The Behavior Profile of Our Ashland, KY Clients with the Highest Level of Financial Security

The Behavior Profile of Our Ashland, KY Clients with the Highest Level of Financial Security

The madness of March certainly delivered over the weekend, huh? Plenty of upsets and surprises, which always makes this time of year fun for basketball fans.

Or, so I hear.

After all, this tournament seems to happen yearly, and until the IRS changes the deadline for personal tax returns away from April 15th (the 17th this year), well … I can’t say that my staff and I are able to participate much.

We’re too busy doing your taxes, after all. And this time of year with less than one month remaining, we’re in crunch time. 

The corporate deadline is now behind us, and we are talking with Ashland, KY clients every day about their situation.

And these conversations vary — because not only do we consult with our Ashland, KY clients about their specific tax obligations, but we end up becoming a financial counselor as well. This, frankly, is a role that we embrace around here: for some, we are the only people who see the underbelly of their financial life … and who will still instill a dose of hope.

Because if I’ve learned one thing over the years, it’s that no financial situation lasts forever. I’ve seen too many clients crawl out from under six-figure (and higher!) debt obligations to ever again believe that anyone is ever financially doomed.

But in addition to instilling hope to our clients who are struggling, we also have come up with a pretty good profile, over the years, of what makes for financial security. We’ve seen some of our Ashland, KY clients work HARD to join the ranks of those who’ve achieved this, and it’s worth applauding.

Perhaps you’d be interested in what we have seen? Then read on…

The Behavior Profile of Our Ashland, KY Clients with the Highest Level of Financial Security
“A photograph is usually looked at, seldom looked into.” – Ansel Adams

If you pay attention to the news media, a few things become clear:

1) Chaos is coming
2) Chaos is already here


3) Did we mention anything about the chaos?

It’s true (and a very good reason to carefully monitor your media intake). So, becoming a household that will be able to ride through instability and uncertainty is a pretty essential component for life success.

Which is why I’d like to tell you about our Ashland, KY clients who have prepared themselves well. I’m not naming any names here, but I am interested in commonalities. And you’ll notice that these are just as significantly about your mindset as you relate to your finances, as about your behaviors.

Here’s what we have learned about our most financially-secure clients in Ashland, KY:

1) He always spends less than he earns. In fact, his mantra is that over the long run, you’re better off if you strive to be anonymously rich rather than deceptively poor.

2) She knows that patience is truth. The odds are you won’t become a millionaire overnight. If you’re like her, your security will be accumulated gradually, by diligently saving your money over multiple decades.

3) He pays off his credit cards in full every month. He’s smart enough to understand that if he can’t afford to pay cash for something, then he can’t afford it.

4) She realized early on that money does not buy happiness. If you’re looking for financial joy, you need to focus on attaining financial freedom.

5) He understands that money is like a toddler; it is incapable of managing itself.  After all, you can’t expect your money to grow and mature as it should without some form of credible money management.

6) She’s a big believer in paying yourself first. It’s an essential tenet of personal finance and a great way to build your savings and instill financial discipline.

7) She also knows that the few millionaires in Ashland, KY that reached that milestone without a plan got there only because of dumb luck.  It’s not enough to simply “declare” to the universe that you want to be financially free. This is not a “Secret”.

8) When it came time to set his savings goals, he wasn’t afraid to think big.  Financial success demands that you have a vision that is significantly larger than you can currently deliver upon.

9) He realizes that stuff happens, and that’s why you’re a fool if you don’t insure yourself against risk. Remember that the potential for bankruptcy is always just around the corner, and can be triggered from multiple sources: the death of the family’s key breadwinner, divorce, or disability that leads to a loss of work.

10) She understands that time is an ally of the young. She was fortunate (and smart) enough to begin saving in her twenties, so she could take maximum advantage of the power of compounding interest on her nest egg.

11) He’s not impressed that you drive an over-priced luxury car and live in a McMansion that’s two sizes too big for your family of four. Little about external “signals” of wealth actually matter to him.

