Michele Clark
Clark Hourly Financial Planning - Chesterfield, MO Advisor
1415 Elbridge Payne Road, Suite 255
Chesterfield, MO 63017 USA
Work 636.264.0732
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Wine Tasting with Jan and Michele

October 6th, 2017

Come to the Education Room at Total Wine and More in Manchester, MO with your financial planning and tax questions and enjoy some wine with CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional Michele Clark, CFP®, CRPC® and Jan Roberg, Enrolled Agent.

There is no prepared presentation, just a casual conversation in a small group environment; your opportunity to pick our brains. Feel free to invite family or friends who could benefit from some time with us.

Open to registered attendees only, due to the size of the room.

RSVP at Roberg Tax Solutions or call 636-264-0732.

Wine with Michele and Jan
Town and Country in Manchester Meadows
Tuesday, October 24th at 5:30 pm.
13887 Manchester Road
Ballwin, MO 63011

Hope to see you there!

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Financial Records: What to Keep, Where to Keep, and How Long

February 1st, 2017

Keeping your financial records organized is an important part of managing your personal finances.  Whether it’s a paid personal property tax receipt or a W-2 to correct a conflict with Social Security records, there may be times when you need to locate a financial record or document–and you’ll need to locate it quickly.

By taking the time to declutter and organize your financial records, you’ll be able to find what you need when you need it.

What financial documents should you keep?

If you tend to keep stuff because you “might need it someday,” your desk or home office is probably overflowing with nonessential documents. One of the first steps in determining what records to keep is to ask yourself, “Why do I need to keep this?”

Documents you should keep are likely to be those that are difficult to obtain, such as:

  • Tax returns
  • Legal contracts
  • Insurance claims
  • Proof of identity

On the other hand, if you have documents and records that are easily duplicated elsewhere, such as online phone bills and credit-card statements, you probably do not need to keep paper copies of the same information.

How long should you keep your financial records?

Generally, a good rule of thumb is to keep financial records and documents only as long as necessary. For example, you may want to keep ATM and credit-card receipts only temporarily, until you’ve reconciled them with your bank and/or credit-card statement. On the other hand, if a document is legal in nature and/or difficult to replace, you’ll want to keep it for a longer period or even indefinitely.

Some financial records may have more specific timetables. For example, the IRS generally recommends that taxpayers keep federal tax returns and supporting documents for a minimum of three years up to seven years after the date of filing. Certain circumstances may even warrant keeping your tax records indefinitely.

Keep in mind that if you purchased an investment in a taxable account, you will need to have proof of what you paid for that investment, including reinvested capital gains and dividends. The investment companies are required to supply that information for purchases as of January 2012 and after. Before that date they may or may not have it. Do not throw away old investment statements and confirmations of trades before that date for taxable accounts.

Listed below are some recommendations on how long to keep specific documents:

Records to keep for one year or less:

  • Bank or credit union statements (that do not contain information used for tax returns)
  • Credit-card statements (that do not contain information used for tax returns)
  • Utility bills

Records to keep for more than a year:

  • Tax returns and supporting documentation
  • Mortgage contracts
  • Property appraisals
  • Annual retirement and investment statements
  • Receipts for major purchases and home improvements

Records to keep indefinitely:

  • Birth, death, and marriage certificates
  • Adoption records
  • Citizenship and military discharge papers
  • Social Security card

Keep in mind that the above recommendations are general guidelines, and your personal circumstances may warrant keeping these documents for shorter or longer periods of time.

Out with the old, in with the new

An easy way to prevent paperwork from piling up is to remember the phrase “out with the old, in with the new.” For example, when you receive this year’s auto insurance policy, discard the one from last year. In addition, review your files at least once a year to keep your filing system on the right track.

Finally, when you are ready to get rid of certain records and documents, don’t just throw them in the garbage. To protect sensitive information, you should invest in a good quality cross cut shredder to destroy your documents, especially if they contain Social Security numbers, account numbers, or other personal information.

Additionally, you should verify information in your documents, for example pull your credit report and verify that the information contained in it is correct compared to your other documents such as credit card statements. When you look at your Social Security Benefit Statement annually, verify that the earnings history is correct versus your W-2 information.

Where should you keep your financial records?

You could go the traditional route and use a simple set of labeled folders in a file drawer. More important documents should be kept in a fire-resistant file cabinet, safe, or safe-deposit box.

If space is tight and you need to reduce clutter, you might consider electronic storage for some of your financial records. You can save copies of online documents or scan documents and convert them to electronic form. You’ll want to keep backup copies on a portable storage device or hard drive and make sure that your computer files are secure.

