Mary Southern
Mary Southern
4092 Skippack Pike, P.O. Box 880  Skippack, PA 19474
Phone: 610-207-2110 |Office Phone: 610-584-1160 | Fax: 484-991-1837
Cell: 610-207-2110 |

Mary's Blog

Real Estate for Your World

Pass Through Deduction Tax Planning Tips for Solopreneurs and Micro Businesses

March 6, 2018 1:18 am

If you own your own small business, recent tax changes may require you to revisit dated strategies to make sure you're staying smart and savvy. With this in mind, Meisa Bonelli, senior tax professional of Millennial Tax offers the following tax planning tips business owners should heed.

Reconsider Your Business Entity. Small business owners that operate under an LLC or S-corp entity have typically chosen those entities to operate their businesses under because of the past tax rates on pass through income was taxed at a lower rate and they could avoid double taxation with a C-corp.

However, now that the corporate tax rate has been lowered to 21 percent down from 35 percent, solopreneurs, freelancers and micro-small business owners may want to review and reconsider if a pass-through entity is serving their short and long-term business objectives. For instance, if a business now sees the opportunity to raise capital from foreign investors and was previously operating as an S-corp, now is the time to meet with their attorney and tax professional to see if a C-corp or other entity would be more of an ideal fit for their objectives.

Substantiate. For business owners that want to maximize the new pass-through deduction, substantiating their expenses will play a crucial role in their record keeping.  Substantiating expenses include: writing who a small business owner dined with for business meal expenses, digitizing receipts so that they remain legible if ever requested by a tax authority, and not relying solely on bank and credit card statements as proof of business expenses. It's not the IRS' job to figure out what's on your tax return. Chances are, if a tax authority is taking the time to do so, it's more than likely to exclude deductions and factor more of your claimed expenses into income, not the other way around. Make it easy on them by doing the work ahead of time and they'll make it easy on you by allowing you to have your substantiated deductions.

Get Serious and Get Organized. For small businesses that may have been laxed in the past with their record keeping, if they're operating under a pass-through LLC or S-corp, they need to get serious about keeping business and personal expenses separate. The tried-and-true receipt organizer coupled with a spreadsheet and detailed notes is recommended for the small business owner that doesn't want to spend on bookkeeping software, but who is diligent enough to sit down and reconcile their expenses. Obviously, an accounting or bookkeeping software makes things simpler and readily accessible as most have mobile apps. But small business owners need to understand that no software works if they're not going to do the bookkeeping work. If a small business owner equates getting their teeth pulled at the dentist with doing the company's books, it's high time to hire a tax professional.

If trying to figure out the 20 percent pass-through deduction versus the 50 percent computation (if W2 wages are applicable) or digitizing receipts, and creating lofty spreadsheets sounds like a headache, small business owners should hire a trusted tax professional. Since the game has changed, the savviest small business owners will play offense by planning with a competent tax professional, rather than using reactive tax strategies of the past. Preparedness is what will ultimately fuel profitability for solopreneurs, freelancers and micro-small businesses in this new tax era of tax change.

Before making changes, meet with a tax specialist or financial advisor.

Source: Millennial Tax

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Safety Tips for Solo Travelers

March 2, 2018 12:57 am

Traveling alone can be fun and exciting, but you should also take some extra safety precautions. Consider the following suggestions from

Purchase travel insurance. If something goes wrong on your trip, travel insurance can be almost as good as having a travel companion. Comprehensive travel insurance plans typically include trip cancellation, trip interruption, travel medical, and emergency evacuation coverages, as well as 24/7 global travel assistance. If cash or credit cards are stolen, travel insurance can help you get back on track. If you get sick or injured, a travel insurance plan's global medical assistance services can help navigate a foreign hospital system for you. A comprehensive travel insurance plan with trip cancellation coverage will typically range from 4 to 8 percent of the total trip costs. A plan with just medical and emergency evacuation can cost considerably less. By purchasing an insurance plan, it’s almost as though you have someone on your side—without having to argue over where to eat each night.

Let someone know where you’re going and how to contact you. Designate at least one emergency contact and share your itinerary and any updates with that person. Make a general rule that you update your contact, even briefly, every time you hit an internet cafe or get decent WiFi coverage on your phone or tablet. Better yet, publish a travel blog along the way, or update all of your friends and family with frequent social media posts. But remember, keep your social media profiles private so strangers can't track you down.

