Proving Travel Expenses After Tax Reform 2018

As you likely know by now, your travel meals continue under tax reform as tax-deductible meals subject to the 50 percent cut.

And tax reform did not change the rules that apply to your other travel expense deductions.

One beauty of being in business for yourself is the ability to pick your travel destinations and also deduct your travel expenses. For example, you can travel to exotic locations using the seven-day travel rule and/or attend conventions and seminars in boondoggle areas.

From these examples, you can understand why the IRS might want to see proof of your business purpose for any trips, should it examine them.

With deductions for lodging, a meal, or other travel expenses, the rules governing receipts, business reasons, and canceled checks are the same for corporations, proprietorships, individuals, and employees. The entity claiming the tax deduction must keep timely records that prove the four elements listed below:

1. Amount. The amount of each expenditure for traveling away from home, such as the costs of transportation, lodging, and meals.
2. Time. Your dates of departure and return, and the number of days on business.
3. Place. Your travel destination described by city or town.
4. Business purpose. Your business reason for the travel, or the nature of the business benefit derived or expected to be derived.

When in tax-deductible travel status, you need a receipt, a paid bill, or similar documentary evidence to prove:

• every expenditure for lodging, and
• every other travel expenditure of $75 or more, except transportation, for which no receipt is required if one is not readily available. I suggest saving ALL receipts regardless of amount.

The receipt you need is a document that establishes the amount, date, place, and essential character of the expenditure.

Hotel example. A hotel receipt is sufficient to support expenditures for business travel if the receipt contains:

• the name of the hotel,
• the location of the hotel,
• the date, and
• separate amounts for charges such as lodging, meals, and telephone.

Restaurant example. A restaurant receipt is sufficient to support an expenditure for a business meal if it contains the:

• name and location of the restaurant,
• date and amount of the expenditure, and
• number of people served, plus an indication of any charges for an item other than meals and beverages, if such charges were made.

You can’t simply use your credit card statement as a receipt. Like a canceled check, it proves only that you paid the money, not what you purchased. To prove the travel expenditure, you need both the receipt (proof of purchase) and the canceled check or credit card statement (proof of payment).

In a nutshell, a travel expense is an expense of getting to and from the business destination and an expense of sustaining life while at the business destination. Here are some examples from the IRS:

• Costs of traveling by airplane, train, bus, or car between your home and your overnight business destination
• Costs of traveling by ship (subject to the luxury water travel rules and cruise ship rules)
• Costs of renting a car or taking a taxi, commuter bus, or airport limo from the airport to the hotel and to work destinations, including restaurants for meals
• Costs for baggage and shipping of business items needed at your travel destination
• Costs for lodging and meals (meal costs include tips to waiters and waitresses)
• Costs for dry cleaning and laundry
• Costs for telephone, computer, Internet, fax, and other communication devices needed for business
• Tips to bellmen, maids, skycaps, and others

The travel deduction rules are the same whether you operate your business as a corporation or a proprietorship, with one important exception. When you operate as a corporation during the tax years 2018 through 2025, you must either:

• have the corporation reimburse you for the expenses, or
• have the corporation pay the expenses.

If you would like my help in planning the business and personal parts of your next trip, please don’t hesitate to call me.

Robert W Craig, EA Tax Services (805) 264-3305

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Tax Reform Changes the Alimony Game!

Tax reform changes the alimony game.

This may or may not have any relevance to you, but if it does, you will want to move quickly.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) eliminates tax deductions for alimony payments that are required under post-2018 divorce agreements.

More specifically, the TCJA’s new denial of alimony tax deductions applies to payments required by divorce or separation instruments:

• executed after December 31, 2018, or
• modified after that date, if the modification specifically states that the new TCJA treatment of alimony payments now applies.

Example. Betsy is divorcing Tim, and Betsy will pay $120,000 a year in alimony. If Betsy can deduct the $120,000 in her 50 percent combined federal and state income tax bracket, her net cost is $60,000 ($120,000 x 50 percent).

To look at the alimony in another light, with no tax deduction Betsy has to earn $240,000, then pay taxes of $120,000 in her 50 percent bracket, before she can give Tim the $120,000.

Regardless of how you look at the cost of alimony, the loss of the alimony tax deduction is huge.