You could also use a cloud storage service that encrypts your uploaded information and stores it remotely. If you use cloud storage, make sure to use a reliable company that has a good reputation and offers automatic backup and technical support.

Once you’ve found a place to keep your records, it may be helpful to organize and store them according to specific categories (e.g., banking, insurance, proof of identity), which will make it even easier to access what you might need.

Please note that if you have elected electronic statements with your investment firms, they send you an email notice that your statement has been created and the electronic version is ready for download. They are expecting you to pull up your statement and print it or save an electronic version. Brokerage firms will make an electronic version available to you for a certain period of time ranging from a few years to ten years depending on the firm. After that period they will not have the statement for you. Keep in mind that for taxable investments they were not required to keep track of cost basis information before 2012, although some did.

Tax Preparation Documents

Consider creating a central location to collect the documents, such as 1099s and W-2, needed to prepare your tax return so that as they arrive at the beginning of the year you have one place to collect them, making the task of tax preparation easier. This location can be used throughout the year to collect copies of receipts for donations and major home improvements.

Consider creating a personal document locator

Another option for organizing your financial records is to create a personal document locator, which is simply a detailed list of where you have stored your financial records. This list can be helpful whenever you are trying to locate a specific document and can also assist your loved ones in locating your financial records in the event of an emergency. Typically, a personal document locator, kept in a very secure location, will include the following information:

  • Personal information
  • Personal contacts (e.g., attorney, tax preparer, financial advisor)
  • Online accounts with username and passwords
  • List of specific locations of important documents (e.g., home, office, safe)

Keeping your financial records organized will reap long term rewards in time saved and peace of mind for years to come.

Portions of this blog post are from an article prepared by Broadridge Investor Communications Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2017  But, I just had to add my own two cents!

 

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Prepare For Your Tax Return: A Tax Document System

January 26th, 2012

Tax time doesn’t have to be drudgery.  With a very simple system you can have the information that you need gathered together in one spot to make the process much easier this year and going forward.

The key is to have one year-round dedicated spot for incoming tax information and receipts.  Yes, that’s right, I said year-round.  I know that this is January and you are starting to get the annual onslaught of W-9s, 1099s, mortgage interest information, and other tax documents, and it is very important to establish one spot to collect all the those documents that come in.  That will be very helpful.   But that part of the tax return really isn’t the challenge is it?  It is tracking down the deduction information and the receipts that go with it.  If you are anything like me, you have a lot of donation receipts, I am soft hearted and I usually say yes at the grocery checkout lane when they ask me for a donation.  And I want to take all those little donations off of my taxes, I might be soft hearted, but I’m not soft headed!

If you don’t have a system, start with something simple like this:

1) Create your dedicated spot.  It can be a drawer, a decorative box, an accordion file, or a special section of your file cabinet.  You could even do this electronically by scanning and creating folders.  Just find a system that works for you.

2) Create one file for all the tax documents that come in between January 1st and March 15th, this is a temporary holding spot for those documents like W-9s and 1099s.

3) Create a file for each type of deduction which results in many receipts or statements for you, then one “catchall” file for deductions that do not have many reciepts.  For example, you might have a file for Healthcare, a file for Childcare, and a file for Donations, because there are many receipts for each of those.  But then in your “catchall” file you might put any receipts/statements for deductible expenses such as investment related expenses, tax preparation fees, unreimbursed business expenses, etc.

4) Create files for your bank statements, investment account statements, credit card statements, you can then refer back to these for deductible expenses at tax time.  These files can be with your tax documents or with your other household files; as long as you can easily get your hands on them at tax time.

Having a system like this has another benefit as well.  Do you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Spending Account (HSA) available to you at work?  Keeping a separate file of your healthcare expenses and throwing every single healthcare receipt into it throughout the year will let you know exactly how much you spend on healthcare in a year.  Having that information will allow you to maximize
the tax savings you have available to you through the Flexible Spending Account benefit through your employer.  The same goes for childcare expenses.

Having a system like this will allow you to keep more of your money in your pocket and out of Uncle Sam’s.

It can be very tempting to file your taxes on February 1st, keep in mind the types of investments that you own, because some investments can have K-1s or amended 1099s that come as late as mid-March.

It’s on your To-Do.  Let’s get it To-Done!

Just getting started?  Create your dedicated spot and set your files up. Put it in an easy to see and use spot so that tax time is easier this year and future years.

Ready to take it to the next level?  Make tax time even easier by making notes to yourself.  If you are paper based, throughout the year notate taxable events on receipts and statements.  Know that you charged a charitable donation to your credit card?  Jot a note and throw it into the donations folder so you know to look for it next year.  If you are software based, software such as Quicken and mint.com allow you to note transactions as tax related.

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