Thursday, March 21, 2019

USE YOUR CELL PHONE AND COMPUTER TO HELP STAY ORGANIZED

Yesterday I had an idea for this post.  Between then and now I forgot. That seems to happen a lot these days.  I will admit to being in my mid 60s.  As a child people said that I had memory of an elephant.  I still do for some things - my husband can tell you that I remember things from decades ago that he has forgotten (or remembers totally wrong), but from one minute to another I might not remember.  Not sure if it is aging and an actual memory problem or lack of interest in remembering something - although I am sure that is not why I forgot what I was going to write about.  So I will write about remembering things to help get organized (unless the other idea comes back to me.)

One problem in organizing and getting rid of stuff is remembering what needs to be done when.  For example - one needs to do food and related shopping to keep the household going.  I used to have a paper list on the fridge.  If we were running low on something I would put it on the list.  Husband knew if he was running low on something, he should add it to that list - and he did.  Originally I went food shopping on Thursdays - why?  Well, my mom did her shopping on Thursdays!  We have tended to eat on weekends for most of the time we have been married.  So food shopping on Thursdays actually made no sense - the food was sitting around for 3 days  before we even started to use most of it. 

I switched my food shopping to Mondays.  In those days the weekly supermarket sales started on Sunday so by switching to Monday not only did I have fresher food (nicer looking produce) I also was more likely to find the sale items in stock.  I found out the first year that we were married that I should not take husband food shopping.  He was on vacation from work. (He was on a school year schedule and had several 1 week vacation plus 4 weeks in the summer.)  I invited him to the supermarket with me.  We left with nothing.  Why?  “I don’t feel like this for dinner tonight.”  Me - “No we are buying this because it is on sale and we will buy extra and freeze it.  We don’t have to eat it tonight.”  So after doing my food shopping on Monday, I would go again on Friday if anything was needed for the weekend.  My week at that time was Monday - run household errands, Tuesday through Wednesday I would work, go out to clients, etc., Friday I would do our banking, buy an extra food, run errands and enjoy lunch out - alone (cheap).  My big joke - remember I work by myself - was that “the office voted to go out to lunch together on Fridays”.   Saturday and Sunday was our time together.  This worked very well. 

Over the years other chores were added in that had to vary through the week.  For about a decade we were both in two rotating art exhibitions.  This involved bringing his work - cut paper, leather, turned wood - and my work - textile/multimedia dolls - to a showcase at each of the two sets of exhibitions we were in.  Various libraries, local government offices, & businesses would come and select whose work they would like to have at their locations.  The exhibitions were for 1 or 2 months.  The artist would bring the work and set it up at the locations and then at the end of the month take the exhibitions down.  Since the exhibitions had to be set up/removed during the day, I would do it for both of us.  I had to juggle setting up/removing 1 to 4 exhibitions a month over a 2 county area.  Not an easy thing to keep track of or to do.  But - it was actually easier when I did this alone than when husband stopped working and was doing this with me.  I knew the different locations and what would fit and how I had arranged the pieces in prior years.  Some locations were really great and I would do a big exhibition with papers explaining the work and which pieces were which and some of the locations had room for 3 pieces.  Some of the work was hung on the wall (or on standing panels) and some had to go in cases.  Some had employees were who were excited and nice about what was being hung - some were annoyed that we were there.  I had computer printed forms I brought with me to list to pieces on for it to be signed for.  I also have a data base for each type of work in my computer so I know which pieces had been exhibited where and when.  I had an appointment in my computer calendar/cell phone to remind me to call and make an appointment to bring the exhibitions in to set up and another to remind me to make an appointment to take them down at the end of the month or 2 months.)

Similarly I used to have to go to clients on a monthly or quarterly basis.  I had to remember which client to go to when and what had to be done when I went there.  At first I made notes about what to do at each client and put it in my, originally, paper calendar book, later in my cell phone.  Of course over the years I basically knew what to do at each client by memory, but kept my notes.  I am now down to one client except for annual income taxes and it is easy to remember what to do there.  Also over the decades the client’s records all were put into my laptop computer to make it easier.  I still have reminders of when which taxes are due for client and for our personal businesses. 

Friends are amazed that I remember their birthdays and anniversaries.  I would mail cards to friends children when they were young - I remember the excitement of getting something in the mail.  All of this was in special calendar book that I just kept same in so it did not need to be carried to a new book every year in the old days.  Now it is all in computer calendar and  automatically is there every year.

I have alarms in my cell phone and computer that remind me when something needs to be done - including when to stop working at my computer in the office and go down and make dinner.  (This happens 15 minutes before I need to go down so I have a chance to finish up - and back up.)  Reminders for birthdays and anniversaries go off a week before each event.  I also have a memo/to do/note program in my cell phone (and syncs with my computer) to keep track o f information.  The first one is a shopping list - I have various stores/types of stores listed and I add in items we need to buy.  Since I find that I am using much fewer coupons these days (as there are so few which match with what we need) I will put “coup” after the item if I have a coupon for it.  (Coupons are in sorted holder in the car.)  I have a category in this memo for Christmas - this way I will remember next Christmas if we need to replace strands of light or if we have enough card and wrapping for next year. Another category in this memo is things that we cannot find here, but can find in Pennsylvania on trips.  I have one memo which holds the specifications of various things in the house that we might buy items for  - such as sewing machines so I can buy bobbins for them.  Another memo has which light bulbs we need for where.  Yet another says how much fabric I need and which buttons I need for reenacting clothing in case we come across something interesting.  You get the idea.