And a little bonus, if you will: She doesn’t pay taxes which could have been avoided with a simple phone call to her Ashland, KY tax professional. She gets the advice, guidance, and expert assistance of a professional, and doesn’t waste her time trying to learn the tax code as well as those who have put in thousands of hours of their life to do so.

And here’s to you joining these ranks in future years.


Ernie Sharp
(606) 324-5655

Ernest P. Sharp II, CPA

Ernie Sharp’s 6 Negotiation Tips To Get What You Want

Ernie Sharp’s 6 Negotiation Tips To Get What You Want

Well, the brackets are set — and the nation’s collective basketball madness has begun.

Billions fly around every year for this tournament (probably much of it not reported on Form W-2G!), and it’s become a huge part of this season, as you no doubt know.

But there is another, often-unnoticed, part of this season that always makes me shiver a little for Ashland, KY taxpayers: Unclaimed tax refunds.

Every year, the IRS tells the public about this phenomenon, and every year, I am mystified by those in Ashland, KY who miss out. This year, over one million taxpayers are missing out on a median average of $847 in unclaimed funds, simply because they didn’t file a tax return in 2014. There is over $1.1 billion (yes, with a B) sitting in a federal escrow account somewhere, and it might have your name on it. After April 17th (this year’s filing deadline), all of those funds get moved over to Treasury operating accounts.

We don’t want that, now do we? If you did not file a return in 2014, let’s see if you qualify.

Or maybe you DID file that year, but your friends in Ashland, KY could use our help?

It’s probably the case that if you miss that 4/17 deadline, you won’t be able to negotiate that unclaimed refund money back from the IRS.

But, that said, it’s my contention that many of my Ashland, KY clients don’t realize how much MORE they could negotiate themselves into more favorable positions with businesses, salespeople, family members (!) and other intersectors of their weekly lives.

So, allow this week’s Note to give you a little bump to consider negotiating for more than just a car price.

No, this really has nothing to do with your taxes (except as it relates to how a qualified professional might be able to negotiate on your behalf when it comes to tax debts). But as you may have gathered, we are in your corner for every part of your financial life, and otherwise.

Ernie Sharp’s 6 Negotiation Tips To Get What You Want
“Remember you will not always win. Some days, the most resourceful individual will taste defeat. But there is, in this case, always tomorrow – after you have done your best to achieve success today.” – Maxwell Maltz

No matter what career you’re in, or how far you go in it, the ability to effectively negotiate can make the difference between success and mediocrity.

Whether it’s a multimillion-dollar contract, a job offer, or a luncheon, here are some trenches-tested negotiation tips that will bring you closer to your ideal outcome:

1. Know what you want in advance. Don’t go to the table, or enter any kind of adversarial situation without a clear, realistic idea of what you want to achieve. It will help you negotiate with confidence.

2. Ask for what you want. Don’t be afraid to make the first offer. You’ll set the tone for the discussion, and studies (and my experience) suggest that the negotiator who goes first usually comes closer to getting what he or she wants.

3. Understand what your partner wants. A successful negotiation should satisfy both sides. Instead of trying to crush your competition, find out what he or she hopes to get, and try to work together toward a solution that works for you both.

4. Don’t concede unilaterally. Usually one side or the other has to give something up. If you do that, be sure to get a comparable concession from the other person. Giving away something for nothing will be taken as a weakness to be exploited.

5. Don’t rush. Time can be your friend if you’re willing to wait for the right deal. If the other side senses a deadline, he or she may be motivated to hold out until the last minute, or try to force you into accepting unreasonable terms. Be patient and let the time pressure work against your partner.

6. Be ready to walk away. This can take a certain amount of courage, but it’s necessary to avoid being backed into an agreement you don’t want. If possible, keep an ally in reserve–someone with the power to approve or reject the deal. This can give you an out if you need to turn down a deal, or motivate the other side to provide you with a better offer.

Now, these negotiation tips are really useful in most every situation. The *only* situation in which I might have you handle something very differently? In conversation with your spouse. 🙂 That’s a whole different article, but we’ll save that for another day.


