Wednesday, April 13, 2005

It's Tax Time: Did you get an education tax credit?

Hopefully, you have prepared or filed your taxes as April 15th is a few days away.

Tax time is typically a retrospective time. You gather all of your receipts, W-2's, 1099's, etc. and head off to your tax professional to find out how much money you'll be receiving from (or paying to) Uncle Sam.

Tax time can also be a forward-thinking time -- to set financial and professional goals for the next year.

Are you aware of the education tax credits that are available?

The Hope Credit applies only for the first two years of post-secondary education, such as college or vocational school (not graduate or professional school), while the Lifetime Learning Credit applies to undergraduate, graduate and professional degree courses, including instruction to acquire or improve job skills.

To qualify for either credit, you must pay post-secondary tuition and fees for yourself. The Hope Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit are education credits you may be able to subtract in full from your federal income tax, not just deduct from your taxable income.

In addition to these federal tax programs, look into whether or not your company sponsors a tuition reimbursement program. This might enable you to continue your education with financial assistance from your employer. Your company may include some guidelines around types of courses they will pay for, however, it can be a great way to further your education and improve your competent advantage.TM

Monday, April 04, 2005

Spring Forward: Let's Look Back at Your Goals

Hopefully, you remembered to turn your clocks FORWARD over the weekend.

Well, along with daylight savings time comes the second quarter -- a good time to revisit your new year's goals and resolutions. Were your goals SMART?
  • Specific -- can you articulate the goal in a clear, concise phrase or sentence?
  • Measurable -- does your goal include metrics (numbers) to measure your success?
  • Achievable -- given your available resources, will it be possible to achieve the goal?
  • Realistic -- given your other responsibilities, is it realistic that you will achieve the goal?
  • Timebound -- have you set a due date or deadline?

Setting SMART goals allows you to be clear about what you're trying to accomplish. It also allows you to "chunk" your long-term goals (e.g., getting a degree, moving into a new industry) into achievable milestones, by documenting the interim steps that you'll need to accomplish along the way.

I find it helpful to write down my goals. I even use Microsoft Tasks to document the short-term tasks I'll need to tackle along the way. That way, I can set reminders to help keep me on track.

Remember, you can adjust your goals based on changes in your situation. But, if you don't write them down you won't know where to begin!