Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Top 5 #WaysToGrow Your Small Business

There are a lot of things that keep small business owners up at night, and one of those fears is growth. Growing a business beyond the capabilities of one individual can seem impossible and more 70% of small businesses consist of only one person: the business owner.

Growth requires new skills, more work, and potentially other employees or partners. At QuickBooks, we recognize how exciting and stressful business growth can be. We spoke to some small business owners to ask for their advice about ways to grow your business.

The community had a ton of really helpful tips around managing your time and money, as well as tips for collaborating and finding a work-life balance.

Change Your Habits for Growth
An important time management takeaway that will have a trickledown effect on all areas of your life comes from Jeanna Gabellini from MasterPeace Coaching, who believes in practicing habits that will increase abundance in your life and business, and dropping habits that do neither. Jeanna says, “Your frame of mind and personality will dictate what is best for you at this moment. I like to incorporate both small and big habits when I want to increase my abundance.”

Record Business Processes Now
Are you just starting to focus on growing your business? If you’re considering bringing on new clients and potentially new employees, make sure you’re recording your business processes now to make it easier to repeat them, or train someone else to do it when you’re able to.

Tammy Durden from Tammy’s Office Solutions recognizes how easy it is to overlook processes necessary to running your business when you’re the only one doing them. Tammy mentions, “As the business grows it will become much more difficult to find the time to go back to recreate it all,” so begin recording your processes today.

Market Your Business Better
Marketing your business well is key to gaining new projects and clients. A professional website and maintaining social media profiles that make sense for your community are two highly recommended options. Liz Froment from Location Rebel claims that a professional website is “the lifeblood of your business.” Patrick McGinnis also understands the importance of a logo and states, “in many lines of business, image is everything.” Patrick recommends easy-to-use sites like 99design to help your business and website look professional.

Social media is not just for the kids either. Livia Stancu from StorageCraft recommends making your posts more interesting for your community and says, “adding images to your posts is one way to drive more traffic and engagement.” Violette de Ayala from FemCity recommends connecting with others in your industry on social media; she prefers Facebook Groups. Violette shares, “with privacy settings, we are able to connect and collaborate daily on sharing information, tips and updates.”

We’ve compiled more great tips for small business owners in our infographic below. What other tips and tools have you used to grow your business recently?



Theresa Todman, Managing Partner/CEO of B&M Financial Management Services, LLC . Theresa works with small business owners and entrepreneurs to assist them with financial management and creating organized systems and procedures. She specializes in bookkeeping, accounting, QuickBooks solutions, small business tax issues and consulting.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Why You Shouldn’t Use Excel for Accounting

Some well-known businesses had a tough year using spreadsheets.

First, the London Olympics accidentally sold 20,000 tickets to a swimming event that could only accommodate 10,000. According to The Telegraph, “a member of staff made a single keystroke mistake and entered ‘20,000’ into a spreadsheet rather than the correct figure of 10,000 remaining tickets.”

That same year, J.P. Morgan Chase lost over $2 billion due to a spreadsheet error, which was compounded because a single miscalculation was fed into other calculations.


For many small businesses, Excel is the default choice for bookkeeping. It’s been around for ages, there are plenty of online tutorials and it’s easy to find sample accounting formulas. Best of all, you probably already have it.

And while Excel is a great place to start, the risk of broken formulas, misplaced data and lost files increases as your business grows. The more time you have to spend in a spreadsheet, the less time you have to focus on your business and the harder it will be to keep your books in order.

There’s a time and place for using spreadsheets, but if you’re still using Excel for your accounting, it’s time consider de-risking your bookkeeping.

Excel is not as “free” as it seems

The cost of a tool like Excel has nothing to do with the sticker price. It’s all about how much time it requires to manage. Those hours are hard to quantify, but crucial to your sanity.

A lot of labor goes into small business accounting. A 2014 survey of small businesses (PDF) found that while some companies are able to keep the amount of time spent on accounting down to a minimum, it’s simply not the case for most companies. In fact, 40% of small businesses spend over 80 hours per year dealing with just their federal taxes.

