Your Attorney is Not Your Higher Power
Perhaps your husband, your father or somebody else always handled the legal details or any dealings with the IRS or State Tax Authority. If you want to continue relying on someone else to handle your contracts or handle your money it better be a different tax person or lawyer than you used in your married days. Nowadays, ladies, we are the only ones we need to be accountable to, ourselves and our children. That means we need to know what we’re signing and what we’re paying for.
This is Big Girl Pants Time- Set aside the time to learn as much as you can about whatever you’re signing be it a contract or your tax returns. Learn what your options are and challenge your advisors. It’s a common practice in corporate management to “pressure test” ideas by challenging what solutions or answers are presented.
Do your own homework and ask your Tax person/Attorney/Finance person questions. Don’t be a chicken s&^! Ask the questions.
I don’t sign a contract unless I understand it. My lawyers need to explain my contracts to me in plain English. In its simplest form, every contract can be reduced to this phrase- In exchange for me doing “this” you will do “that”. Ex. The guy fixes your car and you pay the agreed price.
When I first starting reading business agreements and I didn’t understand a phrase or a sentence I insisted that my lawyer/representative rewrite it in everyday English. Case in point: The word “issue” is commonly used in writing estates and wills. It means the children of the beneficiary. I had them rewrite it to say precisely that. Over time and with experience, I became comfortable with the process and began to understand the verbiage. Remember we don't do “vague”. We can’t afford "vague", we must have clarity with our words as well as our numbers.
I do not multi-task when I deal with my taxes or my accountant. Nowhere in the Tax Code does it say that you can’t look fabulous AND understand your tax returns. If your tax person gets too aggressive with your write-offs - you’re the one who will face IRS scrutiny. Sure, he may appear with you to explain how the return was prepared- but it's your G-DAMN Tax Return - so KNOW WHATS ON IT! There AIN”T NO TROUBLE LIKE IRS TROUBLE!
You don’t need to know every possible write off available to you but you need to understand every write-off that you claim!
Your Financial Advisor is not paying for your retirement, you, however, are paying for his! Make him earn it. Every recommendation that he/she makes may be totally ethical and legal but is it the right one for you? Are your savings and investments in financial instruments that best suit you? The best way to be sure about this is to express your wishes plainly and without reservation. And then give him/her a chance to present a plan. Then take your time with it and review it alone or with a friend by reading it aloud and asking yourself questions, researching your answers, and later discussing them with your advisor.
Ask these people questions, remember they work for you!