Death and taxes

Things have been humming along in my little world. Work, gym, more work, more gym. There is a lot of other stuff in between, but the bigger events seem to revolved around work, exercise and the better health quest.

M and I have been trying to declutter, although it is slow going. Where I am a slash-and-burn sort of toss first, contemplate later type decluttered, M is more a contemplate, ponder, let sit, contemplate more … and then decide to keep anyway sort of person. Not a lot of progress being made where it’s “our” stuff or “his” stuff. Our stuff, slightly more than his stuff, but still not enough stuff leaving the homestead to satisfy me.

I have become an expert at counting to 10 and reminding myself that I love this man and that compromise is part of life and happy marriages. I still wonder why it must be that way. Why can’t he’s just nod, smile, agree with me and pitch crap into the donation boxes and bags?

After nearly 4 years, I am finally dealing with the last of the stuff I kept from my mom’s house. Considered how much she had crammed into that little house, I actually retained very little. Most of it is sentimental, but really, what do I do with photo albums of people I don’t know and cannot identify? What do I do with 6 photo albums full of photographs from my sister’s wedding showers and wedding? The 26 total pictures from my first wedding and showers are tucked away somewhere in these boxes, but it is a painful reminder of the inequality of child rearing. Then again, it could be an oldest/youngest thing as well. There are definitely more pictures of my oldest as a baby than the younger 2, but I have never been much of a photographer and their dad and his family have far more photos than I do. I can live with that.

But the pics of my sister – I thought one of her boys might want them, but I cannot reach either of them at the moment. There are some other personal papers to be shredded, but I will keep their birth and death certificates for awhile to come. There are also a couple of pictures of my very young parents that I may have framed to hang in the house.

Funny, but I never saw my parents wedding album until after my mom died, and now I don’t know what to do with it. I might feel more inclined to keep it if I had memories of looking at it with my folks, or even my mom. Now, it’s an album of strangers.

It’s funny to me the things she kept, and the ways she kept them. Since I am not very sentimental, I cannot imagine keeping keepsakes boxed and neatly labeled and never opened after being packed up and put away. Yet there was all sorts of stuff like that in her home. I found lovely clothes still with tags attached that she’d bought 40 years ago that were “too nice” to wear everyday. There were so many things like that in the house – too nice to use for special occasions, and holidays were not quite special enough. I am absolutely sure that attitude fuels my feelings that nice things for special occasions are completely wasted on me. My kids, my closes friends – we have fond memories of special occasions with paper plates and Round Table Pizza. It’s the company that is memorable and important, not the place setting and fancy flatware. I appreciate those things, especially for people who enjoy and pride themselves on setting a fine table. For me, its not a priority.

I feel some sorrow tossing or giving away things she saved and that were somehow important to her yet are completely meaningless to me. Even my daughter’s dolls, when she died 21 years ago next month, hold little sentiment. I did ask C about it, if she’d like me to save for her, but even she said to let them go, because there are no memories of her sister playing with them.

Such a surreal thing that I’m the last one standing in my family of origin.

I have been trying to put our vast quantities of stuff into a fiscal form so that M can better understand my frustration with the stockpile of stuff he might want or need sometime in the future. There is a cost to storing and keep all this miscellaneous crap. Our 2 car garage has shelving on either side completely stuffed to the gills, we have a small storage building out back (fun fact: prior owners were pot growers) that has tools and equipment and stuff that is rarely used, but when he needs it, he needs it. My point: when he needs it we could rent it.

After dealing with my mom’s house and all her stuff, I know I don’t want to leave such a legacy for my own children. M and I are both in good health and do not anticipate expiring soon, but in addition to getting our end-of-life directives, wills, and trust documents prepared and now to be updated for the kids’ marriages last year, decluttering our crap seems in order.

The job is getting done, but not quite at the peppy pacing I would prefer.

Maybe nothing is certain but death and taxes, but ours are done for another year. I did taxes last week, and each year seems to be getting better, inching me closer and closer to breaking even at tax time and knowing I am doing an accurate job with estimated tax payments through the year. This year, we owe the state $287 and will receive $17 back from the IRS, for a net taxes due of $280. I can live with that.

Hopefully it’s a good long life. We have a lot of crap to go through.