THOUGHT FOR THIS WEEK -

If memory or a need for reminders is part of what keeps you from getting organized - use your computer or cell phone - or even an old fashioned calendar/agenda book and a shopping list on the refrigerator - to help you keep track of everything. 

Those of you who were hit by the storms across the middle of the U.S. - I hope that you are safe and warm and the results of the snow and rain disappear quickly.
                                    

Thursday, March 14, 2019

INCOME TAXES ARE DUE IN A MONTH

Here in the US it is that time of year again - tax season.  This year there is even more pressure due to the changes in the tax law and the resulting changes in tax forms.  (If you are here in the US and you have not seen the new forms - they are small, at least for the 2 main pages.)   Some of you may find that your taxes are lower - others will find that they are higher - and I don’t mean your refund, I mean your actual taxes.  Don’t forget, you have an actual tax amount that is calculated by filling in your tax form, then subtracting from that amount the amount you prepaid during the year - through withholding and/or payment of estimated.  So if one’s withholding, say from one’s paycheck - the common thing from which most people have withholding taken - is more than it has been, one will either be overpaid more than usual and get a refund or owe less than usual and pay in less - but one’s actual tax - the total of the amounts withheld, paid as estimates and any amount due (or less any amount withheld) is your actual tax amount.  Does that make sense?  Due to the changes many people will have had less withheld from their paycheck  - so if their tax is the same as last year’s - they will either owe more or receive less as a refund, even though their tax is the same.

Supposedly most people will be paying less in actual tax (the total mentioned above), but many will not.  A client of mine is retired and in the past paid no income tax due to high itemized deductions.  This year due to the changes I estimate that his poor man will be paying around $600 in taxes.  IRS has an online calculator to check one’s withholding and I had used it during 2018 to check all of my clients (and my) taxes with it, and this calculation is done using same. 

He is retired.  His income is almost entirely Social Security.  His deductions should be the same as last year.  How come his taxes are higher than before?  Well, the information about the changes left out some things - one of them is that is in past years each person was entitled to a personal exemption of (in recent years) just over $4000.  They were eliminated in the changes.

What does this mean?  If one has always filed using standard deduction then one was entitled the standard deduction plus a personal exemption for themselves plus same for each person they were taking as dependants, plus their spouse (on the same return filing jointly or their own return if filing married separately).  So a couple was entitled to exemptions totaling $8000, a family of 4 was entitled to exemption totaling $16,000 and those exemptions no longer exist.  If one is taking the new standard deduction and one is single with no dependants than their new standard deduction is more than last year’s standard deduction plus exemption , but if they have any dependants - such as a single mom with a child, it is less than same was.  Similarly, a couple with no dependants will find that the new standard deduction for same is more than the old standard deduction plus their 2 personal exemptions totaled, but if they have additional dependants - children and/or elderly parent for example - the new standard deduction will be less than the old one plus their personal exemptions were.

Now, if one has been itemizing deductions they were also entitled to the personal exemptions, and are no longer entitled to same, but since they listed their actual deductible expenses they do not pick up anything additional to replace their lost personal exemptions.  In addition a variety of items which were deductible in the past in a category of “other deductions” if the category was more than 2% of their income are no longer deductible.  Depending on where they live they may also be losing part of their state income tax/real estate deduction.  Now, it is possible that the new standard deductions might be higher than their itemized deductions and they can take same as deduction, but chances are that even if this is the case, it will still be less than they were able to deduct last year as itemized deductions plus personal exemptions  - whether they have other dependants or not. 

So, this year make sure to gather your related tax papers - W2 forms, assorted 1099 forms, forms from any other income you have - such as K1s and records of other any other income you have to list.  Then make sure that you have all of your deductions - medical (insurance premiums, copayments, deductible payments, doctors, prescriptions, etc. ), taxes - real estate, state & local income taxes (still allowed up to $10,000), interest on your mortgage, and charitable contributions.  (Medical is still limited to same in excess of a certain amount).  Make sure that you check carefully with your tax preparer as to what else you should include this year.  Don’t wait until the time to file is about to approach (only just over a month left) in case you have any questions or find that you need to come up with money to pay income taxes that you did not anticipate paying.  If you due your own returns - leave extra time to figure out the new forms.  There are some programs that will help one prepare their taxes (free) if you need help including one called VITA from IRS that uses volunteers to help people.

Your state income tax forms may have been changed also as a result of the Federal changes.  The state I live in has traditionally used the Federal return information as a start and one then made changes to it.  This year those changes include allowing some of the items no longer allowed on the Federal return (such as real estate taxes in excess of $10,000) and will have extra forms to fill in for same also. 

