Decisions, Decisions

Guest Blogger
Amy Maricle

Decision making can be a trying process for some of us. While many people are decisive, take action, and never look back, others hem and haw over career changes, how they feel about a potential partner, and even what to order for lunch. Whatever your decision making personality, taking the time to tune into your own inner wisdom can assist you in making positive choices that you feel satisfied with today, and years from now.

Mixed thoughts and feelings are what we usually refer to as ambivalence. Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary defines ambivalence as: “Simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action.” How can we feel opposite things at the same time? From a psychological standpoint, we all have separate, but overlapping parts of self, which we develop to serve different purposes. For example, I have a therapist, artist, wife, mother, child, and runner part, etc. You can visualize these parts of self as semi-overlapping circles that share certain skills, attributes, fears, insecurities, and habits. To get a clearer picture of this, think of how you behave at work – your tone of voice, word choice, posture, and timing. Now think of how you behave with your pet or your children at home. How would your child respond if you said, “I’d like you to consider moving nap time to somewhere in the window of 3 – 5 pm on weekends, as this would facilitate both afternoon chore productivity and morning play time.” Or vice versa, how would a colleague
respond if you approached them the way you talk to your dog? “What a good employee! You met all your productivity deadlines this week! Good employee! Come get a bonus!” Thankfully, we can choose which parts of self to use in different contexts.

Because our parts overlap, more than one part often has something to say about a given decision. Let’s say you have inherited a little money, and are faced with a choice about how best to use it. The fun-loving child part of you says, “Go on a vacation! You deserve it. Life is meant to be lived.” The responsible, parent part might say, “Don’t be so selfish, invest and build up some money for your daughter’s college tuition,” and then a fearful part might say, “If you don’t invest in your retirement, your daughter won’t have anywhere to visit you because you’ll be living on the street!” Which of these voices is “right?” All of them are. The trick is to weed through berating, belittling, or shaming voices and decide if there is a nugget of wisdom there, or just the stones of self-doubt. Once you do that, you can sift through all of the information logically and decide on the best course of action.

How do you let these parts or voices be heard? To explore them, discover how they can help you make better decisions, and use existing strengths in different parts of your life, try the following exercise.

Create a parts map:

Draw a circle on the middle of a page. This represents what I will call your “core self,” the center of you, so to speak. Now draw an overlapping circle and label it with one of your roles (i.e. daughter/son, mother/father, student, employee, cat lover, athlete, skeptic, activist, etc.) Continue drawing overlapping circles until you feel you have represented the major roles/parts of self. Now label some of the qualities, both positive and negative that each part exhibits. Use colors, shapes, and symbols to make your map more illustrative and rich. You could also draw each circle on a separate page so that you can manipulate which circles overlap, depending on the qualities they share.MaricleFigure1

You may find that different parts of self have different strengths that could be used in other parts of your life. For example, in my work life, I have always felt confident and stable. I expect that good things will come my way, and they always have. In contrast, in my love life, I used to fear being left. This clouded my choice in partners and my behavior in relationships. I frequently felt hurt, abandoned, and dissatisfied. At some point, I began using my work self’s positive and secure attitude in my personal life. Using elements of my work self, I was able to let go of my desire to meet someone on a certain timeline, and of course, that’s when I met someone. This is a “fake it till you make it” approach in the beginning, but eventually it will come naturally. These are all parts of you, after all.

Getting a good understanding of different parts can assist you in listening to your own wisdom. You can clear away voices of self-doubt and unfounded negativity, making a path for new endeavors by heeding the inner wisdom that helps you avoid pitfalls and make positive choices.

Amy Johnson Maricle, LMHC, ATR-BC is a psychotherapist and art therapist in Foxboro, MA. She loves helping teens and adults find ways to live happier, healthier, and smarter. You can find out more at: www.amyjohnsonmaricle.com

(Originally posted on First30Days Blog, July 8th, 2013)

DISCLAIMER: This information is not a substitute for professional psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content provided by Maricle Counseling and Amy Maricle, LMHC, ATR-BC is intended for general information purposes only. Never disregard professional medical or psychological advice or delay seeking treatment because of something you read here.

Six Tips on Gambling Income and Losses

Whether you roll the dice, play cards or bet on the ponies, all your winnings are taxable. The IRS offers these six tax tips for the casual gambler.

1. Gambling income includes winnings from lotteries, raffles, horse races and casinos. It also includes cash and the fair market value of prizes you receive, such as cars and trips.

2. If you win, you may receive a Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings, from the payer. The form reports the amount of your winnings to you and the IRS. The payer issues the form depending on the type of gambling, the amount of winnings, and other factors. You’ll also receive a Form W-2G if the payer withholds federal income tax from your winnings.

3. You must report all your gambling winnings as income on your federal income tax return. This is true even if you do not receive a Form W-2G.

4. If you’re a casual gambler, report your winnings on the “Other Income” line of your Form 1040, U. S. Individual Income Tax Return.

5. You may deduct your gambling losses on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. The deduction is limited to the amount of your winnings. You must report your winnings as income and claim your allowable losses separately. You cannot reduce your winnings by your losses and report the difference.

6. You must keep accurate records of your gambling activity. This includes items such as receipts, tickets or other documentation. You should also keep a diary or similar record of your activity. Your records should show your winnings separately from your losses.

