Archives for December 2019

The 2019 version of why it’s time for an annual “checkup” for you and, if you have one, your company

Over the past few years many of you probably read my blog regarding having a checkup for you and, if you have one, your business. This does not involve the doctor, but it does involve all the other professionals in your personal and business life. Since that time, I decided to make this topic an annual tradition. This is based in part on the range of feedback I receive every year.

Some of you said “What a great idea. I am definitely going to do that.” Others said “Sounds like a good idea, maybe I will look into that.” Most of you were busy with the holidays and all that they entail, and probably did nothing. To be honest, any of these responses is okay and ignoring my advice may not have had detrimental effects to you or your business.

The point of the advice is that you only know what you know. If you do not check in with your professionals and, for example, make sure contracts or your estate plan remain enforceable and up-to-date, that is where risk comes in. For example, I always check in with my accountant at the end of the year to ensure that all is right with taxes and withholding.

A few years ago I had a reminder related to a different item you should check on annually, auto insurance. We had two teenagers on our policy and a number of vehicles, and the premiums always seemed so high to me. But my insurance person knows me and shops the policy every year looking for the best rates rates for policies with similar coverage from quality insurers. He did that for me and we ended up with a new insurer, with pretty significant savings.

With the time constraints of life, it’s sometimes hard for me to move beyond the higher-level checkup, but when I do I usually end up with some benefit. Unfortunately, in our time-crunched world, the question of who to check in with at year end is expansive, from your estate planning attorney, to your investment person, to your insurance person, to vendors you may use such as a yard or pool maintenance company, or your cell phone carrier or your Internet provider. You may be surprised what a company will do in lowering monthly costs to satisfy or keep a current or longtime customer. Try it and see what happens. A good one to start with is your cable or satellite television provider (assuming you haven’t cut the cable).

I know, I know, who has the time? None of us do, which is why the choices are yours. Are your contracts up to date? Did you pay enough estimated taxes or withholding? Are you paying the cleaning service at your office or your lawn service for your home too much? The choice of what professionals to consult, what costs to check or compare, and what services to put out to bid is yours. Choose wisely.

And for those of you seeking a reminder or who did not see it in years past, here is my original blog post on getting an annual checkup:

The end of the year is always a good time to take stock of where you are personally and professionally. This can be checking in with your personal accountant to make sure you have withheld/paid enough taxes during the year or planning for deductions to planning for large corporate expenditures on things such as upcoming projects, planned corporate initiatives or planned equipment purchases. But the one thing that is a constant is that we all should be doing this.

In the past I have mentioned why it is good to sit down with various professionals you or your company work with just to check-in, be they attorneys, accountants, insurance professionals, financial planners, investment professionals, etc. The list depends on you and your business.

This does not have to be a formal appointment unless you think that is appropriate depending on the nature of the planned conversation. Instead, it can be you offering to buy them lunch or a drink. The point is the better the professionals you work with know you, the more they are able to make recommendations aimed to benefit you or your company.

So don’t wait, start making plans today to meet with these people this year, or at least first thing next year. We all are busy this time of year, but if you take these actions it will help you now and in the future.

Happy New Year!

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Reduce stress

Everyone has stress. Many people have more stress than is good or healthy. It can be related to their work or their personal life. This time of year it also can be related to the holidays, such as dealing with family or the financial burden of gifts or travel. Reducing stress obviously is important.

How to reduce stress depends on you because what helps lower stress differs person to person. I hike and meditate. Others I know run or fish or play a musical instrument. Find something, because your life depends on it.

I know that sounds quite dramatic, but anyone who has experienced significant stress can tell you how it affected them emotionally and
mentally, but also physically. Allowing yourself to remain in a state of stress is comparable to knowing you broke a bone and not seeking treatment; you know it won’t get better without doing something about it.

My guess is one or more ideas jumped into your head when you began reading this. If not, think about what can help lower your stress, try these things, and find what works for you. There will be times stress is just part of your life. Anything you can do to lower it will be beneficial.

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What’s your definition of success?

Do you ever ask yourself this? You should. If you do, the answer should include all important aspects of your life.

The answer will be different for each of us. For one person it will be gaining a certain title or earning a certain amount of money. For someone else it may to train their dog to roll over. Or, maybe it’s a combination of both, because true success should be achieving your definition of success in your work and personal life.

This is balance. Whatever your definition of success is, it should involve balance. If your work life is a 10 and your personal life is a 2, or vice versa, there is a problem. If so, you need to work to figure out how to move towards balance.

I also think you need to define success by what matters to you and makes you happy, not others. This doesn’t mean you should ignore what others think, but it is only one consideration and may or may not fit within your definition.

And your definition of success will change over time. What is important to you at 28 is different than what will be important to you at 38 or 48. This is how life works.

It means you should revisit what success is to you on a regular basis, because true success involves being happy and content in your ever changing world.

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Don’t believe everything you think

None of us are always right. Most times there is not a “right” answer, but opinions. And no one’s opinions are anything more than opinions.

I am not speaking to core beliefs such as religion, though I think it’s healthy to question all ideas and belief systems. Here, I am talking about everyday tasks and ideas. It could be the best way to drive to a certain place or the best way to keep your calendar. We all could speak to these and support our positions, but each of us is wrong sometimes.

It doesn’t mean you’re not right a lot of the time, but it does mean you always should be questioning what you and others think. You should learn about topics you are interested in or need to know, such as for your work. Though the purpose is to learn, not to prove you are right. It feels good to be right, but what if the person you are speaking with just won’t agree with you? Hopefully you can just agree to disagree.

This is why it’s valuable to know a diverse group of people. If you live in a world where you are surrounded by people with similar backgrounds and beliefs, you are living in an echo chamber in which you never hear you may be wrong. This results in a false sense that what you think is always correct because those around you simply agree with what you say. This is similar to the participation trophy mentality that there are no losers.

Be open to others’ ideas and thoughts. Question them, but also question your own thoughts. This allows you to be a constant and lifetime learner, always trying to improve your knowledge and life, along those you interact with, as well as how you move through the world.

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