Account for the time-value of accounting

Image via the NSBA 2014 Small Business Taxation Survey

Let’s say the person spending 10 days per year doing accounting makes an annual salary of $57,000 (approximately the average salary for employees with a college degree in the US).

If they spend 10 days out of their year working on the books, then $2,192 of their salary goes towards accounting. And that doesn’t even account for the missed opportunity costs of not being able to spend that time on sales, marketing and hiring.

With better tools, the amount of hours spent on accounting goes down and the time-value cost decreases accordingly.

Spreadsheets can’t accurately predict cash flow

More than 80% of businesses that don’t survive cite poor cash-flow management as a primary reason (source). It’s not that these businesses aren’t making money, it’s that it gets increasingly harder to forecast and budget as the company grows.

Get the decision-making help you need

When Michael Leung started SleepyPod, a company that manufactures pet carriers, it was easy to forecast how much money the company would have a few months down the line.

But as SleepyPod grew, Michael had more balls up in the air. He was selling to different retailers at different prices, shipping internationally, and managing a growing company.

This made cash-flow more complex, which made it harder to make major decisions about the business. When he started using Quickbooks, Michael could tell at a glance everything that was owed to the company and everything they owed. Nothing slipped through the cracks.

As he says, “It paints a really good picture so we can make our financial decisions, whether it’s time to buy more inventory, move to a larger location, scale back, or whatnot.”

You’ll wind up with dueling spreadsheets

One of the toughest problems with Excel usually isn’t noticeable until it’s too late: inconsistent spreadsheets.

This happens all the time. Because Excel isn’t a central hub for all your accounting, budgeting, and inventory needs, you need to manually add and change data in multiple places.

Businesses of all sizes face this problem. But the bigger a company gets, the more likely they are to encounter it. According to Ventana Research, around 44% of enterprise-sized companies grapple with inconsistent spreadsheets.

The real problem with numbers not adding up is that it’s hard to spot the problem. While it is possible to reconcile two spreadsheets, if an error was made back a few months ago, it’s difficult to know which spreadsheet is right and which is wrong.

Small errors compound

Spreadsheet errors tend to have a waterfall effect.

If even one cell in your spreadsheet is wrong, it can have huge repercussions down the line. Mess up one input with a wrong digit, misplaced comma or decimal point, and your spreadsheet will use that to miscalculate other computations.

Back in 2003, a small spreadsheet error cost Canadian power generator TransAlta $24 million. According to The Register, “chief executive Steve Snyder said the snafu was ‘literally a cut-and-paste error in an Excel spreadsheet.’”

Maybe you won’t lose $24 million, but human error costs businesses real revenue all the time. The risk of underestimating your monthly inventory expenses or overstocking your inventory can create huge problems for small businesses.

Spreadsheets don’t scale

Excel might work when you first start your business. But as your company grows, things change—you might change your prices, raise financing, roll out a few new products or hire a few people. Before you know it, your spreadsheet can’t keep up.

There are plenty of business challenges you can’t control. This isn’t one of them.


Theresa Todman, Managing Partner/CEO of B&M Financial Management Services, LLC . Theresa works with small business owners and entrepreneurs to assist them with financial management and creating organized systems and procedures. She specializes in bookkeeping, accounting, QuickBooks solutions, small business tax issues and consulting.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

How to Transition from Spreadsheets to Accounting Software

Thanks to its presence on just about every business-class computer, Microsoft Excel has become the de facto tool for handling basic small-business accounting tasks. But while spreadsheets can be useful for a startup, they inevitably become cumbersome — and potentially harmful — when managing financial data for a growing business. When you have more than a handful of clients and transactions, it’s time to move on to accounting software. Here’s how to make the transition.