And this is a good time to decide to do better to have your paperwork organized for next year when tax season comes again.


Past posts on income taxes that may be of interest to you -
http://wheredidileavethat.blogspot.com/2016/03/gathering-papers-for-income-taxes-part-1.html
http://wheredidileavethat.blogspot.com/2016/03/gathering-papers-for-income-taxes-part-2.html
http://wheredidileavethat.blogspot.com/2017/04/holidays-and-taxes-unrelated-subjects.html
http://wheredidileavethat.blogspot.com/2018/02/income-taxes-are-here-again.html

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK -

Take the time to put together your tax papers properly and completely now, while there is time to find missing information or get it replaced.  If you have someone do your income taxes - contact them soon about having your taxes done.  If you do your own - leave extra time this year to figure the changes that have been made and how they affect you. 

As you put together the paperwork - think about what you can do to make next year’s taxes either
 to do.

Again, this is general information and not tax preparation information related to you.  Check with your tax preparer about your specific information needed. 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

ALMOST A FIRE

I was taught to be very careful when cooking, My mom’s stove (an electric one) had 1 2 3 heat settings on the dial.  I was taught never to walk out of the room if a burner was set at 2 or 3 and never to walk out of house when the stove was on (unless in either case someone else was in the room to watch the stove).  After we married, in our apartment we had a (natural) gas stove/oven combination which scared the heck out of me as I was always afraid that it would blow up.  I had to light the oven with a match to use it and was always sure that would be the last thing I did. (I actually once smelled gas outside the apartment as we were going out, called the gas company and when we got home later we had no stove.  I telephoned to have it turned back on per the note left.  When I asked, I was told that this all stemmed from a woman who had smelled the gas leak in the street and called them - hey, that was me.) 

When we bought this house there was a gas stove/range combination also.  I was not happy about that.  I was even more upset when I was sure I smelled gas when we were in the house for later visits before we bought it.  I was again right.  Rather than get the unit repaired, we bought an electric stove/oven unit and had the kitchen wired for it. 

Last night I made for dinner a pot pie we had bought on sale (we bought a few of them on sale - these are small production ones, not the major brands ones). I, of course, had forgotten to go down and put it in the oven to bake and therefore did so an hour late.  Husband really likes these pies so he did not complain. I bake it in an oven which sits on the counter (uses 1/3 of the counter space we have).  I carefully pulled the oven away from the wall and the stove and removed some plastic storage items sitting next to the oven to the other side of the kitchen.  I lined the pan with foil to keep it clean. 

In the interim while it was cooking I set the table, laid out our pills for dinner, etc. I would have thought nothing of walking out of the kitchen while the baking was going on, but in this case I stayed in the kitchen.

I made a can of soup for us to share as a first course.  I split the can of soup before cooking it and use two small pots to cook it.  It is worth cleaning the extra pot as it is much easier to split the soup as it comes out of the can and husband likes more water added to his soup than I do.  As the pie went into its last ½ hour of cooking, we sat down and had the soup.  After I poured the soup into our bowls, I put the pots on the stove.  The burners for the soup had been shut off and I also made sure not to put the pots on the burners they had been on as the burners were still hot (electric burners take a short while to cool down after they shut off).  As I said, I am very careful.

When the pie was done cooking, the countertop oven beeped and I took it out and put the pan on the stove - on the larger burner in the front on one side which was cold.  We had the very nice pot pie for dinner. 

After dinner I normally have a cup of tea for dinner. I normally cook it on the rear smaller burner, but I had moved the pots onto the baking pan and had put it on that rear burner, so I put the pot of water on the front, larger, burner to boil it and turned on the burner.  I went back to the kitchen table - 5-6 feet away - and started reading the newspaper (TV was on for husband) while I waited to hear the water boiling. 

It dawned on me that it was a bit long for the water to take to boil and something smelled wrong and notices small bits of black floating around the room.  I had turned on the wrong burner!!  I had turned on the burner with the pots and baking pan!  I shut it off and using pot holders moved the burner with the pots still on it to another burner that was cold.     

Luckily I caught it before we had an actual fire.  The stove was covered in soot and the pots looked burned.  The foil I had put in the baking pan was what seemed to be the black wisps flying around the room and the pan had a mark that went through it.  I never did have tea.  Husband suggested checking inside the oven to make sure all was okay there - I carefully put my hand on the front of it first to check that it was not hot before I opened it. 

When they cooled a tiny bit, I put the pots and the pan into a dish pan of cold water to finish cooling them off.  I was surprise that the pots and the pan (even the foil stuck to the pan) cleaned so easily.  The pan though rocked when I put it on a flat surface, distorted by the heat.  After I was done with pots and the pan, I started on the stove.  It cleaned up much quicker and easier than I thought it would.  I took apart the burner that all this happened on to clean it and found when I took out the drip pan that the foil liner in the drip pan had mostly melted.  This had been the source of the black wisps floating about.  I immediately pulled the liners in the other 3 pans - too dangerous (despite this not happening in the past 30 years) - and threw them out also. 

