Sharp Firm - January 2020

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JANUARY 2020

Playing It SMART for 2020 How Goal Setting Drives Our Firm

New Year’s resolutions are a tricky business. It’s no secret that a vast majority of people fail to keep their annual goals, and to be honest, I’ve let my own resolutions fizzle out a time or two. That said, I’ve also seen a fair share of them through to the end, and in my decades of experience, following through comes down to playing it SMART. When I say SMART, I’m referencing a particular type of goal setting laid out by George Dornan, a businessman from Spokane, Washington, in the early 1980s. SMART is an acronym, and though its definition has shifted a bit over time, today it’s accepted to stand for: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. For a goal to be SMART, it has to meet all five of those specifications, and for me, setting SMART goals has been a game changer. Now, I make sure both my personal and business goals fit the SMART mold, checking off each box. In the past, SMART goals have helped me grow The Sharp Firm year to year, and they’ve even helped me lose weight. This year, I’m turning to the SMART model once again for my resolutions. Laura and I have been discussing our 2020 goals for The Sharp Firm since December, and we’ve settled on three areas to work on for the new year: expanding to help more people, streamlining our processes to make cases more efficient for our clients, and growing our practice areas to fit a need we see in the Austin market. (Keep an eye out for more on that in our upcoming newsletters.) Our mission for this month is to create a detailed, SMART framework of checkpoints throughout the year that will ensure we see those goals through. From there, we plan to follow our previous pattern

“In the past, SMART goals have helped me grow The Sharp Firm year to year, and they’ve even helped me lose weight.”

If you’re still working on your own New Year’s resolutions for 2020, take this one piece of advice: Make them SMART resolutions. You won’t regret it. And if one of your resolutions is to seek justice for a recent accident or injury that befell you or a loved one, remember that The Sharp Firm can help. Call us today at 737- 800-9668 or visit SharpFirm.com to schedule your free case evaluation.

of breaking our annual goals out into quarterly goals, then checking in on them regularly.

So far this year, I’ve been so focused on the firm that I haven’t nailed down my personal goals for 2020. When I do, though, I know I’ll have plenty to work on. I make it a point to set a high bar for myself and do what I can to improve every single year. NHL hockey player Tony DeAngelo famously said that in order to succeed, you need to “become addicted to constant and never-ending self-improvement,” and I truly believe that’s the case. I’m never going to stop setting goals to make myself a better husband, father, lawyer, and man.

-Lance Sharp

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Social Security in 2020 KNOWWHAT’S CHANGING

Maximum Benefits

If you’re in the appropriate age bracket, Social Security may play a major role in your finances. So, it’s important to know how Social Security will be changing in 2020.

Those near the top of the Social Security income scale in 2019 will see an increase in their maximum payout in 2020. The maximum payout for an individual will be capped at $2,861 per month. That translates to $34,332 per year, so consider how that may impact your finances.

Trust Fund

Unless Congress takes some drastic actions in the coming months, the current excess trust fund revenue will be depleted by the year 2034. If that happens, Social Security will only be able to pay 79% of the promised benefits from ongoing payroll taxes. You may need to think about what your financial plan would be like with 21% less income.

Taxes

Howmuch your benefits are taxed depends on your household income levels. For example, 50% of your benefits will be taxed if youmake between $25,000–$34,000 individually or $32,000–$44,000 for married couples. If you’re above that income bracket, then 85% of your benefits will be taxable.

Retirement Age

If you haven’t reached retirement yet, this one is important to consider. If you were born after 1959, the full retirement age is now 67 for you. You’ll still be able to start taking some benefits at age 62, but they’ll be at reduced monthly payments.

Cost of Living

Low inflation means that Social Security benefits will only see a minor cost of living increase. This year, it’s expected to be around 1.6%. It’s not major, but if you’re living off Social Security alone, every penny is important.

Ctrl, Alt, Delete Your Clutter TIPS FOR NATIONAL CLEAN UPYOUR COMPUTER MONTH

Back Up Your Computer

Everyone relies on technology. Computers, laptops, tablets, and phones are staples of modern life. However, it’s easy for these devices to become cluttered with old photos, files, and general disorganization. Luckily, January is National Clean Up Your Computer Month and an excellent time to get your technology in order.

Be sure to back up your computer before you start deleting things. This acts as a safety net in case you delete something you didn’t mean to. Additionally, consider installing a second hard drive. The extra space can help with storing important files without having to worry about how much room is left.

Start by Dusting

Clean Up Space

Over time, computer towers can become clogged with dust, which creates additional, unwanted heat within your computer. Regular cleanings will increase the lifespan of your computer and protect its essential components. Compressed air is great for removing most of the dust and other particulates. If the fans or filters are too dirty, you can remove them from the tower to clean them better. If you use water or liquid cleaning products on them, be sure they are completely dry before placing them back into your computer.

Any files you’ll never use again should be deleted. Likewise, any programs you haven’t used in a while should be uninstalled. Check your hard drive for files that might be taking up unintended space on your computer. And remember to empty the recycling bin — it’s easy to forget just how much goes in there.

Organize Your Files

Naming and arranging the files on your computer in such a way that they’re easy for you to find can end up saving you a lot of time. Declutter your workspace by creating one file for pictures, one for Word documents, one for spreadsheets, and one for programs to eliminate the hassle of frantically searching for the files you need.

