Archive by Author

Little Fish, Big Fish [Guest Post, Quarter Life Crisis]

25 Mar

By Chelsie Schroeder
The Dow Chemical Company
on assignment by Kelly Services

Are you a big fish in a small pond or are you a small fish swimming in the ocean? When we graduated college we faced a decision about our career path… small business, non-profit or corporate. Each of these businesses certainly has its pros and cons and I have had the opportunity, first hand, to swim in each “body of water.”

Big Fish Little Fish

Most people have their preconceived notions about each particular type of business. Small businesses have no money or opportunities to grow, non-profits don’t make money and are less competent, and corporations are cut throat and only focused on the bottom line. However, working for each of these businesses has allowed me to clarify these theories.

Small businesses and non-profits have similar pros and cons regarding business structure and environment. From my experience, both allow more of a flexible work schedule, with a larger opportunity to be involved outside of the business. Networking experiences are easier to come across, simply due to the need to network and expand the business as far as possible. You may not get paid as much as you would in a corporation; however, there are several learning opportunities that you will not get in a large firm; for instance, seeing a project from its mere ideal state to completion and have a hand in each step. These types of projects make you feel like you are making a larger impact/difference in the community, and some of the best-run companies out there are small businesses or non-profit

The two biggest cons of these types of smaller businesses are obviously the pay/benefits and the limited opportunities for growth. Now don’t get me wrong, there are smaller businesses that pay really well and give you potential for growth; however, those are few and far between. Though they may want to, small and non-profit businesses usually do not have the funds to pay someone a larger salary for their work or provide them with learning opportunities, to expand their knowledge base.

Quiet, unfriendly, competitive, cut-throat…Corporate. No; however, corporate America does have a negative connotation about it. I believe that this is due to the challenging work environment that allows fewer individuals to make it to the top. Most people have to abide by more strict working hours and end up putting in more time outside of the work day to fulfill their recommended workloads. Individuals working within corporate businesses also have fewer chances to get outside of that working environment and network with people of the small businesses/non-profits because their schedules are simply too busy.

Although these things might deter someone from working corporate, there are several pros to be in the big business world. Obviously the pay/benefit options are going to be much larger than they are for small businesses. There is more money flow in these types of businesses allowing them to pay their employees a competitive salary with lucrative benefits and large opportunities for growth/learning. You may not see a project move from start to finish in a large firm, but you do get to be a part of a functional team that works together on their specific segment of the whole. Sometimes you may get in a team that is cut and dry or stuffy, on the other hand through my experience, I am working with a friendly group of people who have the same goal and are willing to help each other succeed.

So what is better…being a big fish in a small pond or are you a small fish swimming in the ocean? This answer is truly up to the individual, priorities and career goals. If you could choose to start over today, where would you choose to “swim?”

Chelsie Head ShotChelsie is a God following, creative, outgoing, curly haired, tall, vizsla loving, vino sipper, shopaholic who is addicted to volleyball, spinning, and her supportive husband. Contact Chelsie at chelsiejschroeder@gmail.com.

FREE BEER!!!! [Quarter Life Crisis Guest Post]

28 Feb

By John W. Haag, Sr., CPA/ABV, CVA, CFF
Principal, Yeo & Yeo CPAs

I learned many years ago that if an article has the word “tax” in the title, it will not be read. Please excuse my desperate attempt to draw more attention to this blog — did it work?

If I asked you for $100, what would you say? You would probably want to know why. You would want to know what I am going to use it for, will you get it back, how did I determine $100 was the amount I needed, and do I really need $100 or would a smaller amount do. Yet every day that you earn money, you give a little of it away in taxes. The truth is, most people do not ask what it is being used for, how it is calculated, or how much they will get back.

As a CPA, I meet with young professionals all the time who are starting their careers and going through transitions (jobs, moving, buying houses, getting married, starting families). A common comment that I hear is, “I have never paid much attention to taxes, but figured it was about time to start having a professional prepare them.” And do not feel bad, I still hear a few “Actually, my mom still does my taxes for me.” If that is you, then I have prepared a list of some of the most important things that young professionals should know about taxes.Keep in mind that each individual’s tax situation is different and that many of the items discussed below have income limitations, referred to as phaseouts. In other words, once your income reaches a certain level, some of these credits and deductions go away.

