Paying too Much in Property Taxes?

Property taxes, especially in some states like New Jersey, are out of control. Even states that are considered “fair” when it comes to property taxes can sometimes charge too much and, if you feel that your property taxes are too high, the tips below will help you to check and, possibly, lower them. Enjoy.

First, make sure you know the exact square footage of your home. If the field record of the square footage doesn’t match the current square footage of your property exactly, and the error is in your favor, there’s a good chance that any case you bring for having your property taxes lowered will be won.

Interestingly, although most homeowners believe that the number of bedrooms makes a difference in the assessment of their property taxes, the 2 rooms that make the most difference are kitchens and bathrooms. In other words, the rooms that have running water. Many cities and towns will value a home’s bathroom based on how many fixtures it contains, including whether it’s a full bathroom, three-quarter bathroom or half bathroom. Each of these different types has its different assessment value.

Kitchens are also important to evaluate, especially if you have an in-law suite or a finished basement. For example, you might be paying more property taxes if your wet bar in the basement has been assessed like a kitchen.

Another important factor in the assessment of your property taxes ii the type and/or style of your home. For example, colonial homes are often valued higher than ranches. If you believe that your home has been incorrectly categorized, you might want to speak with your assessor to have its classification changed, which could possibly lower your property taxes.

The condition of your home is also a big factor in the assessment of your property taxes. The lower the condition, the lower your taxes usually will be and, if you feel that your home has been graded too highly, you may want to try and get this knocked down a bit. For example, although the difference between an “excellent” home and a “very good” home might be minimal to the casual observer, it may well make a large difference in the amount of property taxes that you are forced to pay.

Keep in mind that if you’re going to argue any of these points with your tax assessor, you should do your best to have all documentation prepared before you sit down to talk with them. Any glaring errors that can be found on your field card will probably be fixed without a formal procedure being necessary but, if that isn’t possible, you may need to file an abatement to send along with your tax bill until the change is made.

Also, since an inspection will no doubt be needed in most cases to ascertain whether or not of mistake has been made and your taxes should be lowered, it’s also possible that your valuation could rise and that you’ll end up paying higher taxes.

Nevertheless, if you feel strongly that you’re paying too much in property taxes, and you’ve done your research so that you can present your case with all of the necessary documentations, there’s a good chance that you will be successful. It might take some time and effort but, if you can save a significant amount of money every year, it will be well worth the time and effort that you put in.

Adult Children Refuse to Leave the Nest

Not too long ago if an adult was to say to someone that they just met “I live with my parents”, it typically would have set them up for quite a bit of ridicule and disdain. That social stigma has fallen away in the last few years as more young adults are staying home with mom and dad than ever before. In fact, nearly 22 million so-called “millennials” were living in their parent’s home in 2012, nearly 40% of all adults between the age of 18 and 31.

For parents who thought that sharing their home ended when their last child turned 18, adjusting to having their adult children living back home again can take a little bit of time. It’s for that reason that today we bring you some rules and tips that should help you to live in harmony with your adult children if they haven’t moved out,  or they’ve recently moved back in.

First and foremost, set some realistic goals. If you’re not comfortable with the thought of your adult children living with you for the long term, sitting down with them and setting some realistic goals, including a time schedule for moving out, might be necessary. Also, helping them set their own realistic goals about finding a “dream” job might be necessary, as many young adults just out of college think that they will instantly fall into a job, or profession, that they love.

Some parents have taken to setting a “reverse curfew” in order to make sure that their adult children are out looking for a job during the day (if they’re unemployed, of course). What this means is that, from a specific time in the morning until a specific time in the afternoon, say 9 AM to 3 PM, they aren’t allowed to be home because they should be out looking for a job. The benefit of doing this is that, once they actually do find a job, they won’t be home during the day either.

If you need to put in writing, and make an actual contract with your adult child, then so be it. There’s nothing that says that parents and their adult children can’t have legal and binding contracts between them and, if you have already agreed on some specific factors like a moving out date or an amount to be paid for rent, there’s no harm in having some basic paperwork drawn up and notarized so that everyone knows where they stand.

Finally, always remember that communication is key. Even if it means that you “over communicate” or talk about what you want, and want for them, more than normal, make sure to keep the lines of communication open. Even though they may be adults, your adult children might not be as mature as you think and your communication, and loving words, are still very necessary.

If you want them to pay rent, pay their own groceries, do some chores around the house and so forth, communicating these wants and needs to them is vital. If you don’t then there’s going to be a lot of problems when you get angry at them for not doing the things you want, and a lot of resentment as well. Avoid that resentment by communicating openly and often.

Some families can live quite well together for years without any sort of problems. If you have a big house and you’re comfortable letting your adult children live with you, then so be it.

On the other hand, some adult children tend to take advantage of their parents and their parent’s generosity. They don’t work, don’t pay rent and spend their days watching TV or playing video games. In these situations it might be a little bit more difficult to get along and using the rules and tips above will hopefully help you to keep things under control.

The Habits of the Rich, Part 2

In Part 1 of our 2 Part series we gave you a look at five habits that wealthy people have that, in most cases, you don’t. In today’s blog were going to, surprise, look at another five habits that they have that you should definitely emulate if you want to become wealthy as well. Enjoy.