Note: You deal with a judge (court) to finalize the divorce. This could take some time, so don’t procrastinate, or you’ll surely miss the deadline.

To qualify as deductible alimony, your divorce must satisfy a list of specific tax-law requirements. We should review your divorce if you are in this process.

Robert W Craig, EA Tax Services (805) 264-3305

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Got the Budget, Now What?

So what did you find out? What insights did you get into your spending habits? Did you find at least a few places where you might save some dough?

This is the fourth post in this series, if you missed any of the others visit to see all posts, or just click here for post #1, click here for post #2, and click here for post #3.

Well, you’re probably discovering that your finances fall into one of three categories:
1) a deficit position, that is, you’re spending less than you make, and are in debt, and that debt is growing,
2) a break-even position, no debt and spending everything that you make, or
3) a surplus position, there’s more money at the end of the month.

No matter which position you’re in, it can be improved upon. Now the mistake most people make who are in category #1 or #2 is thinking that the answer is to:

Make more money

They think that all they have to do to move out of the #1 or #2 slot is to earn more money. WRONG!!!

People in deficit and break even positions have what is called a bad habit. A habit of spending more that they make, or the habit of spending everything that they make. We are all creatures of habit. And habits, good or bad, become part of us by definition. Check out the definition of habit: A settled or regular tendency or practice, esp. one that is hard to give up.

Making more money is fine, but do not think that making more money will solve all your financial problems. So, what will solve the problems? The answer is to make new habits. How? You don’t try to force the bad habits out the back door, that’s too much work, and it focuses your attention on the bad habit.

No, you identify the bad habit and then replace it with it’s polar opposite, a good new habit. For example, if your identified bad habit is that you don’t take advantage of specials and coupons, the new habit is to be conscious of specials on things you wish to buy, and be on the lookout for coupons for things you spend money on.

Action Step #1: Look at your budget, your current spending patterns and write down the ones where you can see a benefit in creating a new habit with. Just get them on paper for now.

Action Step #2: Rate them in order of ease of dealing with, maybe 1 to 10, 1 being best. Then rate them in order of which ones will have the greatest financial impact for you, again from 1 to 10.

Action Step #3: Assess for yourself which have the greatest financial impact and have a fairly high rating on the ease factor. Remember, we are trying to create new habits here. Don’t overwhelm yourself and try to fix everything today. Also if one would be, in your opinion right now, very difficult to implement for you mentally, emotionally or physically, leave that one for later. If it’s too hard you may give up the whole process. Even small habit changes, when added together with other small changes will yield results far greater than the individual parts. Remember from post #1, little things really add up.

It can take from 21 days to a couple of months to change a habit and make it permanent so just work on those for now. You’ll start seeing results and more money in the bank. You’ll start feeling better about yourself and have less financial worry. At that point you will be impelled to attack the tougher bad habits with confidence and fearlessness. Slow and steady wins the race.

Here’s a bonus action step. Go back to your budget and right at the top of the list of expenses put, “Pay Myself First” and enter the figure of 10% of your income. Now, if you just don’t make enough or have cut your spending down quite yet, start with a smaller number but ultimately shoot for 10%. The habit is what we’re trying to develop so even $5 a week will be habit forming.

Now open up an investment account at your bank, brokerage firm or online account like ETrade and invest the money there and DON’T TOUCH IT!!! Just invest it and watch it grow. It is not to be spent. This will become clear in a later article.

Another thing along these lines is to get a piggy bank, one that’s impossible to get into and put $1 or $5 or $10 or your spare change into it each day. Again, this develops a habit of saving the money we might otherwise piddle away on something we can’t even remember at the end of the day. Then at the end of three months, open it up, count it out and see how much you’ve saved. Now take 10% or 20% of it and just go out and blow it as frivolously as you wish. Take the rest and put it into your investment account. You can play with the percentages, the key here not only to build more cash, but to reward yourself for doing the program.

Some people always come back and say, “I can’t do this.” “I can’t” almost always translates into “I won’t.” Just try it for 60 days, test drive it, if it doesn’t work you can always go back to the old way but, if you’ve read this far, the old way has probably not been satisfactory for you.

Robert W. Craig, E.A.

