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Stressed About Filing Taxes?

Stressed About Filing Taxes? | CorporetteLadies, we have a bit more than a month before (dunh dunh dunh) Tax Day. Are you done with filing taxes? (And, who is doing them?) Are you stressed about them? Are you looking forward to a refund? Are you nervous about how much you’re going to have to pay?

For my $.02, I’m just starting to get stressed. I’ve used an accountant for as long as I can remember, but this is the first year I’m trying to use a bookkeeper as well. (I’ve never actually used TurboTax or similar software for filing taxes — my father may have used that when he “helped” / did my taxes for me my first year or two out of college.) But after law school, a friend recommended an accountant to me — this wonderful, older gentleman who I really liked. I had a simple tax situation at the time, and his services were, perhaps accordingly, pretty affordable. When we bought the apartment in 2009, though, he nearly missed a major tax credit; thankfully we caught the mistake before we signed our taxes. When we started looking for a new accountant, we knew income from Corporette was making our tax situation more complicated, so we were ok to sign on with a fancier accountant who cost 4-5 times what my former accountant charged. (Something else I learned when I switched accountants: estimated taxes aren’t optional for business owners, which was something I understood after talking with my first accountant. Fortunately it wasn’t a big problem since the extra income was so small back then, but it really drove home how much the first guy was hurting more than helping.)

Every year since signing on with my new accountant, he’s sent us a huge “Tax Planner” PDF as part of filing taxes. It’s about 50 pages long in tiny print and asks a zillion questions, and it’s always taken me hours and hours to complete. This is the first year I’m trying to outsource the tax planner to a bookkeeper; my hope is that my reviewing it will take a lot less time than my doing it. (Gotta delegate, right?)

In terms of actual taxes, April 15 is usually pretty rough as a self-employed business owner because my retirement savings are due, to be invested in one huge chunk, usually; final taxes for 2015 will be due, which may be higher than what I paid the previous year in estimated taxes; and the first chunk of estimated taxes for 2016 will be due, using new numbers based on my 2015 taxes. Those are three unknown numbers — and in the past we’ve had some nasty surprises where I needed a lot more in cash on April 15 than I had set aside. (Hooray for the emergency fund!) Now, after paying work-related bills, I earmark about 40¢ of every dollar I earn for month-to-month living expenses, and save the rest in Ally accounts that get 1% interest for taxes and retirement. I’ll breathe a happy sigh of relief should April 15 come and go without too many surprises.

Ladies, how about you — do you do your taxes by yourself? Do you consider them complicated or easy?  How did you find your accountant? 

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How to Delegate

how to delegateLadies: let’s talk about the art of delegating work to your secretary, assistant, or another third party. More and more I feel like knowing how to delegate is key to success in work and life — you can’t micromanage everything. Besides, if you bill by the hour, remember that your client doesn’t want to pay, say, $500 an hour for someone to photocopy something! So: what tasks do you delegate? How did you learn how to delegate, and what are your best tips for women thinking about what they should assign to others? (Previously: we’ve talked about how to show your appreciation to a great assistant, and when to fire a bad assistant, as well as apps like Fiverr that let you delegate some things to third parties.)

For my $.02, for working women with an assistant, I’d seriously look at delegating tasks like:

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Cute Office Supplies: When To Use Them

Cute Office Supplies | CorporetteOur post the other day about the cute file folders got me thinking: When should a professional woman actually use cute office supplies? Should you use them only in a home office? Only for presentations? As part of a cohesive system for all of your office work? (Pictured: Smiley Face Binder Clips, $4 for 40 at Amazon.)

For my $.02, I’ve always loved cute office supplies — something about going to Staples or Kate’s Paperie or the like takes me back to the happy feelings of back-to-school shopping. (Yeah, I was that kid.) But once I got to my law firm, this is how I actually used them: for personal things in my office only. I had a nice folder for keeping track of my CLE credits, and a nice folder for holding my old timesheets and the like — things that I filed myself and didn’t need to hand off to someone else. They sat on my desk (as part of my organized office system) and made me happy — but they were but a small pop of color amidst the seas of red Redwelds, brown Bankers Boxes, and beige manila folders. It was still worth it to me to seek out pretty things and buy them, but it was just for a bit of silliness to cheer me up at the office.

Ladies, when do you use cute office supplies? Do you have a place for them in your life?

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Tales from the Wallet: Tips for Open Enrollment

Tips for Open Enrollment | CorporetteAs we’re coming up on the end of the year, I thought it might be interesting to talk about benefits — and specifically tips for the open enrollment period.  (One of our guest posters got into this a few years ago when she talked about using your benefits package at work to save $10K.) Interestingly, studies have found that people spend less than two minutes on benefit selection — but it really can make a difference (particularly if you’re thinking about getting pregnant or otherwise planning some health changes). (Pictured: the extremely well-reviewed Hobo’Sadie’ Wallet, $108-$118 at Nordstrom.)