Getting Smart
Chances are you may still be paying some higher education expenses. If that is the case, two federal tax credits may help lessen your tax bill: the Hope Scholarship Credit (American Opportunity Tax Credit) and the Lifetime Learning Credit.
The Hope Scholarship Credit is worth a maximum of $2,500 for 2013. The credit is available for the first four years of undergraduate education and can be used to cover the cost of course materials. In addition, 40% of the credit is refundable, which could enable lower-income taxpayers to get money back from the IRS. The Lifetime Learning Credit, which applies to undergraduate study, as well as graduate and professional education pursuits, could be worth up to $2,000.There is also an above-the-line deduction for tuition and fees if you are not eligible for any of the credits, which can reduce the amount of your taxable income by up to $4,000.
Up to $2,500 of interest paid on student loans may be deducted. Since this is an “above-the-line” deduction, even non-itemizing taxpayers benefit. The loans may be used for qualified higher education expenses, such as tuition, fees, room and board, and books.
Question: $1,000 deduction vs. $1,000 credit…which is better? A deduction decreases your taxable income. So if your tax rate is 15%, a $1,000 deduction would be worth $150 in your pocket. A credit decreases your actual tax “dollar for dollar.” So a $1,000 credit is worth $1,000 in your pocket. Credits win!

Moving On Up
Prior to owning a home, most young professionals take advantage of the standard deduction and do not itemize deductions. Signing for that mortgage changes this, as you may now be able to deduct property taxes, mortgage interest, points, and in some cases private mortgage insurance. This often allows young professionals the opportunity to begin itemizing deductions. In other words, they can now deduct charitable contributions (cash and non-cash), license plate fees, state income taxes, charitable mileage, etc. In today’s world, many young professionals find themselves moving to find work. Moving expenses related to work, subject to a distance and time test, can be deducted on your tax return, provided that they are not reimbursed or paid for by your employer.

marriage

Tying the Knot
Once the champagne is gone and you return from the Bahamas with your golden tans, tax time rolls around and you realize that doing your taxes is a bit different. You are no longer a single tax filer, but rather qualify to file married filing jointly. Income and deductions from both you and your spouse are combined on one tax return. I am often asked, “Can we still file separately?” The answer is yes; however, in the majority of circumstances, this will result in you both collectively owing more tax. A common issue is that in the year of marriage, one spouse has been earning a W-2 wage and having an appropriate amount of taxes withheld, whereas the other spouse has been earning a W-2 wage but claiming a large number of exemptions and has very little withholding. The first spouse thinks that he or she will get a large refund, and the other is used to paying in all the time. And therein lies your first argument. To avoid this, it is a good idea to have a discussion with a CPA together, prior to marriage, to get your financial house in good order and make sure everyone is on the same page.

tax deduction

Populating the Earth
Although deducting baby formula and diapers are out of the question, there are some tax benefits for your little one. The child tax credit is available for parents with children under the age of 17, and is equal to $1,000 per child, subject to a phaseout once income gets too high. In addition, you will be able to claim a dependent exemption of $3,900 on your federal return and $3,950 on your state return. Assuming a 20% effective tax rate and 4.25% state tax rate, little Bobby or Suzie could be worth almost $1,950 a year in tax savings. That should cover a month’s supply of diapers, right?
If your company offers a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), do not pass up the opportunity to take advantage. Use this to cover co-pays, prescription drugs, or even those well baby checkups. You can elect to contribute up to $2,500 a year to an FSA, which saves not only federal and state income taxes, but also social security and Medicare taxes. A young professional could easily save $700 or more by participating.

Investments

Retirement Planning
Deductions and tax credits are a great thing; however, you do not want to forget about deferrals. This is where you defer taxes on your income, which is primarily done through investing in qualified retirement plans. Retirement vehicles such as 401(k)s and Traditional IRAs defer taxes and allow your money to be invested and grow, with taxes not being due until you actually use the money in retirement. Young professionals these days need to adopt a retirement saving strategy early in their careers and stick with it. Many times I see young professionals drawing from their retirement accounts — and paying penalties and taxes — to fund living expenses. This should absolutely be a last resort. Get in the habit of contributing to a retirement plan and let it grow. As your income increases, so too should your contributions. For example, if you get a 3% raise, increase your retirement contributions by 1%. The days of relying on pensions and social security have passed; young professionals must develop their own retirement savings plans.