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The Nasty “B” Word

This is the third post in a series to help us regain control of our money and get that money working for us so hopefully someday we won’t have to work it anymore.  If you missed the first two installments, click here for part 1, and click here for part 2, to bring yourself up to speed.

Our minds are cunning creatures.  When we think about all this cutting back on spending stuff often it tells us things like; “hey, you work hard, you deserve that soda every day” or “inflation is running rampant, better spend it now while it’s still worth something.”

Now, both of those may hold some validity, and you do deserve to enjoy things, but wouldn’t those things you buy be much more enjoyable if your finances were under control? If all your bills are paid, the car’s maintained, you’ve got six months income for a cushion for emergencies, you are building a retirement account, you are putting money away for short or long term goals, and are spending money that is actually designated for fun…don’t you think you might enjoy the expenditure a whole lot more?

Now that you’ve freed up some money the million dollar question is…”what do I do with it?”

Not so fast, sorry but now I have to bring up the “B” word. It’s time to figure out what you have ‘coming in’ each month, and how much you have ‘going out’ each month. You also need to know your expenditures by category. You’ve probaby guessed the “B” word is budget. Yeah, the word gives me a pang when I see it too, but in reality it’s not that hard to do for a household or even a business though, for a business you may want some help from your accountant.

Truth be told, most of us put this off or neglect it completely. We think we have it ‘all in our heads’. I used to think that, that I had a grip on it. Bottom line is that this thinking is a subconscious head-in-the-sand trick to keep us from facing the fact that we overspend. We know we overspend, we just don’t want expose ourselves from our bliss of ignorance.

If this sounds like you and you’re struggling financially, or not struggling but have that nagging frustration that, even though you may make a nice income, you are not progressing year to year. “Where does it all go?” you ask. Well until you get it on paper…You will never know where it all goes!

It doesn’t have to be a long-winded affair. Pull out your bank statements, checkbook register and credit card statements for the past 12 months along with your current paystubs and/or business draws if you’re self-employed. Get a columnar pad or use the computer program Excel and make columns for sources of income and categories of expenses, and then go through your bank statements, checkbook register, and credit cards and list each expense under it’s category. Note: use the credit card statements for charges, not your checkbook register for the payments. It’s vitally important to know what you charged, not just the payment.

Be as detailed as you can while not being too specific. For example, use a category called Groceries and Household Supplies, rather than Vons, Ralphs, Costco, etc. You may if you wish breakout Groceries from Household Supplies. You can go here for a free Excel template, just scroll down to where it says Download Now:

This will help you out with categories and when you tally your income and expenses, you can plug the numbers in to see where you’re at now.

The next step is to be brutally honest with yourself on the numbers. Some expenses are absolutely necessary for survival, food, clothing, shelter, getting to work, certain insurances, etc.

Some seem necessary but really are not necessary like, cable tv (yes, it is not required for survival), health club memberships (essential to stay fit but one can workout at home), holiday gifts (we’ve had some bad years where we bought absolutely nothing, and lived through it), etc. We’re just identifying things here so don’t be afraid to be honest.

Some are just not necessary like, movies, booze (that hurts me too), cigarettes, eating out, the daily coffee at the coffee shop…you’ll know what these are.

Again, the idea is not to cut all of these things out. It’s just vital to know what’s coming in and going out, and which can be sliced, diced, cut up, reduced or eliminated. If you find you have to cut something out completely today, once things are squared up and fixed, you have the choice to pick it up again as an expenditure. It will be your choice and the joy that you know you can afford it will make it much more enjoyable than before.

This whole budget thing is so crucial and you may decide you want some help in getting going on this so if you need assistance, I offer a service for this, so do give me a call at (805) 264-3305.

Good luck and happy hunting.

Robert W. Craig, E.A.

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How Money Works, or How $100 = $143

Yesterday I talked a bit about harnessing and taking control of the money you earn or have.  Today I want to take it a step further and explain how money works.

You’ve no doubt heard the saying, “a penny saved is a penny earned.”  Ol Ben had it right but, being a tax guy, I’d like to toss in a variation, “a hundred dollars saved is a hundred forty three dollars earned.” Or, “if I have $100 and decide to blow it, I’ll need to go back to work and earn an extra $143 to get that $100 back.”