Taxes and other finance stuff

I am awaiting one final form so I can finish our taxes. I’m not in a huge rush – we owe, so it’s not really going anywhere until at least April 1 – but I would like to get it crossed off my to-do list, at which time it becomes just one of those things I think about and conclude completely for another year on April 2.

Our IRAs have been funded for 2015. My Simple IRA deduction chugs along throughout the year, and the company match is on my work to-do for March. All is well with retirement savings in our household thus far in 2015.

Savings is proceeding, although we are waiting on estimates to decide who gets to do our concrete work and the initial cost for the work. Whatever estimate we go with, I automatically add 20% for change orders and issues that will arise. If we don’t spend the buffer, I will be delighted to leave that in savings. But if stuff comes up – and it always seems to happen – I will be much less resentful about blowing the budget.

We need to sell one of our other vehicles – we presently have 5 of them – 6 if we count the project car – and 2 drivers. I would love to sell 2 of them, keeping just our own cars, the truck, and the project car in pieces, but M resists. M’s former daily driver goes up on craigslist this weekend.

I am an failed ebay and craigslist seller for household declutter crap and will be making a donation run this weekend. Honestly, I have priced everything very reasonably and still no buyers. I would rather donate that do freecycle because I do not want flakey people showing up at my house to get my excess stuff. It is customary in our neighborhood to put items on the curb with “free” signs attached, but I am not going there. It strikes me as tacky. Or makes me feel lazy. Or both.

The most troubling aspect of my financial year to date is an investment account issue that I’ve been wrestling with for the last 2+ weeks. I initiated a transfer from Betterment on January 21, 2015, and here were are, February 5, and the money has not been deposited to my bank account. I strive to be patient and to be reasonable, so I took them at their word on their 4 to 6 business days advisory for withdrawals. By Monday it ad been 8 business days. Tuesday I emailed an inquiry, no response. Wednesday I phoned and went to voice mail after a 3 minute hold, left a message and emailed again. Wednesday afternoon after no return call or email  reply I tried again, another 3 minute hold and voice mail message, yet another email, and finally I snagged someone via online chat to find out what is going on with my concrete pouring funds.

Now, I accept my responsibility in this issue. There was a breach on our primary checking account and we had to get a new account number, so without thinking it through, I updated our account to our other bank for transfers and deposits. The money had already been withdrawn from my investment account and I was assured by BofA that if the transfer was attempted to my old account number they would either move it immediately to our new account or alert me for further instructions. This was apparently a red flag for the investment account in that a large withdrawal request was followed by a change in bank accounts, resulting in additional security scrutiny. Fair enough. My big issue here? No phone call. No email. No notification that a big red flag flew up about my account. In fact, until I started to panic and try to get in touch with them 2 weeks and 1 day after the withdrawal request, they had not ever contacted me.

The rep was apologetic and gave me 3 months of fee-free service, but the damage is done. The rep indicated they were growing by leaps and bounds and the phone calls and workload had put them behind on responding to client requests for assistance. I believe that Betterment is a victim of its own success, in that during my 4 or 5 years as a customer I have never (before now) had an issue with their communications. The occasions I sent an email I received a reply in less than 24 hours, typically the same day. If I called I always got a live person who quickly and efficiently answered my question or resolved my problem. Now, when it’s something big like a transfer for a major home improvement project, they flag my account and do not notify me? They do not have staff to respond to emails or return phone calls in a timely manner?

Needless to say our funds will be transferred from Betterment to a new account at Vanguard. While I have dealt with a different person each of the times I have called about different aspects of the new account set-up and transfer of funds process, I have been satisfied that I got a live person who could help me each and every time.

And just to prove M’s conspiracy theoriest personality is rubbing off on me … I posted in the YNAB forums wondering if anyone else was having issues reaching Betterment, because YNAB’s founder is a client, supporter, and promoter of Betterment. There were a few responses to my query, and I updated last night after chatting with the rep about the resolution to my problem. Yet this morning when I was replying to another commenter who has also left Betterment for Vanguard and stated that Betterment is so busy recruiting new clients they were ignoring the concerns and issues with existing clients, my comment was not published and instead put into moderation. Hmmmm. Is there a connection there? M is rather proud of me in my evolving paranoia. I think we have both been watching too many episodes of Person of Interest.