THE TALE OF THE FORBIDDEN LAWN
My Childhood Adventures on Grandma’s Pristine Grass
In honor of National Grandparents Day on Sept. 13, I relived some memories about my favorite grandparents, Ann and Sylvester, and all of the antics they put up with when I was a kid. As I’m sure you’ve picked up from the last few newsletters, I was a bit of a prankster, and I loved to push my grandma’s buttons when I was little. In particular, my buddies and I liked sneaking onto her pristine lawn. My grandparents lived just up the street from my parents, and they had a big, rectangular backyard with the greenest, most uniform grass I’d ever seen. My grandmother was meticulous about that lawn. It looked better than a golf course, and she hated anybody tromping through the grass. But boys being boys, my friends and I were always tempted to sneak onto it. We just knew that the backyard would be perfect for kickball, whiffle ball, and football. More often than not, we succumbed to the siren call of the grass and snuck in for a game while my grandma was at work. My grandpa Sylvester was usually home at the time because he worked late nights as a bartender. Luckily, he was the more easygoing grandparent and never cared about us running around on the lawn. In fact, he was happy to sit out in the yard and smoke a few cigarettes while he watched us play. When my grandma got home, she was always more furious with my grandad than she was with us. She’d shout, “Sylvester! What are you doing having these kids play out here? They’re going to ruin the grass!” My grandparents were like oil and water, but they loved each other nonetheless. Apart from my adventures on the lawn and Thanksgiving dinners at grandma’s house, one of my best memories of my grandparents is the time a buddy and I filched a book of my grandpa’s matches. As I mentioned, Sylvester was a smoker, and he had a big stash of matchbooks in his desk drawer. One day, my friend and I snuck in and snatched some. Then we walked into the woods behind my grandparents’ house and then down a few houses, got a big pile of brown leaves together, and lit them on fire! This was definitely the start of the pyromania I mentioned in the July newsletter. As you can imagine, someone spotted the smoke pretty quickly. A neighbor came charging out of his house, snatched up a hose, and put the fire out. His first words to me were, “I’m going to tell your grandfather!” When he did, I was terrified that Grandpa Sylvester would spill the beans to my mom and dad, but he just told me, “That was a pretty stupid thing to do, but I think you’ve learned
your lesson.” He really was a cool guy, and I'm thankful he had my back — I like to think I was his favorite grandkid.
Sadly, both of my grandparents passed when I was in middle school, but that just made the memories I have of them more special. I also feel lucky that I got to see my sons build a similar relationship with my mom. She would always come over to bake cookies, make us dinner, or take them to the zoo or the park. She was a great grandma to them. Looking back, I might actually have to thank my grandma Ann for the way my career turned out. My childhood fascination with her lawn was probably the subconscious launchpad for my first career in turfgrass management, which eventually led me to accounting. It’s amazing how life can come full circle, and how big of an influence a grandparent can have! Paul Francetic
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2 SURPRISING WAYS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE PROTECTS YOUR MONEY AND FUTURE
Most people who hear about artificial intelligence (AI) conjure up an image of a robot acting and thinking on its own. However, it’s far more than that. AI systems are used by businesses to identify human behavior patterns and tailor marketing messages. They’re also used by health care professionals to provide diagnoses and monitor trends. And now, AI is being used for financial security. RISK MANAGEMENT Many are concerned about the risk of someone hacking into their bank accounts and cleaning them out. While that can happen at any moment, individuals often have a number of safeguards in place to protect their finances and mitigate this risk. The same is true for businesses, such as banks, credit card
companies, or online retailers, though the risks are often far higher for these companies than they are for individuals. How does AI help? It works with data faster and more accurately than a human ever could. By using AI to monitor financial transactions, a company can keep track of the real-time activity of its customers and verify its authenticity. For example, someone who makes a large withdrawal from their bank account might get an AI-generated call, text, or email seconds afterward to verify the transaction. FRAUD DETECTION AI can also predict and flag unusual activity associated with fraud. By combining two of its processes — data
management and pattern identification — AI can pinpoint oddities within a person's finances. For example, if a card is used for a purchase in America then used a few hours later for a purchase in another country across the world, AI can detect this suspicious activity almost immediately and send an alert to the cardholder. Additionally, AI is created to learn , which means that over time, it will become more attuned to what is or is not fraudulent activity. Artificial Intelligence is a powerful and beneficial tool for business owners and individuals alike. Read more about what AI is doing in the financial world at MarutiTech.com/ways-ai- transforming-finance .
HAVE YOU FALLEN FOR THESE TAX MYTHS?
3 Refund Rumors the IRS Has Debunked
By now, you should have received your tax refund if you filed your tax return by July 15. However, if you filed for an extension you might still be on tenterhooks. Since we’ve all been thinking about the topic, I figured this would be the perfect time to bust some tax refund myths. There are all kinds of rumors out there about tax refunds: how to get them more quickly, how to find out when yours is coming, and what a small refund means, to name a few. The IRS has debunked a bunch of those myths over the years, but here are three I still hear about all the time. If you’ve been putting stock in these myths, it’s time to give them up! MYTH NO. 1: IF YOUR REFUND IS SMALLER THAN EXPECTED, SOMETHING MUST BE WRONG. Sometimes a reduced refund amount could mean an error on the part of the IRS, but that’s pretty rare. More often than not, a small refund means you’ve made a math error and you owe additional taxes, the state has a hold on any refunds for a prior year outstanding tax liability, you owe back child
support, you are delinquent on making student loan payments, or a portion of your refund is being withheld while the IRS reviews an item on your return. If none of these seem to be the case and you think the IRS messed up, give me a call. I can review your situation and help you figure it out. MYTH NO. 2: CALLING THE IRS WILL HELP YOU GET A BETTER REFUND DATE. A lot of people think that if they bug the IRS personally — or have an accountant or tax resolutions specialist like me do it for them — then the IRS will send out their refund faster. That’s just not the case. No one has the power to move a refund date up except the IRS, and they work at their own speed. I can help make sure you get your refund, but I can’t speed it up. MYTH NO. 3 IF YOU GOT A REFUND THIS YEAR, YOU DON’T NEED TO ADJUST WITHHOLDING FOR 2020. Every tax year is different, so to make sure you aren’t surprised on your 2020 return, be sure to check your withholding and adjust it if you need
to. For example, if you have gotten married or divorced, welcomed a new child, or lost a child as a dependent because they finished college and found a job (and are hopefully living out on their own), these scenarios may increase or reduce your expected refund. To figure out how much you should withhold, visit IRS.gov/Individuals/Tax- Withholding-Estimator.