One of the first is simply to avoid temptation. Listen, the fact is that it’s almost impossible these days to get away from the never ending pressure to spend money. Television, the neighbors, family, friends and even strangers on the street can make you feel inadequate if you don’t have the same “stuff” that they do. If you want to become wealthy you’re going to have to learn to say no to temptation, and do it often.

Honestly, do you need the newest smart phone, biggest house or most expensive automobile? If you think you do, then you might have more problems than just financial.

Setting financial goals is one of the most important habits that you need to emulate if you want to become wealthy. Whatever it is that you want to achieve, whether it’s to save $1 million, open your own business or purchase a second home as an investment property, setting goals and sticking to them is one of the best ways to do it. In most cases this means actually writing your goals down, checking back on them frequently and involving other people in your goal setting who can keep you on your toes.

Prioritize your financial goals, assigned target dates to have a specific amount of money or a specific task accomplished and display those goals openly somewhere that you can see them easily and check in with them regularly. This amount of accountability will help you to stay on track much more easily.

Another habit that they wealthy embrace is to educate themselves and do it often. Wealthy people spend a lot of time studying financial concepts, stay abreast of financial trends and learn the ins and outs of the financial markets. Whenever they have the opportunity to take advantage of someone or something that will strengthen their understanding, they take it. One of those opportunities comes from the venerable Wall Street Journal. Others include Fortune magazine, CNBC and anything that features the advice of Warren Buffett. One caveat is not to overwhelm yourself with information which, in some cases, can actually paralyze you rather than help you to move forward.

A vital habits that you need in order to become wealthy is to have a diversified portfolio of assets. While the old adage about “putting all your eggs in one basket” is a bit silly (what are you going to do, use five baskets?) what it means in essence is that you shouldn’t put all of your money into only one or two different assets but instead spread it out among several. Purchase mutual funds, bonds, stocks, real estate and maybe even collectibles.

The reason being is that if one of these assets is decimated, for whatever reason, you’ll still have all of the others to rely on and protect your finances.

Finally, although this is an old adage as well, wealthy people spend money to make money. In this case, that means paying a financial professional, like an accountant, financial advisor or estate planner, who has expertise in financial matters and can help you to make the best decisions about where and what to do with your money. You can still do some “DIY” investing on your own, but the objectivity, personalized guidance and expertise that professionals offer, while it may actually cost you a little bit of money, will more than likely allow you to save and/or earn much more money in the long run.

And there you have them. 10 habits that wealthy people have and, if you want to be wealthy as well, you need to embrace. It might not be easy at first but, like any habit, once you get into the “groove” of doing it all the time it will become easier and your financial empire will grow. After all, even Warren Buffett didn’t become a millionaire (excuse us, billionaire) overnight.

The Habits of the Rich, Part 1

Unless you’re part of the 1% of people that are born into wealth, there’s simply no way to become wealthy “by accident”. It takes a lot of planning, dedication and persistence, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Simply put, becoming wealthy requires a long-term vision and the ability to stay dedicated to the “prize” of future financial freedom.

Below are a number of habits that “rich” people do that the rest of us usually don’t.  By the way, when you’re finished here, don’t forget to come back and read Part 2.

The first is that they start building wealth very early. We’ve mentioned this numerous times in the past but it deserves repeating. The power of compound interest means that, the sooner you start saving, the more money your money will earn for you over the years. Contributing to an IRA or 401(k) is one way to take advantage of compound interest and, if your company happens to have a 401(k) matching plan, you should take full advantage of it as early as possible.

Another habit that wealthy people use to build their wealth is to automate their savings. Frankly, the average person doesn’t have the willpower to not spend money that makes it into their hands. By automatically deducting money out of your weekly check and having it deposited into an IRA, 401(k) or other savings account, it doesn’t make it into your hands and thus the risk of spending it is much less.

Wealthy people also make a habit out of maximizing their contributions. Simply put, if you want to be wealthy you need to save money fanatically. One of the best ways to do that is simply to maximize the amount of money that you’re allowed to put into any of your retirement savings plans. We already talked about taking advantage of matching contributions at your work but, even if you don’t have that option, maxing out the amount of contributions you can make to any o9f your other retirement plans is definitely advisable.

One thing wealthy people do is not carry a credit card balance. The reason is that high interest debt on a revolving account (or several of them) is a serious drag on your finances, costs thousands of dollars in interest and unnecessary fees and, simply put, prevents you from saving as much money as you can. Becoming wealthy means completely getting rid of any bad credit habits that you might have, especially the “minimum payment mentality” that many people have today.

Ironically, many wealthy people live like they’re poor. They keep their automobiles for as long as possible, lives in modest homes and don’t spend tons of money on new clothes, gadgets like smart phones and televisions, and entertainment. In other words, wealthy people live well below their means and adopt what is known as a “less is more” mentality. While we’re not saying that you need to be a skinflint, the simple fact is that the less money you spend on unnecessary, frivolous or unneeded items, the more money you’ll have to build your wealth.

That does it for Part 1. The 5 habits above should definitely get you started on your wealth building endeavor but don’t forget to come back and read Part 2 sometime very soon as it contains another five excellent wealth building habits that wealthy people use all the time.