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Filing our taxes today

February 2nd, 2010 at 08:30 am

Filing our taxes today. Tried to the taxact thing and it doesn't make sense to me. It said a refund of right around $1,500. We paid a combined $1550+/- in Federal taxes, and $120 in state taxes. Our taxable income was $36,000 before deductions. Property taxes ($1000), Making work pay ($400), and the Roth credit ($1,200) raised our deductions by $2,600. So standard deduction of $11,400 and personal exemptions of $7,300 comes to $18,700. Plus $2,600. That gives us deductions of $21,300. Makes our taxable income $14,700. So even with a 10% tax bracket, we should pay $1,470 in federal taxes. The new military spouse law makes it that neither one of us had to pay state taxes. So even if all this is accurate and right as to how the tax code works, which I doubt, we should only get a $200 return.

So I opted to make an appointment and have them filed on post today. I've done this the last few years as my first option and never worried about it, so I'll do it this year again. My question is if our return is almost the same as what we paid in federal taxes, should we just not pay any federal taxes at all? But then what happens if I end up owing next year and I have to pay penalties and interest? Irritating.

Anyway, the good news. This weekend we won 4 dugout box seats to a Royals game. My father-in-law is a huge sports fan, especially anything Missouri for college, and Chiefs/Royals. So he'll like it. As if I had a choice in who we take - soon as we won, my wife was on the phone with her Mom telling her about it. Not that I mind going with my in-laws, just that it would have been nice to talk about it. But hey, it happens.

And the highlight of my week. I ran a 14:22 two mile in the gym yesterday. I've never run that fast before in my life. To do that on my first day back to work after having only nominally worked out for the last 5 months was amazing. I don't know who was more surprised, me or my boss. But I only work M-W-F 7a-3p. Pretty sweet stuff.

But I need to go get DW from dialysis and go file our taxes. If we do get the $1500 my basement will get finished in the week or two after we get it.

Yes, I know the tax return should go into our Emergency Fund. But DW and I are both sick of having a half finished basement that can't be used for anything. I can finish it and move my weights back down there and have my cable and DVD's back to watch while I work out. Cross your fingers.

Loving Life.

January 30th, 2010 at 11:20 am

So we won't be starting DW's drug treatment until this summer. The Doctor heading the treatment is rewriting the protocol, and they won't be accepting any new cases for the study until June 1st at the earliest. So I go back to work on Monday for the first time since August 24th. It was a nice break, but I've been ready to go back to work since before Christmas. I get 6 months off this fall too with the transplant and drugs, so anyway...

My Platoon SGT wants me to go talk to re-enlistment this week. Not real high on that idea, but I will anyway. To re-up right now can't give me anything I don't already have. I want to stay at Ft. Leavenworth - so re-enlisting for stabilization or choice of duty station doesn't make sense since I can't be moved without re-enlisting and I don't have to re-enlist until next August. So 1 year stabilization doesn't give me anything extra.

The only incentive to re-enlist now would be a cash bonus. But to do that, I fore go the $2,000 I have coming in May and the other $2,000 I have coming next May. So whatever amount I re-up for, I would have to subtract $4,000 from that to see what "extra" I'm really getting. It will take at least $14,000 to get me to re-up now as opposed to later. I was told that I'll be guaranteed to stay here until the transplant is done and DW can take care of herself again either way, which is about as much as I would get with a 1 year stabilization if I do re-up in August '11. I'd want that in writing though. If I can see a spare $10K then yeah, otherwise, I'll wait until it benefits me the most. I really don't see that much cash being thrown my way, but hey. Everyone can dream.

Going back to work will be a bit different. Both of the guys I've been working with for the past 2 years on a daily basis are leaving in the next couple weeks, and I get two new guys to train. It's not that the new guys don't know their jobs - it's that I'm lower ranking than both of them, but I've been working in the same section for 4 years and they are both new to the section. The guys I was with treated me as an equal because I did as much work as them and pulled my own. I can't expect the same from these new guys right off the bat, but I'm sure it won't take too long. I'm due a promotion from November anyway, but I couldn't get it until I came back to work. So we'll see what happens. I pretty much just don't want to be pushed around at work, which tends to happen with new bosses.

Nothing else really going on. Close on our land purchase in the next few weeks I suppose. Still waiting on DW's W-2's so we can file our taxes. Kind of nervous about filing because I don't know if I lowered our with-holdings too much and we'll owe. California owes me $87, so that can go towards whatever Federal I owe, if any.

Oh - almost forgot. We got $567.44 back on my trip to Minnesota as a reimbursement. Cost was about $240, so we came out way ahead. And we got back around $440 as excess in our escrow account. That all went into savings, which put it back up to where it needed to be. Now whatever extra we get can start going into finishing up our currently half-way finished basement. That's my goal now - to finish the basement before we go to Minnesota for DW's drug treatments for her transplant.

