Smiley Law Firm - January 2020

January 2020

365 Canal Street, Suite 1680, New Orleans, LA 70130 • 504-894-9653 •

My Goal For 2020 What Matters Most for Me This Year

In these and other strategy sessions throughout the

you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself slipping into old patterns.

At the start of a new year and a new decade, it’s natural to find yourself setting out plans for the future. You may even do this formally with New Year’s resolutions, and that can be a good place to start — though I’ve found that those can have trouble standing on their own in the long run. The motivation to make a change as the calendar renews can lose its luster by the time we move into spring. I’m not alone in thinking this. The tendency for NewYear’s resolutions to fail or be abandoned by February is almost a running joke at this point. Personally, I believe there’s something to be said about setting a plan for what you want to achieve in the next 12 months, but I also feel you have to tie more motivation and support to the changes you’re trying to make than just some arbitrary date. Of course, there are those who have devoted their whole lives to the study of more effective goal setting. People like James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits,”and Dr. Mark Goulston of“Get Out of Your OwnWay”have built careers around answering the question“How do we make lasting positive changes in our life?”These two are far from the only scholars on the subject, and honestly, there likely isn’t a single right answer to the questions they tackle. It’s a matter of finding the technique or way of thinking that works best for you and sticking with it. For me at least, writing goals down has always been crucial. In both business and my personal life, having a physical note to hold me accountable to what I want to get done has always proved motivating. After all, any goal is going to have to involve the disruption of your regular routine in some way, shape, or form. If

year, I want to find ways I can tie our

Having a clear vision of what you want makes an amazing difference. In past editions of this newsletter, I’ve mentioned how setting very specific fitness goals has kept me honest in the past. Vague resolutions like“work out more” leave your mind with too much wiggle room on those days when you reall y don’t want to go for that run or do those pushups. But those are the days when accountability matters most. Of course, these are just techniques that work for me. What about when you are trying to make a change as a company? As a business owner, I’ve found that there’s surprisingly little difference between striving for goals for myself and doing the same for my firm. It just means making sure everyone is on the same page. Thus, this time every year, we hold a“state of the company”meeting. Sure, it sounds more formal than what you might do for a personal resolution, but the underlying fundamentals are the same. This all-hands-on-deck meeting is our chance to write down what we want to hold ourselves accountable to in the coming year and to unite behind a vision of what success looks like. I’ve found that even in this group setting, it’s best not to lose sight of the individuals that make up our team either. This yearly meeting is about more than cold, hard numbers and marketing budgets. It’s where we revisit our core values, share our goals and ambitions as teammembers, and discuss ways we can help one another succeed. After all, as a small-business owner, I’ve learned that a happy teammeans better service to our clients.

firm’s goals to the needs and aspirations of its members.

We’re blessed with many amazing, talented people at the Smiley Law Firm. From Sara Huffman’s adventures in the outdoors to Meriem’s near encyclopedic knowledge of New Orleans’hidden restaurants, I’m always blown away by the incredible minds of the people I work with. Some of them are even share my primary job outside the office: being a parent! In fact, our very own Sarah Persich is having a baby this month. Congratulations! But whether it’s going on a hunting trip, searching for great local dining, or raising a family, I want to see those at this firm succeed and find happiness. One of our core values is “continuous self-improvement,”and you can bet that notion goes into every goal we set out at the top of the year. So, if I were to put all my plans for 2020 into one sentence, it would simply be to help those around me grow toward a brighter future. As a personal injury lawyer, boss, and father, I can’t think of a better measurement of my own success.

Here’s to a happy, healthy new year.

504-894-9653 • 1 -Seth Smiley

A Boutique New Orleans Law Firm Resolving Your Legal Matters

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.


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.


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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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!


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.


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)


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

504-894-9653 • 3

A Boutique New Orleans Law Firm Resolving Your Legal Matters


365 Canal Street, Suite 1680 New Orleans, LA 70130 Phone: 504-894-9653 Fax: 866-761-8934 OPEN: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.



Seth on the Art of Goal Setting

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


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



The Sweetest Crime in History


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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