Ernie Sharp
(606) 324-5655

Ernest P. Sharp II, CPA

Ernest P. Sharp II, CPA’s 2017 Tax Preparation Checklist

Ernest P. Sharp II, CPA’s 2017 Tax Preparation Checklist

Lots of things have been changing recently — from Academy Award ratings (they’re down), to mortgage rates (which have been rising), to the effective tax rates for most businesses and families in 2018 (which, you may have heard, have changed!).

But we here at Ernest P. Sharp II, CPA haven’t much changed: we’re still cranking along in preparing your 2017 taxes, meeting with Ashland, KY clients, new and old, and helping you keep the most amount legally and ethically possible from the grasping hands of the IRS.

Already, we have many, many clients who have filed, have received refunds and have written us notes telling us that they’ve never been more pleased with their filing experience. And of course, this makes me happy, as you might imagine.Now, we know that waaay back in January, taxes were perhaps not on the forefront of your brain.

But, well, here we are in March … and we have six weeks remaining to get them filed and/or file for an extension on your behalf.

So, I sent this out in early January, but things are now a bit more “real”. Let’s get this stuff done. Chase down these docs, and let’s save you some!

Ernest P. Sharp II, CPA’s 2017 Tax Preparation Checklist
“Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.” -John Dewey

With all of the changes every year (and, of course, that’s especially true THIS year), filing your taxes on your own is not for the faint of heart. That’s even with nice-looking softwares on the market which purport to make it easy for you.

But that’s what we’re here for. Let us be your easy button in Ashland, KY.

Below is a list of what you will need during the tax preparation process. Not all of them will apply to you — probably MOST will not. Nonetheless, it’s a useful tax preparation checklist.

Before you get overwhelmed: yes, this is a long list — but it’s the unfortunate reality of our tax code that it’s not even comprehensive! But these items will cover 95% of our Ashland, KY clients.  Really, this is for ensuring that we’re able to help you keep every dollar you can keep under our tax code.

Even if for some strange reason you won’t be using our cost-effective services this year, feel free to use this list as a handy guide…

Personal Data
Social Security Numbers (including spouse and children)
Child care provider tax I.D. or Social Security Number

Employment & Income Data
W-2 forms for this year
Tax refunds and unemployment compensation: Form 1099-G
Miscellaneous income including rent: Form 1099-MISC
Partnership and trust income
Pensions and annuities
Alimony received
Jury duty pay
Gambling and lottery winnings
Prizes and awards
Scholarships and fellowships
State and local income tax refunds
Unemployment compensation

Health Insurance Information: NOTE — despite the passage of tax reform that changes this information for 2018 taxes, we still need it for 2017 taxes.
* All 1095-A Forms from marketplace providers (if you purchased insurance through a Marketplace)
* Existing plan information (policy numbers, etc.)
* If claiming an exemption, your unique Exemption Certificate Number
* Records of credits and/or advance payments received from the Premium Tax Credit (if claiming)

Homeowner/Renter Data
Residential address(es) for this year
Mortgage interest: Form 1098
Sale of your home or other real estate: Form 1099-S
Second mortgage interest paid
Real estate taxes paid
Rent paid during tax year
Moving expenses

Financial Assets
Interest income statements: Form 1099-INT & 1099-OID
Dividend income statements: Form 1099-DIV
Proceeds from broker transactions: Form 1099-B
Retirement plan distribution: Form 1099-R
Capital gains or losses

Financial Liabilities
Auto loans and leases (account numbers and car value) if vehicle used for business
Student loan interest paid
Early withdrawal penalties on CDs and other fixed time deposits

Personal property tax information
Department of Motor Vehicles fees

Gifts to charity (receipts for any single donations of $250 or more)
Unreimbursed expenses related to volunteer work
Unreimbursed expenses related to your job (travel expenses, entertainment, uniforms, union dues, subscriptions)
Investment expenses
Job-hunting expenses
Education expenses (tuition and fees)
Child care expenses
Medical Savings Accounts
Adoption expenses
Alimony paid
Tax return preparation expenses and fees

Self-Employment Data
Estimated tax vouchers for the current year
Self-employment tax
Self-employment SEP plans
Self-employed health insurance
K-1s on all partnerships
Receipts or documentation for business-related expenses
Farm income

Deduction Documents
State and local income taxes
IRA, Keogh and other retirement plan contributions
Medical expenses
Casualty or theft losses
Other miscellaneous deductions

We’re here to help. Let me know if you have any questions.


