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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tax Time - Seven Tips for Selecting a Tax Preparer

Blog posting written by Beanna J. Whitlock, EA, CSA

Portions of this blog posting have been taken from CSA Journal #46 article, Tax Time - Seven Tips for Selecting a Tax Preparer, May 2010

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that in the near future, all signing tax return preparers will be required to register with the IRS, test for competency, and maintain no less than 15 hours of continuing professional education each year. This registration and licensing process is scheduled to begin in 2011 and is to be fully implemented within three years. How will the new law affect seniors and the Certified Senior Advisors (CSAs) that serve them?

Who Needs to Register - and Why

Many seniors believe that during retirement, their tax reporting and obligations are less than when they were actively employed. In reality, a retired seniors taxes can be far more complex than they were previously. An experienced and qualified tax return preparer can help seniors understand the rules and regulations so that they can lessen the tax burden on their retirement incomes.

Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), attorneys, and Enrolled Agents (EAs - federally authorized tax practitioners) can prepare tax returns and are all subject to strict licensing, testing, and background investigation. Furthermore, they hold the particular privilege of representing taxpayers before all administrative levels of the IRS.

By contrast, other tax-returns preparers may represent taxpayers before the IRS only if they personally prepared the tax return in question and only at an initial IRS examination. If an issue remains unresolved after that meeting, the return preparer can go no further. Seniors who have a neighbor or acquaintance prepare their taxes could find themselves adrift in tricky and sometimes financially dangerous waters. The fact that a preparer charges for service does not mitigate such a risk.

Advice for Seniors and CSAs

Seniors deserve the confidence that their tax returns will be complete and accurate and that anyone they pay to prepare those returns is knowledgeable, diligent, ethical, and accurate. Seniors who are selecting a trusted tax advisor should follow these guidelines:

  1. Get a referral from a trusted friend, relative, or associate
  2. Have a brief telephone interview with the preparer, asking them important questions such as: "how long have you been preparing tax returns" and "can you represent me before the IRS if there is a problem on my return?"
  3. Make an appointment early in the filing season (January through April 15.)
  4. Bring everything the return preparer might need.
  5. Be prepared to answer questions about your income, lifestyle, and expenses. If the tax preparer does not ask any questions, he or she is probably not able to work in your best interest. Terminate the meeting and look for a different preparer.
  6. Every CSA should have a cadre of tax professionals in his or her rolodex. Not every tax professional will work well with a particular client, so know your clients -- and your tax professionals. Also, CSAs who might be called on to review a seniors tax return should encourage the senior to sign and file IRS Form 8821, Authorization to Disclose, with their tax returns. This form allows the IRS to send any correspondence, audit letters, or balance due notices to the CSA, as well as to the taxpayer. The form does grant power of attorney but can give a CSA the necessary knowledge to assist the senior.

To read this article in full, please visit the Free Resources section of our website,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What Is Your Perception of Aging?

I know it may seem cliche to bring up the idea of a "New Year's Resolution" when there is already so much discussion about this in the month of January. Personally, I don't usually make New Year's Resolutions but rather think about my "intentions" for the new year.

To help with this process, I'm reading a wonderful book entitled, "70 is the New 40: Bonus Years Here We Come!," by Barbara Penn-Atkins. Her book provides a look at our perceptions of aging and how as a society, we are living longer - an average of 29 to 30 years longer in fact! Barbara states in her book, "Your personal image of aging is your perception of who you are and who you wish to be."

Her quote reminded me of an aging concept I learned in my Certified Senior Advisor training. I learned that age is perceived through three factors:
  1. Our Chronological Age (number based on when someone is born)
  2. Our Functional Age (what a person can physically do)
  3. Our Subjective Age (how old someone feels)

This aging concept and Barbara's comments have served as a great reminder to me that age is truly just a number. As I set my intentions for 2011 and quickly approach my 40th birthday next month, I'm reflecting on my own feelings about aging and I'm looking forward to the next decade of my life!

Now, I ask you to reflect on your perceptions of aging, your personal vision for the future and where you see yourself in the next decade?

*Book citation: "70 is the New 40: Bonus Years Here We Come!" Barbara Penn-Atkins, Llumina Press - 2009


Christie Munson, CSA, lives and works in Phoenix, AZ and is the Communications Manager for a retirement community and a Professional Organizer, specializing in senior services. She can be contacted via email at

Friday, January 21, 2011

When I Turn 80

One day I had lunch with some friends. Jim, a tall, balding golfer type about 80 years old, came along with them---all in all, a pleasant bunch.

When the menus were presented, we ordered salads, sandwiches, and soups, except Jim who said, "Ice Cream, please. Two scoops, chocolate."

I wasn't sure my ears heard right and the others were aghast. "Along with heated apple pie" Jim added, completely unabashed. We tried to act quite nonchalant, as if people did this all the time. But when our orders were brought out, I didn't enjoy mine. I couldn't take my eyes off Jim as his pie a-la-mode went down. The other guys couldn't believe it. They ate their lunches silently and grinned.