Today husband was able to mostly get the baking pan to stop rocking by leaning on it.  The kitchen no longer has a burning smell.  Unrelated to all of this, we took in Chinese food for dinner tonight (easy way to deal with Ash Wednesday for husband).

Something we realized later in the evening when I boiled water - with the same pot I started to do so to make tea - later in the evening for some hot cereal before bed. The smoke detector had not gone off.  (For a reminder of a past cooking incident that did set off the smoke detector see - http://wheredidileavethat.blogspot.com/2018/07/not-in-pennsylvania.html    )   

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK -

Well two of them actually.  Be careful when cooking - even if you think that you are being careful - be more careful.

If you have foil drip pans in your stove - TAKE THEM OUT.                   

Thursday, February 28, 2019

DO YOU BACK UP?

You know “the curse” I have been talking about?  Well it hit again.  Due to all of the craziness and lack of time in general plus time lost to the craziness and need to do things over and over, I had not backed up my main computer or my work laptop (the old one, not this new one which is still being slowly fed software) for the last quarter of 2018 - which I would normally have done around January 15 - nor did I do a monthly backup for December either.  So last Friday I decided to do both.  I backed up one computer to the quarterly hard drive and the other to the monthly hard drive at the same time.  All went well.  I also backed up my calendar, client who I have a separate flash drive for, and my data to each.  All went fine.  Saturday we were home as there was to be rain so I backed up each of the computers etc to the opposite drive.  Still all okay. 

I then went to back up for the week.  I have a flash drive which holds 6 weeks of data, client, ad calendar files.  I update the oldest one each week.  This week if the data drive went bad and both of the regular “every session alternately” backups went bad I will have data from a week ago to work with.  I back up with a software program that updates the files already in the file I am updating to.  It finished running while we were out having dinner on Saturday.

When we got home the backup file did not show everything as finished.  There were problems with several older tax client files - this is pdf copies of the returns, info used from the clients and my work papers.  When I opened those files - it was all gibberish.  Husband looked at them and told me that the drive had gone bad and the files were corrupted. 

I did not panic - I have backups and they must be right as the backup program had not had a problem when making them.  The back up from Saturday afternoon had the same corrupted files. I should say that, luckily, I had not gotten around to do any actual work on the computer for a couple of days - checked email, updated calendar, started one letter.  I tried the backup from Friday and it was fine - whew!! 

Husband tried to format the bad drive and it could not be done.  So he broke it with a hammer to dust and threw out the dust.  (Security is important when financial records are involved.)  I had a new, larger flash drive and copied the backup from the day before to that drive.  Husband suggested I use all new drives and change them annually from now on.  I also have an archive drive - I will soon copy my 2018 files into my archive and remove them from the data drive I use to keep it more compact.  Robert suggested that I get a new archive drive also.  When I update the archive drive I also make 2 DVDs of it - one goes into my regular disk box and one goes into my “grab and go” accordion folder.  This holds copies of our house and car titles, stock certificates, last month’s reconciled bank statements, wedding licenses (we actually have 3 - one government, one from each of our religions), medical insurance and the like.  In case of an emergency we can grab this folder and have copies of our important papers to take with us - including DVDs of the archive and of my monthly backup to take offsite. 

So I planned to go on Monday to a MicroCenter - a location of the chain and buy 3 new flash drives - one each for the session backups and a larger one for the archive.  However, while at Costco on Sunday, husband noticed that my laptop dropped $50 in price since we bought it, so Monday we forgot about buying the new drives and went to back to Costco as they will refund the difference with the receipt.  (This is a actually a very good idea.  I could have returned the laptop and bought it again to take advantage of the price drop, and they would be stuck with a used laptop, this way I keep my laptop, am happy to get the lower price, and they don’t have to deal with a used laptop - and extra credit card fees for a return and another purchase.)

So yesterday, Tuesday, we bought the new drives.  I made two new regular backups yesterday of data, client, and calendar files.  I still have to check the hard drive backups and make a weekly backup for last week - though at this point, I will probably not bother and just do this week’s weekly backup on Friday.  I also still have to copy the archive to the new drive.

I feel as if I am not getting anything done. I generally can tell how much I have been getting done by the number of papers I have to file at the end of a week, the number of items I have to mail out, and how deep the dust is in the house (okay, there is always too much dust in the house).

 I have not finished client’s tax return yet - due March 15 - and need to have it finished and go to her with it before then.  I have not heard from my other clients yet - they tend to contact me in March.  I am still trying to get missing papers for our personal returns - one corrected IRA 1099 has not come yet - called yesterday about it - to be sent to us.  I also have not received a corrected summary statement - but that is for something later this year.  I did not get a dividend 1099 either, called up and I am not sure one was sent as the first thing the computer talked about was how much our dividends were and that we don’t need a 1099, but if we want one, they can send “a replacement”.  So hopefully that will come soon.  I know the amounts for all of these and can do the return without them, but need the paperwork for the same thing later in the year.  We have two business returns to do for ourselves. One is due March 15 also and has no income - it is inactive, but we don’t want to close it down.  So yesterday, just to get something done I did the inactive company’s tax returns.  Well, something is done at least. 