Where to Now? My Thoughts
Although this blog is about taxes, I would like to expand it to include all aspects of a young professional’s personal and financial life. Young professionals are faced with a lot of changes when they enter the “real world.” They should not hesitateto seek advice from other young professionals early on in their careers. Develop relationships with an attorney, a mortgage lender, an insurance agent, a financial advisor, a CPA, a real estate agent, a primary care physician, an auto salesperson, etc. By utilizing a young professional for these types of services, you can develop a long-term relationship and grow together as they are learning their craft too. The most successful relationships that I see in my line of work are those that began many years ago and developed over time. Begin developing your professional relationships today. And regarding the Free Beer, if you ever want to talk taxes, let me know and I will buy you a beer.

Haag, JohnJohn W. Haag, Sr., CPA/ABV, CVA, CFF, is a Principal in charge of the Management Advisory Services group of the Midland office of Yeo & Yeo CPAs and Business Consultants. He is a co-leader of the firm’s Valuation & Litigation Support team. John has specialization in business valuations, litigation support, business plans and start-ups, troubled debt restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, and management studies. He is a Certified Valuation Analyst and holds the designation of Certified in Financial Forensics from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Contact John via e-mail at johhaa@yeoandyeo.com or call 800.701.3574.

Behind the Scenes: Selecting Scholarship Recipients [Guest Post]

20 Feb

By Ben Tierney

Director of Communications, Midland Area Community Foundation

As a high school senior, I was the recipient of what I’m convinced is the most specific scholarship on our planet. It’s called the USS Indianapolis Survivor’s Fund Scholarship. To be eligible, you must be “a direct descendant of a survivor of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis”, per the scholarship website.

How rare is it to be a descendant of a survivor? For those non-WWII history buffs, the Indy (as my grandfather refers to her) was a heavy cruiser that was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine while on her way back from delivering the world’s first operational atomic bomb. Of nearly 2,000 men on board, 317 ultimately survived – after treading water and fending shark attacks for four days in the Pacific Ocean. It remains the single worst loss of life at sea in the history of the US Navy. My grandfather was a Marine on board the ship when it sunk. Incredibly, he was one of the 317.

While writing that scholarship essay to the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, I remember thinking that I could have drawn them a picture of the boat in crayon and still received the award, because, honestly, how much competition could there be?

As it turned out, several other students did apply, and a group of volunteers reviewed every scholarship application to ultimately determine a winner. Looking back, I’m glad I took it seriously. I think my Grandfather was too (“I didn’t jump off a sinking ship and fight sharks for four days so you could throw your future away…”). By the way, the USS Indianapolis Survivor’s Fund Scholarship now accepts applications from descendants of non-survivors, which I believe was a positive change.

While that particular scholarship is held at the Grand Traverse foundation, the Midland Area Community Foundation holds nearly 200 individual scholarship funds. Some are very specific (though not quite “descendant of USS Indy Survivor” specific), others are very general. They all, however, have one thing in common: they need committees to review the scholarship applications.

Image

Midland Area Community Foundation 2013 scholarship recipients

How it works

Scholarship review committees are made up of community volunteers. That’s you. Here’s how it works: you contact the community foundation at 989.839.9661, ask for our scholarship coordinator (Heather), and let her know you’d like to help decide who receives scholarships in 2014. The time commitment can be small (review 4-5 applications) or large (review 80-100 applications) or pretty much anything in between. That part’s up to you.

You’ll read short essays from high school seniors, current college students and adults seeking to further their education. You then work with your committee to vote on which students are most deserving of the award. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience, you’ll meet new people, and you’ll be doing a great service to youth in your community.

If you have ever received a scholarship for college, you remember the feeling that went along with it. It’s an outstanding opportunity, and thanks to many donors over the past 40 years, the community foundation has been able to give more and more scholarships each year to Midland County students – totaling well over $4 million to date.

Contact the community foundation no later than March 17th to sign up. Feel free to click on my email address below and ask me anything you’d like about this or other volunteer opportunities through the Midland Area Community Foundation. Happy volunteering!

Tierny, BenBen Tierney is the Director of Communications for the Midland Area Community Foundation. His job is to tell the story of the community foundation to the public, keep donors informed, and take pictures of people holding those giant checks. Ben earned his BBA in Marketing/Management from Northwood University in 2008. He is a 2013 graduate of Leadership Midland and serves on several local committees including the Midland Area Marketing Partnership, mi-Vibe, Midland’s Open Door “Dine on the Doors” event, Riverdays and the Inter-agency Network. You can contact Ben at btierney@midlandfdn.org.

