22 posts categorized "Lauren J. Sternberg" Feed

ICYMI: Protect Clients from Petya Cyberattack

RansomwareJust as people are starting to recover from last month’s devastating WannaCry ransomware attack, Petya, another malware worm, is shutting down networks across the globe. No one is immune, international businesses and governments alike have been hit by this new attack. Unlike WannaCry, which spread via the internet, Petya spreads through computer networks and shuts down entire hard drives.

It is imperative that you not only take proper precautions yourself, but also help your clients fortify their defenses against cyberattacks. You can learn more about how to do so with these recent AICPA resources:

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Beyond Bad Jokes: What We Learned from Our Dads

Pop culture would have us believe dads are all lawn obsessed, bad joke telling, tacky sweater wearing, voicemail leaving technological disasters. (Not mine, of course. My dad’s sweaters are perfectly acceptable, but he prefers to rock navy blue crew neck sweatshirts that have been aged to perfection.) But beneath their quirks (and I’ve yet to meet a dad without a quirk or 12) dads are often dishing out great advice or leading by example. In honor of Father’s Day, my colleagues and I share what we’ve learned from our dads:

SamanthaSamantha Delgado, Manager – Communications, PR & Corporate Responsibility:

My dad raised me to be independent and hard-working, always saying that if I want something, to go out and get it myself because “no one else is going to do it for you.” Most importantly, he instilled in me the importance of family, and being there for each other through thick and thin. Happy Father’s Day!  

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Tips for Stress-Free Summer Travel

TravelAt long last, the winter coats have been washed and relegated to the back of the closet (or they’ll sit on the laundry room floor until next October waiting to be washed—don’t worry, I don’t judge) and you’re thinking about your summer travel plans. Perhaps you’d like to spend a glorious week at the beach, or take a road trip to visit historical sites. Maybe a lake house is your thing, or you’re jetting half way around the world to stay in an overwater bungalow in the Maldives* before they sink. It doesn’t matter whether your vacation will be via the family SUV or a private jet, there will be some element of drudgery—finalizing itineraries, packing, renting cars, making reservations. And if you’re traveling with young kids, face it: you’re going on a trip, not a vacation. The good news is that there are ways to minimize your vacation stress from the planning stages through the duration of your trip, no matter your destination or the company you keep.

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Thanks, Mom: What We Learned from Our Mothers

It might take 20 (or 30 or 40) years, but eventually, most people recognize that between telling you to pick up/put away/tuck in/eat/clean/don’t stay out too late, your mom probably imparted you with some pretty good wisdom. In honor of Mother’s Day, we asked people to share what they’ve learned from their mothers.

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Tax Refunds and Financial Responsibility

Tax refundThe very same week our accountant (my father) informed us we would be getting a $1,550 tax refund (thank you, 2016, for the purchase of our first home and birth of our second child), my husband and I discovered a sizeable leak in our garage roof. So now, instead of using that money for a home repair we actually wanted to make, or to boost our savings account, or add to college savings plans, or more likely, to help pay for two kids in diapers and daycare, we’re buying a new flat roof. Lucky us. But this episode got me thinking—what do most people do with tax refunds? And what do CPAs advise they do? Is there a happy medium between fiscal responsibility and fun?

Aim for No Refund at All

First and foremost, the goal, according to most CPAs, is to not get a refund. While many people love getting a large chunk of change every spring, it indicates you’re overpaying and essentially giving the government an interest-free loan. Getting no refund at all means you’re paying the IRS exactly the right amount. Of course situations change from year to year (see my home purchase and birth of kid references above) so you might not always get it right.

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5 Tips to Make Working from Home Successful

Part I

Working from homeBy now you’ve probably seen the viral video that made Marion Kelly, 4, the poster girl for working from home gone (adorably) awry. A boisterous Kelly gleefully bounced into her father’s home office in South Korea while he was being interviewed by BBC on live television. A secondary star of the interview? Her little brother James who rolled into the frame in his walker, quickly followed by their flustered, horrified mother who scooped them up and retreated.