And - husband is thinking about going to a woodworking show out of state this weekend - which means Friday as we have the annual party for our reenactment unit on Sunday so we cannot go then and we cannot get up early enough to do that on Sunday and go to the woodworking show on Saturday.  We will see.  This was a nice show, but the venue it was in was closed and it moved to one that is not at all convenient to deal with.  (A quilt show at the same old venue moved elsewhere and was awful and is no more.)

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK -
BACK UP!  No, not away from the computer.  Make sure that you are doing backups of at least important data and things like your important photos.  We don’t use “the cloud” for anything including backup as another name for the cloud is “someone else’s hard drive, which is more attractive to hack than yours as they will get so much more” and most of the cloud drives have been hacked.  An external hard drive is fairly reasonable to get and one can back up to it on a weekly or monthly basis if they don’t need to back up as often I do.  (Remember a lot of this is work stuff I am backing up.)  An external drive would also let you take the drive with you in an emergency. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

TORN BETWEEN TWO RESPONSIBILITIES

In trying as we all do to try to keep our homes and lives organized.  Sometimes it is easier than others.  Sometimes two (or more) responsibilities conflict and we must decide what to do.

I recently had a situation like this.  My mom is 89 and just recently gave up her car as she did not drive it that often and wanted to save the costs of insurance and maintaining it.  I have started driving her to her doctor for appointments - so far around every 3 months.  She sees other doctors also and needs to run errands, but even letting me drive her to these appointments is a major step in her giving up a bit of control and (supposedly) the reason she asked me to drive her to these appointments is that the doctor is 3 communities away and the taxis fee would be expensive.  (Taxis here do not charge by the mile, they charge by how many zones one travels in.)  Personally, hearing what she pays for a taxi ride, I think that they are too expensive in general.  She is signing up for the county service for seniors and handicapped people for transport, but that has to be reserved in advanced and involves traveling to pickup and drop off others enroute.

After 2 trips to the doctor we seem to have a pattern for the day.  I pick her up, drive her there, get her into the doctor’s office and then park the car and come back to the office.  When she is finished and making her next appointment, I walk into the office area to make sure that I can also make the next appointment (and I put the info in my cell phone calendar).  I then get the car (she has trouble walking distances - mostly due to balance, with a walker she would be able to walk much longer distances) and bring it back and help her into the car.  We then go to lunch - both times we had pizza at place near the doctor’s office. 

Mom had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for this past Tuesday afternoon and I was to take her to see him and we planned our usual lunch afterwards.  Our last visit to her doctor we stopped at the bank to make a deposit for her and she again asked if we could do this - no problem.

I have mentioned that my husband has developed a weather phobia.  He is only in his mid-60s, but in some ways seems to be older than my mom - he is much more fearful of things beyond his control.  He does not like to be alone in general, but especially when he is anticipating an upcoming problem such as weather. 

He also greatly builds up problems in his head about anything that needs to be done.  You might remember my tale of trying to winterize our RV in November.  Well, spring is coming and he wanted to set up an appointment at our RV dealer’s service department to have whatever it is that is broken, fixed.  The cost alone scares the heck out of him (and me).  We made an appointment for late April.  The dealer is 2 states away.  There are RV dealers here with service departments, but none who work with this brand of RV and we want someone who knows about it, so we take it back to “our”dealer.  Normally we would make an appointment and drive there, getting there between 11 am and noon - it is about a 3 hour drive and we are not morning people.  No go for this trip.  The service department now shuts at 3:30 and we have to be there by 9 am, 10 the absolute latest.  We can drive there the night before and plug in the RV on the outside of the service building and have done this before, but we had working toilet in the RV when we did so and do not have same now.  Or we could leave around 6 am to make sure that even with traffic we are there in time (and I rarely can fall asleep before 5 am).  Husband went into a panic.  I came up with a solution - find an RV park near the dealer which has (as most do) a bathroom on the grounds and ask for a space near it.  He is looking for same as the nearest one we know of it is about 45 minutes away and the bathrooms, while nice, are a distance away from the spots we like.

In addition there is a large scandal about the RV manufacturer (not the dealer who is independent) such that if something is not figured out it will be out of business and any items it makes or has made for its RV’s that are not items made for an RV in general, those parts may/will no longer be available.  All of the parts for the problems we are having, as far as we know, are general RV parts so there should be no problem at this time.  He was, though, in a panic over the company being closed down.  I told him (a big fan of James Bond) “never say never” as well as he should not worry about this before it happens as often the original family which owned a company come back when there is a problem to save “their” company. 

There was also to be a snowstorm today (the day after the appointment) which was upsetting him no end, despite all weather forecasts showed that it would turn to rain and between the rain and the 50F + weather tomorrow (the day after the storm) it would all melt.

So with all this going on, I had to tell him that I would be out yesterday with my mom for her doctor’s appointment.  “PLEASE, you have to come home early!!!”  I told him that I would be home as early as possible.  Problem is that he sits and it all runs through his head and scares him and then thinks about it more and starts to head towards panic if he is alone.