The next time I went out to eat, I called and invited Jim. I lunched on white meat tuna. He ordered a parfait. I smiled.

He asked if he amused me. I answered, "yes, you do, but also you confuse me. How come you order rich desserts, while I feel I must be sensible?"

He laughed and said "I'm tasting all that is possible. I try to eat the food I need, and do the things I should. But life's so short, my friend, I hate missing out on something good. This year I realized how old I was, (he grinned), I haven't been this old before."

"So, before I die, I've got to try those things that for years I had ignored. I haven't smelled all the flowers yet. There are too many trout streams I haven't fished. There's more fudge sundaes to wolf down and kites to be flown overhead."

There are too many golf courses I haven't played. I've not laughed at all the jokes. I've missed a lot of sporting events and potato chips and cokes. I want to wade again in water and feel ocean spray on my face. I want to sit in a country church once more and thank God for his grace."

"I want peanut butter every day spread on my morning toast. I want un-timed long distance calls to the folks I love the most. I haven't cried at all the movies yet, or walked in the morning rain. I need to feel wind on my face. I want to be in love again."

"So, if I choose to have dessert instead of having dinner, then should I die before night fall, I'd say I died a winner, because I missed out on nothing."

"I filled my heart's desire. I had that final chocolate mousse before my life expired."

With that, I called the waitress over, "I've changed my mind," I said. " I want what he is having, only, add some more whipped cream!"


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Does Working Affect Your Social Security Retirement Benefits?

Blog posting provided by Michael Snowdon, CFP

Today, an increasing number of people's retirement plans include continuing to work and filing to receive Social Security benefits at the same time. They need the additional income, and every dollar counts.

The good news is, you can get Social Security retirement benefits and work at the same time. In fact, if you are at full retirement age or older and still working, you get to keep all your Social Security benefits, no matter how much you earn. (If you were born January 2, 1943, through January 1, 1955, then your full retirement age is 66.)

However, if you are younger than full retirement age, there is a limit to how much you can earn and still receive full Social Security benefits. If you are younger than full retirement age during all of 2011, $1 will be deducted from your benefits for each $2 you earn above $14,160.
If you reach full retirement age during 2011, your benefits will be reduced $1 for each $3 you earn above $37, 680 until the month you actually reach full retirement age.

If you work for someone else, only your wages count toward Social Security's earnings limits. If you are self-employed, your net earnings from self-employment are what counts. Income such as other government benefits, investment earnings, interest, pensions, annuities and capital gains is not counted.

There are other guidelines that can have an impact. If you would like to learn more, check out the Social Security website at

Michael Snowdon, CFP, President
T: 303-721-1140: 888-326-5557 Ext. 4 / F: 866-437-3843 / W: Wealthridge . 8400 E. Crescent Parkway, Suite 600 / Greenwood Village, CO 80111

Friday, January 14, 2011

Getting Old is Not That Bad, but....

For marketeers specialized in Marketing to Seniors, I am old, retired and I don't know what to do with my time, my money, my sexuality, my health, or my relations to women. I need to take special care with food, take numerous pills, walk like crazy for many miles a day, I have to stop playing tennis or squash, because that would be too dangerous. For their sake, I turned to golf...

But how can they possibly know what my needs are? They are too young! They are trying to sell me products I've never been interested in and probably never will be.

Therefore, especially for you, young marketeer, free tips from a really old senior!

For example: in the shower (many seniors take showers), when I want to wash my hair (many seniors still have hair).

When I was young, I had two things in the shower cabinet: a bar of soap for my body and a bottle of shampoo for my hair. Today, the bar of soap has disappeared, instead, there are many bottles of body shampoo, which my wife and my daughter need to keep their bodies in good shape. No problem for me, I use one of those bottles and I take the one in the darkest colour, the one that looks most masculine.

For the hair shampoo however, there is a real problem: under the shower I do not wear my reading glasses and I have no pocket to put them in. And there are over 30 botttles of liquids for hair purposes. Some of those liquids do terrible things to a man's hair. And here, I cannot rely on the colour, because many of those bottles do not contain shampoo, but other necessary liquids for female hair. So, I have to try one bottle after another, until I feel something like foam on my head.

Concluding, my tip #1: put the words HAIR SHAMPOO in big capitals on the bottle.
-your target needs glasses to read what's on the packages, but cannot use them under the shower.
-in deparment stores, old guys will tend for your bottle of HAIR SHAMPOO and leave all the others because they are illegible.

You could, of course, also invent glasses for under the shower.

Blog posting courtesy of Senior, Dirk Ampoorter.
Dirk's goal is to educate marketers and sales people to better serve seniors.

Dirk can be found on LinkedIn.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2011 Income Tax Adjustments

Blog posting provided by Frank Vidin, CFP(R), CSA
Faculty, Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Part III of previous blog postings on Retirement Plan Limits

On December 21, 2010, the IRS released the inflation-adjusted rates for tax year 2011. (1)
The information below reflects those changes.