Now you’re wondering if I should be doing taxes with math like that.  Well Mr. Franklin said that saving a penny, that is, not blowing it, is the same as earning a penny.  Makes sense until we realize we have to pay taxes, and to have a penny, you need to earn more than a penny before taxes.

You see to get $100 net pay, you need to earn $143. That, less taxes, equals about $100. This is assuming that you are in the 15% federal bracket and 6% state. Also deducted is the Social Security, Medicare, and state disability taxes. In this scenario, this equals about 29.65% of your earnings going to taxes. So if I spend $100, I would need to work and earn $143 to replace it. Your tax rate may be higher or lower, but this scenario covers a whole lot of people in the U.S.

This adds a new twist to yesterdays article about watching little things as well as big things when it comes to spending your hard earned cash. Most people probably do their homework when buying a car, or big screen tv, or a two week vacation, but most of us go out almost mindlessly and buy, say a soda or coffee every day. We don’t think too much since it’s only a couple of bucks, what’s the harm.

Well, check this out. Spending $2 on a soda or coffee every day is $60 a month, and $730 a year. Now that we know $730 does not equal $730, but more like $1,045, we realize that $2 soda or coffee really costs close to $3. That’s about 2% of a $50,000 income. Maybe doesn’t sound like much but remember, the little things add up. And remember that the soda or coffee is just one area of expenditure.

If you took economics you most likely remember the term ‘opportunity cost.’ That’s the cost of choosing one action over another. If I spend my $730 on a soda every day, that’s $730 I can’t use to invest, or to pay down my debt, or buy new needed clothes.

Besides money, in the case of a soda, it’s really a bunch of sugar or artificial sweeteners, and other chemicals that are probably not really good for the body. I think most of us could agree with that. So let’s look at this. I’m spending almost $3 for a soda that cost $1.79 plus sales tax, which is in reality maybe fifty cents worth of value, for stuff that is most likely harmful to my well being. And I have to earn $1,040 a year for the priviledge.

Lets look at this another way. If you check around online or with agents and save $50 per month on your insurance policies, you save $600 cash. You’ve in effect just given yourself an equivalent raise of $875 this year.

Again, these are just a couple of examples. Look for ways to save on; groceries and household supplies, clothing, home furnishings, insurance policies, entertainment, gifting for birthdays and holidays, cable, utilities, etc.

One almost surefire way to save is, don’t carry your credit cards with you. It’s so easy to overspend on things you need and spend on things that you don’t even need. Lock em up if you have to.

We also need to talk about interest on credit cards if you carry a balance. Interest rates could be anywhere up to over 30% in extreme cases. So if you’re paying 15% remember the rate is really higher since you must pay with after tax dollars. $100 paid in interest required you to earn $143 to pay it.

I hope this makes sense. I am not advocating living like a monk or anything. Life is meant to be lived to the fullest. And money, being nothing more than a medium of exchange, is meant to be spent, just not recklessly. It is also meant to be employed in investing to earn more money through the investment, so your money is working for you.

It’s great to have all these things available for purchase for basic security, comfort and enjoyment. But do not confuse having stuff with freedom. By overspending, you don’t own what you buy, it owns you. Freedom is not having a ‘financial noose’ around your neck.

Simple questions can be: Do I really want this (at this cost)? Do I really need this? If I buy this will I respect myself in the morning (or when the credit card bill comes due)?

This is a long post so I’ll stop here. Be sure to check back tomorrow.

Robert W. Craig, E.A.

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The Success Puzzle

Most people you talk to would probably agree to some extent that real success is a puzzle. Why is this?

I would say that it is partly due to the fact that we’ve never really had much training in how to be successful. There is certainly no class in traditional schooling on success that I know of. Our experience has probably reinforced the idea that success is a puzzle especially if we have not experienced success in our lives.

However, I think a bigger reason for this belief is that…most people do not understand what success is. That is, what success is for them. After all, success can be different for everyone. Ask a thousand people and you’ll probably get nine hundred and ninety different answers. With an unknown factor of this size, how can it even be taught, so the thinking goes…why even bother trying?

Well, success can be defined, and a pioneer in the modern day self-improvement movement, Earl Nightingale, put it very well. He put it this way. “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.”