Over the past decade, flexible work arrangements have become increasingly common. Employees are no longer expected in the office Monday through Friday without question. The prevalence of widely accessible Wi-Fi, video conferencing, and web-based work-sharing tools make working remotely relatively painless. But if you ask anyone who has worked from home with some degree of regularity, they will each have their own Marion Kelly story for you—an interrupting child, a home repair disaster, Wi-Fi disruptions. Life happens.

To make working from home as seamless as possible, there are steps you can take to optimize your remote work set up.

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Make a List, Check it Twice: Sensible Holiday Shopping

Holiday shoppingWalk into any drug store, and you’ll be bombarded with holiday music insisting “‘Tis the season to be jolly…” and other calls for assorted cheer. And while the holidays offer plenty of opportunities for moments of merriment, fun and being jolly, they can also be a source of anxiety and financial stress for many Americans.

Consider me among those many Americans this year. I have eight nieces and nephews, a few young cousins, grandparents, godchildren, and my husband and two-year-old son on my list. Oh, and I’m having kid number two on December 27. Where to begin? I find it helpful to follow these 10 steps to stay on track while doing your holiday shopping.

  1. Make a list, check it twice. A big, scary don’t-leave-anyone-or-anything-out list. This includes the office Secret Santa gift, a few bottles of wine for the neighbors, gifts you donate to places of worship or charitable organizations, stocking stuffers, and the various friends and family members you’ll be sending gifts to. Then, take a deep breath.

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Recipe for a Delicious Holiday, AICPA Style

Crumb cakeThanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Years. Late fall and early winter are choc-a-bloc with holidays and, thus, opportunities to entertain and cook for friends and family. Some people like to stick with their tried and true holiday recipes year after year. Others are always looking for something new to serve. And if you've been invited somewhere as a guest, you might be looking for just the right thing to bring to a party or holiday gathering.

AICPA staff and affiliates gathered some favorite recipes from aunts, uncles, or in my case, my second grade class in elementary school. We hope this collection of old favorites is helpful—and tasty. And as one colleague suggested, if toiling in the kitchen isn't your thing, you can always make reservations!

Happy Holidays!

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Thank a Veteran Today, Help Veterans Year Round

American Flag

It is relatively easy to take time out of your day to acknowledge our veterans—in person or on social media—and say thanks to those who bravely and proudly served our nation. There are some CPAs who have found ways to give even more to our veterans. AICPA Insights recently spoke with former AICPA Chairman Ernie Almonte, CPA, CGMA, who has volunteered extensively with Operation Stand Down Rhode Island, a veteran’s organization in his home state of Rhode Island, about his experiences.

AICPA Insights: Why did you get involved in working with veterans?

Ernie Almonte: I have always been interested in history.  The more I learned about history the more I realized the important role veterans play in our freedom. As a participant of the Marine Corps ROTC program in high school, as a son of a U.S. Marine veteran from the Korean War and a member of a family that has lost relatives and friends in various wars fighting for our freedom, I felt an overwhelming need to give back.

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It’s Hurricane Season. Are You Prepared?

HurricaneTropical Storm Hermine may do more than ruin your Labor Day Weekend plans. After battering Florida’s gulf coast as the first hurricane to make landfall in 11 years, the weakened-but-still-potent storm is set to make a run up the East Coast. And in the Pacific, Hawaii is bracing for Hurricane Lester. The aftereffects of both storms may cause heavy rains, high winds and rough surf that will wreak havoc on travel plans and barbeques, could down trees and powerlines, and cause structural damage to buildings. The best thing you can do? Be prepared.

So what do you and your family need?

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Gwen Jorgensen: From Tax Accountant to Olympic Gold Medalist

Gwen jorgensenIt’s not every day a tax accountant from Wisconsin wins a gold medal at the Olympics. But on Saturday, Aug. 20, Gwen Jorgensen, formerly of the EY corporate tax group in Milwaukee, became the first U.S. woman to do just that. Crossing the finish line with a time of 1:56:16, Jorgensen won gold in the triathlon.

