Well Crap

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It’s been a long time since we’ve had a major financial set-back. A really long time.

In fact, everything has been going rather smooth over the course of the past year or so. Income is up, outflow is down, we just hit the half-way point in our debt reduction journey. Life is good!

Until…..tax time.

We met with a CPA on Friday. Turns out we didn’t have all our sh-t together so we have to round up the last of our documents and get them over to the office early next week. So we don’t have official numbers, but it’s looking like it’s gonna be bad. Like….possibly in the 5-digits level of “bad.” Yeah. We may owe the IRS to the tune of over $10,000. How the f do we owe so much? I don’t even know where to begin.  I  thought my payments through my full-time job would help offset things more than they did. Clearly.

We have a LOT of deductions to claim. We also have tax credits we can claim. We’re not out of hope.

But it felt like I’d been punched in the gut after our CPA meeting. We don’t have $10,000. Not in cash. To owe that much would officially move us BACKWARD in our debt progression. The first backward movement since we started our debt payoff process nearly 3 years ago. We’ve had months of stagnation, but we’ve never gone BACKWARD. Never ADDED to our debt (mortgage not included). But my plan (to have cash or put it on a credit card to buy us an extra month) isn’t going to work if we’re talking about that much money.

We’re scrambling to think of a plan so we can pay with cash and not have to set up a payment plan (accompanied by penalties and interest) with the IRS.

In the meantime, we’ll be having another meeting (or two) with the CPA to figure out exact numbers and the best course of action. I’ve also suspended all non-essential debt-payments so we can pile up some cash. Unfortunately, given my recent agreement with the medical bill place, I’m committed to minimum sized payments of $1215/month through April. That, in addition to my minimum student loan payments, puts us at a minimum of about $2000/month. We’ve only been budgeting $3,000/month toward debt and having a minimum payment of $2000 only leaves us about $1,000/month of “wiggle room” to try to stockpile cash for our upcoming IRS debt payment. It’s not nearly enough. Particularly if we owe in the tens of thousands of dollars. omg. Just saying it makes me sick to my stomach. I hope to God it doesn’t turn out that bad. But, as the saying goes, hope for the best and plan for the worst. So all non-essential spending is DONE. In the meantime, we will hoard and stockpile money as best as we can. We do have an EF ($5,500) and a couple various savings accounts. Though it’s a bit like stealing from Peter to pay Paul. It’s certainly not ideal. But neither is the thought of acquiring more debt. It gives me a headache to even consider the thought.

Many of you had warned that we should beef up our EF now that we’re homeowners. This wasn’t the intended purpose (most commenters were thinking more in-line with needing to repair/replace an old roof or HVAC, etc.)….but now that we’re in this situation, it’s sure making me think about how great it would be to have a full $10,000 EF. This IRS tax problem would be solved (and then the “problem” of re-stocking the EF is much easier and less stressful).

So that’s my “well crap” update. I will bring you a February debt-update (which, as mentioned, is lower than the originally planned $3,000 due to the need to save all non-essential payments for our upcoming tax bill). In the meantime, I’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Hoping for the best. Preparing for the worst. Ugh!


Finance Management in Your Forties: 5 Important Factors

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Many people consider their career high to be somewhere in their forties. Combining the ambition and excitement of their earlier years with the experience that comes with time, your 40s could be a time where you have made the right decisions and are enjoying a certain stability in your life. It could also be the most important time to start some serious planning about your family’s future and to think about slowly easing into retirement.

Here are some tips to manage your finances in one of the most crucial junctures of your life. These can make a significant difference in your life 10-20 years from now. That may not be the most compelling case for a look at your financial profile now, but it is certainly something you will come to appreciate at a later point.

Asset Allocation

Your risk profile should and will change with age, and it’s important that you adjust your investment portfolio accordingly. Make sure it suits both your short-term and long-term goals. Investment in equity may be a great plan for when you retire, but it be would less suitable if you have financial requirements that are coming up sooner – maybe your kids are graduating in a few years and you need to plan for their tuition; maybe you are expanding your family and plan to buy a bigger house. Your plans must fit into your investment portfolio. Make sure they are well-diversified and that there is no allocation overlap.

Invest in Profitable Assets

If you have been fortunate enough to have a stable income in your 40s, you should look into making well-thought-out investments in solid assets, but you have to be careful as to what that “asset” might be. Investing in a second car might sound like a convenient idea, but it wouldn’t count as an asset because the capital cost would be depreciating down the line. Ideally, you should look into income potential for capital growth, short-term capital gains and the risk involved before you decide about investing in an asset.

