The “could have, should have, and would have been” stories are especially painful when they are easily preventable. Then, beat yourself up and start. As a tax and financial planner, I can’t help but want anyone to make smart financial decisions that lead to the future they want. However, regret is all too common, especially when it comes to health and wealth.
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1. Improve your financial situation
When it comes to health problems, we intuitively understand how to avoid and remedy the problem—such as self-care and timely checkups. To help us, our brains coordinate closely with our biological health, sending us biological alerts like thirst or pain. We may not always be disciplined or proactive about our health, but we generally know how to take care of ourselves. So medical regret is often expressed as: I wish I had acted sooner. By contrast, it’s not always clear what will get us into trouble with money. The complexity of financial life continues to grow and the rules are constantly changing.
Just investing in numerous retirement accounts can seem as complicated as going to the moon. Then, letting that money last a lifetime could be as dangerous as landing it safely on Earth. First, our complex and often absurd tax code is full of careless pitfalls. “It’s not fair” or “it doesn’t make sense” are words that tax preparers hear a lot. Sadly, there are often good options for the mistakes people make – as long as they are aware of them. So financial regret is often expressed as: I wish I had known earlier.
Meet our CPA and tax expert: Jean-Luc Bourdon
2. Make informed decisions
In order to make an informed decision, we need to understand the pros and cons of the possibilities available to us. For financial and tax issues, this is rarely obvious and often counterintuitive. Smart decisions reveal forks in the road. They replace guesswork with intentionality, confidence, and peace of mind. That’s why we can’t ignore tax and financial planning. It’s not about money, it’s about avoiding setbacks and safely pursuing the future we want.
One of the most tragic client meetings I’ve ever seen is with a client who’s been ignoring money issues all his life. She was always doing well and felt that her lack of financial gain was virtuous. But as her health declined and retirement approached, she began to understand her financial planning options. In most cases, this is too late. When she suddenly realized that careful financial decisions in her life could greatly improve her current choices, the weight of that realization sent her into a low chair. It’s heartbreaking to see such a heavy regret.
3. Apply reliable information to your situation
Today, for better or worse, there are more financial resources than ever before. In order to make an informed decision, the problem is no longer getting information, but finding reliable information.
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The next challenge is to apply reliable information to our personal circumstances. There always seem to be exceptions that make the rule of thumb unreliable. However, for those committed to financial self-care, there are resources to make it possible.
For professional care, the financial planning major offers more trained planners than ever before. Financial planners with a college degree in financial planning or a related field, which were once rare, are now common. There are more and more charging arrangements, such as hourly charging.
4. Don’t forget: tax and financial planning go hand in hand
Taxes are always the most common element of financial planning. It’s like a parasite that devours every aspect of financial life. As a result, many CPAs naturally develop financial planning expertise, sometimes with the addition of the Personal Finance Specialist (PFS) credential unique to professional CPAs. Likewise, many financial planners add tax planning expertise, often with an Registered Agent (EA) certification.
5. Start tax and financial planning today
You can now do 4 things:
Commit to regular financial care to regularly understand, review and improve your financial situation. Start with a financial review to identify the areas of your personal finances that you would most like to improve. For example, consider taxation, estate planning, risk management, budgeting, debt management, and long-term goal planning. Identify key financial resources you can rely on. You may want to build a professional consulting team, collect a financial library, or both. Ask yourself: What does better financial well-being mean to you? what do you need? What obstacles are there? How did you get there? What steps can you take now?
Regardless of the choice, you are choosing to make smarter tax and financial planning decisions, and remembering them will help you avoid regrets. Most importantly, they allow you to consciously choose an ideal future. The wind of financial empowerment continues to blow. Don’t neglect to spread your sails.
Jean-Luc’s articles are not intended as tax, legal or financial advice to any particular individual. They are just information. The ideas mentioned may not work for you.
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Editor’s Note: Reviewed for tax accuracy by TurboTax CPA experts. TurboTax is TheStreet’s exclusive partner for tax content.