Whether you're helping a client plan their financial future or file their taxes, bad habits can throw a monkey wrench into the process. Financial guru Bryce Sanders lists 10 tried-and-tested ways to get clients to change those little missteps that can have a negative impact.
It’s a new year, but old habits die hard. Clients get comfortable, which can create inefficiencies. This can manifest itself at tax time or in a financial planning meeting. You likely make a few suggestions for potential changes in their daily habits. Here’s a larger list of client suggestions that you can convert into newsletter content or a printout.
1. Clearly Separate Business and Personal Spending
Many people have a business on the side. They might sell on eBay or do consulting. For simplicity’s sake, they might run both their business and personal lives out of the same pocket. This becomes an issue if they suddenly need the protection of the corporate veil.
Action: Regardless of the size of the business, it needs separate bank accounts, credit cards and a retirement account. Clients should save receipts. Daily envelopes are a low-tech solution that has withstood the test of time. Regularly tally those business expenses.
2. Track Mileage When Using a Personal Car for Business
Many occupations require the use of a personal car. Mileage connected to business is usually a reimbursable expense, so these expenses should be tracked.
Action: The business should have a separate business insurance policy covering times the personal car is used for business purposes. The fine print in their current policy likely covers personal use only. When tallying daily expenditures, tally mileage too. It’s easier for clients to have calculated set distances for the places they usually visit.
3. Draw Up a Document When Lending Personal Money to the Business
This is another example of “running things from the same pocket,” and it can get clients into trouble. Your client might need to lend their business money. There needs to be a paper trail.
Action: This is easy. Before writing a check or making a transfer, encourage the client to compose a simple letter between themselves and the business, detailing the amount and date of the loan. Include the check or transfer confirmation number. Keep a file of these letters.
4. Organize Monthly Statements and Bills Upon Arrival
Many taxpayers go through piles of credit card and bank statements, assembling yet another pile to send to their accountant. Something is always missing. There’s got to be a better way.
Action: There is a better way. Each month, clients can start a file folder for that month’s bills. When they have paid a bill, the statements or a printed record are put into the folder. A new folder should be started each month. As tax time approaches, the client will have 12 folders with bank statements, credit card statements, and any other bills.
5. Pay Personal Bills Upon Receipt
It seems to take longer and longer for companies to acknowledge receipt of payments. Maybe the mail is slow. They are excellent at applying late charges the moment the grace period is exceeded.
Action: Clients should pay those bills the day they arrive. Some larger bills, like property taxes, offer a small discount if clients pay in advance. Bearing in mind bank accounts are paying close to zero in interest, that 2 percent early payment savings can be a great deal.
6. Review Credit Card Statements Every Month
Everyone knows they should do it, but few people save receipts. Here’s a wakeup call for your client. Fraudsters know people will notice a $500 dubious charge. It makes sense for them to try passing through tiny charges, one per month. They increase month to month. It lets them know who doesn’t check their statements. Then comes the big charge!
Action: Review all statements for unknown or out of the ordinary charges. The overseas car rental that took place while you were locked down in the US. Call the credit card company and report any dubious charges.
7. Compare Monthly Bills with the Previous Month
Companies raise fees, but they usually don’t blow a trumpet. A client might have made their move because of an attractive “introductory rate.” It is important to know when the introduction is over.
Action: Clients can explore options by doing some research beforehand. They can call their provider. Reference the higher fee and ask for an explanation. Quote the competitor’s rate. Ask if there is anything they can do. They might be surprised to see their rate go down.
8. Shop Around for Health Insurance
It’s a big expense. It usually rises much faster than inflation. It’s easy to stick with a current provider. Inertia is powerful.
Action: Shop around. Consumer magazines should provide comparisons and recommended selections. Independent advice is helpful.
9. Pay in Cash or with a Debit Card When Possible
Many people are surprised by the cumulative total of their monthly credit card spending. They pay the minimum, rolling over the balance at a 15 percent or higher interest rate.
Action: A solution can be paying for groceries, coffee, lunch, cocktails and gasoline in cash. Another alternative is using a debit card. Clients know how much they have available. This should act as a natural brake on spending.
10. Treat Service Providers Like A Company Treats Vendors
Your firm reviews vendor relationships. They put out Requests for Proposal (RFPs). Companies know they must compete for the business.
Action: Clients buy services too. Examples are personal insurance and wireless services. At least once a year, check out the competition. There are people who want to win more business.
Showing your client how they can save money enhances the value you bring to the relationship.
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Click here to read more articles written by Bryce Sanders.