As we approach the end of the calendar year, there is someone we recommend you have a friendly conversation with: your accountant.
The end of the calendar year carries its own due dates that create boundaries and opportunities for you. A coffee with your accountant would be a smart move. Here are a couple of things you might want to say [choose your own words, of course] to spark some useful and potentially profitable conversation:
1. There’s a rumour out there that non-eligible dividend tax rates are rising in 2014. Should I pay out a larger dividend in 2013?
2. I heard that there are changes in how we have to report my foreign assets – is there anything new I need to put together to help you prepare for tax season?
3. I have a feeling that interest rates are going up – should I top up my loan to my spouse?
4. I sold my business in 2013 and have been thinking about giving back a bit, or getting more serious about philanthropy. Do I need to make a donation before year-end to offset this one-time tax hit? Is there anything I can do to still give me some time to strategize, or do my gifts need to be finalized by the 31st?
Also, there are less urgent, but not necessarily less important, tasks like:
• Review the beneficiary elections on your insurance contracts
• Any contributions you might want to make to TFSA, RRSP or RESP accounts
• Update wills and shareholders agreements
Finally, to take this up to our more customary big picture, before you make decisions on financial issues, it’s an excellent moment to think about four things: your values, the vision for your family and wealth, the mission you’re working to accomplish, and the specific goals you are working to achieve.
This is a good time of year for you to have a conversation with your key advisors, and especially your accountant. Your decisions are worth the extra few minutes.
My Vet sends me reminder letters … Why can’t my lawyer when it comes to my Will?
Leading up to the release of my new book Willing Wisdom, I paid extra attention to the mail I received. Delivered to my home over the course of three months, were reminder letters from a host of personal service suppliers, including my accountant to file my taxes, my window cleaner, my lawn service, my insurance provider and my veterinarian.
What I didn’t receive, in fact what I’ve never received over the course of my 51 years on the planet, is a letter from my lawyer reminding me to up-date my will. Curious to know if I’m special (and not in a gifted way) I recently asked my audience – about 200 business owners from across North America assembled at a convention in La Jola California – how many of them had received an annual letter from their lawyer reminding them to up-date their will? Only seven hands shot up.
The results confirmed my suspicion that, like me, 193 people in that room had windows and pets receiving better regularly scheduled maintenance than their estate plans. So what’s the deal?
More alarming is that when questioned on the subject, half of that room acknowledged they didn’t have a will at all. When pressed further, 50% of those who did have a will confessed that it had been more than 5 years since it was last up-dated. When questioned even further almost the entire room confessed to having clean windows, healthy pets and weed free lawns.
Approximately 125 million North Americans over the age of 18 have no will and will eventually die intestate. The resulting financial and relational devastation to families is incalculable.
When I asked my veterinarian how she could be so organized and proactive in scheduling my pet’s annual check-up she tilted her head side ways (kind of like the way my dog Goblin does when I say “treats”) she blurted out – “auto-scheduler”. She might as well have added …“duhhh.”
Asking her for detail on this cutting edge 25-year-old technology she noted it was free — as in it doesn’t cost anything.
Below is the letter I received from my veterinarian word for word.
To: Tom Deans
Annual physical examinations and a personal health consultation is integral to maintaining Goblin’s health. Please call our office to schedule an appointment. We’ve missed you and look forward to seeing you soon!
Dufferin Veterinary Hospital
If you’re not receiving a letter from your lawyer reminding you to up-date your will, would you consider forwarding this article to your lawyer and help them get acquainted with the power of “auto-scheduling” and helping clients keep their estate plans up-to-date? Here’s a sample letter for them to consider sending annually to clients like you.
A will is one of the most important legal documents for you and your family to consider. If one or more of the following apply to you, please call our office and schedule an appointment.
In the past year have you experienced?
- the birth of a child, grandchild or other close family member?
- has someone close died?
- have you acquired or sold a business?
- has your financial situation materially changed?
There are many other changes in your life that may affect your will that we would be pleased to discuss, including Powers of Attorney, Advanced Health Care Directives and the selection of Executor(s).
I look forward to meeting with you.
Your Lawyer Who Totally Gets that You are Busy and Reluctant to Think, Talk and Up-Date Your Will.
And while you’re at it, please remind your lawyer that no less than four US Presidents died without a will — two were lawyers.