I did have a solution to needing to be with him to take care of him and taking care of my mom.  I thought about it - and then thought again.  My mom is a bit, well, a woman who is about to be 90.  I love her.  Husband if he does not actually love her, likes her in general, but an afternoon with just the 3 of us.  But I offered last weekend that he could come along if he wanted/needed to. His face said it all.  Then, Monday night, he asked if he could come along.  It was the only solution to my needing to be with two people at the same time. 

It actually went much better than I (or husband) though it would.  Mom even went along with our suggestion to go to Wendys for lunch.  She had never been there and was raving about it.  Whenever I say we eat there she says the burgers must be greasy, but she raved about them.  All in all it was successful day - her report at the doctor was good.  Husband was not left home alone.  And, we made another bank deposit for mom. After we settled her in at home we ran to the post office for our mail and then the supermarket as husband always needs “more food” in the house when it will snow. 

Another thing he worries about  - I did the laundry a night early so it would all be done - “just in case” to reassure him.  Snow is now over, rain has come, and he keeps looking out to see if the snow is melting - it is.

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK -
If you are caught with competing things to do figure out if they can be done together.  I think this actually worked out to be one of the better visits with my mom for me and for husband also.  I am not planning to invite him again, but if need be, we will know what to do.



Thursday, February 14, 2019

EVEN WHEN ONE USE A PROCESS TO DO THINGS - THINGS CAN GO AWRY

Do you use processes to help you get or stay organized?  If you are not sure what I mean - I mean doing things the same way or on the same day or at the time every time you do them?  I try to.  Lately though, as part of this craziness going on here, things slip through the process and go awry or go missing.

Sometime around December my desk scissors went missing.  I keep them in the drawer over the leg hole of my desk, right in the front.  Husband and I both looked high and low for them over the ensuing couple of months.  He thought he found them in our studio in the “small tool drawer”, where our scissors for the studio are, but that was the duplicate pair I keep there.  I really like these scissors.  He started suggesting that I get new ones.  I am a stubborn person and refused.  Well, last Friday I opened my desk drawer for something and - the scissors were back.  Neither of us has any idea how this happened, I am just glad they are back and I no longer have to use a small knife for things I should be using scissors for.

I have a definite process for credit card receipts.  I collect them in a pocket in my wallet.  I empty the pocket Friday night and Sunday night (we do a lot of our shopping over the weekend). When I take them out of my wallet they go into a basket hanging at the foot of the stairs - the mail and similar go here also - and my next trip upstairs they go upstairs.  I then sort them at my desk and put them into the corresponding pockets in a small loose leaf book.  They then wait snugly there until they are matched with the statement and then will be attached to same when I pay the statement.  So how do they go missing?  One night in January when husband had a cold we stopped between Saturday night dinner and Saturday night movie to buy a box of cold pills for him.  On arriving home we found out we already had a started box of the same medicine.  (Ever happen to you - I am sure it has.)  I put the box and the receipt into a section of the holder for files on my desk to wait until I knew he did not need a second box.  He took the medicine once from the started box and decided it did not work. 

So a couple of weeks later I went to take the medicine back.  The box was there, the receipt was not.  I went crazy looking for it.  I climbed all over the floor in the office.  I disassembled the folder holder so I could look under it (too big, heavy and unwieldy to move as one piece).  I checked where the receipt should be.  Not found.  I finally tried to return it without the receipt - not for medications, so we have a spare box of a medication we don’t really take.  My fault - if the receipt had gone where it belonged in the interim, it would have been there when needed.

Now the latest thing gone astray - and the worst.  I am the treasurer and the membership chair of our reenactment unit.  In mid January I mailed out the renewal forms to members.  It is sort of an odd setup.  Members join in family groups which can be from 1 person to any amount, generally 4 is the largest group.  Members can also just join our unit or also join a national reenactment group that our unit is part of.  I need to keep careful records of which group rejoined, who in the family rejoined, who in the family rejoined or joined the national group also.  I have a spread sheet that I copy over year to year to keep track - I remove anyone who was not in “last year” and add anyone who joined “last year”.  It is all set up to keep track of and total what each group paid and the totals of everyone.  I am suppose to send the renewals and dues of members of the national group by the beginning of March to the national group’s membership chair.  I also list all checks - for this or any other reason - in a notebook.

So last week I emailed out to those members not listed on the spreadsheet a reminder to renew.  I heard back from one member.  Her husband had mailed us the renewal form and check for them and their 2 sons and they had gotten the “if you are receiving this you did not renew yet” email.  I remembered receiving their renewal.  I also remembered, as she mentioned in her email, that her husband had taken care of it and had filled in and paid for the national group also.  Since they were not members of same in the past - and her husband had done the paperwork - I decided to check with them about the renewal and set it aside to contact them.