Volunteering Can Actually Be Fun. Seriously. [Guest Post]

13 Feb

By Melissa Eigner

Corporate Volunteer Manager, The Dow Chemical Company
The United Way of Midland County

I’m not sure about you, but for me volunteering was something I was forced to do when I was growing up. My parents made me volunteer in the nursery at church, my high school made me volunteer to be in NHS, etc. I never really enjoyed it – it was just another thing that I HAD to do. (And no one likes doing something they HAVE to do, right?) It wasn’t until I accepted my current position as The Dow Chemical Corporate Volunteer Manager three years ago that I saw how awesome (and fun!) volunteering actually is.

Volunteering locally is a great way to get involved in your community and meet fun people!

Volunteering locally is a great way to get involved in your community and meet fun people!

So why volunteer? You probably already have hundreds of other things on your plate right now, why the heck add volunteering to it? Lucky for you, I’ve got all the answers right here.

  1. Meet New Friends – I ALWAYS hear people say, “Midland is boring. Where can I meet NEW people?” I’ll give you a hint. Hitting up the bar three times a week is not going to help you meet new and exciting people. Volunteer! At the very least you’ll meet new people who are good Samaritans like yourself! (Side note: Volunteering does, in fact, make you a good Samaritan)
  2.  Develop Job Skills & Explore Other Interests– No matter how fantastic your current job is, I’m pretty sure there are skills you are not using that you’d like to. Volunteering helps you sharpen these skills. And you might even have skills you don’t know about yet! (Maybe I’m a great painter… I just don’t know it yet!) (Doubt it)
  3.  Make a Difference – I mean, this is the obvious reason, but it’s still important to highlight. Not only will you accomplish bullets 1 & 2, but believe it or not, YOU can actually make a HUGE difference.

So how can you get involved? It’s got to be a super extensive, hard process, involving lots of paperwork, right?

WRONG!

Visit GOvolunteerNOW.org. Seriously. That’s it. That ONE website has TONS of volunteer opportunities nonprofits need filled. They post both ongoing volunteer opportunities and quick, onetime volunteer opportunities. If you see something that interests you you can sign up right on the site. You can also see a list of local nonprofit organizations by visiting www.macc.org/NonProfits.

So what are you waiting for? Go make some new friends, develop your skills and make a difference! (But only if you want to. This is not me forcing you to volunteer.)

Melissa Eigner

Melissa Eigner currently works for the United Way of Midland County as the Dow Chemical Corporate Volunteer Manager. In this position Melissa acts as a liaison between the United Way of Midland, Bay and Saginaw County and The Dow Chemical Company. Melissa received her Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Public Relations from Michigan State University in 2009 and is a graduate of both Leadership Bay County Class of 2011 and Leadership Midland Class of 2012. Melissa has an extensive volunteer background including projects with Habitat for Humanity, The National Junior Disability Championships, The Qualifier Marathon and The Alpha Race. Melissa currently lives in Midland with her goldendoodle, Torrey.

Eigner@dow.com
Melissa on LinkedIn
Melissa on Twitter

It’s only classical music! Don’t be scared! [Guest Post]

22 Jan

By Kimberly Dimond

Managing Director of the Midland Symphony Orchestra

The Midland Symphony Orchestra is pairing up with MYPros for our next concert on Saturday, February 8. Attending a classical music performance can be intimidating if you are unsure what to expect. Everyone is welcome at our concerts, no matter how familiar you are with the program. This is the time to let go of any preconceptions you may have about classical music or the concert experience. We want you to feel comfortable and enjoy yourself. Don’t be scared, it’s just music!

Classical music is all around us: in commercials, movie soundtracks, television themes, cartoons, video games, and battling Kenny G and Celine Dion for top airplay in elevators and doctor’s offices. Attending a live orchestra concert formalizes the classical music experience, but it shouldn’t feel daunting. Just like lyrics to a song, a symphony tells a story. You can sit back, relax and listen to it as background music, try and follow the themes and motivations, or visually follow the movements of the conductor and musicians.

The Midland Symphony Orchestra will perform the same night as MYPros Ribbit, Rhythms & Red Shoes event at the Midland Center for the Arts. MYPros will have a chance to meet and greet the music director before the show!

