information. Seek expert counsel when choosing among many complicated options, whether it’s investments or health insurance.
- Incentivize. Reward yourself for taking positive financial steps, for example, making an appointment to prepare your estate documents.
- Make a commitment. Pick a person to be your money “coach,” and check in with them at least quarterly to report progress on your financial goals.
- Pick the right social sphere. “Hang out with people who are financially responsible and who share similar values, behaviors and beliefs about money.”
Judy Lawrence Albuquerque-based financial counselor, budget coach and author of “The Budget Kit”
“Let 2015 be your year of living more ‘proactively’ versus ‘reactively’ with household expenses,” Lawrence says.
Avoid letting “one-off” bills wreak havoc with your bank balance – especially those you can reasonably expect will occur. Lawrence cites expenses like auto-emission tests, professional fees or even the family Christmas tree.
“This time make a note of those expenses and what month they will be due, outline a plan for anticipating them, and have a system for having the funds to pay for these ‘surprise’ expenses when due, versus increasing your credit-card balance each time,” Lawrence says.
Also consider any less-frequent expenses that might arise. For example, she says, are your car tires in bad shape? Ask a mechanic how many more miles they have, project when you will hit that number and research the cost of a new set.
“Knowing this, you can determine how much you could start putting aside to prepare for this expense and ultimately watching for tire sales.”
Vickie R. Wilcox Of the Wilcox Law Firm in Albuquerque, a New Mexico Certified Estate Planning Trust and Probate Law Specialist
Start 2015 by reviewing estate-planning documents to ensure they are up-to-date and comply with any new state and federal laws, Wilcox says.
Try to keep things current; Wilcox warns that she’s finding some third parties – say banks or title companies – will not accept a power of attorney signed by the principal more than three years ago.
On the legal front, Wilcox recommends paying special attention to the state’s “assisted reproduction” laws. They can delay distribution of a trust or estate for up to 45 months – even if there’s no frozen genetic material available to create a potential heir.
“Many residents mistakenly believe the laws do not apply to them unless they have used assisted reproduction techniques. However, the 45-month delay applies to every New Mexico resident,” she says.
Wilcox urges clients to “opt out” of the laws by including special language into their will or trust.
Ingrid Roosild Regional vice president for Olympus Financial Advisors and a certified retirement counselor
It’s still a year away, but Roosild says now is an excellent time to start thinking about the 2015 holiday season – at least on the money front.
Your memory is fresh when it comes to the expenses that pile up around the holidays, and Roosild recommends using that recent experience to plot a course in 2015. Track all holiday-related purchases, including gifts, decorations and party expenses, she says.
“Divide the total by 12 and start saving that amount each month starting with Jan. 1,” says Roosild. She recommends putting those funds in a separate savings account.
John Kynor Owner/president of Q Realty, and 2014 president of the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors
With Kynor expecting Albuquerque’s residential real-estate market to be more active in 2015, he says those selling homes should make sure they have a true understanding of their property’s value. While many consumers turn to the Internet for such information, Kynor says online estimates may set unreal expectations since the real-estate websites may not have the best data for New Mexico.
“The challenge with those is New Mexico is what’s called a ‘nondisclosure state;’ we don’t disclose sales prices, we don’t publish sales prices,” he says. “The only way those online resources are able to be even moderately close to helping a homeowner predict a value for their home is if they have that data that New Mexico does not disclose.”
He recommends sellers turn to a licensed professional for the most accurate picture. When selecting a real-estate professional, Kynor says to consider recommendations of family, friends and colleagues as well as the agent’s geographical or financial area of expertise.