I'm feeling so thankful. I was almost involved in an accident last night, but I avoided it. I credit my Michelin tires and my antilock brakes for avoiding it.
I was driving home from work around 7 pm on a local highway known as Rt. 58. It's a two-lane road (one lane in either direction) and it twists and turns and is really pitch black.
I was making my way north doing about 40 mph. During the day, I do drive on it faster, but at night I worry about hitting deer all the time so I tend to go slower.
I saw the headlights of a car in the opposite lane, so I had my low beams on. I didn't know it yet, but it had come to a complete stop.
My eyes are on the road in front of me, and all of a sudden, my headlights pick up the glint of metal, and I realize, there's a car directly in front of me. But it was nearly invisible. It was almost disorienting, because I couldn't figure out why I did not see it until I was practically on top of it. I realized it was sitting perpendicular to the roadway, so I couldn't see the taillights, nor the headlights.
My first thought was that there had been an accident. And I was about ready to plow into it and make it worse. These were all my thoughts in just a few seconds' time.
I swerved to the left and jammed on the brakes. I was sure I was going to hit the car's back fender, but amazingly, my car came to a stop just INCHES from the other car, without hitting it.
I was so stunned. The 3 of us drivers, all sat there in silence for about 30 seconds. (This was also not a good idea, as I had put myself in the same position as the other car; now we were 2 cars, side by side and both of us perpendicular...and invisible... blocking both sides of the highway.) I was just trying to recover from the shock. Then the other driver pulled out, and I followed.
I realize now what happened. The other driver had backed out of a residential driveway onto the highway. Really not a smart move at any time, and much less so in the dark, on a rural highway with no streetlights.
Inexplicably, the car had stopped in the middle of the road and was blocking both lanes. Maybe they weren't familiar with the driveway or couldn't see where it ended in the dark, but instead of turning the wheel as they backed out, they just pulled straight out. Then maybe when they saw my headlights approach, they stopped. Which IMO, was really stupid, because as mentioned, they were practically invisible in that position on the road.
Aside from really wanting to know what caused the driver to do this (was it a teenager? An older driver? Something else?) I am so relieved I'm okay. I actually wrenched my shoulder just from yanking the wheel left as quickly as I did. Even going just 40 mph.
If I had been driving any faster, I doubt I would have been able to stop.
In other news, the IRS deposited my $1484 refund in my checking account...nice.
Archive for February, 2018
I'm feeling so thankful. I was almost involved in an accident last night, but I avoided it. I credit my Michelin tires and my antilock brakes for avoiding it.
I've been feeling so impatient waiting for the wheels to churn with my pull-back in work hours. I raised the subject with my manager late January, and they finally will be discussing candidates, and who to call in for interviews, no doubt, this Wednesday. I had hoped to begin abbreviated work hours sometime in February.
I suppose it's still possible if they meet on Wednesday, schedule interviews Thurs/Fri, and have someone start on Monday.
I've recalculated some numbers to make sure I could still safely work full-time into March without exceeding the $45,000 cutoff for healthcare exchange subsidies. I think I can.
There are things I want to help my dad with. He's been talking about getting one of those mattresses where you can adjust the height and he saw TV commercials for a certain store that seemed to have a lot of these. It's in New Haven, and I don't want him driving there alone.
My friend R. had his 2nd chemo treatment. I have not seen him lately, but he said probably 25% of his hair is falling out and he is feeling more fatigued. I feel so bad for him, and I started calling him more often, just to talk and be a support if I could, but he seemed to not want that. I don't think he wants any pity. He actually asked me why I called him last time when we had exchanged emails that morning. So I guess I need to back off a little.
I have not checked my portfolio balances since the market downturn, and I'm glad it's recovered somewhat since then.
We had a 4 or 5-inch snowfall on Saturday but it was in the 40s yesterday and much of it has melted. I took the occasion of warmer temps to do some winter pruning of a large azalea bush I have in the backyard.
