This morning, as we walked around the lake with our Westies, Cagney and Lacey, my husband launched into a speech about running my business without regard for tax consequences.
I was trying to figure out how to minimize the taxes for my writing and consulting firm. “Just do what you love,” said my husband, who consults with small businesses on their technology and financial issues.
“But I want to understand more about tax consequences,” I told him. I hadn’t paid much attention to them in the past, because I didn’t feel like I had to. My business was going well, so I focused on doing the work – not running the business. Now, retirement is only 10 years away, so I don’t want to squander hard-earned dollars needlessly.
“I’m not telling you what you want to hear, so you probably aren’t going to listen to me,” my husband said loudly. “I may not have listened in the past, but I’m ready to listen now.” I said equally loudly. Fortunately, there were no other walkers within earshot. But our heated exchange got me thinking about when to take advice and when to ignore it.
1. Listening to others is so important, yet most of us don’t do it well. We’re thinking about our own priorities. Sometimes we impatiently interrupt – probably missing clues to what could improve our relationship with the person we’re attempting to communicate with. The first step in taking advice is to listen as sincerely and as objectively as we can.
2. When taking advice from others I first consider their expertise. Do they know more than I do on a given topic? If so, I realize I should consider their advice heavily, even if I don’t want to.
3. Taking advice from others is easier when we seek it. Most of us have come to recognize the dangers of giving unsolicited advice. At a minimum, it falls on deaf ears, and we’ve wasted our valuable energy. At worst, it offends the recipient, and occasionally ruins friendships.
4. If advice resonates with our feelings in our gut, we should take it. We may get the most well-thought-out, best-intentioned advice in the world. (There’s a shortage of CPAs in today’s job market, says your parent, so you should become a CPA.) But if it doesn’t match our intentions for our life, we shouldn’t pursue it. Half-hearted professions and marriages (etc.) never bring out the best in us.
In the case of tax optimization versus doing what I love, I will follow my husband’s advice. But I’ll do what I love with a better understanding of its tax consequences.