Going to a church dinner/silent auction that's a youth fundraiser tonight with a bunch of friends. Heh - it's amusing to me that it's at a Catholic church - and I've never been to a Catholic church before - and that at the dinner they are selling $1 a bottle beer. It's very ironic to me that a church is selling beer at a youth fundraiser. But anyway, off to work-out. Lost 10 lbs since Wednesday getting back in shape. I had put on about 25lbs since I stopped working, so now I just have another 15 to go. Give it 2 weeks tops. Lots of oatmeal, protein shakes, and cardio.

Travel budget?

January 24th, 2010 at 07:03 am

So the drive home wasn't bad. Dense fog and rain through southern MN and nothing but light rain and a lot of wind in IA. Made it in 6 hours, which is the average.

So I'm trying to figure out how we're going to cover at home expenses and medical travel costs (food, hotels, gas) while we're gone for DW's drug treatment. Right now we have enough in savings to just pull a bit out for a weeks long trip, and then get it reimbursed by my job when I get back. DW's drug treatment is 4 months long. We go to Mayo for 3 weeks, then home a week, and do that 4 times. Plus another month for the transplant and recovery. So we need to be able to cover 3 weeks worth of expenses there at a shot, then get it reimbursed by my job. We would basically be using the same money each time, because it would be reimbursed by the time we went back to Minnesota.

The hotel is $580 for a month, or $225 for a week, so it makes more sense to just get the a hotel room for a month at a time. It has a kitchenette in it - microwave, stove top, and small fridge. So we could reasonably go to the store and get groceries and cook as opposed to getting fat eating out all the time. So I would say our food budget wouldn't change much - maybe be $350 a month instead of $250. Plus gas is about 25 cents a gallon higher there, and we use about 40 miles a day there round trip on the hotel. So that raises our gas budget from $150 a month to about $250 when you figure in the $80 in gas it takes to get there and back. Total monthly costs go up by roughly $780 a month.

We currently pay $150 a month on our maid service - yes I know, it's a lot for something we can do ourselves. You have no idea how much it has improved our marriage to have it, because DW and I would fight all weekend when we did the house cleaning. It's money well spent, IMO. Anyway, we will cancel that for the time we are in Mayo, so for 5 months.

That makes our cost increase go from $780ish to about $530ish. We have that in savings without touching the EF. So would it be a good idea to just pull out $750 from savings and use that, giving us $220 in wiggle room? Then have it reimbursed each month, and keep using it until the transplant is done, at which time it will be reimbursed into the savings account.

The other thing is that my jobs mileage rate is 50 cents a mile. So I get $370 a trip for gas. They don't cover the gas while we're there - they cover the travel mileage to get there and back. So if we spend $250 a month in gas, and get everything else reimbursed, we come out ahead $120 a month. Over the course of 5 months of that, and 5 trips, we come out ahead $600. So really, we could be putting that extra $120 a month back into the savings account each month.

Does this make sense to everybody as far as a financial plan to cover the expenses of the trip? We could do this without changing any of our budget each month - just by taking $750 out of simple savings and having it reimbursed.

The alternative is to get a pay advance, which completely screws up the budget. I get my bonus in May, which is half way through the drug treatment. I just don't want to turn down the pay advance and go off half cocked in doing so. I think I've looked at everything here, but I'm just not certain. We have $2000 in our EF right now and are putting an extra $835 into it each month. We could just stop doing that instead of getting a pay advance if need be.

Am I overlooking anything?

A good week.

January 22nd, 2010 at 02:25 pm

Everything seems to have gone good at Mayo. Trip up was a bit scary, saw 17 vehicles wrecked along the way in Iowa, including an over-turned semi.

All the tests came back fine, nothing to worry about. Get the final vote on Wednesday, and should find out when DW starts her drug treatments then as well.

So now I get to attempt the 6 hour drive back to Kansas City in this eventful weather. Made it up in one piece, should make it back the same. Wish me luck.

After a long absence...

December 31st, 2009 at 07:08 am

So it has been a few months since I've posted on here. Really, not a lot has changed. The army has placed me in a TDY (temporary duty) status indefinitely pending my wife's transplant. This means I still get all pay and allowances, but don't go to work. I do my PT test every 6 months, and submit leaves and passes as needed for medical appointments, but other than that my full time job is taking care of my wife. It's a pretty sweet deal.

To that end, DW is doing pretty good. She gets sick from time to time still, but much improved. She has a blood clot in her fistula, which she has an appointment today for to have it looked at again.