The weekend, especially Sunday, was pretty nice. Dad and I went out to lunch at our new favorite haunt, Connecticut's oldest inn. I also squeezed in some more buys at BJs in advance of my membership expiring at the end of the month. I filled up the gas tank, shoveled the driveway Sunday morning, did my state taxes (I owed about $185, only because they eliminated the property tax deduction for residents under age 65!) and I caught up on the last episode of Victoria on PBS after the Winter Olympics displaced it.
In the past, the maximum deduction for property taxes (which here in CT includes your home and car, which is taxed) was $200.
There was part of the Victoria episode i really loved, where Victoria and Prince Albert take a trip to Scotland to get away from all their worries at home, and they accidentally get lost traveling the countryside on horseback, relishing their time alone, away from their guards/militia.
While the palace mounts a search party, Victoria and Albert stumble upon a small cottage at nightfall and ask to spend the night there. The old couple living there have no idea they are entertaining the Queen of England and her husband, but the queen and prince are delighted at the simple fish dinner and sitting by the fireside as Victoria learns how to darn socks.
Somehow, I could really relate to the whole experience of wanting to get away from life's responsibilities and to reacquaint myself with life's simpler pleasures.
The forecast is calling for warm temps in the 40, 50s and 60s this week and next, so I'll have great walking weather. I do a half-hour before work and another half-hour at lunchtime.
When it comes to cost savings, I like to focus on the big ticket items like home mortgages, car and homeowners insurance and so on, rather than spending too much time on the little stuff. People like to say well, it all adds up, which technically may be true, but in the long term, you're better off focusing on your biggest expenses. We all have limited time to spend on this stuff, so might as well make it count.
Now that my mortgage is paid off, I'm applying the same logic to areas where i see potential for substantial savings in retirement, and the other day I pulled together the details of several opportunities I can take advantage of now, and in retirement. All 4 of these are income-based programs that either provide a generous tax credit, rebate or just plain NO tax if you meet the income guidelines.
Now until age 65:
Less than $38,600: 0% long-term cap gains tax
Less than $47,520: Healthcare exchange subsidy
From age 65 on:
Less than $35,300: State of CT property tax credit of up to $1,000
Less than $38,600: 0% long-term cap gains tax
Less than $45,000: Maximum town property tax credit of $2,525; income up to $55,000 = $1,750
The most stringent income guideline is the property tax credit offered by the state of CT which provides an additional $1,000 in property tax credit on top of what my local municipality offers.
These look like awfully low income guidelines. Can I do it? Yes, I'm actually pretty sure I can.
Here's a look at my actual annual expenses for each of the 5 last years:
Historical Total Expenses
2016 $42,972 ($30,305 w/out new driveway)
2015 $40,866 ($31,066 w/out front entry redo)
If you don't include a very large capital expenditure I had in 2015 and again in 2016, I never spent over $38,000 in the past 5 years.
Just organizing the info together in one place helps organize my thoughts and makes it easier to consider aiming for a low income specifically to take advantage of these savings.
See, this is just another reason to track your expenses every year, all year long...I'd never be able to project my expenses nearly as accurately if I hadn't been tracking my expenses all along. Once it becomes a habit, it's easy to do.
I've created a simple spreadsheet to do that so I can see YTD income in any given month.
There will be a few unknown sources of income, of course. Job income is the easiest to predict, but I will also build in possible income of let's say $1500 in any given year due to art sales.
In addition, I have just 2 taxable mutual funds; one reports its capital gains distributions in December, the other one, quarterly. But I can still estimate them based on what cap gains/dividends were in previous years.
If I get too close to the income threshold for any given tax credit program, I can also leverage my ability to lower my reportable income by making $6500 in traditional IRA distributions.
After the frenetic pace of activity yesterday, I am relishing a bit of down time here in front of the computer with cat and tea.
Thinking ahead, I still have most of a 5-gallon container of kerosene stored in my garage that must be used up by spring. Barring any major storms that cause a power outage, I will want to start burning that kerosene to heat the house; it's actually more efficient than burning oil.
So I thought I might start doing that in late February (though we've had plenty of big snowstorms in March, so I'll keep a reserve on hand).
I finished my first survey for my local community bank and answered just a few questions about my drive-up window experience. Not sure how exactly I'll be paid, but $10 a survey ain't bad.
