Tax Day Proposition

taxes

Happy Tax Day.

If you are filing your taxes today, it’s more than likely that you owe. Most people who will be getting a refund have filed long ago and have already spent their money.

Oh happy day, right? Well, let’s see.

I have a proposition for you – starting January 2013, you give me $240 per month to hold for you. I will give it all back to you by mid April 2014.

What do you think I would do with your money in the meantime? Of course I would invest it and keep the interest for myself. There is probably a law against me doing this, so I withdraw my offer.

The average tax refund was over $2900 this year. That is over $240 per month that you are giving to the IRS interest free.

What could you do with an extra $240 per month?

  • Add it to your 401(k)
  • Increase your mortgage payments
  • Pay off high interest credit cards, student loans, your car
  • Take a mini-vacation

The point is, why are you giving your hard-earned money to the government to use when you could put it to better use?

Do you feel sorry for the government and just want to help them out?

If you want to be nice and give the government money, why not purchase savings bonds – at least you will collect some interest.

The truth is, there are not many ways that you can reduce the amount of taxes that are withheld from your check if you work for someone else.

Our tax system is designed to make it difficult for you to keep all of your money unless you are wealthy.

Tax codes are complex and ever-changing, but knowing some of the basics may help make sense of it for you.

  • Taxes are collected on a pay-as-you go system. When you become employed, you fill out a form W-4 with your employer. This tells the employer how much to take out of your paycheck and send to the IRS.
  • At the end of the year, your employer supplies you with a form W-2 which shows how much money you have paid to the IRS over the past year. You file an income tax return to “settle up” with the government. If you underpaid, you must send them a check for the difference. If you overpaid, they send you a refund check.
  • A tax deduction is an amount subtracted from your income. Unless you are a millionaire, the more you make, the more they take in taxes. Each deduction reduces the amount that you make and therefore reduces the amount you pay in taxes.
  • A tax credit gives you credit for paying a tax that you really didn’t pay. Let’s say you owe $2500 in taxes but you get a credit for $1000. This means that you only have to pay $1500 – the IRS gave you credit for paying $1000.

Now, here’s the rub. If you end up owing the IRS too much money at the end of the year (when you file your taxes) you may have to pay them a penalty for not having enough money withheld from your check. They are determined to keep as much of your money as they can.

Having said that, if you received a large tax refund, you can increase the amount of money you receive on your check and reduce the amount of your tax refund by doing 2 things:

  • Increase the number of allowances on your W-4 form. The more allowances you have, the fewer taxes you pay each check. If person A and person B earn exactly the same amount, but person A claims 0 allowances and person B claims 5, person B will take home more money on each paycheck because the IRS will take less money from them. There is a withholding calculator at the IRS website under Individuals then tools.
  • If you received an Earned Income Credit last year, you can actually get some of that money early by filing a form W-5 with your employer. This is an advanced payment certificate for your Earned Income Credit.

You can find more tips at http://irs.gov (of course, you have to dig because the government wants to continue to use your money for free) or hire a tax professional or a financial planner to help you make your money go further.

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5 Ways to Teach Children Money Management

What a coincidence. Today is my first day back in the classroom after spring break and my very first class is Personal Finance. April just happens to be Financial Literacy month.

This week, I’d like to concentrate on money management.

Although money doesn’t buy happiness, the lack of money leads to a lot of misery. You cannot be truly happy if you don’t have enough money to take care of yourself and your family.

Most of my finance students tell me that they wished they had taken this course in high school. I laugh because I have yet to meet an 18 year old who listens to financial advice from anyone.

I am, however perplexed at how well we do as parents in preparing our children for careers, families, morality and even cleaning, but how poorly most of us do in preparing our children for the financial responsibilities of adulthood.

Most of us discuss sex more openly with our children than we do money. Many young people are thrown into adulthood without a clue as to how to properly manage money and as a result many mess up their credit and finances for years to come.

Here are 5 easy ways to give your children practice with money. You can start them as young as first grade.

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Friday the 13th and Other Superstitions

Today is Friday the 13th, a day that is supposed to be bad luck.

While superstitions can be fun, we must realize that the scientific reason that some superstitions seem to hold true has to do with our emotional blind spots and our RAScals.

Remember that our conscious mind is only aware of those things that are important to it. It doesn’t notice anything else. We block things that are unimportant to us and notice things that are important to us.

One of the jobs of our creative subconscious is to keep us sane. It obeys us without question; therefore if we say Friday the 13th is unlucky, our creative subconscious will block our awareness of anything good that happens today. We will notice only the bad things and none of the good, thus restoring our sanity.

