All posts by TL Wall

I'm the owner of TL Wall Accounting, located in North Syracuse, NY

Some Financial Tips For 2024

Many people are still having problems with their finances, and it’s scary. Some know they’re not making enough money, which is obviously a problem. Some don’t think they’re making enough money because they’re in debt, and what they probably need is some budgeting advice. And some know they’re making enough money, they’re spending that money, and not planning for the future.

Alexander Grey on Unsplash

As always, we’re here to help. This is an easy money to-do list to help give some guidance for everyone as it regards how to handle your money. It’s not overly comprehensive because we don’t want to confuse anyone, but we believe it could help a lot of people. Let’s begin.
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Is A College Degree Worth The Debt?

The title becomes an interesting conversation. Throughout history, getting a college degree meant big things in life; at least that was the general thought. Even at a price that, at the time, was considered expensive, it was nothing like it is now.

These days, the rates for private universities can be extreme, and state universities, although still fairly affordable for state residents, can be pretty high for out of state visitors. In my area, if you only take 12 credit hours a semester, the price comes to around $41,000+. The state university closest to our area comes in around $9,600 a year for residents, and $19,200 for out of state students.

Even with the possibility of telecommuting (online classes) and not having to follow all the former rules about freshmen having to live on campus, costs can feel prohibitive, especially if you have to work and pay bills while trying to get a degree. All of this begs this question; is a college degree worth the debt?

It depends; don’t you just hate that answer?

Like everything else in this world, there’s no cut and dry answer for everything. For instance, if you want to be a lawyer or physician, first off you don’t have a choice, and second, if you’re even just passable as a lawyer or physician you could be earning $100,000 a year pretty easily within a few years of graduating. The long term benefits for each can outweigh the costs… depending on specialty.

If you’re a lawyer or physician, a debt of around $500,000 might not only be overcome with less difficulty (not saying it’s easy because, regardless of income, both vocations need to carry liability insurance, which can be pretty steep, but in some cases the employers will help pay off some of the debt), if you’re in it for the long haul you have the chance to be pretty well off.

What about for everyone else? Once again, it depends on what you’re shooting for. The average pay for engineers out of college is around $63,000 a year, and the rate of pay might be determined on where you got your education from. The overall average is around $45,000, which still isn’t bad, but it’s financially better if you went to a less expensive college. Even for what’s considered “desk jobs”, many of them require either a bachelor’s degree or many years of experience in a particular field, sometimes for pay less than $40,000 a year… and still wants certification along with it.

Even in today’s world, there are a lot of spouses who go to college and, instead of opting for a career, decide to be stay at home parents or taking a shot at self employment, folks who still have to pay off college loans. It might not have been financially smart to spend all that money for a degree that, no matter what it is, becomes meaningless, but to be fair those folks didn’t go to college knowing they weren’t going to aim for employment at some point.

That’s the problem with trying to answer this type of question. There are people who don’t go to college, end up working at a place where they show proficiency, but because of a lack of a degree, or the right degree, will never be considered for advancement. There are also people who got a college degree in one field but end up working in a different field, and sometimes just having a degree allows them to be eligible for promotion, even if it’s in a totally different area.

We also can’t deny the fact that there are some high school graduates who find vocational schools to go to that can not only make pretty good money but, with proper business processes, could end up becoming millionaires. In the book The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley, he highlights two professions where college degrees haven’t been needed for many of the people involved have become millionaires, those being plumbers and, oddly enough, auctioneers.

We also can’t deny the fact that there are so many more people who don’t go to college, that barely got out of high school and would have never considered it, that earn less than $10 an hour (although some states are passing laws trying to raise minimum wage), as well as those who are lucky enough to work in a town where manufacturing jobs are still plentiful and, because of unions, pays a pretty nice wage without the education. The work might not be stimulating but not everyone looks for that in a job.

Families need to start thinking about college prospects when students are in their sophomore year of high school. Those thoughts should include the area of study, parent’s finances (which many parents are reluctant to discuss but it needs to be a crucial part of the discussion), and the distance and costs of the universities being considered. Not all software programmers need to go to a top college to be proficient in what they do (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates), and not all millionaire businessmen have gone to college (Richard Branson), so it’s possible that one can do well without college. A lot of technical knowledge can be learned online these days, along with taking online courses.