I go to Mayo on January 20th to have my donor evaluation physical to give DW my kidney. Mayo is going to proceed with a drug called Velcade that is used in bone cancer as a form of pill induced chemo. This is supposed to kill DW's immune system so she won't reject my kidney. It's a wonder drug for organ donation because it takes two otherwise incompatible people and gives them the same survivability rate as a good match. All that is required now is blood type matching. It takes 16 weeks on this drug and it's not a good option for all people, because the patient needs a caretaker for those 16 weeks, so we both would be out of work if I had a normal job. Most people cannot afford that, much less to do that and cover lodging and expenses while away from home. The army foots the bill and then some for all of this.

I'm almost done submitting a packet to the Surgeon General to have signed off on to give DW my kidney. The military has to have approval from the Surgeon General to allow active duty organ donation.

Not too much else going on. Had an awesome Christmas. First time my sisters and I were all at home together with my Grandma in 10 years. Grandma teared up, which is a lot for a roughneck from the foothills of Appalachia. My little sister managed to get Christmas R&R from Afghanistan in order to make it happen. She had to fly for 3 days to get home.

We're strongly considering my departure from the military. While it's been a good ride, I don't think it's what I want to do. I would much prefer to be a lawyer and go into politics. It's a difficult decision though because while Doctors and Lawyers often make a great deal of money, they sacrifice their family time in order to do so. That in itself is a major factor in my wanting to get out of the military.

The retirement options of the military are great, and if I do another 14 years from the time I finish this contract, I get out when I'm 38 with full medical for myself and DW for the rest of our lives and our kids until they graduate high school. It would also pay $38K towards one of our kids college. Difficult to pass up. The problem with this is that the second I sign re-enlistment papers I come down on orders. Right now I'm what's called "fenced in". Meaning I'm a first term soldier with 3 or more duty stations, so the army cannot move me again until I re-up. However, I also have just shy of 18 months of dwell time, which is the magic number for orders. I would be sent back to Cuba without doubt.

DW doesn't care which I choose. The money is quite good in the military, considering the pension with disability. I'll also qualify for veterans disability because of giving DW my kidney, chronic problems with my knees, and the fact that I'm being referred for guess what? A hearing aide at 22 years old. Gotta love the army. The doc says I'm so deaf, I probably wouldn't hear a shell casing hit the ground or concertina wire being cut. That makes me feel safe.

We also filed a lawsuit against the hospital that messed up everything with DW, causing the open heart surgery, cutting the wrong vein and not fixing it, etc. The biggest reason is that they keep sending us a bill for $10,000 and our insurance won't pay it, because it was the hospitals mistake that caused the surgery that resulted in the bill. Neither will we. And they won't agree to eat the money. The bill is for the open heart surgery which is a direct result of their mistake. I'm not after any money on it, just to make the bills go away and the collections be taken off our credit report. The lawyer filed suit for $250,000 plus all medical expenses, past and future, relating to the claim. The statutory cap in Kansas on all medical malpractice suites is $250,000. The lawyer said she has to file in that amount just to be able to meet her costs on a contigency basis. If we win the $250K, she gets 33% of it, which is $82,500. She said it costs her between $80K and $100K to do a case like this. Completely stupid that it costs the lawyer ten times the amount we're trying to avoid paying. I don't care as long as we don't have to pay for the hospitals mistake. It's a matter of principle to me.

It's been a bad year financially because of all the stuff with DW. As much as the army pays, we still have a lot of out of pocket stuff. At one point we had an $8,000 cushion. Right now, it's about $1,600. Slowly building it back up. Should have around a $500 tax return between me and DW. The army will give us mileage of $376 when I go to Mayo in a couple weeks, and it only costs $80 in gas. That will help out.

We're putting away $835 a month into a money market as an ACH payment trying to get the EF back. DW's disability is $441, which account for half of it. We also put $200 a month into a Roth, which isn't much, but better than nothing. If I do re-up, my bonus will be $16,000. We could put that in the EF and then pay the $835 a month into the Roth, and switch the Roth's meager $200 a month to the EF. Slowly build the savings, while quickly working on retirement. If we do win the lawsuit and get all we ask for, it would pay off the mortgage and leave at least $25,000 extra. That's not the goal by any means, but if it happens, I'm not going to balk. The lawsuit takes 2 years on average, so we're by no means counting our eggs. Heck, we may end up in court on collections with the hospital before our lawsuit is done. Wouldn't that be our luck.

But it's been a blessed year all in all. DW made it through the worst of it. This time next year she will be back to work fully recovered if everything goes well. That's the plan my friends. 8 or 9 more months of this kidney trouble, then I'll be back to work, and DW will be back in about 10 months if all goes to plan.

I'll most likely end up re-enlisting simply for the fact that I can retire when I'm 38 and never have to work again in my life if I don't want to. Kinda got the gleam in my eye to retire on $60,000 a year and not owing one red cent to anyone and having health care paid for for life. DW and I could do anything we wanted to. Hard to knock.