To Book Tom Deans, a Lugen Family Office Speaker and The LFO 2013 Speaker of the Year Award Winner, to speak to Your Clients, Donors, or Employees at one of your events, please click here.
In Canada the top .01% of income earners have an average income of $6 million, and collectively earn 1.5% of our total income. Sounds like a lot until you look at the US, where the top .01% earn an average of $24 million each – which adds up to a 4.5% share of the total.
(from Canadian Business, Dec 9, 2013, Editor’s Letter by Duncan Hood)
Fortunately, there are a number of techniques for handling risks. The nature of a specific risk and the circumstances (extent of exposure, available resources, and so forth) often dictate which technique, or combination of techniques, is most appropriate. Basically, there are five methods for dealing with risk. It is easy to remember these by thinking of the acronym STARR.
Sharing—Sometimes, when a risk cannot be avoided and retention would involve too much exposure to loss, we may choose risk sharing as a means of handling the risk. By sharing risk with someone else, an individual also shares potential losses. That is, the individual’s own loss may not be as great if it occurs, but the individual may have to pay a portion of the losses experienced by others.
Transfer—Risk transfer means transferring the risk of loss to another party, usually an insurance company, that is more willing or able to bear the risk. Some non-insurance transfers of risk occur, such as when one agrees to assume the risk of another under the terms of a written contract.
Avoidance—As the name implies, this technique deals with risk by avoiding the risk in the first place. This usually means not undertaking an activity that could involve the chance of loss. For example, by never flying, one could eliminate the risk of being in an airplane crash.
Reduction—Sometimes, when risks cannot be avoided, they can be reduced. Risk reduction can work in one of two ways: it can reduce the chance that a particular loss will occur, or it can reduce the amount of a potential loss if it occurs. For example, installing a smoke alarm in a home would not lesson the possibility of fire, but it would reduce the risk of the loss from the fire.
Retention—Retention simply means doing nothing about the risk. In other words, people assume or retain the risk and, in effect, become self-insurers. For example, the insured would pay a smaller portion of the loss than the insurer, such as paying a deductible.
Billionaires Dumping Stock + Running From Wall St.
Billionaires are jumping ship from Wall St., with Warren Buffet and George Soros among the notable 1% dumping their stocks in an effort to avoid a feared market crash. We look at analysis of the moves by the power hitters and how too big to fail banks look set to take another hit in this Buzzsaw news clip with Tyrel Ventura and Tabetha Wallace.
Financing your Family Business without Going Broke
Financing is indispensable for the success and growth of your family business. But after you’ve already tapped out your personal funds, and perhaps those of friends or other family members to get your business up and going, you’re going to have to find a way to keep the lights on without going broke.
That means you’re going to have to borrow money or obtain credit from a variety of institutional lenders. Business loans and lines of credit will allow you to cover expenses, buy new equipment, manage cash flow, purchase inventory, create new products or services, or expand your business when the circumstances are right.
If your business is new and doesn’t have an established credit history, you may need to provide collateral to secure a loan or credit line. This could be any personal assets that you cannot otherwise monetize or afford to spend on the business, but can be utilized as security. Your best bet would be to approach a local bank or credit union where you have a personal relationship and a history of sound money management.
If your business does have a positive credit history for at least a year or two, the commercial bank that issued your business credit card is a good place to go to apply for a line of credit. Make sure that you’ve paid the balance on that card promptly each month, and if necessary, let the bank know that you’ve been shopping around and intend to move any accounts to the lender that can provide credit with the best terms. Most banks will want to keep you as a customer.
Regardless of the age or reputation of your family business, or where you go for financing, you’re going to have to prove to every lender that it is a financially solid concern, with the capability of long-term survival. So make sure you have all your paperwork in order, including all financial and tax statements, all profit and loss history, as well as a list of contacts for credit references.
You’ll also need to provide a pro forma to each potential lender. This will be a description of how you intend to utilize your loan or line of credit, how it will affect your cash flow, and how you anticipate paying back the money you’re going to borrow.
Once you’ve secured funding, make sure you stick religiously to a repayment schedule. As you continue to display credit worthiness, you will be able to increase your credit limit, borrow at more favorable rates, and most important, keep the business going without going broke.
Al Krulick is an award-winning journalist with dozens of years of writing experience. He writes and blogs for Debt.org.
What I Learned While Making a Movie About Happiness: Roko Belic