At first reading one may think, “what the heck does that mean?” A learning trick I was taught is, when you are reading a sentence that doesn’t make sense, take all the main words in it and get the dictionary and define them. Write down the definitions and put it all together and see if it doesn’t make more sense.

Lets try this here. We’ll start with “progressive.” It says, going forward or onward, passing successively from one stage to another. I get that okay, now “realization. It says, the act of realizing, to grasp or understand clearly, accomplishment. Now “worthy”. Having adequate or great merit, character or value. Nice, now “ideal”. A conception of something in its perfection or excellence, or an ultimate object or aim or endeavor, an idea you fall in love with.

Now we can go back and put it together so it makes sense to us. I see it as, moving forward consistently to an awareness of accomplishing something of great meaning or value to me. Wow, and I always thought it was having ten million dollars, a Bentley, a mansion and traveling the world.

Now I guess the trick is figuring out what that something of great meaning or value to me is.

And that is the trick, but its not really a trick. Its a decision. A decision to begin to think about things differently. To step out of the day to day, the so called rat race, and actually ponder on what that something or somethings might be.

But of course, who has the time right? We have the time to sit in front of the tv set from after dinner to bedtime, but no time to better our lives. As I said, its a decision. Give up a half hour or an hour a day for a week. If you don’t like it or it doesn’t pay dividends, you can always go back to your old routine but, as the saying goes, “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

Thanks for reading.

To your success,


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Lack of Decision

There is a single mental move you can make which, in a millisecond, will solve enormous problems for you. It has the potential to improve almost any personal or business situation you will ever encounter…and it could literally propel you down the path to incredible success. We have a name for this magic mental activity…it is called DECISION.

You can virtually eliminate conflict and confusion in your life by becoming proficient at making decisions. Decision making brings order to your mind, and of course, this order is then reflected in your objective world…your results.

The greatest stumbling block to achieving anything of importance in your life is circumstances. We let circumstances get us off the hook when we should be giving it everything we’ve got. More dreams are shattered and goals lost because of circumstances than any other single factor.

How often have you caught yourself saying, “I would like to do or have this but I can’t because…?” Whatever follows “because” is the circumstance.Successful people use circumstances to catapult them on toward their goal, while the masses use them as road blocks. A circumstance may cause a detour in your life but you should never permit it to stop you.

George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying, “People are always blaming circumstance for what they are. I do not believe in circumstance. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstance they want and if they can’t find them they make them.”

Napoleon said, “Circumstances hell, I make them.”

The next time you hear someone say they would like to vacation in Paris, or purchase a particular automobile but they can’t because they have no money. Tell them they don’t need any money, your reward will probably be a blank stare followed with, “What do you mean I don’t need any money?”

Explain they don’t need the money until they make a decision to go to Paris or purchase the car. When the decision is made, they will figure out a way to get the amount needed. They always do.

The circumstance they are using is one of the most common: a lack of money. The real cause of their problem is lack of decision. You always attract what you need when you decide it must be done. Try this yourself today. You know the task you have been putting off “because…” Make a decision, forget the circumstance or adopt Shaw’s theory, but get it done!

Bob Proctor

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What Is A Success Mindset?

by Bob Craig

The word ‘mindset’ has been kicked around a lot lately, so much so that I think we get kind of confused on what its role in our success actually is.

Our current mindset is the accumulated result of our past to present thoughts, feelings, emotions, actions and habits.  It’s the fruit of everything we’ve thought, done, experienced, seen, heard felt, smelled, touched, and tasted.  More accurately, it is the meaning we’ve given to all of the things we’ve experienced from the list above.

You’ve surely seen instances where two people experience the same thing but come away with two totally different perspectives on the experience.  You know, they went to the same party but came home with two different stories.  One had a great time and thought it was lively, the other was bored and never had such a dreadful time.

Its all about perspective.  And the cumulative effect of the experiences we’ve encountered in life has colored our perspective.

  In the case of success we have the added challenge of defining what success means to us.  That is a process beyond the scope of this article but read the ‘homepage’ article Success Puzzle for a bit more info on that.

A success mindset is a mindset that is geared to going after whatever we’ve defined as success for ourselves.  The mindset is the ‘autopilot’ that keeps us on track toward our ultimate goals.  Now, this autopilot can work for us, or it can work against us. 