In other words, we create our own bad luck by believing that today will be unlucky.

I am really excited today, because I decided that Friday the 13th will be lucky for me. Great things are going to happen simply because I believe they will.

You can decide to have good luck, today, too.

Now, since it is Friday the 13th, I decided to research other common superstitions and share their origins with you today.

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Emotional Hoarding

I watch those shows like Hoarders and Clean House not to make fun of those people, but to give me incentive to not let my own house get out of hand.

Cleaning is not my favorite activity, but nothing motivates me to clean more than looking at a nasty house. (Hopefully, not mine.)

I have a confession to make – my husband and I are sort-of hoarders. What I mean by sort of is that we do throw things away, but it’s hard.

We have a tendency to think we are going to need that someday or that we will get it fixed or that we can sell it at a yard sale.

Before you get excited and start telling your friends, we throw things away. Our house is clean.

We don’t have piles of trash everywhere or boxes stacked to the ceiling.

We don’t rent a storage shed in order to store our junk, we actually throw it away.

My kids make fun of me because I have a need to immediately get rid of any cobweb I see.  I can’t see 2 inches in front of my nose UNLESS it happens to be a cobweb. I can see cobwebs on Mars.

What I said is that we don’t always want to throw it away, but we do. After all, who knows when you might need it?

Are we the same way with our emotions?

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Happy 8 Track Tape Day

National 8 Track Tape Day is another fun holiday to celebrate, but for the sake of the younger readers, I feel obligated to supply a brief slide show to explain exactly what an 8-track tape is in relationship to the iPod.

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When I was a teen, our family had a conversion van in the days before vans had any sort of video player. For some reason, this van had an 8-track player but no cassette deck and we owned exactly 1 8-track tape.

No offense to country and western fans across the nation, but we are R&B people. So during most of the 19 hour drive from Effingham, IL to visit family in Pittsburgh, PA we listened to our only tape over and over again.

An 8-track tape has a very annoying feature; it just keeps playing over and over and over and over until someone changes the track or ejects the tape. I still know every word to every song on that blasted 8-track.

Most of us fall into an 8-track rut from time to time. We play the same songs in our lives over and over until we can’t remember how many times we have heard them. Every Monday looks the same, every Friday looks the same. We get so comfortable with the same songs that we don’t even mind after a while.

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The Center of the Universe

If the universe is infinite, where is the center of the universe?

Most people believe that THEY are the center of the universe.

If you are the center of your own universe, then each person is likewise the center of their own universe, right?

That means that eventually your universe will intersect with someone else’s right?

Everyone’s universe is intertwined with everyone else’s. What you do affects everyone that you are around.

Because of this, you must have R-E-S-P-E-C-T for others.

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Don’t Be a Guilty Red Hen

Today is the beginning of National Library Week.

I love children’s classics – Dr. Seuss and even Dick, Jane and Sally. The authors of the children’s classics knew that adults would be reading these books to children; therefore they needed to build value into the books for the adults as well. There was often a moral lesson to be gleaned from the pages of a good children’s book.

Take for instance, The Little Red Hen.

For those of you who may not be familiar, I’ll summarize the story very quickly. The Little Red Hen decided to plant wheat and invited her friends (the duck, the goose, the cat and the pig) to help with the work.

The duck, the goose, the cat and the pig declined until it was time to eat the bread that she made from the wheat. At that time EVERYONE wanted to join in on the rewards of her labor.

The Little Red Hen decided that since she did all the work, she was the only one who got to eat the bread.

Do you blame the Little Red Hen? Do you feel guilty when you act like her?

Do you feel bad when you enjoy the rewards of your efforts while others stand by and watch?

You shouldn’t.

Worse yet, are you a duck, cat, horse or pig? Do you feel that you are OWED a living even if you did nothing to earn it?

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Saturday is National No Housework Day!!!

April is National Stress Awareness Month and Saturday is National No Housework Day.

Sounds like a combination made in heaven.

Not so fast – – -

When I get tired, it’s National No Housework Day. Sometimes it can become No Housework Week (I can’t take it after a week, too much of a good thing, you know.)

My husband and I don’t have a set chore list. When something needs to be done, one of us will do it. We both do laundry, dishes, cleaning.

Since there are only two of us, it USUALLY only takes a few minutes to complete a chore.

UNLESS –

Both of us celebrate National No Housework Day at the same time, especially if No Housework Day then turns into No Housework Week for Two.

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Inner-Strength Builds Confidence

Just like everyone else in America, I come from a dysfunctional family.

I graduated from high-school at 16, got accepted and attended college and majored in Early Childhood Education only to have my own education become a casualty of my parent’s divorce. I’ll spare you the sordid details except for the ones that are necessary for this article.