Jorgensen, who earned a master’s degree in accounting at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and passed the CPA exam, didn’t even take up triathlon until after college. Jorgensen was a runner and swimmer in college, and was approached by USA Triathlon looking for college athletes they thought would be successful in the sport. At the time they contacted Jorgensen, she was still in school and had an offer from EY. She turned USA Triathlon down, but they convinced her to at least try triathlon as a hobby while she worked for EY. And, thus, a grueling schedule began: waking at 4 a.m. to ride her bike to the pool, swimming, and getting to the office at 8 a.m. After work, Jorgensen trained some more. And found that she loved triathlon.

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Make Every Day Earth Day and Save Two Kinds of Green

Earth DayWhere I live in Queens, New York, recycling is mandatory. My husband and I keep a plastic sorting bin with two compartments—one for glass and plastic, the other for paper and cardboard—right next to our garbage can to make things easy…and messy, since our almost 20-month-old son thinks that the cardboard recycling is there for his entertainment. But a little mess in our living room is a small price to pay to help the planet. While recycling has become common practice in many parts of the United States, there are so many other things you can do that will help both the earth and your bottom line, and, in some cases, offer a tax break.

Water Conservation

  • Shut off the tap when brushing your teeth. Doing this twice a day saves up to 8 gallons of water.
  • Install low-flow shower heads in bathrooms.
  • If remodeling, consider low-flow toilets. These give the user the option of how much water will be used to flush based on the amount of waste.
  • Don’t buy disposable water bottles. Instead fill reusable water bottles.
  • Be sure sprinkler systems won’t go off when it has rained or during the sunniest times of the day and be mindful of drought conditions.
  • When running water to wash dishes, collect the initial cool water to water houseplants.

Potential cost savings: A family of four that upgrades and optimizes their water usage can save nearly $300 a year in utility bills and 32,000 gallons of water.  For more tips on water conservation and to calculate how much you might save, visit the Environmental Protection Agency website.

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Young Love Birds: Take Heed of Old Marrieds on Valentine’s Day

How to Celebrate Love While Staying on Budget

Valentine's day

This year, Americans will spend an estimated $17 billion on Valentine’s Day gifts for significant others, family members, and pets. (Don’t laugh—Americans spent more than $700 million on their pets last Valentine’s Day.) According to the National Retail Federation, the average person spends $142.31 on the day of love. Less likely to spend that much? Those married or coupled for more than five years. Whether they’ve lost that loving feeling or they’ve wised up about inflated prices on Valentine’s Day, young people can learn a thing or two from long marrieds and save a few bucks.

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It’s Just Hitting and Catching (and 1040s and W2s and 1099s and 1095s)

BaseballBaseball offseason: the time roughly between Halloween and Valentine’s Day when Major League Baseball teams take a break from hitting, catching and fielding. While there may be not peanuts, hot dogs, cracker jacks, or $12 beers being peddled at baseball stadiums across North America, it does not mean the teams are idle. In fact, in the days lead up to February 18, 2016 (when pitchers and catchers report!), teams are busy preparing for the coming season, the same way tax professionals are gearing up for the impending busy season.

This work behind the scenes is what ultimately lays the groundwork for a successful tax (or baseball) season. Without adequate preparation, both baseball and accounting organizations would find themselves struggling mightily to keep up with the demands of their professions.

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The Ins and Outs of Holiday Gift Giving at the Office

Gifts at the officeTo give or not to give: that is the annual question. Gift giving at the office can be fraught with confusion—do I give gifts to my colleagues? What about my boss? What’s an acceptable amount of money to spend? Can’t I just buy everyone a bottle of wine?

Here are a few tips to help you navigate this tricky time of year and emerge smiling and ready to wish everyone a Happy (insert holiday here).

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Holiday Shopping: A Cautionary Tale

Holiday present

 Holiday Shopping: A Cautionary Tale

As a teenager, every year I knew where I would be the Saturday before Christmas: getting dragged from store to store by my father, who inevitably waited until then to go shopping for my mother’s gifts. This annual exercise in procrastination and family bonding was a recipe for arguing and, more importantly, left my dad no opportunity to shop around for the best deals.

Here’s how you can avoid these holiday shopping pitfalls and get good deals, stay on budget, and remember to factor in more than just gifts when you calculate your holiday spending goals.