Prepare with a traveler's checklist. The U.S. State Department has a great traveler's checklist, which recommends that travelers: Get Informed, Get Required Documents, Get Enrolled, and Get Insured. Registering with the U.S. State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program provides travel advisory updates on your destination and gives the U.S. embassy a way to reach you. Also, keep a list of your emergency contacts handy, including U.S. embassies or consulates, hotels, and 24/7 Global Assistance phone numbers found in your travel insurance plan. Many of the U.S. embassies and consulates use social media to provide information, so that's another way to stay connected.

Memorialize the adventure. Keeping a travel journal is a great way to reflect on what you’re seeing, learning and experiencing. Sharing your travel experiences can be rewarding for both you and your audience. In addition, keep all receipts and documentation for any expenses associated with the trip before and during the vacation. In the event that you need to file a travel insurance claim, receipts and other proof of loss will be needed to receive reimbursements.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Fifth Wall

March 2, 2018 12:57 am

(Family Features)--Redesigning your living space? Don't forget to look up! Reboot your ceiling with the following tips.

Start with a smooth canvas. This means eliminating any details like popcorn ceilings or other texturing that may appear dated and dingy.

Add some color. Bring character to the room by adding color to the ceiling that complements the traditional walls for a cohesive look. If you have eaves, dormers or other architectural elements, consider painting some and leaving others white for variety and added dimension.

Introduce natural light. When it comes from above, natural light brightens a room in a whole new way. An option like a Velux skylight is a sensible solution because it offers plenty of ways to customize the skylight to your specific space and functional needs.

Enhance with accessories. Both practical and attractive, blinds are a good idea for a skylight. They let you control the light, blocking out harsh rays during the heat of the day while letting the gentle evening light illuminate the room. In addition to choosing a style and color that complements the room décor, look for features such as remote-control operation and room-darkening textiles.

Get creative. Treating your ceiling like a wall opens virtually endless possibilities. If the space has unique architectural features, you can highlight them by adding special touches such as built-in shelves for extra storage or a new place to nurture lush house plants.

Source: Velux

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Save More on Those Heating Bills

March 2, 2018 12:57 am

Furnaces and boilers account for 65 percent of home natural gas use, according to Dominion Energy Ohio. These simple tips can help conserve energy, maximize comfort and minimize monthly bills:

Save Money by Degrees. Customers can save anywhere from 10 to 15 percent on annual heating costs by setting the thermostat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 58 degrees Fahrenheit at night, or when the resident is at work or away for an extended period.

Clean or Replace Furnace Filters. Check furnace air filters once a month during the heating season. If they become clogged, clean or replace them with new filters.

Caulk Around. Use inexpensive caulking around the fireplace mantle, inside windows and storm windows, electrical receptacle boxes, exhaust fan openings, pipes leading to bathroom fixtures, mortar cracks in chimneys and cracks in basement walls. Be sure to caulk around areas where the foundation meets the first floor plate and basement windows.

Seal Off Drafts Around Windows. Tape thin sheets of plastic to inside window frames with masking tape.

Draft Stoppers. Block off drafts at the bottom of doors with a rolled up rug or bath towel. You can also make a long, narrow bean bag to fit against the bottom of the door.

Switch Off Drafts. To seal off drafts, apply self-adhesive foam strips to the back of wall plates for electrical outlets and switches.

Weather Stripping. Here's a card trick: If a playing card fits in the crevice of an outside door, you need more weather stripping.

Source: Dominion Energy Ohio

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Create a DIY Scratching Post

February 28, 2018 12:57 am

(Family Features)--Designating a spot for your cat to safely scratch is one of the most effective ways to minimize damage to your possessions. A homemade scratching post is a quick and easy project. The experts at Ceva Animal Health offer the following guidelines.

1. Cut foot-long length of 4-by-4-inch wood and a 1-foot square piece of plywood. The exact sizes can vary, but these are good starting points that you can adjust up or down, depending on your space.

2. Sand away splinters and rough edges.

3. Add a sturdy fabric wrap or paint to lend aesthetic appeal to the plywood base.

4. Wrap the post tightly with heavy-gauge rope or carpet scraps (or both), securing tightly with glue and reinforcing with a staple gun.

5. Securely attach the post to the base using a long bolt.

6. Place the post in an area your cat enjoys spending time, and consider adding a pheromone therapy spray to attract your cat to the post.