Why Classical Music?
Orchestras encourage creativity and bring people together to share the experience of live music. Orchestras fuel local economies, attract new business developments, increase tuxedo sales (☺), educate young people, and unite individuals and cultures in times of suffering and joy. The country is brimming with extraordinary musicians, live concerts, and orchestras as unique as the communities they serve. We are lucky to have a professional orchestra to enjoy right in our own backyards here in Midland.

Attending the MSO Can Make You Smarter!
Known as the “Mozart effect,” a set of research published by the Oxford University Press contends that classical music can make you smarter, raising your IQ by a few points while you’re listening. Next time you’re trying to crack a crossword or Sudoku puzzle, it couldn’t hurt to crank up the classical tunes. This is the one time your elderly neighbor may jam along.

Classical music isn’t just for your parents. Give it a try – you might really enjoy it!

Classical Music De-Stresses Like a Valium!
According to a study at the University of Baltimore, classical music and Valium both have the same anti-anxiety benefits for heart patients. Thirty minutes of classical music equals one dose of the stress-free drug. The MSO is here to help you do some serious relaxing.

Symphony 101 
If you’re still unsure and need some more tips on what to wear to a concert, when should you clap, etc., you can read our Symphony 101 guidelines. It’s only classical music though. Don’t be scared!

Midland Symphony Orchestra Music Director, Bohuslav Rattay, is known for his red shoes.

Music Director Bohuslav Rattay and Principal Trumpet Matt Thomas give you an exclusive preview of the Feb. 8 concert in this interview.

Learn more about the MSO and conductor Bohuslav Rattay! We hope to see you at the upcoming MYPros event on Feb. 8!

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Ribbits, Rhythms & Red Shoes MYPros event will take place on February 8 at Midland Center for the Arts. Register here.

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants to be happy.” -Benjamin Franklin [Guest Post]

13 Jan

By Sydney Allen, MYPros Government Issues Chair,

Greater Midland Community Centers, Inc.

Beer_Politics_1

Beer and politics have long gone hand in hand—since the beginning of America, even! President George Washington was apparently an avid beer connoisseur and even made his own homebrew. Flash forward 224 years to the Presidential tenure of Number 44, Barack Obama where polling questions are asked, like, “which Presidential candidate would you most like to have a beer with?” and meetings consisting of  “Beer Summits” are actually a thing. Ever heard of the White House Honey Ale? Well, you can’t buy it at Eastman Party Store, but the true aficionados can brew their own at home with this easy to follow recipe straight from the White House brewmaster.

President Obama with Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley during the “Beer Summit” in 2009.

President Obama with Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley during the “Beer Summit” in 2009.

This White House home brew experiment is all made possible by President Obama’s early predecessor, President Jimmy Carter, who in 1978, signed into law a bill legalizing home beer brewing which until that point had been illegal since prohibition began in 1920. Speaking of prohibition, did you know that the Great Depression began during the height of prohibition era? Not that I’m trying to peg prohibition as a key factor in causing the Black Tuesday Market crash of 1929 but…

Thankfully, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who campaigned on the promise to end prohibition, signed the 21st Amendment in 1933 which again legalized the consumption of alcohol and opened the gateway for the now 2,000+ breweries found nationwide.

Democrats aren’t the only ones making strides with the “proper drink for Americans.” Luckily for Busch, er, I mean, Bush…in 2004, Americans resoundingly chose our 43rd President over Senator John Kerry as the person they’d most like to have a beer with. The beer drinkers’ voices were heard and George W. Bush was elected to his 2nd four-year term. Unfortunately, for Americans, President Bush has been sober since 1986 so it’s non-alcoholic only selections for Dubya.

President Bush laughs with German chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2007.

President Bush laughs with German chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2007.

Ever visited the Ronald Reagan Pub? Well clearly you’ve never been to Ballyporeen, Ireland then! The Irish pub renamed their establishment after our 40th U.S. President made a stop there in 1984. There is now a replica of the Ronald Reagan Pub located in Reagan’s Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California.

President Reagan receiving a beer during a visit to O’Farrell’s Pub in Ballyporeen, Ireland in 1984.

President Reagan receiving a beer during a visit to O’Farrell’s Pub in Ballyporeen, Ireland in 1984.

Beer unites generations, political ideology and turns strangers into friends. Cheers to you, President Obama for popularizing the “Beer Summit” – serving politics up to the American people as it should be, with an ice cold pilsner.

Join us on Tuesday, January 14 for Pilsners and Politics featuring a lively conversation with former State Representative Jeff Mayes (D) Bay City. Spaces are limited. Register today to secure your spot!