December 23, 2014 § Leave a comment
As we approach the end of another calendar year (where did 2014 go?), our thoughts turn to the holiday season, and the beginning of a new year. A new year – a chance to start fresh with renewed resolve to do better than last year. Whatever “better” means. It could mean working harder, or working less. Spending more time with family. Being more organized. Saving more money. For each of us, doing “better” has a different meaning. Here’s hoping we all will identify an area of our lives that we can focus on, and improve. Remember, improvement is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be setbacks along the way, but the final result is usually more important than each individual step.
The end of the year also means the start of another tax planning and filing season. No doubt there is much not to like about our income tax system. However, for me, there are things I look forward to. The filing season is a chance to meet and talk with many clients I do not see on a regular basis. I enjoy the opportunity to catch-up and find out what life changes they have experienced since we last spoke. Sometimes those are good and sometimes more challenging.
I continue to be amazed at how complex our lives can be. Our world, including our tax system, requires us to know many things and provide much information. We, at MHC&S, know this can seem overwhelming at times. We want to be available to not only prepare your returns, but to reduce your stress and help with questions. Don’t hesitate to call on us. We want to help.
We wish you a peaceful and joyous end to 2014 and a productive start to 2015!
December 17, 2014 § Leave a comment
I recently had the opportunity to participate in the West Des Moines Leadership Academy’s poverty simulation. Participants are asked to assume the life of someone living in poverty and are assigned a role in a family unit, each with a unique set of challenges. Additional participates assume the roles of community members including employers, lenders, social workers, landlords, and pawn brokers to name a few. The simulation compresses one month of living in poverty into a two hour window, requiring the “poor” to go to work, care for their children, and budget money for bills, food, transportation and other monthly expenses.
At the end of the simulation, the group had an opportunity to share what they had learned. Unbeknownst to many, the simulation included several homeless individuals who are currently living in shelters in the community. Their stories were truly heartbreaking.
The simulation was eye-opening to the challenges that people living in poverty face on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Reliable transportation, understanding employers and a refrigerator full of food are things that we take for granted, yet are just part of the struggles that individuals living in poverty deal with every day. It is often easy to make assumptions that the poor are poor because of bad decisions, bad habits or some other fault of their own, yet statistics show that more than 15% of Iowa’s children live below the poverty level.
The Holiday Season is a great time to take a step back, realize how lucky most of us are and decide to make a difference. It also provides for many opportunities to give back to those in need within our community. Here are just a few things that come to mind:
- Volunteer to ring a Salvation Army bell and make an effort to put a dollar in each time you pass a red kettle.
- Take your children shopping and pick up a gift for Toys for Tots or other gift giving programs.
- Visit a homeless shelter and bring gloves, hats or other necessities.
- Contact your child’s school to see if there are families that have needs.
- Add “donation to a local charity” to your Christmas wish list.
- Contribute to or start a charitable endeavor at your place of work.
When 2014 comes to an end I hope to be able to look back and cross a few items off of this list.
Each year, MHC&S adopts a local charity to support during the Holidays. For 2014, we will be collecting household goods, clothing, toys and other items for families living in the Oakridge Neighborhood – www.oakridgeneighborhood.org – a very worthy organization that truly is making a difference in our community. Please contact a MHC&S team member if you would like to participate.
Best wishes to all this Holiday Season!