Our conditioning holds the key to this.  If you’ve been conditioned that money is the root of all evil and you don’t want to be evil, woe be it to your money making goals.  Your conditioned mind will sabotage you at every turn.  Just when you’re about to have a big breakthrough, whamo!  Your protective mind will pull back and save you from the unthinkable…having that filthy lucre and becoming an evil miser!

I’ve also heard it called one’s ‘financial thermostat.’  Just like your home thermostat, when it gets too hot, the air conditioner kicks on, when it gets too cold, the heater jumps into action.  It is a real phenomena not just some mumbo-jumbo new age thing.

Same thing with money, relationships, health, weight, almost anything. If I see myself as 20 pounds overweight, and I manage to lose 5 pounds, if I have a conditioned mindset that says I’m 20 pounds overweight, something inside will get me down to McDonalds for 4 BigMacs and a shake. And later I say, “I don’t know what made me do that.” It was my ’20 pounds overweight” mindset!

If you’ve had challenges in certain areas of your life, go back and really look at them.  Look at them from the angle of taking responsibility for them.  Look real deep and honest.  Ask yourself, “how did I cause this to happen?”  Its a surprising exercise and a good one too, as we often see that we have had a lot more control over events in our lives that we previously thought.  This is really empowering if we look at it from the perspective of “I caused it, I am responsible for it, therefore, I can fix it!”

Now that we can see how this works, the next question is, “Am I stuck with my conditioning?” 

The great news is, absolutely not!

There are techniques to replace or reprogram our subconscious beliefs.  There are literally thousands of books, courses, seminars and methods that claim to reprogram the mind.  I’m sure you’ve heard of hypnosis, subliminal recordings, meditations, affirmations, NLP, and many, many more.

I tried many of these and have known people who have tried many different techniques, mostly with very limited results I am sad to say.  Many times the technique falls short and many times the person using them just can’t seem to do what it takes to make it work.  Both are due to flaws in the system.

I have found one method that works hands down better than anything else I’ve used and seem people use.  It is called the Release Technique.  Instead of trying to “stuff” more, new or different ideas into our already overloaded brains, it is based on releasing negative thoughts and feelings as they arise and by doing so, it disperses the emotion and lightens it up for us, eventually ridding us of our negativity.

It also has exercises where we can consciously bring up issues and areas that we want to work on.  Its really amazing in how it works, but at some point in the process, it all just really makes perfect sense.  I can really spend a lot of words talking it up but the best thing is if you are interested, is just to try it out.

One of the neatest things I like about it is, after using it, I am able to play tennis at a much higher level than before. That fast moving ball just seemed to slow down for me. And I did not get tired as fast. I notice that playing basketball also. Kind of an ‘in-the-zone’ thing. That part is fun for me, and at 53 going on 54, I need all the help I can get! I’m sure it would work for any sport.

Here is the link to the site:

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Why Do We Fail?

Do you know what the major reason for failure is?

Many people answer with things like, I don’t have the right education, I don’t have enough money, I don’t know the right people, I don’t have enough time or energy.

While these are definitely things that need to be addressed, they are NOT the major reason most people don’t succeed in what they desire in life.

The major reason is this: You are not committing yourself fully to a particular course of action!

If you are like most people, you’ve read many books, tried many courses, roamed all over the internet trying to find the Holy Grail. Well, think back on those books and courses you have purchased. Did you really throw yourself into them, studying them and more importantly, putting what you’ve learned into action?

I don’t know you personally, but I would probably be right 90% of the time if I guess the answer to be no. We many times start something and that’s good. But whats most important is how you finish. That was exactly my problem throughout my life. I was gung ho on a new project but, as time went on the enthusiasm would fizzle and I would question, “am I wasting my time”, “maybe theres something better ‘out there.’ It may have been fear of failure or fear of success but I just would not get the project past the finish line.

I was always looking for the ‘bigger, better, deal.’ Well, I am committed to change all that for you, as I have for myself and others.

Read through this site and see if what I’m saying makes sense to you and, if so, give me one month of your time, energy and persistent efforts, and I am sure you will be successful. As with all things, this is a work in process, please leave questions or comments so that we can continuously move onward and upward.

Thanks for reading.


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