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Done with Quarterly Reports; How About You?

pie chartI have invested many months in an attempt to make the production of quarterly reports much more of a turn-key process in my firm.  I am happy to say that by lunchtime on April 2nd, I finished all the quarterly reports and associated workpapers that will be provided to the planners and, ultimately, to our clients.  (Update, April 3: Well, I discovered errors within the reports, but they are due to a custom plugin to our Portfolio Management Software, dbCAMS.  So for all intents and purposes, they are done, but I’ve had to go through additional steps to circumvent the plugin errors.)

This all started when I was first interviewing with the firm.  Part of the negotiation process included a provision that I was not able to take vacation during the first two weeks of the month that followed the end of a quarter.  The quarterly production cycle and associated work with fee calculations generated a lot of work and anxiety.  Therefore, the owners requested that the Operations Manager be present in the office while this work was completed.

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Phishing for Taxpayer Information

SharkAfter several notices this year, I finally received my first phishing attempt by folks masquerading as the IRS.  Here is their note below:

After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $2839,49. Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 3-9 days in order to process it.

A refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons.
For example submitting invalid records or applying after the deadline.

To access your tax refund, please click here <link removed>

Best Regards,
Tax Refund Deparment
Internal Revenue Service
© Copyright 2008, Internal Revenue Service U.S.A. All rights reserved.
TAX REFUND ID: IRS822513

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Ides of March Indeed

IdesOh man, March has been a terrible productivity month for me.  I caught a bad cold the week of the 10th and missed most of the week at work.  Then I left on the 14th for California for vacation with my wife.  Fortunately my health improved as my vacation began, so it wasn’t a complete loss.

I must recommend how I spent my time in California.  We rented a convertible and drove north on the coast from San Diego to San Francisco.  All the sunshine was welcome, especially coming from a rather cloudy winter in the Pacific Northwest.

Upon my return I just had 4 days in the office this week as I’m out again on Friday.  Therefore, I haven’t made much progress on long-term objectives, and I also have been delinquent on my blog duties.  I apologize to my numerous readers and subscribers!

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IRS Economic Stimulus Payment Notice

IRSNotices from the IRS regarding the Economic Stimulus Payments are now being mailed to taxpayers. In case you haven’t received yours, I uploaded a PDF copy of one.

The notice describes how most taxpayers do not have to perform any special tasks or complete forms to receive the payment. It also covers eligibility and runs through a basic chart to calculate how much to expect for a stimulus payment.

Below is a preview of the notice, which you can see in its entirety by clicking here.

Notice

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Update: efile Solution for Stimulus Payment Returns

efileA little more than a week ago I wrote about how the IRS was unable to accept electronic files for returns created solely for the purpose of applying for the stimulus payment.  The problem is two-fold: our return software, TaxWise, does not generate an efile for $0 AGI returns, nor does the IRS currently accept efile returns when AGI is $0 (as mentioned here).

In my previous entry I referred to a temporary solution to the efile problem and I’m happy to report that the IRS has officially sanctioned the use of this solution.  I received confirmation of the IRS’ position in a message from Bonnie Speedy, the National Director for AARP Tax-Aide.

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Yapta: Changing the way I buy airline tickets

YaptaI suppose my blog doesn’t have to revolve around financial planning 100% of the time. Still, financial planners buy plenty of airline tickets to attend national conferences, study groups, and retreats. A little more than one month ago, I started using a tool called Yapta.

I used to fly cross-country quite a bit from 2002 to 2005 and developed some pretty good skills to buy cheap airfares on major carriers. One of my most reliable tools was, and still continues to be, the matrix display from Orbitz. Enter your origin and destination and select the search option for 1 day before and 1 day after your ideal travel dates. The matrix display shows nine different travel options with the lowest prices for each day.

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Earth to IRS: 23 Million Paper Returns are Coming

1040Most people out there are well aware of Congress’ recent action to provide economic stimulus payments to most taxpayers. One unique characteristic about this stimulus plan compared to the rebates issued in 2001 as a result of EGTRRA is that the plan includes recipients of Social Security, certain veterans’ benefits, and certain Railroad Retirement benefits who have no other income.

IRS News Release IR-2008-18 explains how most taxpayers do not need to do anything special to have their information entered into the “system” that is used to distribute stimulus payments. However, those taxpayers that receive Social Security, certain veterans’ benefits, and certain Railroad Retirement benefits may need to file a 2007 return, even if they were not required to file under all the other filing requirements.

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Gen X has Little Faith In Advisers

LazySurprise, surprise: members of Generation X have little faith in financial firms and financial advisers, according to a study recently released by Charles Schwab.  Titled Gen X Money Mindsets, I was not surprised at all by the results.  Below is a short comment from this article.

Many Gen Xers do not believe financial firms can help them. More than half (51 percent) think that investment firms don’t care about people like them — those who don’t have a lot of money. And 46 percent feel that by turning to firms and advisers, they might end up spending more money than they make.

Much of the commentary is fairly in-line with what I’ve read before and experienced anecdotally through the lives of those around me.  But what financial advisory firms need to consider is the overwhelming lack of faith this generation has in financial service providers.  Why do you suppose that is?

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Suffering From Versionitis?

LockComing from the software industry, I had a mandatory introduction to the world of version control software (VCS). Essentially, version control is the concept of securing and archiving many versions of the same file in a multi-user work environment. However, version control shouldn’t exist solely in the domain of software engineers. In fact, financial planning firms can benefit tremendously from implementing a form of version control.

How it works.

First and foremost, VCS provides the ability to manage multiple versions of the same piece of information. Software engineers use it extensively as bugs are corrected in source code and new comments are added that describe functionality or identify subroutine procedures.

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Enhance Meetings with Microsoft OneNote

OneNoteSeveral weeks ago I spotted the Microsoft Across America RV in the parking lot of our building.  There was no way I was going to let a free opportunity to see some of the new technology Microsoft is selling go by.  After a quick lunch, I headed out to their setup.

Inside their demonstration RV, they were featuring a few kinds of business technology, namely their LiveOffice website tools (complete with free domain names, web site, and email accounts) and the quick-scan business card reader.  Although what impressed me the most was their demonstration of OneNote.

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