Ernie Sharp
(606) 324-5655

Ernest P. Sharp II, CPA

3 More Reasons Why More Ashland, KY Families Don’t Have Estate Plans

3 More Reasons Why More Ashland, KY Families Don’t Have Estate Plans

The Winter Olympics are finished and we are fully immersed in our tax preparation process.

We’ve been enjoying the opportunity to reconnect with so many longtime friends from Ashland, KY who trust us with their most sensitive financial details — and we don’t take that privilege lightly.

And because I don’t take this lightly, I also want to take the opportunity to urge my Ashland, KY clients who have NOT prepared for every eventuality for their family to consider using this season as a time to take care of another significant financial “preparation” as well.

I wrote a little about this last week, and I’m wrapping up my thoughts on this particular topic here this week.

We’d be glad to help you and point you in the right direction for this process.

3 More Reasons Why More Ashland, KY Families Don’t Have Estate Plans
“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” -Desmond Tutu

Last week I wrote about a couple of the bad reasons some Ashland, KY families use to not do basic estate planning.

In fact, as of this writing, it’s a fact that almost 60% of Americans don’t have a basic will, and that’s a big problem.

Much of this is because of misconceptions about estate planning, and I dealt with two already:

1. “Only rich people prepare estate plans.”
2. “Everything goes to your spouse, if something happens.”

Well, I have three more for you to chew on, and dispense with.

Bad Reason 3. “After I create my will or living trust, there’s nothing else to think about.”
Well, if you follow this line of thinking, it could lead to a lot of problems. For instance, once you set up a trust, you need to re-title the assets you want to transfer to the trust. Otherwise, the trust doesn’t help a thing.

On top of that, families need to periodically update their will or trust to reflect major life events, such as a divorce or the birth of a child. You’ll also want to revisit your estate plan if you move to another state.

In fact, it’s a good idea to re-evaluate your plan every 3 or 4 years to make sure your plan is fully up-to-date.

Bad Reason 4. “If I have a will, my estate automatically won’t go through probate.”
Well, again — that’s not the case. In fact, ALL wills are subject to “probate”.  This is a process in which a court determines whether the document is actually valid and ensures that relatives and creditors are notified. This process can take several months and drain thousands of dollars from your estate.

So here’s one way to avoid that entirely–create that living trust. Essentially, a living trust is a legal document you create which holds property (such as brokerage accounts and real estate). When you die or are incapacitated, the property is smoothly transferred to your beneficiaries. This transfer occurs outside of the probate process, which saves a TON of hassle.

Not everyone needs one of these documents, but it’s something which you can’t paint over with a broad brush. Which is why it’s important to walk with a competent guide on these matters.

By the way, if you own property in more than one state, a living trust is a no-brainer. Going through probate in multiple states is a nightmare.

Another advantage to a living trust is privacy. A will is a public document, and anyone can come to the probate hearing to see if any fights break out. Living trusts aren’t published in any courthouse, so people can’t gain easy access to them. That’s quite nice.

Bad Reason 5. “I could be held responsible for a deceased parent’s debts.”
No, you’re not responsible for credit card debts from your parents.

In general, children aren’t responsible for a deceased parent’s debts, and in some cases spouses are often exempt as well. Again…you can’t paint it with a broad brush. But as a general rule, the estate is responsible for paying debts. If there isn’t enough in the estate to cover the amount owed, the debts usually go unpaid.

So really … there is no “great” reason to avoid this kind of planning. And it just so happens to be something that would make a great addition to your tax preparation process. So, let me know if you’re interested and we’ll help you get started on the right track.