Yesterday I found some water under my electric hot water heater that had dribbled across the concrete floor in basement about 5 feet. I sprung a leak.
First thing this morning I called a plumber, assuming I'd have to replace it. Got the ok to work at home to deal with it. It's 5 years old. Called the manufacturer as my paperwork indicated it was still under a limited warranty.
However this morning, the wetness surrounding the hot water heater had mostly dried except for one area near the back wall.
The plumber came, but concluded the hot water heater was not leaking becus, he said, it wouldn't start leaking and then stop like that; He said the water was seepage from outside; we had a lot of rain all weekend, and actually, this would not be unusual if it did. Duh, me.
I asked him to go ahead and give me prices for 1) upgrading to a longer warrantied hot water heater and 2) upgrading to a heat pump and 3) to determine if my current model allows you to replace just the anode, which is the first part to corrode.
I ran out at lunchtime and got a replacement wiper blade for the car.
I also finished my tax return and after 3 tries, was finally successful at filing the federal return. Will get back about $1400. (The gallery's accountant will be sending me a revised 1099 form.)
I don't have the energy to start my state tax return tonight but will do that this weekend.
I also applied/enrolled to a new health plan on the healthcare exchange. I should get the welcome kit in about a week.
All in all, a lot of important tasks done. I had no time for lunch today, nor my lunchtime walk!
I started working on my taxes around mid-afternoon and, 5 hours later, I am "almost" done.
The little glitch I ran into was how to report Miscellaneous Income reported to me by a gallery that sold some of my mother's work. It appeared to be a choice between lumping it in with my freelance income or putting it on Line 21 ("Other Income").
Dido very kindly advised me that it would be better to put it on Line 21 (Other Income); if it was added to my self-employment income, it would increase my self-employment taxes by an additional $200 or so.
Anyway, I'll have to wait til Tuesday to contact the gallery and see if they would be willing to amend the 1099 MISC form by putting the income under another box. Seems reasonable, and I'm hoping they will do it.
I decided to assume they would do this and forged ahead with my return. I was happily surprised to see that I overpaid my taxes and should get a $1484 refund.
Given my hodgepodge of income sources last year (2 W-2 contract jobs, 4 months of freelance work, the above-mentioned art gallery sales, taxable interest and dividends and some unemployment compensation, it was impossible to accurately predict what I'd owe. I did also make some quarterly estimated tax payments for the 4 months of freelance work, and I see now I could have skipped that entirely and still not owe anything.
I am hoping 2018 will be more straightforward.
If it turns out on Tuesday that the gallery won't amend that form, my refund will still be about $1200 and I will just need to redo the SE form and then recalculate on the 1040 form from Line 57 onward.
Once I determine that, I'll proceed with filing my federal return and then begin work on my state return. That one should be in decent shape because I also made quarterly estimated payments for the state when I did the federal tax payments.
So while my AGI was over $45K (that's before itemized deductions of over $11K), my taxable income came out to just $30,418 and my total tax was $3,986. So does that mean my personal tax rate was 13%?
I think I'd also better follow up next week with my benefit administrator, as the form they issued me indicating my health insurance coverage was wrong, stating I had insurance for 11 months of the year when in fact I had it for all 12 months. I talked to them a few weeks ago and she left me a message saying they'd amend the form.
Oh, feeling relief. I hate filing my taxes but would still rather save the money and do it myself. It's just a real burden and I try to do it as soon as possible each year. I also really try to avoid freelance work because I hate filing the extra forms for that.
I decided to scrutinize my projected expenses in retirement once again.
Because I was very conservative when I estimated health insurance premiums under Obamacare (at a time when the website was down), I later determined I overestimated monthly costs.
On a Silver plan, my costs this year will be $318/month.
The bottom line
Even after readjusting my heating oil and electricity expenses upward by 33% (accounting for the additional 8 hours at home, or one-third of a 24-hour day), my total estimated monthly expenses will be lower than I first projected, at $2,577 a month, or $30,924 a year. In theory, anyway. Unanticipated expenses will always come along.