At the ripe old age of 17, I found myself homeless and uneducated, unable to get a job, moving from relative to relative. It seems that one does not qualify for financial aid when one is a minor child of a prominent physician. It also seems that if one sits out of school for more than two terms, one is no longer considered a college student and therefore is not entitled to tuition. Hooray for the state of Illinois.

My mother had no job, no money and three younger children to feed. Luckily she had packed her deep freeze with produce and a half a cow the summer before or they would have starved. I would have merely become another burden for her to bear.

Instead I stayed in the Pittsburgh area, lived off of the savings bonds that had been earmarked for tuition (not enough to cover room and board, let alone tuition and books) and shared a one-bedroom apartment with a relative. We had no heat and no money to pay for heat, so we heated kettles of water on the stove to create steam to keep warm. It was a pretty clever system.

The water could also be used to bathe in (except you could only have about an inch of water.)

That relative eventually moved to San Diego with her boyfriend and I went to live with another relative. I babysat for a young couple until I turned 18 and was finally able to get a job working part-time in a Fotomat booth. This was a relic from the past where people would drive through, drop off a roll of film and pick them up a few days later. Not the most exciting work but it was work.

Later that year I found a job working for minimum wage at a daycare center. While a fun job, there was no room for growth and no opportunities to fulfill my dreams of a better life. I walked the mile and a half to work each day in order to save every dime I could by not taking the bus.

After a few months, I packed up my few belongings, boarded a bus and headed to Denver, Colorado, where my fiancé was stationed in the Air Force.

I had never been to Denver and the only person I knew in the entire state of Colorado was my fiancé.

On the way to Denver, I stopped in Illinois to visit my mother and siblings. It was Christmas and she had no money to purchase gifts for the kids. I gave her $500.

We went to court one last time in an effort to get tuition. Because I had been out of school for longer than a year and I was no longer a minor, my petition was denied.

However, I now qualified for financial aid. My neighbor was a banker and drew up the paperwork.

I was finally able to enroll in the college. I currently teach in that same school.

I graduated with honors, married my fiancé and lived happily ever after.

The end.

Not so fast. I did not tell this story to dredge up my past. Honestly, I prefer not to think about it, let alone tell perfect strangers what I went through.

I also did not tell this story so that you would admire me for my bravery. There was nothing brave about what I did.

I told this story to show you what YOU can do.

What I did was to tap into my inner-strength in order to create a better future for myself. You can do it, too, no matter what the obstacles you face.

No matter what your situation, you have inner-strength.

You too are able to change your life.

  • Find goals that fit
  • Conquer fear and anxiety
  • Affirm yourself
  • Grow
  • Make decisions

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The 4Ps of Victimization

Many of my students live with domestic violence every day.

I am no longer shocked when a beautiful young woman enters my classroom on crutches, eyes blackened, lips swollen, broken bones. Their “man” doesn’t appreciate the value of education.

I offer them assistance, counseling, shelters. They always refuse.

There is always an excuse. It was always their fault. If they hadn’t been late, if dinner had been ready, if the kids had been quieter, if the house were cleaner, if they hadn’t been talking to a male student, if, if, if.

One woman was thrown from a 3rd story balcony, another gets punched every time she tries to come to school.

None of them deserve it. None of them believe that they don’t deserve it.

They are all young. They are all mothers. They are all poor. They are all trying to make a way out through an education. School is a warm safe place to land. Home is not.

Some will succeed. The balcony woman dropped out.

Domestic violence rears its head in all economic situations, all educational levels, all ethnicities, all religions. It is an ugly secret that is hidden behind makeup and sunglasses; hidden behind false trips down stairs and walking into walls that never existed; hidden by shame.

Some pretend and hope we won’t notice. We notice.

I cannot imagine what life for them must be like. I don’t pretend to have the training necessary to help these women.

I am trained to teach business and technology.

But I can listen. I can hug them. I can encourage them. This takes no training.

They all feel trapped yet none are. The trap is in their heads.

All I can do is try to point them toward freedom. I cannot force them to go.

Just as a fly will continue to bang against a window until it searches for another way out, they remain trapped in whatever situation they are in until they search for an alternative.

They must choose to search. I can only provide the arrow that points the way.

Whether it is domestic violence, a dead-end job, or substance abuse, you are never a victim of anything but your own choices.

No matter your situation, you are not a victim. There is a way out once you decide to change the way you think.

The 4 Ps will light the way to the exit. You must decide to go.

  • Permanence
  • Personal
  • Pain
  • Proactive

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