Why You Should Switch to Accounting Software

As your customers, vendors, and transactions increase, managing them in Excel becomes exponentially more complicated. Reporting — which requires you to manually enter specific formulas to get the information you want — becomes particularly time-consuming when working with large amounts of data. Also, spreadsheets are only as accurate as the person entering the information, and studies show the error rate increases with the complexity of the spreadsheet. Just ask JPMorgan about the devastating effect an Excel blunder can have on the integrity of your data.

Unlike spreadsheets, accounting software is designed to scale with your business. Because these programs can pull real-time data from your financial institution, you’ll save time on data entry and have more accurate records. Out-of-the-box reports give you deep insights in just a few clicks. Accounting software also makes it easier to manage multiple users, allowing you to restrict access to certain data and providing an audit trail so you can see details about each transaction and easily track and rectify any errors. Other perks include “anytime, anywhere” access to your financial information and easy syncing with other business applications. Try doing all that with a spreadsheet.

Preparing Your Data

Most accounting programs can readily import Excel files. However, they don’t automatically know which information goes where, so you’ll have to reformat some of your data. Whatever accounting software you choose will have requirements for the way information is ordered — for example, if your customer data spreadsheet places the company’s email before its phone number and your accounting program wants it after, you’ll have to reorder that data in your Excel file before you import it. Your program will probably also have requirements for column headings, formatting of dates and currency, character limits, and so on, and they’ll likely differ for each type of list you’re importing (Customer, Vendor, Account, etc.). Check the instructions for your particular software and edit your spreadsheet data accordingly.

This is also the time to clean up any data-entry errors if you haven’t already.

The Best Time of Year to Make the Switch

The obvious time to switch over from an Excel-based system to your new accounting software is at the end of your business’ fiscal year. That makes for the smoothest transition as all your accounts are reconciled, year-end reports are done, and final adjustments have been made. But the truth is, you can change systems any time of year you like. For the smoothest transition, pick a time that’s not exceptionally busy for your industry and that’s at the end of a month, quarter, or other clear-cut accounting period.

Handling the Transition Period

Even if you’ve done the necessary prep work and chosen the least disruptive “go live” date, you’re bound to hit some speed bumps during the transition from spreadsheets to accounting software. Give yourself time to acclimate to the new workflow and resist the urge to attribute every difficulty to the software. That said, don’t hesitate to use your program’s support options when necessary. And no matter what, run your old and new accounting systems in parallel for a short period until you’re sure the new system is running smoothly.


Theresa Todman, Managing Partner/CEO of B&M Financial Management Services, LLC . Theresa works with small business owners and entrepreneurs to assist them with financial management and creating organized systems and procedures. She specializes in bookkeeping, accounting, QuickBooks solutions, small business tax issues and consulting.

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Monday, May 21, 2018

Do You Need a Bookkeeper or a CPA?

If you’re like most small business owners, you started off wearing a lot of hats and performed your own bookkeeping. But, at a certain point, it makes sense to bring in a professional. An accounting professional can perform tasks more efficiently, meet compliance requirements, and convert accounting data into useful information. This allows you to refocus your time on growing and managing your business.

Bookkeepers and CPAs both extend their services to small businesses that are ready to outsource their accounting. Although you could hire just one, it makes sense to use both to keep your accounting costs low and finances in order.

Use a Bookkeeper for Basic Accounting Tasks

Bookkeepers handle day-to-day accounting transactions and issues. Most bookkeepers are able to manage accounts receivable (sending out invoices and collecting payments), accounts payable (making payments for business expenses), monitor and report on available cash, perform bank reconciliations, and run payroll. More advanced bookkeepers, sometimes referred to as “full charge bookkeepers,” can also book routine journal entries, including month-end journal entries, and prepare internal-use financial statements.

The term “bookkeeper” is not a protected title, so bookkeeper skill and experience varies. Some bookkeepers have no formal accounting education and have learned procedures on the job. Others may have an accounting degree or have completed a few bookkeeping courses. Many have a solid grasp of accounting principles and can keep your books in shape by themselves while others are limited to basic data entry.

