February Update | McIntosh & Associates

Tax Time Preparedness and Planning

Tax season is swiftly upon us! The IRS estimates that 20 percent of taxpayers who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) fail to claim it, which could mean the difference between getting ahead or staying in the red in 2017. The added complication to this common oversight is that new tax law will prevent the IRS from issuing refunds … READ MORE

Tax Filing Errors to Avoid

Tax day on April 18th can seem far off, this year’s deadline will be here before you know it. As you start the process of gathering your tax documents and completing your return, we want to provide a reminder of common filing errors to look out for. Whether you hire a professional or go it alone … READ MORE


In the News Headlines

Put Off These Money Moves at Your Own Peril

Time really is money if you’re procrastinating on financial matters. More than half of consumers say they are currently putting off a decision or action related to money. Among the most-delayed tasks: Saving for retirement, paying bills, creating a budget and doing your taxes. READ MORE

4 Ways to Avoid a 50% Hit to Your Retirement Savings

The tax breaks you receive in your retirement accounts don’t come for free. When you hit age 70 1/2, you generally have to start withdrawing money from those accounts, even if you don’t want to. READ MORE

Top Colleges for Financial Aid

With college costs steadily rising, simply paying the tab is a serious concern when picking a school. At public four-year institutions, costs for the 2015–16 school year rose to $19,548 from $16,178 five years ago, according to the College Board. Tuition plus room and board at four-year private universities was much higher: $43,921 on average. READ MORE

Ka-ching! Here’s What it Costs to be a Grandparent

Raising a child from birth through adulthood will set you back $233,610, according to the latest figures from the Department of Agriculture, and helping raise a grandchild could be just as expensive. READ MORE

 

“Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.”

– Helen Keller

 

Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Bisque

A warm dish that’s full of flavor! Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup red lentils, sorted and rinsed
1/2 cup dried apricots, quartered
1/4 cup onion or shallots, chopped
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Thai red chili paste
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups coconut milk (or light coconut milk)
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Chopped cilantro (optional)
4 tablespoons pomegranate juice or seeds (optional)

Directions:
1. Place sweet potatoes, lentils, apricots, onion, chili paste, and broth in a large pot.
2. Add salt and pepper.
3. Bring pot to a boil over high heat.
4. Reduce to low heat once boiling and cover with lid.
5. Simmer until lentils are breaking down, about 25 minutes.
6. Uncover soup and let sit for 10 minutes.
7. Add coconut milk.
8. Puree soup in blender until smooth, in batches if needed.
9. Pour pureed soup into bowls.
10. Top soup with cilantro and pomegranate juice or seeds, if using.

Recipe adapted from Dana Jacobi, Oprah.com

Why to File Your Tax Return Online

If you’re still filing taxes by paper, you may be creating unnecessary work for yourself. The IRS accepts electronically filed tax returns, which is the fastest and safest way to file. Here are some top reasons why the IRS suggests you e-file your tax return.

1. Safe and Secure: IRS e-file has strict security guidelines and uses modern encryption technology for protecting returns filed online. The IRS has safely and securely processed over 1 billion returns online. The IRS recently put new safeguards in place to protect filers.

2. Faster Refunds: When filing online, e-file usually helps prevent mistakes and enables you to receive your refund more quickly. You can streamline this process by combining e-file with a direct deposit into your bank account, which usually pays refunds in less than 21 days.

3. Healthcare Coverage Reporting: IRS e-file will help you include reporting about your healthcare coverage. The software will walk you through each line that relates to the Affordable Care Act.

4. Payment Options: When you file online, IRS Direct Pay allows you to pay taxes you owe electronically from your bank account. You can also pay by credit or debit card. Visit IRS.gov/payments for further details.

Tip courtesy of IRS.gov

Prevent Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is a common ailment many people experience—and for some it’s a chronic challenge. Living with such pain can debilitate you, keeping you from your normal routines and daily lifestyle. You can develop lower back pain from actions such as:

  • Introducing new or more intense workouts
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Sitting for long periods

These three techniques can help you prevent lower back pain:

1. Don’t overtrain when exercising: Remember “No pain, no gain”? Well, this adage just is not true. Instead of training for pain, you need to build up your strength methodically and efficiently.

2. Practice proper lifting techniques: Don’t let shoveling snow or lifting boxes throw your back out. Always remember to bend with the knees and lift from your legs when picking up heavy items. Ask for help when you feel something is heavier than you should carry on your own.

3. Sit less: Sitting compresses the vertebrae and can create a host of complications. You should try to not sit for consecutive periods longer than one hour. Be sure to stretch a different part of your body for one minute every hour.

Tip courtesy of Doctors That DO & WebMD

Help the Earth and Yourself by Taking the Stairs

Elevators may take us where we want to go quickly, but they usually rely on electricity to operate. This means that every single time you take the elevator, you are more than likely contributing to actions that can harm the environment. To operate electrically, the elevator may require uranium- or fossil-fuel mining, nuclear- or fossil-fuel plant operation, and greenhouse gas emissions.

To minimize your pollution contributions, you can swap the elevator for stairs. In the process, you’ll also contribute to improving your health, since going up and down stairs requires physical effort. While elevator rides are usually quicker, this simple change can lessen your environmental impact and whip your body into shape (meaning you might not need the stair-climbing machine at the gym anymore!).

Tip courtesy of The Nature Conservancy