Maintain an Emergency Fund

By this time in your life, you must have a decent emergency fund. If that is not the case, it is important to start now. You will find that your emergency funds will be tested more and more in your forties. Be it health troubles or your child’s education, health or even wedding expenses, it can hit you from any direction even though you might have insurance Winnipeg coverage to offset some. Make sure you maintain an appropriate-sized emergency fund and keep replenishing it as necessary. Also, it might be a good idea to reinvest it in some other taxable investment account so that it can grow, especially if you feel like you have less use for it. Withdrawing it can come with some penalties, but you’ll have a higher chance of making a sizeable growth over time.

Insurance

Making sure you have appropriate insurance coverage is one of the most important factors to take into account. Your insurance needs at 40 may differ greatly from your 30s, especially in relation to your health. Even if your employee package covers this, it would be prudent to review it now and then. Do you need a long-term care package? Would taking out disability insurance be appropriate? It could be a lifesaver in the event of income loss due to unforeseen emergencies. Have you renewed your term insurance package? Have you reviewed your claim beneficiaries in the event you’ve had some major life changes, like a divorce? If you have large assets, consider an umbrella policy that covers life, health, auto and home insurance all in one with good coverage so you don’t have to manage separate policies.

Retirement

Are you earning more now in your 40s than you were when you last upgraded your retirement account? Perhaps it is time you review your investments in that area now that you are getting closer to retirement. Many people make the mistake of siphoning off excess income into an inflated lifestyle, the net gain of which is zero. Consider boosting your retirement contribution. This could take the shape of adding to your 401K, or if you aren’t satisfied with the matching contribution you are getting, you could roll it into an IRA that you control.

With that said, don’t forget to take out some money to invest in yourself. You have worked your way up to this stage, and you deserve to sit back and enjoy some of your hard-earned money. While retirement planning is an important factor that you have to start considering from now on, don’t forget that you only get to live your 40s once.


Rain and Gusting and Ice: How to Drive in Bad Weather

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Picture the ideal day for driving. It’s probably mild and bright without a cloud in the sky. Unfortunately, the weather rarely complies with our driving wants and needs. Most peoples’ first choice would be to stay off the road during inclement weather, but sometimes life beckons. Whether you’re commuting to work or embarking on a road trip when a storm hits, how can you prepare for bouts of bad weather and keep yourself–as well everyone else on the road–safer?

Plan Well Ahead of Time

You can’t control the weather, but you can certainly control your preparedness for any situation you encounter on the road. Before you leave the house, check the weather. Sunny skies could turn to thunderous clouds over the course of a few hours. Look into all possible routes to see if you can avoid the worst of the storm, and leave early so you have enough time to reach your destination without rushing.

Bad weather is not the time to discover that you have a vehicle malfunction. J.D. Power recommends having your vehicle checked more frequently during seasons of bad weather like winter, and making sure that your windshield wipers, headlights, and mirrors are in working order before you pull out of the driveway.

If you live in a cold climate, pack a winter survival kit in case your vehicle gets stuck or disabled in the snow. The basics include, but are not limited to:

  • Windshield scraper and small broom
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Energy-rich snack foods
  • Warm clothing and blankets
  • Grainy material for traction
  • First aid kit and pocket knife

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring

A little rain never hurt anyone, right? When it comes to driving, wet roads and impaired vision actually increase the likelihood of an accident. Almost everywhere in the U.S. experiences rain at least once a year, and some states can expect steady annual downfall. One of the best preventative measures you can take is increasing the space between you and the vehicle in front of you. Edmunds suggests aiming for a six-second gap to be on the safe side. If wet and humid conditions create fog, use your low beams to maximize visibility.

Hold onto Your Hat

It’s not just obvious tornado and hurricane-induced winds that drivers need to consider. Hurricane winds are considered 74 mph or faster, but the weather service puts out advisories for much lower speeds. In wind-prone states like Florida, the advisory covers sustained winds between 25-39 mph, or gusts at 57 mph. Robert Molleda of the National Weather Service explains some associated risks: “If winds are above 30-35 mph for extended periods of time, it can be an issue for high-profile vehicles on bridges and overpasses. Also, tall objects such as construction cranes can be hazardous in those winds.”

Sounds like a recipe for potential damages, doesn’t it? As for driving in gusty conditions, The Telegraph suggests that drivers should ease off the gas, brake steadily, and hold the steering wheel firmly to maintain control against the onslaught. It goes without saying that windy occasions are not the time to speed or tailgate. Even so, drivers can’t always react in time to others on the road or blowing debris. Drivers need to protect their vehicles and themselves against these weather-associated risks by having adequate insurance coverage, not just the minimum required by law. For example, if you’re in the Sunshine state, legal Florida auto insurance only equates to PIP, or personal injury protection coverage. However, chances are you’d need more coverage than that if you were involved in a weather-related accident.