Call On a CPA for Complex Accounting Issues

Although there are quite a few types of professional accounting designations, the CPA is arguably the most rigorous and difficult to obtain. To earn the CPA credential, an accountant must pass comprehensive exams on tax, regulation, financial reporting, audit, economic, ethics, and business topics. They also must have sufficient accounting education and work under another CPA for at least one or two years before obtaining the license.

CPAs can identify the correct accounting treatment for complex issues, perform a review to help you obtain a business loan, file your business tax return, advise you on tax planning, and offer you strategic financial advice. But just because an accountant is a CPA doesn’t automatically mean he can handle any accounting job. If the CPA earned his stripes at a large accounting firm, it’s likely that he specialized in either tax or audit from the get-go. As a result, there are some CPAs who have never filed a tax return and others who have never worked an audit engagement. Carefully review a CPA’s experience and specialties before engaging his services.

Divide Accounting Duties

The amount that bookkeepers and CPAs charge for their services varies based on experience, industry specialization, and region. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that accountants earn about twice the annual salary that bookkeepers do. Figure that the hourly rate for the average CPA for will be at least twice what a bookkeeper charges.

Since you’ll pay a premium for CPA services, it’s wise to confine their duties to high-level accounting issues. Your best bet is to find both a bookkeeper and a CPA with complementary skills that can work together. For example, you can hire a full-charge bookkeeper for basic accounting and month-end closing duties and only consult your CPA for ad-hoc accounting issues and tax returns. In this situation, it’s best that the CPA still review your books once a year or every six months to identify and correct potential accounting issues.

Find the Right Fit

CPAs and bookkeepers are accustomed to working hand in hand. If you already have a CPA, he can probably recommend a bookkeeper he’s worked with and vice versa. If your business is a little bigger (more than $1 million in revenue) but you’re not quite ready to hire in-house accounting staff, a bookkeeping or managerial accounting firm can be a good option. These firms staff a team of professional bookkeepers, accounting managers, controllers, and CFOs. By using this type of firm, your business can benefit from a cohesive team of accounting professionals without having to pay full-time salaries.


Theresa Todman, Managing Partner/CEO of B&M Financial Management Services, LLC . Theresa works with small business owners and entrepreneurs to assist them with financial management and creating organized systems and procedures. She specializes in bookkeeping, accounting, QuickBooks solutions, small business tax issues and consulting.

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Friday, May 18, 2018

How To Organize Your Chart Of Accounts

A chart of accounts is a lot like the game Jenga. If you take a block away from one section of your business, you have to add it back someplace else. This is because accounting systems are created in the hope that there will always be a balance between your total assets (what you own) and your liabilities (what you owe). While this is rarely the case in reality, as you may know, the difference between what you own and what you owe is your equity. The goal, of course, is to own more than you owe, so that your equity looks positive on the books and can provide for you later.

Let’s start with understanding your chart of accounts.

There are four main sections: assets, liabilities, income, and expenses. Equity is also a section, but it’s not one you will actively manage. Equity is what’s left over after all your business activities, plus and minus, have been properly recorded.

Assets and income are good. Liabilities and expenses are not great but not always bad. Many people think of expenses and loans as a necessary evil, but the idea is to incur only those liabilities and expenses that will serve the good. In other words, think of your liabilities and expenses as an investment — an investment whose purpose is to pump up your assets and income.

Many accounting systems come preset with a chart of accounts whose line items include numbered headers like 1430.2 and 530.8. While this may be great for your accountant in the same way that the Dewey Decimal System makes sense to librarians, for a small business it is unnecessary, cumbersome, and confusing. Just make sure that your line items have titles that make sense to you and your accountant. Use straightforward titles like “Bank Fees and Charges,” or “Bottling Equipment.”

When setting up your line items for the first time, keep it very, very simple. Over the course of time, don’t fall into the trap of creating a new line item for every single thing. You can create subaccounts for tracking certain things, like “PayPal Fees” under “Bank Fees,” or “Postage” under “Office Supplies.” But for the most part, keeping your chart of accounts simple will keep your business accounting simple and error free.


