It seems like crooks these days keep finding new ways to trick people here in West Michigan into giving them more money.
And no, I’m not talking about Congress.
Last week, for those of us in the tax professional world in West Michigan who are paying attention (because let’s be honest — many of our colleagues are still on vacation), we got bombarded by the official IRS channels and other such voices that there is a new scam afoot. Essentially, the thieves are now “spoofing” the numbers they are calling from so that the incoming call seems as if it is originating from an actual IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. And then, if the taxpayer questions them, they direct you to IRS.gov to look up the local TAC office phone number to verify. They then hang up, and call back a second time — now armed with the taxpayer’s trust.
Allow me to remind you: IRS employees at TAC offices do not make calls to taxpayers to demand payment of overdue tax bills. There are certain instances when the IRS does call a taxpayer, but never before sending multiple notices in the mail.
Don’t give in to threats, and don’t fall for this one.
Now then … May is here. And the season is definitely shifting.
In fact, I do believe we are headed into wedding season here in West Michigan.
And the fact is, an overwhelming number of failed marriages from West Michigan cite financial troubles as a major factor in their breakup. As sad as this is, it really shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, because the way we use our time and money reflects our values.
And, of course, without a strong set of shared values around money and marriage, marriages drift apart. But I’ve seen how dealing with finances together can actually bring a couple closer — not farther apart.
But it matters how you approach it. Here are some thoughts, heading into this wedding season. Perhaps they would be useful for a young couple in your life… (or maybe you!)
Four Tips For West Michigan Couples To Make Money and Marriage Work Together
“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Many young couples start out married life without a clear idea of how to handle their finances — leading to stress, arguments, and long-term marital problems.
And correspondingly, there are some couples for whom finances have become a painful wedge. So, though I don’t fashion myself to be a “marriage expert”, I have seen many financial partnerships work well … and more than I’d like, of those that didn’t.
Here are some ideas for you, as well as a little gift idea at the end.
1. Don’t avoid the hard stuff.
Whether you are in a pre-marriage stage, or are already working through your partnership, it’s crucially important to learn the skill of conversation about finances. There can be so much mental anguish over shame, fear, and past pain that unhealthy communication patterns begin to emerge.
So give yourselves the gift of honesty, and make a list of hard topics that you can tackle over time.
As an example, many couples from West Michigan are afraid to talk about the three D’s: debt, death, and disability. Take time to discuss these fears instead of avoiding them. Planning will help you both feel better.
2. Talk through your different money backgrounds.
How we were raised has an enormous effect on how we deal with money. Depending on what your home was like as a child, you likely heard many different attitudes expressed around the dinner table, and they have undoubtedly shaped your financial paradigm as an adult. Whether from poverty, or from abundance, your background is extremely powerful.
So, if your money attitude differs from your spouse’s, talk about how you were raised and work toward a compromise where you can strengthen each other’s weaknesses.
3. Put yourself in each other’s shoes.
If one of you usually pays all the bills, switch for a couple of months. You or your partner may get a crash course on how much running the household actually costs. Keep track of all spending for at least one billing cycle (usually one month) to actually see where your money is going, and decide which expenditures can be decreased or eliminated. You might even find opportunities to give.
4. Maintain (small) independence.
A joint checking account is useful, but maintain some kind of separate amount of money as a “slush fund” of sorts, whereby you can each make purchases without mutual consent. Keep these amounts small (you always want partnership in the big amounts), but a sense of independence (however symbolic) will help both of you feel you have equal footing in the relationship, even if you have a big difference in salaries.
5. Work together to build something financial.
Find a way to work together on a small, money-related project, whether playing the stock market or saving towards some small goal. Pick something that doesn’t carry emotional weight, and see it as an exercise. You’ll find that working together in a small way will help you in a BIG way, as your decisions become more significant.
6. Agree together that you won’t lose on your taxes.
Obviously, this is what we are here for, and perhaps one of the best gifts you can give yourselves is a workable plan as it relates to a tax strategy.
And maybe the best place to start is to make sure that your taxes were handled properly.
Forrest Tax & Accounting Services