Ernie Sharp
(606) 324-5655

Ernest P. Sharp II, CPA

Estate Planning For Dummies: Two Estate Planning Myths Debunked For Ashland, KY Families

Estate Planning For Dummies: Two Estate Planning Myths Debunked For Ashland, KY Families

I’m not sure there is very much I could say that could add anything to the conversation about what happened last week in Parkland, FL. It seems that every time something like this happens, we grieve for shorter and shorter amounts of time and move on ever-more quickly to the shouting at each other over root causes.

But the fact remains that there are 17 families whose entire world has been decimated, and a community who is reeling. With the speed of social media these days, it’s easy to take this opportunity to make various points (many of them quite valid), but should we perhaps notice about ourselves and our culture that we seem to “move on” so very quickly?

I’d like to never become “numb” to such things. And so we pause to mourn with those families, even here in the midst of our Ashland, KY office’s busiest season.

In times like this, I’m grateful for the moments I’ve been given with my friends and my family … and I am reminded that everything can change in an instant.

It sure brings everything into its proper perspective, doesn’t it?

Events like this can never be planned for, but nor can many of the other kinds of disasters which tend to hit families at unexpected times. Whether financial, personal, occupational, or otherwise, disaster and tragedy *does* strike every family at some point.

But problems that can intensify the disaster are ones that *can* be planned around, and sometimes we just need a reminder and the right timing to get those plans handled…

Estate Planning For Dummies: Two Estate Planning Myths Debunked For Ashland, KY Families
In every conceivable manner, the family is the link to our past, the bridge to our future.” -Alex Haley

As we have seen this past week, life can turn on a dime … and we can’t plan for every one of the specific ways it may do so. But we CAN plan broadly.

For me and my family, we’ve put some simple plans in place for a VARIETY of circumstances, not just financial or legal. And it truly helps us sleep better at night, just knowing we have it all covered.

And the unfortunate reality is that the most recent numbers indicate that almost 60% of Americans don’t have a basic will — and that’s a big problem.

One of the big reasons that most Ashland, KY families don’t yet have this in place is because of some incorrect thinking about whether it’s right for them, or if it’s even necessary. And sure, some just haven’t gotten around to creating a will or trust. Others think they don’t need an estate plan because they’re not “rich”.

I’ve even heard from Ashland, KY people that they don’t want to put it in place because when they do, it’s sending some sort of death wish into the universe (or some such).

But here’s the big problem — if you continue without an estate plan, you could (instead) leave a legacy of bad feelings and attorneys’ fees.

Because it is currently “tax season”, this is something that might make sense to have done once your return is filed — simply because you would have already compiled your financial documents in such a way that creating an effective plan is a bit easier.

Or maybe you are still tripping up on these myths?

Myth 1. “Only rich people prepare estate plans.”
Do you own ANYTHING? Because if so, you need a will. You see, a will allows you to designate who will receive your Ashland, KY property should anything happen. Continuing without one ensures that your assets will be distributed under the terms of your state’s “intestate succession” laws. That means your money and property could end up with family members you haven’t spoken to in years, instead of who you’d really like to see control your assets.

I won’t go into all of the different components of a will, trust, health care directive, etc., as my purpose here is to emphasize that failing to plan is simply a decision to trust your assets to government bureaucrats.

Even if you think your situation is pretty straightforward, you may feel more comfortable hiring a Ashland, KY lawyer to guide you through the process.

Myth 2. Everything goes to your spouse, if something happens.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. We take care of Ashland, KY clients from different states around the country, and I can tell you that state laws vary; whether for taxes, estates, or anything else. And in most states, if you continue without a will (intestate), your inheritance will be divided among your spouse and your children. In New York, for example, when someone dies intestate, the spouse gets the first $50,000 of the estate and what’s left is divided 50-50 among the spouse and the children.

You can imagine how this could create all kinds of problems, particularly if your spouse was financially dependent on you or you have children from a previous marriage.

I’ll post a few more in the weeks ahead, but I hope you can already see that things are not always as we “think”.

I hope this helps. To your family’s financial and emotional peace…


Ernie Sharp
(606) 324-5655

Ernest P. Sharp II, CPA  

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