To get some expert tips for navigating open enrollment, Kate talked to Shannon McLay, a financial planner and the founder and president of The Financial Gym, a company that offers classes on personal finance as well as one-on-one conversations with financial trainers. (Shannon previously gave us advice on finding a financial planner.) Here’s what she suggests: [Read more…]

Tool of the Trade: Bluetooth Keyboard

Corporette's Tool of the Trade: The Bluetooth KeyboardI’ve mentioned my love for my Bluetooth keyboard a few times, but I don’t think I’ve ever done a whole post on it, so I thought we’d discuss. If you tend to do a lot of writing in your life (even just emails!), I highly recommend it.  There are a ton of options out there; the one that I have is the AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard, which sells for around $25. Mine was a gift from my father, received around the same time I got my first iPad, and it mostly lay around collecting dust until I figured out how to use it…

Use it for focus.  For a long time now, I’ve known that whenever I have significant editing or writing to do, the regular desktop is just the death of me — too many distractions.  (At my old law firm I even tried to unplug the Internet cable so I had less distractions and, if memory serves, got a visit from tech support because they wondered what was wrong.)  One of my old tricks has always been to write longhand, on paper.  But: then you have all this text (largely illegible, if you’re me) to get into the computer, which requires time from either you or your assistant, both to enter and review.  I had been gifted a keyboard  forget the original reason why I had gotten a Bluetooth keyboard, but I had one laying around, so it occurred to me: why not try the iPad and keyboard?  I now think of it as my little typewriter for 2015 — I never switch between screens the way I do on my desktop.

Use it for travel. The Bluetooth keyboard is super lightweight and fits in most of my bags.  It’s easily turned off and on (simple switch on the bottom) so you don’t have to worry about running the batteries down or anything when you chuck it in your bag.  I’ve even started using it with my iPhone if I’m flying or taking a train because it fits on the little tray table better.

Grab and go.  It’s so lightweight that I even grab it if I expect I might have to wait a while somewhere, like the doctor’s office. No cords, no need for wifi (unless you’re using it for email, but even then I usually just work off previously downloaded emails and then sync when I’m back in a wifi zone), and it’s so lightweight you don’t feel like you’ve sacrificed anything if you didn’t actually get around to using it.

The only cons of note that I see:  1) It sometimes takes a few tries to get it connected via Bluetooth, which is annoying.  2) If you use a ton of keyboard shortcuts involving keys like Ctrl, Del, etc, this particular keyboard is laid out differently than my desktop keyboard, so things like function keys are in different spots.  3)  Yes, it is a smaller keyboard — I haven’t felt too cramped on it at all, but then I have fairly small hands.

Ladies, do you have a tool, device, or app that you aboslutely LOVE? Share it with us in the comments. 

 

Do Multiple Devices Boost Your Productivity — or Your Overwhelm?

multiple-devices-boost-productivityHow many devices do you have? Does having multiple devices boost your productivity — or just add to the feeling of being overwhelmed? Reader A has an interesting question:

So I was wondering, how many pieces of technology do you and your readers have? I am increasingly getting overwhelmed by it all. I have a desktop both at home and at work of course, then an iPad, then a MacBook Air, then my personal iPhone, and my work iPhone!! Too much I am thinking. So, if you had to ditch one (or more than one), what would it be? I would think the home desktop; yet, it is a pain to connect remotely to my desktop at work from my laptop or others. What then?

Interrrrrresting question — I’ve talked about my being overwhelmed by information, but not about device overwhelm. I’m curious to hear what readers say here, but I may have some solutions for you to help prevent device overwhelm… (That said, if possible I would ditch one of your two iPhones if at all possible — but if you’ve maintained two for so long I’m guessing it’s because there is a valid reason for it, and of course work/life separation is important.)

There’s a lot of interesting reading about how having different devices can actually boost your productivity; as this Wired article describes, it helps you focus by associating certain tasks with certain screens. (Question for the hive: does anyone have a multiple-monitor setup? How do you like it?) Here’s how I use this method:

  • I use my desktop almost exclusively for daily blog stuff.
  • I use my laptop (which doesn’t do well without a power cord) as a standing workstation (I just set it on top of our credenza), usually when I’m opening a zillion bookmarks and shopping for TPS reports or the like.
  • I use my iPad for work email as well as for focused writing with my Bluetooth keyboard. (OK, I also use my iPad for fun web surfing while watching television.)
  • I still use my netbook for work whenever I travel. (It’s very clunky but gives me a PC experience.)
  • I’m pondering getting a Kindle because I’ve learned that I simply do not read books and other long-form things on my iPad but would like something to bring to my bedside table. (Although really, if I could find the cord for the Orbo my son hates I could use that as a Kindle!)

That said, I do depend on a few different services to keep everything aligned among my devices, and I highly recommend them if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

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