Your asset accounts will include anything you own that has value, like a building, land, equipment, vehicles, valuables, and inventory. Unfortunately, your assets may not look as pretty on your chart of accounts as they might on a real estate agent’s website. That’s because your accountant will be tracking what you actually paid for the property and its depreciation. If you want to show someone what your building, equipment, or inventory is really worth when it’s put up for sale, you’ll be using outside sources and reports for that — which is as it should be, because those values will change with the market.

Other asset accounts include accounts receivable and notes receivable. After all, you technically own that money. When someone owes you money, it’s your asset. It just hasn’t been delivered to you yet.


Liabilities include things like bank loans, mortgages, personal loans and promissory notes, income tax payments due, payroll taxes due, and, of course, your bills — otherwise known as accounts payable.

One important thing for the beginning business owner to keep in mind is that your notes payable entries should represent the amount of the loan only. Do not include interest in the amount owed. When you make each monthly payment and enter that payment in your accounting system, you will split the payment into an amount subtracted from what you owe, and an amount of interest paid, which will go to expenses. For example: Boardwalk bank loan $150, Boardwalk interest $3.57, total check = $153.57.


Income is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s also a category that is underutilized by many business owners. Most new owners start out with just one or two wide categories, like “sales” and “services.” But some types of income are easy and cheap to generate, and some require effort, time and expense, so it makes sense to create separate line items for different types of income.

Instead of lumping all your income into one account, consider what your various profitable activities may be and break them out into types of income. Don’t go wild and crazy of course, but by being able to see exactly which locations or activities are bringing in the most cash flow, you will be able to more wisely manage your business. For instance, if your store sells books, gifts, and food items, you will want to have an income line for each. Later you’ll be able to compare your cost of goods and profit levels for each category and know which type of goods are most profitable for you. The same is true for service businesses; if you sell a service, but also teach classes and do outside consulting, track your different types of income separately.


It’s also a good idea to break up expenses into separate accounts. Keep your categories as simple as possible, creating subcategories only when you truly see a need. For instance, if you ship a lot of products, you may want to track your costs from different shipping carriers separately. Or if you’re a cookbook author, you may want to track your food costs for recipe testing in different subcategories by book.

Remember that as your business grows, so will your need for accurate, fast, legible reporting. Your chart of accounts is your map of the past and present, and your treasure map to the future. Keep it clean and organized, and make sure that it makes sense to the most important person involved — you.


Theresa Todman, Managing Partner/CEO of B&M Financial Management Services, LLC . Theresa works with small business owners and entrepreneurs to assist them with financial management and creating organized systems and procedures. She specializes in bookkeeping, accounting, QuickBooks solutions, small business tax issues and consulting.

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Top 6 Apps to Spring Clean Your Finances

To help get a better grip on where your money is going, recommit to a budget or jump-start your savings plan, these handy apps are just a swipe away.

Everyone who's into managing his or her personal finances with the help of an app has heard about Mint, which currently ranks No. 24 among all free apps in the Finance category that can be downloaded from the Apple iOS Store.

To offer you a couple of alternatives, I would like to introduce you to other handy personal finance apps that help you to monitor your expenses and reach your financial goals.

1. Clarity Money, free
The Clarity Money Budget Planner analyzes your personal finances using data science and machine learning with the goal to “help you make smarter decisions with your money.”

The free app allows you to not only plan your budget, but also track all your expenses, cancel recurring charges and subscriptions and find credit card deals that fit your spending habits, so you can hopefully manage to save some money in your bank account in the long run.

As of March 2018, the app has been rated almost 16,000 times in the iOS Store with an average rating of 4+ stars and more than 700 times in the Google Play Store with a rating of 4.2 stars.

Here is what TechCrunch says about Clarity Money:

“It’s the kind of universal financial services tool that combines a number of the best features of existing money-management apps into a one-stop-shop.”