Source: Ceva Animal Health

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk

February 28, 2018 12:57 am

Do you sit at a desk for hours a day? It's no news that being sedentary can have a negative impact on your body and health. To combat this, mix up the following exercises throughout the day, or pick two times (11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., perhaps?) to run through them all at once.

Toe points. Keep blood moving to your toes by taking a break to point and flex your feet 10 times.

Leg lifts. Flex your quads and raise your feet so your leg is straight from the hip out. Do this five to 10 times.

Roll your shoulders back. Desk work have you hunched? Roll your shoulders back, lift your chin, and straighten your spine, then return to work.

Eye break. If you spend your work day behind a computer, this exercise should be done at least once an hour, if possible. Look away from your computer, and focus on on object 20 or more feet away for at least 20 seconds.

Wrist rolls. Typing have your hands tired? Roll your wrists counterclockwise 10 times, then clockwise 10 times, to get blood flowing.

Other things to combat too much sitting are: taking a walk break during lunch, considering a standing desk, and staying extra hydrated all day long, so you're forced to make a few extra (walking!) trips to the restroom.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Just How Cyber Smart Are You?

February 27, 2018 12:54 am

Massive data breaches like Equifax and Yahoo served as important wake-up calls to remind us that cybersecurity should be at the top of everyone’s priority list. But unfortunately, that’s not the case.

According to a survey of 2,000 U.S. home users by cybersecurity firm Webroot, while digital users of all ages have certain security practices down, there are still gaps in awareness, especially when it comes to ransomware.

Despite the growing prevalence of ransomware attacks in news headlines, nearly two thirds (61.6 percent) of survey respondents could not accurately define ransomware. In a ransomware attack, hackers encrypt or lock consumers' files to extort payment. Unless the victim pays the ransom, their files may be gone forever; however, there is no guarantee that payment will actually buy back their files.

Here’s how survey results—and cybersecurity savvy—breaks down by generation. See how you rate:

Gen Z (18 - 24)

- This group was the least ransomware-savvy. Less than a quarter (23.7 percent) were able to accurately define ransomware.

- Although antivirus offers strong protection against ransomware, members of Gen Z are likely to report they either don't use antivirus protection (33 percent), or don't know if they have any installed (23.8 percent).

- This same group is the most willing to pay a hacker to return stolen data; 25.1 percent reported they would pay a hacker up to $500 to return stolen data.

- Thirty-six percent of Gen Zers who reported they have clicked a link in an email or text from an unknown sender have also been a victim of a ransomware attack or know someone who has.

Millennials (25 - 34)

- While more savvy than their younger counterparts, only a third (34.2 percent) of millennials could accurately define ransomware.

- Nearly a third (28.9 percent) of survey respondents who were most concerned about losing personal photos in a cyberattack were millennials.

- Over 60 percent of millennials share their personal information online via mobile banking and bill pay, tax, financial and health care forms, or by shopping online. This makes them more vulnerable to data breaches of all types, underscoring the need for cybersecurity knowledge.

Baby Boomers (55 - 65+)

- While only half (47.6 percent) of baby boomers could accurately define ransomware, this was still the highest of any generation.

- Respondents 55 and older might be the most unsafe online, as they are most likely to admit to having received suspicious texts or emails (73.3 percent), or having clicked links in emails/texts from unknown senders (26.9 percent).

- Despite the risks they face, baby boomers are the savviest when it comes to not forwarding emails from unknown senders; 94.2 percent said they had not done so in the past year.

No matter what your age, make sure you’re up to speed on the latest in cyber security.

Source: Webroot

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Keys to Becoming an Elite Athlete

February 27, 2018 12:54 am

(Family Features)--When it comes to becoming an elite athlete, there are differing opinions on what it takes to win gold.

Sports analysts and commentators often reference sprint times, body weight, height or age as differentiating factors, but Dr. Steven Stein, CEO of Multi-Health Systems and emotional intelligence expert, has a different idea.

Emotional intelligence is a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way people perceive and express themselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way.

Using The Emotional Quotient Inventory 2.0 model to test emotional intelligence, Multi-Health Systems found athletes around the world often score high in self-regard: the ability to know their strengths and weaknesses; self-actualization: doing what they love and continually trying to improve; and flexibility: their ability to learn, change and take direction.


