Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Fine Print.

I'm just not very good at reading the fine print.

I try to compensate by keeping things simple.

Anyway, while doing my 2010 taxes, I noticed I was getting charged a leasing fee twice a month for our visa machine.

So I got on the phone, was transferred 3 times, waiting 20 minutes for an operator, and finally got to ask.

"Our records show that you have had two machines from the beginning, 2008."

"I have one machine," I said.

So we thrashed that out. My guess, I was either sold two machines when there was too long a lead time, or...who knows? Anyway, she credited the extra charges toward the prices of the 2 (?) machines at my store, and the one at Linda's store. So we own the machines, including a phantom machine, no more charges.

Meanwhile, I have a vestigial bank account with Chase that I'm really only using for a couple of automatic withdrawals. So I got on the phone to change over my health insurance withdrawal. While I was at it, I asked for coupons I could use to pay into my Health Savings Plan -- I can put up to 4K a year into it that is tax deductible. One thing that is probably for certain, me or Linda will need it someday. (My deductible is a whopping 5k per month; Linda's about half that much.)

I'm intending to do everything I can to put money away for the next 6 or 7 years.

It may be a bit of game-playing, but for me it's all about enforced discipline.

The second automatic withdrawal was for our life insurances. For this, we went to our agent's office John Asmussen who we've had for 26 years. Turns out, Linda's health insurance coverage had declined from 100k to only 11k through some mechanism, which was surprising, and my term insurance was only a few years from being completed.

I decided to go with a variable life insurance, for both of us. Yes, RDC, I understand that is not the best investment -- but I need life insurance, and I'm treating it as an enforced savings, which is what I need.

Over the last year, now, I've eliminated about 350.00 in unnecessary charges, some I knew about and didn't do anything about because I was too busy, others I didn't even know about. Closing the extra bank will save a big 18.00 a month.) 200.00 worth of the savings was on postage from not doing "direct" shipping from Diamond. I've identified another 100.00 savings, so by the end of this year I should have about 468.00 in small savings, which is the equivalent of 1000.00 a month in sales I don't have to sell to get to the same break-even point.

Probably should have done these things years ago, but I was focused on bigger things.

Like trying to survive.

Meanwhile, the stock market is doing a skeleton dance over our savings.

I now have great empathy for the investors circa 2007-8 who watched their portfolio's tank three times that much. It's painful.

But I've decided I'm going to be working for the next 7 years, minimum, so I'll hope for the best and slowly changeover my investments to more stable funds. I'd started that process, but hadn't gotten far enough before this latest crash.

Meanwhile, our tax guy, Gary Plagman, informed us that because Linda is over 62, that all medical expenses are write-offs, at least with the Oregon taxes. Amazing. The tax code is really very generous to old folk, isn't it? Wow. Seems almost unfair.

The thing I'm trying hardest not to do, is pull any principle out of what we've already put aside for retirement. Taxes are the one time of year when we are in real danger of having to do that. I'm thinking I might -- might -- be able to cover the full tax bill this year, though I'll be dancing on the edge of the cliff as far as cash-flow, but if I can do it, I'll feel pretty good.

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