And that is where the problem comes in. I can’t find their paperwork or check.  I emailed her back right away and told her I remembered receiving it and would get back to her.  I am pretty sure I know which day I received their renewal - it was the day in January I went to my client in Manhattan, husband could not go out food shopping for the upcoming storm due to the van having no brakes, when I came home we ran out food shopping, then back home as I forgotten the items I needed to mail out for us and the client, and while at the post office I picked up the mail.  The date fits and then we did not go out for several days.  I also remember it was the first renewal I received and that my husband was not in the post office when I found it in our box - and he almost always comes in with me - except that day.  I have been thorough all of my briefcases and computer bags - even the ones that were in the closet straight through.  Any folder I could think of.  The desk and file drawers. Under the desks. The car and its hatch.  I cannot find it.  My husband cannot find it.  I have been getting lectures from husband (who cannot find anything without me) about being more careful. 

Today I gave up and humbled myself and sent an email to the member apologizing, explaining, apologizing again... I told her I marked them as renewed.  I suggested that she send a replacement check as the first one was the wrong amount (paid too much) anyway.  I told her when I find the other check, I will return it to her. 

I am kicking myself about what went wrong.  It bothers the heck out of me.  Generally paperwork is the one area that I keep well organized.  I am not suppose to loose things - and not be able to find them - and 3 items in a couple of months is 3 items too many.  I realize that all I can do is keep looking until I find the item or it becomes moot.  I am hoping whichever “fairy” gave me back my scissors will smile on me again and return the missing renewal to me and the missing receipt - but the missing return is more important.

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK -

Set up processes to help yourself get organized.  Keep at them and follow what you set up and it should help.  Whether it is keeping track of papers, doing the laundry on the same day each week, changing towels and bed linens on a weekly schedule, or cleaning the house.  I keep the daily (make dinner), weekly, monthly, annual and other odd repeating items in my organizer and Palm - they could also be in a smart phone or paper calendar/appointment book.  This helps to remind to do things at the same time.  On Wednesdays I start doing the laundry (usually takes 2 to 3 evenings between washing, drying, folding, and putting away) at night.  I also write my post to all of you if I have not done so on Tuesday.  (Last week I got it done on Tuesday and then forgot it was Tuesday and posted a day early.)  I also go and “visit” an embroidery group online if I have time.

What can you set up in your calendar to remind you to do every day, week, month, etc.?  Try it, it works well.  A reminder alarm can even be set to remind you. 

Hoping you have a nice Valentine’s Day tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

ARE YOU CHECKING THE FORMS COMING IN WITH INCOME, ETC. TO DO YOUR INCOME TAXES?

I was reminded yesterday that one should always check the forms that come in with income, etc.at the year end to help you prepare your income taxes.  I am sure you understand what I mean all the W2, assorted 1099s maybe some K1 forms...    NEVER ASSUME THAT EVERYTHING IS OKAY UNTIL YOU CHECK THE NUMBERS!

I thought that I was doing well, doing as I always do.  I use a bookkeeping program all year, so all I have to do is compare the totals for the year as I always do - well maybe.  Husband has an IRA at each of 2 credit unions.  (Credit unions function like banks, but the depositors own it.  Originally they were “affinity” organizations - one had to work for a certain type of company or live in a certain area to “join”; they are now allowed to have people joined who are not members of a limited group.)  We have been making withdrawals as we need to supplement our other income from one of the two credit unions - we like the other one better and the other one has slightly better interest rates. Last year, however I noticed that the IRA money in the other as his account had gone over the insured amount, so we took money from it once last year.  I keep on eye on what we might need and will have husband transfer money from a CD (fixed time saving certificate of deposit) in the IRA into a savings account in the IRA so that we always have some money not in a CD that we can go in and make a withdrawal from that account - we do this as if we withdrew money from a CD not when it renews there would be a bank penalty.

To protect the (not really) “innocent” I will refer to the credit union that we have been withdrawing from over the years as “Union A” and the other one - the one we like and just started withdrawing from - as Union B or none of this will make sense. 

For those of you not in the US - Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are so that people who work and do not have a pension at work can set aside money for retirement.  I will not go into all of the details of same as you will all have headaches if I do - but basically one must be 59.5 years old or older to take out money without an IRA penalty and one pays income taxes on the money one withdraws.  The IRA can also be used if one had a pension and leaves work by one having the pension money transferred (rolled over) into a IRA (at bank, credit union. stock broker and a variety of other financial institutions).  In our case, husband’s IRAs are the rollover of his pension when he quit his job.  (This is not something called a Roth IRA - which I will not go into explaining as it has no relation to any of this.)

As an accountant I consider myself good at keeping track of our money.  Every bank statement is timely reconciled - including those for the IRAs.  I also have a (very) small IRA at Union B as I had no pension.

When the year end forms showing the income (withdrawals from) from husband’s IRA at Union
 A arrived, I looked at the amount of income (withdrawals) it showed for the year and compared it to the total in my bookkeeping software and it matched.  Remember, through 2017 we had only made withdrawals from the Union A IRA. 

Well, yesterday the paperwork arrived from Union B and I went to check it against the total in my bookkeeping software and I realized something was wrong - MAJOR WRONG.  The Union B form showed that he (we) had withdrawn three times as much as I showed we did.  Then I remembered that the entire amount withdrawn on my software was the same as what was withdrawn from Union A. I pulled out the year end Union A paperwork to figure it out. 