Self-regard is an athlete's ability to know his or her strengths and weaknesses. For elite athletes, it can also translate into confidence.

"Confidence, as part of self-regard, can be a key differentiator among medal winners," Stein says. "At the highest level of many sports you have a number of athletes with near-equal skills and talent. Often, having the right mental toughness can make that millisecond or single point difference among judges."


Self-actualization reflects comfort with who you are and what you are doing. For example, competition at the international level takes years of preparation and practice, and may require personal, social and familial sacrifices.

"Self-actualization allows an athlete to continue to learn and improve, as many athletes start out with a vision that helps define their passion," Stein says. "For example, you frequently hear stories of athletes who come from challenging childhoods—deaths of parents, early injuries or difficulties with school—who commit fully to their sports, find success and go on to become role models for others in both athletics and overcoming adversity."


Flexibility is a person's ability to change and take direction, and for an elite athlete, it means learning from a bad performance instead of getting frustrated. It is one of the better predictors of the ability to be coached and succeed, and Multi-Health Systems found that it is especially important in both professional and amateur athletes.

"Sometimes, high-level draft picks in various sports who have difficulty taking instruction don't make it as professional players," Stein says. "Great athletes are often great learners, and when athletes think they already know what's best or don't listen to coaching, it can derail their performance."

Source: Multi-Health Systems

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Improve Your Indoor Air Quality for Spring

February 27, 2018 12:54 am

As the season changes, your environment shifts, both indoors and out. A switch of seasons is the perfect time to focus on freshening the air in your home. T. Webber offers the following tips to maintain great indoor air quality as you prep for spring.

Use allergen-rated filters. Besides making sure that your air filters are changed on an appropriate schedule, using a high-quality filter rated for allergen filtration will help clean the air as it cycles. Regular filters are designed to protect the heating and cooling system by trapping larger particles such as dust before they reach the unit. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters will trap much smaller particles and keep offending allergens from simply recirculating back into the living space.

Consider an air cleaner. If those living in the home are experiencing severe negative health effects from invasive allergens, using an air cleaner in conjunction with HEPA air filters for the HVAC unit will dramatically increase the effectiveness of overall indoor air filtration. Air cleaners are specifically designed to remove mold, mildew, dust, pollen and pet dander from the air inside the home.

Install ultraviolet lamps. Ultraviolet lamps can be installed inside the heating and cooling unit to kill mold and bacteria that may develop on and around the coil due to moisture, and there are also lamps available that can sterilize the moving air. These lamps are effective at killing germs that may otherwise recirculate through the home.

Make sure the home is properly ventilated. Bathrooms and kitchens are both major contributors to the humidity of the home, and they need to be properly vented. Check exhaust vents to make sure they are free of obstruction and working properly so that excess moisture and pollutants can be removed.

Utilize a dehumidifier. After the winter passes, most humidifiers are placed in storage until the dryer months of summer arrive. Using a dehumidifier in its place will maintain a balanced indoor environment by removing excess moisture from the air, which will help to prevent issues such as the development of mold and mildew.

Source: T. Webber

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Spring Forward

February 27, 2018 12:54 am

Whether you like it or not, if you live in an area of the country that follows Daylight Savings Time, you're about to spring forward—and lose an hour of sleep. Here are five ways to ease that transition.

Go to sleep earlier. If you head to bed an hour earlier, you won't lose that hour of sleep. Start a few days before the timehop for best results. First, hop in fifteen minutes earlier. Then aim for a half hour. Then forty-five minutes. By the time you're heading to bed an hour earlier, your body will be well adjusted.  

Find the sunlight. The day before the time switch, expose yourself to some natural sunlight to give you an energy boost and avoid feeling groggy the following day. Take a walk, read a book in the park or simply sit outside and call a friend.

Avoid a large, late dinner. When trying to moderate your sleep schedule, avoid a heavy meal before bed, as it can disrupt sleep. Instead, try and eat earlier and then have a small snack an hour or so before hitting the sheets.

Moderate caffeine. Even if you're feeling that 4:00 p.m. slump, try to avoid caffeine past 2:00 p.m. leading up to Daylight Savings Time. Consuming caffeine late in the day can throw off your natural rhythm even further than the time switch.

Create an environment for sleep. Make sure your bedroom promotes deep sleep by nixing electronics (no TV in bed for you!), keeping your space quiet and clutter-free, and adjusting the temperature to one ideal for sleep: between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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