If you’re on a specific type of career track, getting a degree should probably be in your future. But, for the most part, the most expensive universities won’t give you more juice towards a great career than a state university or community college. Your debt will be lower and your experience will be just as good.

It’s something to consider; you can always change your mind along the way.
 

© December
TL Wall Accounting

Taxes And Unpaid Surveys

Let’s get this first part out of the way; any income you generate from any type of company, or any other entity that sends you IRS information just after the beginning of the year, you have to claim it as income on your taxes.

This is one of the most searched items on the internet, and it’s because of the promise most people read that tells them how much money they could possibly earn if they started doing all types of surveys. There’s a very… VERY… small number of people who make out big taking paid surveys on all kinds of things, and the reality is that very few people end up having to file any taxes at all. Does that sound like a viable income source?
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Legal Fees Could Kill Your Business

In the summer of 2009, the Valley Swim Club of Philadelphia created a major controversy when it suddenly kicked out a group of black children from its facility, returning money that had been paid to them, and sent them packing. The dispute was blamed on a miscommunication on who was coming and when they’d be coming.

Of course, no one bought that excuse, and the swim club faced all sorts of bad publicity and protests. Finally it had to face a major lawsuit brought by the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission, stating that “it had found probable cause to conclude that the campers were asked not to return because of the ‘racial animus’ expressed by one member and ‘racially coded comments’ by other members.”

The Valley Swim Club ended up deciding to file for bankruptcy, with the intention of closing the club and selling off all its properties to pay its bills, including any settlements or court decisions as a result of these lawsuits. An email sent out by the club president, John Duesler, stated that though the lawsuits hurt, the club had been barely staying out of the red for the past decade and already owed more than $100,000 in other expenses. That was back in 2012; can you imagine how much that would cost these days?

Lawsuits cost a lot of money, no matter which side you’re on. Filing a lawsuit costs money; how much depends on the type of lawsuit being filed and where it’s being filed, as every state has different filing rates. Defending yourself against a lawsuit might cost you more money, whether you win or lose; lawyer, legal fees, fines against you or your business, loss of work time… and more things to worry about.

If you have to hire a lawyer, that’s definitely going to be expensive, as most lawyers start at least around $600 an hour, except for maybe the initial conversation. If you’re a small business, you not only have to deal with finding a way to pay for a lawyer and everything involved with that, but you’re going to miss time from work, which means you’re not making any new money to replace the money you’re spending unless you have a few employees to help you out.

There’s also the bad publicity you might have to deal with if the lawsuit hits the local news, and you’re hoping to stay in business once things have been settled. Even if you win, your reputation could take a major hit depending on what the problem was.

Something that major companies are starting to realize more often is just how bad it looks when they have multiple lawyers sitting at the table when someone who’s suing them only has one lawyer, who has yet to be paid because his pay is dependent upon the outcome of the lawsuit. Juries are like everyone else; they hate the impression of someone being bullied.

It’s for reasons like this that we advocate that all businesses think more about financial planning for the future, both for personal and business reasons. In this case, thinking about legal representation for things you might have to deal with is definitely a large financial consideration. You may not always be able to talk your way out of a situation, and for some businesses, liability insurance isn’t easy to find.

Legal fees takes away money from everything and everybody; at the very least one would hope your company is incorporated or protected in some way, which removes personal liability from any decision. This is something someone like us can talk to you about when we work with you through our accounting services; we’ve made recommendations to many of our clients throughout the years.

If you’re looking to keep your business out of expensive lawsuits, cleaning up your business practices and training your personnel on good customer service practices might be a good place to start. If you don’t take care of that, you might be the next business that’s closing its doors and filing bankruptcy. We don’t wish that on anyone.

Just something to think about, business or otherwise.

Should You Go Into Business For Yourself And Hire Employees?

I’ve been self employed for decades by now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ve covered the topic of self employment a few times on this blog, but it’s mainly talked about working alone, not working with others. We’re going to explore some of that in this article.

Being self employed offers many benefits. You can make a lot more money than you can working for someone else, unless you end up being CEO of a major corporation. You can have lots more time off… if you prepare properly.
Continue reading Should You Go Into Business For Yourself And Hire Employees?