Remember I said that we transfer money within the IRA at Union A and also within the IRA at Union B (each credit union separately - not between the two IRAs)?  Somehow both credit unions had made a mistake in a transfer within the IRA at that credit union.  The paperwork from Union A had looked right as the amount transferred within same (from CD to savings account) happened to be equal to the withdrawal we made at Union B.  The form from Union A actually showed several thousand dollars more than we had actually withdrawn. 

At Union B we had gone in and taken money during the year (as I said, just happened to be the same amount as the transfer at Union A) and at the same time - on separate paperwork - we had transferred money within that IRA into the IRA savings account at that credit union.  So - it was by chance that the paperwork from Union A looked correct when it was not.  At Union B we had transferred twice as much as we had withdrawn - hence, since the same sort of error was made there - the paperwork showed that we had withdrawn 3 times as much as we did.

So today - after a quick “fun” stop at the doctor for followup blood test - we drove to Union A.  We went there first as in general they don’t always seem to know what they are doing and there was no paperwork for the transfer there - only a withdrawal and deposit slip.  As we thought about it and looked at the paperwork I did have, we remembered the problems the day we transferred (or thought we transferred) the money.  We had gone to the branch of Union A we normally go to - a small branch closer to us than the main branch.  There has been a very nice and competent employee there that would we wait for.  She was not there.  The fellow who was there did not have any idea what he was doing and we left and went to the main branch.  In the main branch they were having a “summer beach party” theme event (banking is not suppose to be fun - it is business).  I did not have a business card from the employee - who seemed competent at the time - and had written his name down as he did not have one. I remembered when thinking about it that it had all seemed too quick. 

When we went in today I asked for a manager or supervisor and was questioned at the reception desk as to why I needed one and told that any of the employees can do that - I told the woman at the desk, we preferred to deal with a manager to do this.  An employee came out - based on where she had come from I knew she was not a manager.  When we shook hands I asked what kind of manager she was - she was not and I repeated my request, which again, she tried to talk me out of.  We eventually met with the assistant manager. Luckily she understood and she was able to correct the error.  We are to get new paperwork - both the required paperwork for our income taxes showing the amount he received for the year and we also requested a new “summary statement” as we will need that later in year to apply for the real estate senior deduction (the one seemed not to have arrived at the township back in December).  Hopefully we will have correct copies of both in about a week. 

Oh, this manager said something that no one should every say about their business to a customer.  I had told her that we have not been happy with the credit union in general  -“Really?  How come you have not moved your account elsewhere then?”  Instead of “I am so sorry to hear that - what can we do to make it better for you?”  (Which husband basically told her - employees need better training in IRAs and don’t have event parties.”) She basically suggested to us that we should not bank with her credit union and we should move our money elsewhere!

We then drove to Union B.  I was not as concerned about dealing with the problem at same as the employee ( a very good one that we ask for when we go in) had filled in the form to have this processed correctly - it just had not been done correctly by whoever processed it.  What a difference!  We asked to speak to a manager. Other than being offered someone else to help as the manager was with a customer, there was no question about us speaking with her.  When we speaking she commented (in reference to something said) “Some customers just like to stop in and say hello to me.” 

She corrected the error - and apologized it for it.  She could not get us a replacement summary statement for the year.  She came up with an idea and printed out each account for the year, stamped it with the bank’s rubber stamp and signed it as an alternative.  So much more pleasant and not at all adversarial as the other credit union had been!

Hopefully this all is resolved now other than our receiving the amended forms.  I have now decided that whatever is going on and making us redo things a second time is some sort of curse and I don’t know where it came from or how to get rid of it.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK -

When you get financial papers - make sure they are correct.  Always reconcile statements.  Do the math to make sure that those W2, 1099, etc  forms to prepare your tax returns are correct - do the math.  We have not had a problem before - but this year we had two problems from 2 separate sources. 

Check things when you receive them.  Some banks will not correct statement errors after the month you receive the statement.  In this case if I had put these papers aside until I was ready to do our taxes - instead of checking right away - in addition to being concerned about getting them corrected, I might be facing a tight deadline to get them corrected to file our return.  Keep the assorted slips and papers you receive when making a deposit, transfer or withdrawal.  The more paperwork you have to back up your side if there is a problem - the better off you are - even if you scan the papers into the computer to keep them there. 

Start now keeping things organized for your 2019 taxes due in April 2020.  No - really - start now as papers come in.  I have a folder in my paid bills accordion holder marked “1099s”. Anything I receive during the year that is a form like this I toss in this folder.  I also have folders for our car and our van (both are partially business expenses) - I put receipts for cash paid for either, plus the invoices from the mechanic, etc for either, in the appropriate folder.  There is also an “accounting” folder for receipts for cash paid for same also - including receipts for parking and for subway fares when I go to clients.  At the end of the year all these folders - except the “1099" are pulled out and put in a holder I have for clients (and us) that holds the papers for taxes.  This lets me start putting in the new year’s receipts (took out 2018 papers, now can use for 2019 papers).  The “1099" folder still holds items for 2018 right now as they are coming in the mail and it is extremely rare to receive any of these forms for the current year this early in the year.