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5 Tips to Make the Best of an Open Office

Open officeA vast, open office space without doors or interior walls. Sleek, floor-to-ceiling glass windows. An office dog, unlimited free snacks, and maybe some music. Sounds fun, right? For years, spurred by the second tech revolution (Facebook, Google and their ilk of Silicon Valley giants), open-office floor plans — and some of the above-mentioned perks — grew in popularity. But if you actually talk to the employees who have to work in these offices, you might find they aren’t the halcyon spaces that were intended.

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Back to School: Budgeting 101

College student moneyFor CPAs, budgeting is as easy as debits on the left, credits on the right. It is simply the way it is. But not everyone is a talented budgeter. A recent AICPA survey revealed that college students aren’t as monetarily savvy as they think they are.

Just how much do college students need to brush up on their budgeting skills? While 57 percent of students surveyed rated themselves as having excellent or good personal financial management skills, nearly half reported having less than $100 in their bank account at some point in the last year, 38 percent said they had borrowed money from friends or family in the last year, and 11 percent had missed a bill payment. It is clear that college students’ perceptions of their financial skills and reality are not aligned.

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Back-to-School: How to Pay for College

529 plansSleepless nights are an unfortunate reality when you become a parent. And nothing can get parents tossing and turning like thinking about how they will pay for their son or daughter’s college. For the very financially minded, this worry may arise as soon as you find out you’re expecting. Others may not start to worry until much later. No matter your child’s age, the staggering cost of college is likely to become a concern at some point. Consider this: a four-year education at a private college is on track to cost $323,900 by 2033. Might as well give up now, right? Wrong. You can build your child’s college fund slowly and steadily as you go from changing diapers to handing over the keys to the family car. The solution? A tax-deferred savings plan.

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Back to School: The Hidden Costs of Applying to College

Money and graduation capThe cost of college—continuously rising, constantly scrutinized and always in the news—is nothing new. For students enrolling in 2015, the average projected total cost of education (tuition and fees) at a private four-year college is $134,600 and a public four-year college is $39,400. The most expensive four-year colleges (think Ivies and other top-tier universities) are already $272,000, or $68,000 a year. These numbers are enough to make even the most financially prepared parents gasp. But, before you get to actually paying for college, a host of expenses must be taken into account.

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5 Financial Tips for Newly-Employed Young People

PitbullSummer. A time for barbeques, trips to the beach, ice cream and, for many teenagers and young adults, their first jobs. What better time, then, to educate the newly employed about sound financial practices, before they’re tempted to spend all of their hard earned income having a good time?

For many Americans, the pursuit of fun is more of a priority than saving money. Just turn on the radio and you’ll hear any number of songs about frivolous consumerism. In the case of one of this summer’s ubiquitous songs, Time of My Life, the rapper Pitbull (né Armando Christian Pérez) celebrates the disastrous practice of spending money he doesn’t have:

“I knew my rent was gon' be late about a week ago
I worked my [butt] off, but I still can't pay it though
But I just got just enough
To get up in this club
Have me a good time, before my time is up
Hey, let's get it now”

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Baby on Board? 7 Tax Tips for Expectant (and Hoping to be Expectant) Clients

Connor 10 monthsIn simpler times, all you needed to welcome a new baby into your family was love and an empty drawer in which he or she could sleep. In 2015, babies are expensive and modern parents need a lot of gear: diapers, cribs, strollers and car seats—not to mention child care. The list can seem endless. And, it all adds up fast. When my husband and I were expecting our son Connor, now 10 months old, our first trip to Buy Buy Baby left us dazed and concerned about how we would afford all of it.

The good news is, there are more ways than ever to offset the considerable costs related to having a child. If your clients are expecting or planning to have a child, the seven tax tips below might help.

Infertility Treatments

For couples facing infertility (roughly 10 percent of the U.S. population), costs can start mounting long before the much-coveted positive pregnancy test. In fact, couples who require medical assistance to conceive often get hit with a one-two punch—the emotional pain of infertility and the fear of not being able to afford treatments.

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