Still, this is very nice to see since I've been saying I needed an income of between $40,000 and $45,000 in all of my retirement scenarios using various online calculators and Dido's and MonekyMama's expertise.
I found it helpful, this time around, to lump my ranked expenses into 4 "tiers," so I can more quickly see how they line up. I simply homed in on my ranked ANNUAL expenses and created individual tiers for those expenses that were clustered closely to one another.
Here they are:
Property taxes: $492 monthly/$5904 annually
(Senior tax credit at age 65: Max $2,525 refund with income up to $45k)
Major home improvements: $417/$5,000 annually
(Allowing $5,000 annually for discretionary home improvements) To do:Attic insulation, back hall shelves, upstairs bath vanity, mouseproofing basement, garage door, LR/DR walls.
Health insurance: $318/$3816 annually
Access Health silver plan with subsidy
Food: $273 mthly/$3,276 annually
Household expenses: $115 mthly/$1380 annually
Electricity: $93/mthly/$1116 annually
Adjusted up by 33%
Heating oil (inc tuneups): $87 mthly/$1044 annually
Adjusted up by 33% due to more time at home
Vacations/trips: $83 mthly/$1,000 annually
Phone/Internet: $78 mthly/$936 annually
Lawn mowings/gardening: $73 mthly/about $800?Mowings every other week
Homeowners insurance: $57 mthly/$684 annually
Cat: $50 mthly/$600 annually
Clothing: $50 mthly/$595 annually
Adjusted down by 33%
Entertainment: $49 mthly/$591 annually Adjusted up by 25% due to more free time
Out of pocket medical: $45/mthly/$540 annually
Car maintenance: $45 mthly/$540 annually
2018: new battery
Car insurance: $45 mthly/$540 annually
(Dropped collision last year)
Gas for car: $41 mthly/$492 annually
Adjusted down by 25% due to less daily driving
Car tax, license, reg: $32 mthly/$384 annually
Home maintenance: $28 mthly/$336 annually
Gifts: $20 mthly/$240 annually
Water: $18 mthly/$216 annually
Dining out: $17 mthly/$200 annually
Dentist: $16 mthly/2 cleanings at $254 on Dr. S’s plan
Borough taxes: $13 mthly/$156 annually
Sewer: $9 mthly/$108 annually
Dump sticker: $8 mthly/$95 annually
$85 for seniors renewing online at age 65
Haircuts: $5 mthly/4 haircuts at Great Clips at sale price
Total: $2,577 monthly/$30,924 annually
I enjoy squeezing my budget wherever I can to save a few dollars. So looking at the 4 tiers, it just helps reinforce that more effort spent on the top 2 tiers will result in greater benefits than getting distracted by stuff in tier 4, for instance.
So being sure to take full advantage of the senior property tax credit once I become eligible, and wrapping up my major home improvements in a few years time will really free up a lot of cash down the road, although health insurance costs could continue to be a big question mark, depending on what, if anything happens, to Obamacare.
It will be well worth my efforts to continue placing an emphasis on shopping at Aldi's whenever possible.
Looking at my Tier 2 expenses, I'll continue to keep a close eye on electricity offers here in deregulated Connecticut (they change all the time) and carefully timing my heating oil purchases. It has occurred to me in the past it could be helpful to either replace my current tank with a larger one, or buy a second tank. This would make it easier to take advantage of low prices when they occur; I can't always do this now because many suppliers require a 150-gallon minimum purchase.
That phone/Internet expense of $78 monthly includes both my landline and TracPhone cell phone. I am still wanting to ditch AT&T.
And, believe it or not, I don't like seeing such a relatively unimportant thing like lawn mowings in Tier 2; I've been toying with doing maybe some of the mowings myself (?), perhaps by having him start later in the year and end earlier, with myself doing a few mowings during the cooler part of the summer season, since I'll be home? It just seems like a lot of money, for what it is, when you look at the annual cost. He charges $45 a visit. I have a big lawn, but they finish in about 10 minutes time. It takes me 2 mowings to finish both front and back, and probably over an hour, but it would be good exercise and I enjoy being out in my yard.
I emailed my manager, who is traveling this week, asking about the help wanted ads for my job, and why the 2 I've seen say "Full time."
