The Bullseye - January 2009

Thursday, January 1, 2009

In This Issue:
Smart Renting,
Alumni Update,
Preparing for a Performance Review,
Monthly Contest Winner,
The Top Missed Tax Deductions

Smart Renting

The foreclosure crisis has given rise to the less popular idea of renting. Not only are apartment rentals on the rise, but single family and townhouse rentals are popping up, because owners aren’t able to sell their properties. 

First, let’s examine why it is a good idea to rent. One major advantage is monthly savings. According to The National Multi Housing Council (NMHC), on average, renters save $560 per month as opposed to homeowners. In addition, renters save on hidden homeowner costs, such as maintenance and upkeep.  

One of the best ways to rent is through a professional leasing company. Some professionally managed complexes offer amenities such as pools, laundry service, workout facilities, and Internet cafes. They also have on-site maintenance and property management offices. Finally, they offer financial peace of mind, because they are businesses as opposed to private owners. Therefore, there is less chance of foreclosure. Many of the complexes are national companies with solid financial resources. 
 
If you do choose to rent through a private homeowner, be sure to do your research. Make sure there is no potential for foreclosure on that property and that the landlord checks out with references. Ask for a credit check and research county records to determine if there are any delinquent payments. Also check property taxes. If an owner owes property tax, then they likely owe on their mortgage too. Don’t risk being out on the street because you did not do your homework.  
 
Finally, the smartest thing you can do as a renter is purchase insurance. Most renters believe that if a fire or burglary should occur, the landlord would be responsible. But this is not true. The owner is liable only for the studs outward. So basically that means you would lose everything in a disaster. Renters insurance is very inexpensive and runs from $150 - $350 per year. Be sure to catalog your belongings and buy extra insurance if you own expensive items like jewelry. 
 
Renting doesn’t hold the stigma it once had. Renting is becoming a more popular option, especially with Gen X, Gen Y, and even Baby Boomers. Some economists believe renting is smarter than buying. But as always, be sure to do your homework, so that you can be a smart renter.

Alumni Update

"It's been 20 months since I was placed at Bird Technologies Group in Solon, OH, and I have to say that being placed here has been a dream come true.  This is a family owned business and has been around since 1943.

We manufacture RF power measurement and test equipment as well as RF components and in-building solutions.  I am the Military Sales Manager and I conduct sales calls not only on the military but also all of the prime contractors like Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing, and General Dynamics.    With the right focus, we have been able to increase military bookings and sales by 43% this past year!  

My experience with Orion was life changing.  If it wasn't for their hard work and diligence, I would not be where I am at today.  Thank you."

- Kevin King

Do you have an update to share with us?  Did you get promoted, have a new addition to your family or any other news you’d like to share?  Click here to tell us about it.

Preparing for a Performance Review

Some employees don’t prepare for a performance review, but this is a big mistake. Nothing says “I don’t care about my job” more than an unprepared employee. Listen to the experts and utilize the guidelines outlined below. 
 
First, write down what you already know. Your performance should be an ongoing discussion with your boss. You should already know what your strengths and weaknesses are in your boss’s eyes. There should be no surprises during your actual performance review. If you do not know what they are this should be remedied by approaching your boss and encouraging open discussions. 
 
Once you have determined your strengths and weaknesses, write them down and be sure to provide details. For example, if one of your strengths is organization, provide a specific project or task where you were able to use your organizational skills to improve the bottom line or increase efficiency. It is also important to list areas where you could have done better. But try not to overshadow the positives. If you are aware of your weaknesses, make a special effort to improve them prior to your performance review. And be sure to let your boss know what you have done to improve them. Again, always write your ideas down and organize them prior to the review. 
 
Also, it is important to consider your job description. How does what you do align with what is in your job description? Are there key measures and objectives listed on your job description? Have you met them and/or exceeded expectations? What areas have you not met? All of these questions should be answered and addressed when preparing for your review. 
 
Another area to be sure to include is any training that you have attended, such as seminars, continuing education, or coursework that would apply to your job. This will show your boss that you have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help improve your performance. 
 
Last, it is a good idea to know what the performance review process is. Some companies ask their employees to complete a self-evaluation prior to their review. Other companies don’t ask employees to participate in the preparation. If your company does not, it is still important to write everything down and be as prepared as possible. 
 
Ultimately, a performance review is used to determine how you are doing, where you are going, and sometimes if a raise is warranted. Most importantly, you should come away from the review knowing exactly what you need to do to improve your performance. In most states, if an employee fails to improve, it can be cause for termination. So, obviously, this makes clear communication between you and your boss critical. 

Congratulations to this Month's Winner

 

Jill Slay won the Job Seeker Referral monthly drawing and is the winner of a $50 gift card. 
 
 
Ready for your chance to win a $50 gift card? You’ll receive an entry into our monthly drawings for Client and Job Seeker referrals for each referral that you submit – good luck and thank you for the referral!

Top Missed Tax Deductions

Tax deductions can be confusing, at best. Most people know that charitable contributions, mortgage interest, and business expenses are tax deductible. However, it is all too common that people don’t include things that are deductible. Generally, it is due to the fact that the taxpayer is unaware of what is and is not deductible.  

Health Insurance Premiums – Most health insurance premiums are deductible. This must be added to your medical expenses, which must exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.  

First Job Moving Expenses – If it is your first job and you are moving more than 50 miles, you can deduct expenses related to getting yourself and your property to the new location.  

Child Care Credit – If you pay for child-care so that you can work, you are eligible for a tax credit. There are some rules and stipulations regarding child care credits, so be sure to visit the IRS website for more information.  

Home Office Expenses – This is one area that will require excellent record keeping, but if done properly can be beneficial. In order to qualify, you must have a dedicated office/business space. This deduction primarily applies to operating expenses, but other items including property tax payments can be included.  

Work Uniform Expenses & Union Dues – Yes, it is true. Uniforms required for work, as well as union dues, are eligible for itemized deductions. Don’t forget to keep receipts for uniform expenses.  

State Tax From Previous Year – If you owed taxes during the previous year you can include that amount with your state tax deduction for the present year. Be sure to also include state income taxes withheld from your paychecks or paid through quarterly estimated payments.  

Higher Education – College tuition is deductible, even on a part-time basis up to a certain amount. 2007 allowed deductions up to $4000.  

Student Loan Interest – If parents pay back student loan interest for their children, up to $2500 can be eligible for deductions.  

These are just a few of the most commonly missed deductions. For further clarification on what you can deduct from your 2008 taxes, please visit http://www.irs.gov/ or consult your financial advisor. 

 

 

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