Standard Deduction:

Additional Standard Deduction for Elderly and/or Blind:

Personal Exemption:

Income Tax Brackets:

Child Tax Credit:

The refundable child tax credit for 2011 is $3,000.

Earned Income Credit:


(1) Source: IRS Rev. Proc. 2011-12, 2011-2 IRB 1 (Dec. 21, 2010)

To print a hardcopy of this table, please visit

Monday, January 10, 2011

Freelance Employment: The New Normal – Opportunities for 2011

Excerpts from article, Freelance Employment: The New Normal – Opportunities for 2011

"Despite downturns in the regular employment industry, 2010 experienced increases in the volume of people taking up freelance jobs ranging across skills."

"Freelance employment is gradually growing to take its pride of place in the general employment universe, reaching record highs for the year 2010. Mind-boggling statistics on freelance employment figures amid high on-site job losses and regular unemployment rates prove this. Since the recession in 2008, unemployment rates in the United States have risen to numbers previously unheard of, with over 15 million American citizens being out of work according to the jobs report for November 2010. Also, over 40% of this number have been unemployed for over six months running."

Click here to read this article in full.

Blog posting courtesy of

Friday, January 7, 2011

5 Tips for Marketing to Seniors

The Society of Certified Senior Advisors has just released our newest white paper, 5 Tips for Marketing to Seniors. This free guide was created for professionals who work with the 65+ demographic. It's purpose is to help those individuals truly understand what makes this target market tick.

Some tips from the guide:

"Trust is key, and it takes time. Seniors have to buy you first, and then they'll listen to what you offer...Seniors, more than any other age group, make consumer decisions based on relationship values.The senior consumer must believe that you know what they need."
> Know your customer
> Show empatheic understanding
> Build a relationship

"Make social media a priority...sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube may appear to be just a way to stay connected with friends and family, they have very valid business applications as well. A presence on these sites can drive immediate attention to your content and your offerings...given that seniors are the fastest growing internet user group, engaging in social media should be a top priority for you."
> Regularly put good content on your website and blog
> Do free consultations and community assistance
> Publish a free e-newsletter, print newsletter, or e-book

"Reaching out to seniors and professionals within your community to initiate genuine relationships can certainly lead to business opportunities...when reaching out to consumers, always be prepared to get their information so you can stay in contact...find a method that works comfortably with your personality and makes sense for what you do professionally."
> Senior Alliance Communities - try an informational meeting for their residents
> Offer to be a 'guest-expert' on a senior-related blog or website
> Volunteer at an organization close to your heart

You can read the full white paper here:

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Refer a colleague today!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Preparing Clients for Retirement - Where to Start

blog posting provided by Rick Atkinson, President and Founder of RA Retirement Advisors

As an advisor, you're in a unique position to assist clients at preparing for retirement. You can help them get it right!

A question I'm often asked is: "As an advisor, where do I start?"

Whether you use books, articles, workshops or other bridging techniques, clients should be encouraged to create a retirement vision. You may ask, how detailed does a vision need to be? It can be elaborate or fairly straight forward and basic. Here's an example of a vision created by Bill:

"I envision myself continuing in my trade but only working two days a week. My wife and I are having fun together, attending auctions, concerts and traveling. I am spending approximately one day a week doing volunteering work. I see myself skating twice in the winter and golfing once a week during the warmer months. I am eating healthy meals and exercising regularly. I envision my wife and I spending about 20% of our time with our children and grandchildren."

Bill has a clear and balanced vision. It is brief and understandable. Obviously with each envisioned action there needs to be subsets. (i.e. what he's doing to ensure healthy eating and regularly exercising.)

What you don't want is for a client to create a vague retirement vision. Here is Grace's vision:

"I don't know. All I know is that I'll be able to spend more time on housework. Plus I'll be able to watch the 'soaps' I've missed when at work."

Without a carefully formed vision, Grace will be doing housework and watching the 'soaps' six months from now and possibly six years from now. Grace's inadequate vision isn't going to provide her with distinct actions and plans on which future decisions can be hinged.

Advisors who assist clients with their retirement vision preparation report benefits including the development of a more in-depth client/advisor relationship. Now that's unique!

Richard (Rick) Atkinson, Founder and President of RA Retirement Advisors, is an expert in pre-retirement planning. He is also author of the best-selling book, Don't Just Retire - Live It, Love It! Rick facilitates workshops for clients of advisors and others.

To contact Rick, call 416-282-7320 or write: 7 Blue Anchor Trail, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. M1C 3N9. E: W:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Brochure and Advertising Rules for Financial Agents

If you are in the financial industry, make sure you are following the SEC's new brochure and advertising rules issued October 12, 2010. This rule requires that financial agents and brokers provide additional contact, disclosure and firm information in an approved brochure format. In order to meet the brochure supplement requirements for educational disclosure, you can order and use the You Deserve Professional Senior Advice brochure available at For full rule text, please visit

blog posting provided Society of Certified Senior Advisors