Ice, Ice Baby

Snow and ice are beautiful from the vantage point of a warm house, but the story is much different from inside a car. Follow these guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) whenever possible to reduce risk when your tires are on ice or snow:

  • Steer into a skid
  • Stomp on antilock brakes and pump non-antilock brakes
  • Give yourself longer stopping distances
  • Rehearse maneuvers during the daylight in an empty lot
  • Avoid fatigue and rotate drivers when possible

With proper preparation, the right protective measures, and practiced defensive driving skills, you’ll be more ready to take on the elements in your vehicle. It’s preferable to stay home, but if you absolutely have to be out and about, stay safe and slow down.


Cross Your Fingers for Me

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Later today I have what I think will be a final interview for a full time job here in GA.  It’s the one I referenced here that called me on our move down.  I’ve been through the first interview, personality test, submitted professional references, so I think this should be the last in person part of the process…

Not counting my chickens before they hatch, been through too much of this in the past year and a half to do that, but I am hopeful. We’ve got one more week here before we return to VA for a week for Gymnast state meet, Princess orthodontist appointment and so on. (Yes, I did let this potential job know about this commitment in the very first phone call and again in the person interview.)

This move has been a BIG change for us all.  While I am really enjoying the lower cost of living (gas and groceries,) we are all filling the pinch of lack of activities for the kids.  We’ve been exploring the surrounding counties to see what their parks and rec departments have to offer.  I know once they get plugged in and make some friends it will be easier on them.

trying on shoes

Princess and I spent Friday night window shopping and trying on shoes just to get out of the house while Gymnast spent the weekend at cousins.

Oh, and Sea Cadet has a job interview as a vet tech tomorrow. I’m not sure how that will work since he has unofficially committed to the same summer camp as last year. If he gets this local job, he will have some decisions to make.


Tax Time!

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It’s that time of year again…TAX TIME!!!!

This year I’ll be responsible for getting the taxes done for two households:  my own and my father’s (side-note: my dad has frontotemporal dementia, as explained here). Last year at tax time, my brother physically went with my Dad to an H&R Block to have his taxes done, at his request. It worked out, but was a whole mess because then my Dad lost all of the tax paperwork after-the-fact and it’s been a huge pain as I am the person who handles all of his finances. I really could use those year-end statements!!!

This year, given another year of progression of his cognitive impairments, my dad no longer cares about his taxes so I can handle them entirely myself without needing to include him (this is always a tricky balance because he cannot be in charge of his own finances, but he still wants to have some oversight and say in how things are handled. It’s totally understandable, but presents a challenge since he doesn’t have the mental capacity to fully think through financial decisions, etc.).

For our own household, we’ve either done our taxes ourselves (in years past) or used H&R Block, too.

This year, I want to do better. I’ve never been a huge fan of the cheap drop-in type of tax places. I want to hire a CPA that we can have an ongoing relationship with. Someone who knows our finances and is knowledgable enough that they can make recommendations (e.g., donate $X or contribute $X to whatever tax-advantaged account, in order to save $x in taxes) and know all the little ins and outs of tax laws. I want to pay what we owe, but also to limit our liability in whatever (legal) ways are possible.

Also, there’s the whole issue that I live in Arizona and my dad lives in Texas. I’m flying back for a couple of days in March to handle some of my Dad’s affairs (I will be scheduling meetings with:  an estate attorney, a CPA, and a financial advisor). I’m assuming my Dad’s CPA needs to be someone physically in Texas, given that state-level tax laws are obviously different state-to-state.

Here’s my issue – I have NO IDEA how to find a reputable CPA. None. So I come to you all, as you are way more knowledgeable about this than I am. How do I find a really good CPA? Where would I even search? Google? Yelp? Help!