There were some here who were quick to say he plans to replace you as soon as he finds someone, it's too much trouble to accommodate your needs, etc.
That really didn't sound like my manager.
He responded back to me yesterday that he had not asked for that and that he would contact the recruiter to tell them to add the part-time part of it. I sent him 2 of the ads so he could see them.
My guess is that, busy as he always is, he never took the time to check out the ads, and I'm also guessing the recruiters make more money for a full-time placement than a part-time placement. It's probably the reason my manager had told me earlier he'd never had much success finding a part-time person!
I sent a note to the recruiter and heard back from him almost immediately. He did not see on the links to the ads I sent him where it said full-time; I had to send him a screen grab; once I did that, he quickly said he would fix it.
As you may know, I spoke to my manager a week ago about pulling back from full-time to 3 days a week. He said that would be fine, IF he could find someone who wanted to also work part-time, the other 2 days of the week. He also told me up front that he told 2 recruiters to look for candidates, and that he wanted to see people interested in either part-time OR full-time, as he wouldn't want to turn someone away just because they wanted full-time. I understand...he needs to cover himself.
One of the recruiters is a friend of mine, the one who got me this job originally, and the one, as a favor to my friend, I urged my manager to contact to help look for a part-time candidate.
So I've been seeing the ads posted by my friend the recruiter, and he's posted the job as a full-time job. Which means they won't likely get people interested in part-time work.
This is a little upsetting to me as it would appear there's no way I'll be able to stay at this company part-time as part-timers won't be applying.
I'm wondering if I should say something to either the recruiter or my manager. Probably not the recruiter as I don't want to put him in an awkward position. While he's a friend, his allegiance, and the one who pays him, is my employer, not me.
But I am thinking of expressing my concern directly to my manager. He seems like a pretty honest guy. If he's planning on moving me out entirely, I guess I need to know about it.
Dad and I saw Darkest Hour at the brand new cineplex in his town. We both liked it, and we sure were pleased with the recliner seats, too. They have 8 screens there, but because all the seats recline, the total number of seats is much less, yet the ticket prices were $10/$8.
I was leafing through my town's continuing ed offerings and saw an interesting one-time class on strategies you can use to "get closer to a tax-free retirement."
For the $29 fee, I figured it might be worth checking it out; the firm, USA Financial & Tax Services, LLC, is part of, or a partner of, Capital Asset Advisory Services, LLC, an RIA.
I became very interested in this subject after hearing a few things Dido said about the desirability of doing some Roth conversions during low-income years to lower my RMDs once I hit 70.5. My town's property tax credit is also tied to a lower income below a certain amount, so it would behoove me to do this since RMDs, combined with Social Security payments I would be collecting at that point, would bump me into a higher bracket.
I was never able to project that far into the future before (me, 70??), but I can see what Dido means that for early retirees, you can coast along through your 60s not paying too much in taxes, perhaps (e.g., if you're not working but not yet collecting SS either), but then once you hit 70, the government wants to start getting its payback on all those tax-deferred years you held your traditional IRAs.
There was another continuing ed class ($39), also in March, more generally addressing "Financial Strategies for Successful Retirement." They promise no products/investments will be offered. This one is for 3 weeks (3 classes and rquires an additional $30 materials fee, so it's a bit more of a commitment. Hmmm.
I had hoped to get into my taxes more deeply this weekend, but I still am missing one important 1099, and while I have a pretty good idea of what I grossed, I'd rather not have it be off even a few dollars since that number will then mess up all my other numbers on the tax form.
What will you be doing when the Superbowl is on tonight? Will you be watching? I won't, but there was an interesting PBS show on about red foxes I may tune into, since I have seen red foxes here (very rarely) on my property.
Since I spent yesterday afternoon at the movies with Dad, I didn't get all my grocery shopping done,and so I have a choice today: lounge around at home or run out the door to Trader Joe's, BJ's and Aldi's?
I counted 8 44-lb boxes of cat litter in the basement, so now that I have just the one cat, I think I actually have a 16-month supply. Thank goodness, those things are heavy.