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TAKE A BREAK

MEET THE WORLD’S FIRST AIRPORT THERAPY PIG How Lilou and Animals Like Her Calm Stressed-Out Travelers

Imagine you’re navigating a vast airport on a busy Saturday, shouldering your way through crowds and struggling to hear the PA system over the clatter of 1,000 wheeled suitcases. Suddenly, you see a pig wearing a hot pink sweater waddling toward you on a leash. Do you stop in your tracks? Does your stress level drop? Do you laugh out loud when you see its pink nail polish? If you answered “yes” to any of the above, then you can sympathize with the passengers, pilots, flight attendants, and staff at the San Francisco International Airport. They get to enjoy visits from Lilou, the world’s first airport therapy pig, on a regular basis! As part of the Wag Brigade, the airport’s cadre of (mostly canine) therapy animals, Lilou wanders the airport with her humans, bringing joy, peace, and calm to everyone she meets. Lilou may be the only pig of her kind, but airport therapy animals have been a growing trend for the last few years. According to NPR, as of 2017, more than 30 airports across the U.S. employed therapy dogs, and these days, estimates land closer to 60. The San Jose and Denver airports have therapy cats, and the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport even offers passengers the chance to play with miniature horses before boarding their flights. Therapy dogs started appearing in U.S. airports after the 9/11 terror attacks, which changed American attitudes about flying. They did so well at helping passengers calm down that airports began implementing permanent programs. Some have pets on hand 24/7 to assist passengers, while others host animal visits every few weeks or months. These days, regular travelers have fallen hard for their local therapy animals, many of whom even have their own Instagram accounts and hashtags. So, the next time you’re traveling, keep an eye out for a friendly pup, cat, pig, or horse to pet. A bit of love from an animal just might improve your trip!

HOPPIN’ JOHN

A traditional New Year’s favorite in the South, Hoppin’ John includes black-eyed peas that are said to represent coins, a sign of prosperity for the coming year. It’s usually served alongside collard greens, which represent cash.

Ingredients

1 smoked ham hock

1 cup dried black-eyed peas

1 medium onion, diced

5–6 cups water

1 cup long-grain white rice

1 dried hot pepper, optional (arbol and Calabrian are great options)

Directions

1. Wash and sort peas. 2. In a saucepan, cover peas with water, discarding any that float. 3. Add pepper, ham hock, and onion. Gently boil and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until peas are just tender, about 90 minutes. At this point, you should have about 2 cups of liquid remaining. 4. Add rice, cover, drop heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes, undisturbed. 5. Remove from heat and let steam for an additional 10 minutes, still covered. 6. Remove lid, fluff with a fork, and serve. Inspired by Epicurious

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737-800-9668 www.SharpFirm.com 3307 Northland Drive #302 Austin, TX 78703

INSIDE THIS ISSUE

The Sharp Firm’s SMART Resolutions (and a Tip for Setting Yours)

1

Changes to Social Security in 2020 Enter 2020 With an Organized Computer

2

Hoppin’ John Meet the World’s First Airport Therapy Pig

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The Sweetest Crime in History

HISTORY’S SWEETEST THEFT THE GREAT CANADIAN MAPLE SYRUP HEIST

Unfortunately, the thieves got sloppy and stopped refilling the barrels with water. When an FPAQ inspector visited the targeted facility in the fall of 2012, he accidentally knocked over one of the empty barrels. The inspector

At the FPAQ facility, syrup was stored in unmarked metal barrels and only inspected once a year. The heist, led by a man named Richard Vallières, involved transporting the barrels to a remote sugar shack in the Canadian wilderness, where they siphoned off the maple syrup, refilled the barrels with water, and returned the barrels to the facility. The stolen syrup was then trucked east to New Brunswick and south across the border into Vermont. Wisely, the thieves sold their ill-gotten goods in small batches, avoiding suspicion from legitimate syrup distributors. In what is now known as the Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist, thieves made off with 10,000 barrels of maple syrup valued at $18.7 million. This remains one of the most costly heists in Canadian history. Vallières himself became a millionaire and took his family on three tropical vacations in one year.

Maple syrup holds a proud place in the history and culture of Quebec, Canada. It’s also a big part of Quebec’s economy, with 72% of the world’s maple syrup produced in Quebec alone. Due to tactics employed by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers (FPAQ), the NPR-backed podcast“The Indicator”estimates that maple syrup is valued at approximately $1,300 per barrel —over 20 times more than crude oil. The FPAQ controls the available syrup supply, never releasing enough maple syrup to meet demand, which increases the price. As a result, most of the world’s maple syrup is stored in various reserves. Between 2011 and 2012, a group of thieves decided to liberate the syrup from an FPAQ facility in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, Quebec. Stealing syrup from Canada doesn’t sound as glamorous as stealing cash from a Vegas casino, but their plan could rival the plot of “Ocean’s Eleven.”

alerted the police, who would go on to arrest 17 men in connection to the theft, including Vallières himself.

Police were then able to recover hundreds

of barrels of the stolen syrup, but most of it was never recovered — likely lost

to pancake breakfasts far away.

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