Even though the fiscal cliff was averted, taxes are going up for a majority of Americans. In all, three-quarters of U.S. households will have to pay more in taxes as a part of the new fiscal cliff deal.
However, it is not a tax increase that is to blame. Instead, the expiration of a 2 percent payroll tax cut that had been in effect for the past two years is the reason why workers will be taking home less in their paychecks. That tax cut was not extended under the fiscal cliff deal, and as a result a worker earning $50,000 will see $1,000 less a year.
"We’ve moved from a fiscal cliff to a financial reset," said Arizona certified public accountant and author Sharon Lechter. "We all need to assess our financial situations and determine what changes we need to make in saving and spending to adjust to the new realities created by this legislation."
Americans, however, do not seem to be focused on their finances in the wake of the fiscal cliff news. In fact, in a new survey, 61 percent of the respondents said they do not have a formal budget, and just 36 percent said they plan to set a finance goal in 2013.
Of course, making financial resolutions is no guarantee of future financial success. In the past five years, 43 percent of Americans who made a financial resolution failed to keep it, according to the survey of 1,010 people conducted by Harris Interactive.
"CPAs have seen it all – mistakes, missteps, misfortune and recovery – and have the knowledge to help Americans build and repair their financial foundations," said Lechter, whose latest book is "Save Wisely, Spend Happily" (American Institute of CPAs, 2013). "You don’t have to be a miser to thrive. You just have to make mindful choices about your money."
To help facilitate smarter money choices, Lechter offers the following bits of advice:
- Review your expenses — "With a cut in take-home pay, you need to ensure you’re making every dollar count – and that it counts toward goals you want to achieve."
- Have the money talk — "Talk with your spouse or partner to ensure you're aligned in your views about money, which can be the root of significant challenges in relationships. You need to make sure that you're heading toward similar goals or at least understand the goals you each prioritize."
- Ask for help — "If you don’t know how to move forward, ask. According to the Harris survey, only 13 percent of Americans seek advice from a financial professional. Managing money can have many complexities, and sometimes a professional can best put you on the right path."