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A TAX PREPARER WHO KNOWS THEIR STUFF CAN SAVE YOU THOUSANDS: PART 1 FTR TAX TIP OF THE MONTH
I want to start by shouting out my client Roger Perez, an independent insurance agent in Kenosha. He does a phenomenal job helping his clients find the right insurance policies, and he also makes sure their tax return preparers take care of them properly. Roger recently referred a Spanish-speaking client to me because he felt their current preparer did a terrible job on their 2018 return, and he hoped I could prove it. Roger’s client lives in Kenosha but hired a firm in Chicago because it catered to Spanish speakers. The client thought that firm would look out for his best interests — but he was wrong! When I reviewed a copy of his return, which included a Schedule C for his siding installation business, I discovered the preparer had done an awful job of reporting his business expenses. The client is an independent contractor, and most of his work is in the Milwaukee area. He drives back and forth from Kenosha to Milwaukee every day, and he didn’t have a mileage log, so the preparer decided to estimate his business driving miles for the year. She reported 33,000 business miles and 32,000 commuting miles on his Schedule C. Talk about putting a bullseye on a taxpayer’s back for an audit! With round, obviously estimated numbers like that, the client might as well call the IRS and beg them to audit the tax return! On top of that, the preparer shouldn’t have listed commuting miles at all because the client has a home office and could have taken a deduction for that. Additionally, the preparer claimed $30,000 for the cost of goods sold (which was way too low), $5,000 for tools, $2,000 for phone, and $1,000 for uniforms — more round numbers. To add insult to injury, she also didn’t enter the amount of rent the client paid in order to compute the Wisconsin renter’s credit, which lost a $300 tax credit. Take it from a guy with clients in 14 states: If a tax preparer is doing out-of state tax returns, they need to educate themselves about all the tax laws for that state. I believe this client paid over $5,000 more in federal and state tax than they should have because of this sloppy return. Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this saga in the October issue!
EASY STUFFED SWEET POTATOES
Who says a loaded potato has to clog your arteries? In this healthy version that
serves four, a sweet potato base is topped with fiber-rich bean salsa.
Inspired by EatingWell.com
4 medium sweet potatoes
• • • •
1 tsp coriander
1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sour cream
• • •
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1. With a fork, prick each sweet potato a few times. Microwave the potatoes on high 12–15 minutes, or until cooked through.
2. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the beans, tomatoes, olive oil, cumin, coriander, and salt. When the potatoes are done, microwave the mixture on high for 2–3 minutes.
3. Cool potatoes slightly, then cut each potato open lengthwise. Pull the halves apart to create space to spoon the warm bean salsa inside.
4. Add a scoop of sour cream to each potato, garnish with cilantro, and serve!
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Listen to Paul Saturday mornings at 7 a.m. on channel 1050 WLIP-AM or stream online at WLIP.com!
The Tale of the Forbidden Lawn What Can AI Do for Your Finances? 3 Refund Rumors the IRS Has Debunked How a Tax Preparer Who Knows Their Stuff Can Save You Thousands Easy Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
3 Fun Family Activities for Fall
GARDENING, GOLD, AND PHOTO SHOOTS
It’s fall, which means social media will soon be saturated with pictures of your friends enjoying “classic” fall activities. Photos of leaf peeping, apple picking, and the occasional scarecrow run rampant. But rather than following the herd, you can make your family the trendsetter of unique fall activities! Here are a few outdoor endeavors your family will love. GET GARDENING. Fall is the time for harvest, but if you want to enjoy flowers in the spring, it’s also a time for planting. The cooler autumn air is easier on plants, but the soil is still warm enough for roots to grow before the ground freezes for winter. Tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths are all spring bulbs that need to be planted in the fall. Do a little research with your family to determine the best time to start planting in your area. PAN FOR GOLD. Here’s one that’s really off the beaten path: Take your family on an adventure panning for gold! Start by planning a road trip out to an old ghost
town. Many of them have great tourist attractions that include gold panning. You probably won't get rich, but it will still be a fun story. If you’re not able to make the trip, you can always create a gold panning operation at home! Visit MessForLess. net/panning-for-gold-activity for a great step-by- step guide on how to go panning for gold in your own backyard. PLAN A FALL PHOTO SHOOT. It’s time to freshen up those family pictures hanging around the house. The changing leaves provide a beautiful background for any family portrait. Better yet, the cooler temperatures mean that an outdoor photo shoot won’t be nearly as uncomfortable as it would be in the summer. You can take your pictures by the trees in the front yard or make a daytrip of it. What about pictures at the corn maze or pumpkin patch? It’s never too soon to start planning this year’s holiday card.
Spend this fall outdoors and create great new memories with your family!
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