Please contact our office for information or help on this topic.

Special Tax Benefits for Armed Forces Personnel

If you’re a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, the IRS wants you to know about the many tax benefits that
may apply to you. Special tax rules apply to military members on active duty, including those serving in combat zones. These rules can help lower your federal taxes and make it easier to file your tax return.

Here are ten of those benefits:

  1. Deadline Extensions.  Qualifying military members, including those who serve in a combat zone, can postpone some tax deadlines. This includes automatic extensions of time to file tax returns and pay taxes.
  2. Combat Pay Exclusion.  If you serve in a combat zone, you can exclude certain combat pay from your income. You won’t need to show the exclusion on your tax return because qualified pay isn’t included in the wages reported on your Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. Some service outside a combat zone also qualifies for this exclusion.
  3. Earned Income Tax Credit.  You can choose to include nontaxable combat pay as earned income to figure your EITC. You would make this choice if it increases your credit. Even if you do, the combat pay remains nontaxable.
  4. Moving Expense Deduction.  If you move due to a permanent change of station, you may be able to deduct some of your unreimbursed moving costs.
  5. Uniform Deduction.  You can deduct the costs and upkeep of certain uniforms that regulations prohibit you from wearing while off duty. You must reduce your expenses by any reimbursement you receive for these costs.
  6. Signing Joint Returns.  Both spouses normally must sign joint income tax returns. However, when one spouse is unavailable due to certain military duty or conditions, the other may, in some cases sign for both spouses, or will need a power of attorney to file a joint return.
  7. Reservists’ Travel Deduction.  If you’re a member of the U.S. Armed Forces Reserves, you may deduct certain travel expenses on your tax return. You can deduct unreimbursed expenses for traveling more than 100 miles away from home to perform your reserve duties.
  8. Nontaxable ROTC Allowances.   Educational and subsistence allowances paid to ROTC students participating in advanced training are not taxable. However, active duty pay – such as pay received during summer advanced camp – is taxable.
  9. Civilian Life.  After leaving the military, you may be able to deduct certain job hunting expenses. Expenses may include travel, resume preparation fees and job placement agency fees. Moving expenses may also be deductible.
  10. Tax Help.  We are here to help you with your tax preparation needs. We always offer a $30 Discount to our Veterans and those Actively Serving today. Call us today – 800-560-4637.

Happy 4th of July from NFS

We remain the land of the free because we are the home of the brave.

As we celebrate Independence Day, take a moment to remember those who fought for our freedoms and gave their all for you and me.

We truly appreciate your business.

Protecting Your Financial Records From Disaster

Among other worthy causes, July is Bio-terrorism/Disaster Education and Awareness Month. With all of the unexpected happenings in the world, it is important that we are prepared for an emergency disaster. Take this time to educate yourself and your whole family on what to do in any type of disaster. Get a plan ready and have needed supplies handy if you ever need them.

Identification. If you suddenly find yourself standing in a pile of rubble that was once your home and your worldly possessions, establishing your identity will be of paramount importance. Access to personal identification documents such as your Social Security card, driver’s license,
marriage license, birth certificate, passport and any citizenship papers will help you quickly establish your identity and speed up the co-ordination of your efforts with insurance companies, construction contractors, bankers and other entities involved in rebuilding and recovery.

Create a Backup Set of Records Electronically. Individuals and businesses should keep a set of backup records in a safe place. The backup should be stored away from the original set. Keeping a backup set of records – including, for example, bank statements, tax returns, insurance policies, etc. – is easier now that many financial institutions provide statements and documents electronically, and much financial information is available on the Internet. Even if the original records are provided only on paper, they can be scanned, which converts them to a digital format. Once documents are in electronic form, taxpayers can download them to a backup storage device, like an external hard drive, or burn them onto a CD or DVD.

You should also consider online backup, which is the only way to ensure data is fully protected. With online backup, files are stored in another region of the country – so if a hurricane or other natural disaster occurs in your area, documents remain safe.

Document Valuables.  Another step you can take to prepare for disaster is to photograph or videotape the contents of your home, especially items of higher value. A photographic record can help prove the market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims. Photos should be stored with a friend or family member who lives outside the area, or in the above mentioned online backup solution. Such proof can include photographs or videos of personal possessions; remember, digital cameras and camcorders make it possible to quickly and easily create a complete home inventory record.

Update Emergency Plans. Emergency plans should be reviewed annually. Personal and business situations change over time, as do preparedness needs. When employers hire new employees or when a company or organization changes functions, plans should be updated accordingly and employees should be informed of the changes.

Make sure you have a means of receiving severe weather information; if you have a NOAA Weather Radio, put fresh batteries in it. Make sure you know what you should do if threatening weather approaches.

We’re Here to Help. Rebuilding your life in the wake of a disaster is a daunting task. However, advanced preparation can go a long way toward making recovery easier. If you don’t have your documents in order, there’s no time like the present to get started. Once you have everything in its proper place, remember to update it. If you lack the time or energy to keep your files updated on an ongoing basis, schedule a yearly checkup and use it as an opportunity to put the latest version of everything into your files. Even the most well-organized disaster recovery materials will be of no use to you if they are out-of-date. Please contact my office for your free “Emergency Planning Guide” today. This detailed guide will provide more in depth plans to help you protect your financial records from disaster.