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Eat the cake

Eat the cake

A somber entry for the countdown to 50.

34. I dated a man once who found my attitude about life to be somewhat of an anomaly.

He was a Dave Ramsey super-fan:  at the age of 56, he was completely debt-free. No mortgage, no car payment, no credit cards. He made close to six figures and considered himself “poor” because he put 14 percent of his income in his 401k and allowed himself XX amount of money each week for groceries and fun. The rest – a sizable chunk – went into savings and CDs (the money kind, not the music kind).

To be honest, it was kind of cool. His plan was to have a million or more when he retired so he could really enjoy himself and not sweat it. I’ve no doubts he’ll make it.

The down side is that he didn’t really let himself have fun. He could have easily enjoyed a movie every now and then. He was a die-hard hockey fan but only allowed himself 2-3 RoughRiders games a season – and was holding on to dreams of professional hockey games for retirement, even though we live just three hours from the Chicago Blackhawks.

On a smaller scale, he wasn’t a fan of going to hometown festivals – while the events themselves were mostly free, you’d have to pay to eat, or to drink, and he just didn’t see the point.

That was where we were different. I not only see the point, I live for it.

What he couldn’t understand about me was that, while I do have a pension plan (as a state employee I’m enrolled in the Iowa Public Employee Retirement System – IPERS – and get to control how much goes in, kind of), I also want to enjoy today, the time leading up to retirement.

I’ve always been kind of a “seize the day” kind of girl, and the older I get  the more I feel that way. Life is short – you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month. Planning for the future is great – but enjoy the trip while you’re getting there. I don’t want my younger years to be spent not making memories, not laughing, not experiencing different things. I diet, but I don’t keep myself from splurging. Eat the cake, taste the doughnut. Live a little.

I saw a Facebook post from a high school friend this morning that made this even more important. He and his wife adored each other – you could see it in every photo and in every post. It was a second marriage for both, but their families blended almost seamlessly. They stuck up for each other in everything they did, and she rooted him on tirelessly when he and I bet on the Broncos-Chiefs rivalry a few years ago (he won).

Today my friend posted that his wife passed away unexpectedly this morning, and they’re unsure of the cause. The post took my breath away. I’d never met her, but I enjoyed watching the relationship she and my friend had. My heart hurts for him and all of their children and grandchildren.

They planned for retirement, too. They made plans for the future.

Life is short, friends. Eat the damned cake.

 

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“All representatives are busy helping other customers. Please remain on the line …”

dT8xa6GTeIt really shouldn’t be so hard to give the Internal Revenue Service my money.

I mean, if they don’t want it, I’m more than happy to hold onto it. But I know they do want it, and if I don’t move heaven and earth to get it to them I have no doubt they’ll move a few firewalls from my bank account to take it themselves.

Let me explain first by saying this: I am not a tax evader. I pay taxes with every paycheck – even a little more than is required – and file my taxes diligently before April 15 every year. Every. Year.

What I am, though, is a single mom (even though the “kids” are now young adults and one lives on his own) living on a single person’s budget (child support ended when The Youngest turned 18, college or no) and someone who can generally find a place to put any extra income that comes my way.

That said, in 2009, 2010 and 2011 I ghost-wrote or co-wrote three books, and received healthy advances for each of them. Those checks were very nice to get, especially since I still had two teenagers in high school for the first two of those years. Those checks helped with school expenses, clothing, car expenses as the kids got older, and just bills in general.

They were very, very nice to get.

What those checks didn’t do was pay their own taxes. There were no taxes taken out of them (think “contract worker”) and I failed to set anything aside. With any of them.

To say I took a beating when it came time to file taxes was an understatement.

I set up a payment plan the first year, and it was so easy that when I forgot/neglected to set anything aside with the second book, I extended my plan. By the third book extending the plan just seemed like the right thing to do.

The payment plan wasn’t a big deal, just a set amount paid every month. The IRS sends me a ticket stub, I send it back with a check. Easy peasy.

Easy, that is, until you’re late. The IRS doesn’t like you to be late.

What happens when you’re late – even a day late, I’ve since learned – is that you only get so many of those before the IRS determines you’re in default. When you’re in default, they stop sending you the payment tickets. When they stop sending you the payment tickets, you have no real address to forward your payment, and you can’t go online to set up a payment plan or pay on your existing plan because, well, you’re in default.

So … I was in default. And I didn’t want to be. I wanted to pay the IRS the money I owed, and I really, really, REALLY didn’t want them just taking it out of my paycheck or my bank account.

I scoured the website for a contact number. I called the local office only to be told, via message, that that office doesn’t offer live telephone help. I scoured the website again. And again. Finally I found a toll-free number (well, it’s the IRS, so I’m sure it’s only kind of free) and called. After going through six (or was it seven?) prompts to get me to where I needed to be, I received a message telling me my expected wait time is “15 to 30 minutes.”

Yeah. Right. This is the federal government, after all.

A mere 57 minutes later, I heard a click on the other end of my phone (“Oh, God, no, please don’t disconnect!”) and then a ringing. Then Brian or Mike or Steve, Badge No. XYZ, came on the line to see what he could do to help.

“I just want to give you money, but I don’t know how to do it,” I said.

I highly doubt he gets many of those calls.

In less than 20 minutes, Brian or Mike or Steve, Badge No. XYZ had me set up with an online payment plan, an extended due date and a free pass for October (“… although you’re certainly welcome to make any kind of payment you want in October, if you’d like.”).

It really shouldn’t be that hard to give the IRS my money …

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New Year’s Resolutions? Hmph.

New Year’s resolutions are overrated.

Everyone posts grand plans for the new year – to lose weight, become more active in the community, save money, be smarter – and yet by about mid-February, the same time we’re buying Conversation Hearts and celebrating dead presidents, they’ve already fallen by the wayside. By June we’re wondering whatever happened and why we even bother.

My No. 1 resolution of last year was as it’s been for the last four years – to lose weight. My body either revolted or got confused and I ended the year a size larger than I started.

I also resolved to save more money and be more organized with my finances. That worked so well that I discovered in one month I had spent $300 at WalMart and Target on unnecessary things that added little to no value to my life. (Of course, box stores are evil so I partly blame the magnetic affect they have on me – I now drive out of the way around them to avoid that magnetic pull.)

Another goal of 2011 was to write a book. OK, that one was accomplished, making me three for three when it comes to years in which I’ve had a book contract. But because I’m an independent contractor when those contracts do come around there are no taxes taken out of my checks. Because I fail miserably at the saving money resolution, tax time means an IOU to the IRS – and you really don’t want to mess with those guys.

This year I’m making it easy: I resolve to get rid of junk.

All that extra “stuff” I let take up my time? It’s junk – and it’s gone. That garbage I continue to think about and never do anything about, either because I can’t or I won’t. Erased. And yeah, I’ll still address that junk in my trunk – hopefully this year with better results.

 

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