2. You Need A Budget, free trial
You Need A Budget (YNAB) is another personal finance tool that lets you to plan your budget and track expenses.

Unlike Clarity Money, YNAB is not free, but you have the option to sign up for a 34-day trial period. After the trial you will be billed for a one-year subscription ($83.99) if you decide to continue using the app. What's great is that YNAB offers a 100% money-back guarantee with no questions asked at any point.

Key features are:

  • Synching all of your bank accounts in a single entity.
  • Real-time access and tracking of all your data.
  • Access to tools that help you get out of debt.
  • Set goals to stay on track.
  • Detailed reporting and personal support.

According to the team behind YNAB, new users are able to save $600 on average in the first two months of using the app and as much as $6,000 in their first year.

By the way, You Need A Budget has already been downloaded more than 100,000 times from the Google Play Store with an average user rating of 4.0 stars.

3. Spendee, free
Spendee is a free app that comes with in-app purchases.

It lets you track your expenses (even in foreign currencies, in case you are on vacation), create custom wallets for special events, such as birthday parties or Christmas, and it provides comprehensible graphics that outline your financial odyssey to help you gain the upper hand.

If you decide to upgrade to Spendee Plus ($1.99/month), you can create multiple wallets that you can then share with your family members and friends. This feature comes in handy, if there are expenses that you don't pay for entirely by yourself.

Spendee Premium ($2.99/month) allows you to synch the app with all of your different bank accounts.

Here is what some users have to say about the app:
  • “Great product. Love the interface and all the reports.”
  • “When it comes to simplicity, usability and UI (user interface). Trust me this is the best one in Play Store.”
  • “Awesome to keep my expenses track. Help to reduce the unwanted one.”
  • Shep McAllister from writes that “Spendee Tracks Your Expenses with a Gorgeous, Frictionless Interface.”

4. Home Budget with Synch, $4.99
Home Budget with Synch has already been downloaded by more than 730,000 users, and it comes in really handy if you want to set a budget that you can share with your whole family and synchronize it between multiple devices together with different incomes and expenses.

Each user can manage budgets, log expenses and track purchases within the app, which processes all data to provide you with information about your spending habits utilizing charts and lists with visually appealing graphics.

The downside? Home Budget with Sync is not available for free. It comes at a one-time purchase price of $4.99 in both the Google Play Store and the iOS Store.

5. Dollarbird, free
Dollarbird takes a different approach to budgeting and expense tracking than the four apps listed above. It's a “personal finance calendar” that lets you add, edit and remove your income and expenses from the past and future in a calendar-oriented fashion.

According to TechCrunch, Dollarbird is best suited for anyone who “wants to keep a closer eye on their cash flow.” The obvious advantage here is that you can plan ahead and keep all expenses under control.

There is a premium plan that costs $2.17/month or $25.99/year that allows you to create multiple calendars and share them with up to three other people. For comparison, Home Budget with Synch costs $4.99, which you only have to pay once, and it also has a great built-in sharing feature but does not take the calendar-oriented approach.

6. Mvelopes, free trial
Mvelopes is the last tool that made it onto our list of personal finance apps that help you make sure that you don't spend a single dime more than your monthly budget allows.

After downloading Mvelopes, you have a free 30-day trial period after which you can choose one of the following plans, in case you would like to continue using it:

  • Mvelopes Basic — $4/month
  • Mvelopes Plus — $19/month, or pay annually and get two months free
  • Mvelopes Complete — $59/month, or pay annually and get two months free

After you install the app, add your bank and credit card account details, you can track your purchases within the app.

What's great about Mvelopes is that it's really easy to categorize your expenses, so that at the end of each month or a year, you can tell exactly how much money you spend on clothes, morning coffees, movie tickets, etc.

Mvelopes tries to make saving fun. In addition, eBooks and videos are available within the app at no additional charge. This is one of the reasons why Mvelopes has received such excellent feedback from its users. In fact, the Mvelopes Complete subscription comes with monthly sessions with a personal financial trainer, providing additional accountability and motivation.