And as a side note….I’m pretty nervous about this year’s taxes. Gulp! The past couple years I’d been paying estimated quarterly payments so our tax liability in April was pretty minimal (usually about another $1500ish or so). This year, I haven’t done any estimated payments at all. UGH!!! We have made some hefty tax-credit approved donations so our state tax liability should hopefully be zero (knock on wood). And I’ve had taxes removed from my full-time paycheck so hopefully that will help offset the burden of what we would otherwise owe. But, we’ve had a lot of income that hasn’t had any taxes removed (both hubs’ business income and my part-time contract based job do NOT have taxes removed from checks). Sooooo, pretty sure we’ll end up owing a pretty penny.  I’d like to get our taxes all figured out by mid-March so we have March and April to try to gather up our funds and hopefully pay the IRS in full so we don’t end up having to pay interest and penalties, etc. Worst case scenario, we could pay by the mid-April deadline on a credit card, which would buy us one extra month to pay off everything in full (since purchases made in April wouldn’t be due until May. Note: I NEVER carry a balance on my credit card!! Any purchases made on the card are paid 100% in full by the next month’s due date). That would allow us THREE months to spread the IRS tax bill over. With how high our income is, we should be able to scrape up the funds. But it also depends on how high our tax debt is. NO FUN!!!

Have you done your taxes yet for 2016? Any tips on finding a great CPA?


New Job!!! (Kinda)

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If you’ve been reading my posts lately, you know that I’ve been hinting at some job changes coming up. For the past year and a half, I’ve had two jobs.  Job A: My full-time (in person) academic job. Job B: Adjunct teaching part-time online for a different place. It sounds reasonable, but my “part-time” job was like working the hours of another full-time job and I knew the schedule was unsustainable long-term.

I want to tell you all the crazy details (I swear there was about a 48-hour-period where I was absolutely freaking out) but it’s probably in my own best interest to be vague.

Long story short…I guess I kind of experienced a “bidding war”???? That makes me sound like a prostitute – like I’m selling myself to the highest bidder. And I hate for it to come across that way, when I know that’s not who I am. But…that’s what happened.

I was offered a job for significantly more than my current salary. But when I went to resign, I was offered significantly more than the other offer to stay. I’m talking, my salary increased by about $40k in a 48-hour period. On paper, anyway (the contract has been signed, but the salary doesn’t go into effect until this summer, after my current contract ends).

I can’t even believe it! I’ve known there were going to be some changes, but I had fully expected to be reporting to you about having an entirely NEW job. There are some aspects of my full-time job that will be changing (more responsibility, etc.), but I’m staying in my CURRENT job and will be saying goodbye to my part-time job, effective this summer. One of the conditions of my new salary was that I had to sign an agreement not to seek outside employment in my area for 3 years so I cannot legally stay at my part-time place. Overall, it was a great deal and I was happy to sign it (there was a lot more than just the increase in salary, too; The package was quite generous compared to comparable positions in different departments and universities).

Our household income will still be a little less this year than last year (this raise doesn’t fully make-up for what I’m losing in terms of my part-time income, though it’s close. But additionally, hubs’ business continues to ramp down so his income is way down). Even so, it is an exciting thing to have secured such a huge raise after only being in my current position for a year and a half! Frankly, this type of thing is unheard of in academia! But I feel like this is also the culmination of a significant amount of hard work coupled with a bit of dumb luck/being in the right place at the right time and having a specific skillset and expertise that is highly valued. I love my full-time job and couldn’t be more thrilled that I get to stay!

Have you had any good news on the job-front lately?


Valentine’s Day Kid’s Craft

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We have a long history of using homemade kid’s crafts as a way to give gifts to friends or family in an affordable way, while still having a personal, meaningful touch.

This year, we decided to make some homemade Valentines for the kids’ class. To be fair, we did still buy some Valentines because the twins are in the same preschool classroom so we didn’t want to be giving identical/duplicate homemade gifts. But doing one fully homemade (and the other store-bought), we still saved 50% of the money!

Better yet, our craft used all things that we already owned so we didn’t spend a single penny on any of these!

IMG_5076

For Halloween we had bought a giant Costco-sized package of mini playdoughs to give out for kids who needed/wanted a non-candy treat. They ended up not being very popular among our trick-or-treaters (go figure! lol) so we still have a pretty good sized pile leftover. I decided to use those instead of a candy for the basis of our Valentine’s Day “Card” to give to classmates (last year, one of our daughters came home and promptly threw up from the candy/sugar-overload, so I purposely emphasized non-candy treats this year).

I helped the girls to cut out the hearts. I wrote the message on the front and the girls signed their names on the back and decorated with heart-shaped stickers (every valentine was different and unique). Finally, I was able to fold over some tape to affix the playdough to the card. They’re little mini-sized ones, so the tape held just fine.

I think my hand-writing could have been neater and we could have decorated a little better if we’d spent more time. But for 4-year-old Valentines, it’s not half bad. ; )

If you want to check out last year’s home-made Valentine’s Card (+ a bonus homemade idea I “borrowed” from a classmate), check out this post.

Do you ever make homemade Valentine’s for your kids’ class exchanges? Have you seen any other good homemade Valentine’s card ideas?