For savers taking steps to improve their financial outlooks, congratulations for staying on the track. If you need some extra help, consider experimenting with any of these personal finance apps to see which one’s right for you.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Theresa Todman, Managing Partner/CEO of B&M Financial Management Services, LLC . Theresa works with small business owners and entrepreneurs to assist them with financial management and creating organized systems and procedures. She specializes in bookkeeping, accounting, QuickBooks solutions, small business tax issues and consulting.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

3 Ways to Spring Clean Your Finances

Winter has come to an end, and spring cleaning season is here. Along with updating your wardrobe and cleaning out your garage, it’s also a good time to dust off your financial plan.

1. Pare down.
Most people are hoarding investments, sticking as much as they can into their accounts without knowing what they’re buying and if it overlaps with what they already have. Just like spring is the time to start getting rid of all that household clutter, you should do the same with your investment strategy.

First, evaluate what you own, where you hold it, and how you use it. Then, refer to both your short- and long-term financial goals — the allocations and the investments that you hold to accomplish each could look remarkably different. Maybe you’re building your emergency fund and saving up for a home renovation, but also need to consider how you’ll maintain a certain lifestyle in retirement in 30 years. If your investments are not helping you accomplish your goals, it’s time to kick them to the curb.

As an example, I once met with an investor who was proud of the fact that he had close to 45 different mutual funds, until I helped him discover that two-thirds of them were large-company stock funds and a quarter of them were from the same company. He mistakenly thought that having a high volume of investments meant he was practicing diversification, but it’s like he owned a toolbox with 45 screwdrivers and no other tools — not the best strategy.

2. Check the fit.
In the same way that you might go through your warmer-weather wardrobe and try on old clothes each spring, you need to try on your current allocation and make sure it still fits. Begin by reviewing your savings and total financial picture — this might include debt, investments, workplace plan savings, college savings for your kids, your Social Security strategies, health care savings plans and more. Does the long-term plan you built last year still fit?

I’ve met with new investors who have been using the same plan for up to 10 years! Just because it worked in the past doesn’t mean it still will this year. This can never be a set-it-on-the-shelf-and-forget-about-it sort of planning situation.

Determine the least amount of risk you must take on to reach your goals. From there, optimize your investments to achieve them. Oftentimes clients are convinced that they must be an aggressive investor if they want to successfully retire, but it may be possible to be a moderate investor and still have an incredibly high probability of success.

3. Embrace the new.
While everything in nature looks new in the springtime, the same concept should apply to your investing approach. Chances are you can increase your savings rate for 2018. Ideally you should aim to max out your 401(k) savings rate or at least contribute enough to take full advantage of the company match that is offered by your employer. But if that’s not doable, it is often a good rule of thumb to try to save 10% of your gross income.

One of my clients began saving just 4% of her income but promised herself that she’d continue to increase her savings by 1 percentage point each year, and it’s been exciting to see how proud she is when we review her accounts each year and see how much she’s accumulated with this approach. Even if you only save 1% for now and try to bump it up another percentage point each year — just start somewhere. The idea is to save as much as you can, for as long as you can.

These three steps are a great place to start. However, just as there is not a single style or size T-shirt, there is not one magical investment or off-the-shelf plan that makes sense for everyone. Depending on your current lifestyle and ability to save, your investments, trading strategies, tax-optimization strategies and longer-term retirement plans are going to be unique to your personal situation. As your life gets more complex and your financial needs change, you may benefit from professional help from an adviser.

The only way to take control of your own finances is to take action — there’s no one else who can do it for you. Follow these three steps to successfully clean up your financial picture this spring.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Theresa Todman, Managing Partner/CEO of B&M Financial Management Services, LLC . Theresa works with small business owners and entrepreneurs to assist them with financial management and creating organized systems and procedures. She specializes in bookkeeping, accounting, QuickBooks solutions, small business tax issues and consulting.

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