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Stressed About Filing Taxes?

Stressed About Filing Taxes? | CorporetteLadies, we have a bit more than a month before (dunh dunh dunh) Tax Day. Are you done with filing taxes? (And, who is doing them?) Are you stressed about them? Are you looking forward to a refund? Are you nervous about how much you’re going to have to pay?

For my $.02, I’m just starting to get stressed. I’ve used an accountant for as long as I can remember, but this is the first year I’m trying to use a bookkeeper as well. (I’ve never actually used TurboTax or similar software for filing taxes — my father may have used that when he “helped” / did my taxes for me my first year or two out of college.) But after law school, a friend recommended an accountant to me — this wonderful, older gentleman who I really liked. I had a simple tax situation at the time, and his services were, perhaps accordingly, pretty affordable. When we bought the apartment in 2009, though, he nearly missed a major tax credit; thankfully we caught the mistake before we signed our taxes. When we started looking for a new accountant, we knew income from Corporette was making our tax situation more complicated, so we were ok to sign on with a fancier accountant who cost 4-5 times what my former accountant charged. (Something else I learned when I switched accountants: estimated taxes aren’t optional for business owners, which was something I understood after talking with my first accountant. Fortunately it wasn’t a big problem since the extra income was so small back then, but it really drove home how much the first guy was hurting more than helping.)

Every year since signing on with my new accountant, he’s sent us a huge “Tax Planner” PDF as part of filing taxes. It’s about 50 pages long in tiny print and asks a zillion questions, and it’s always taken me hours and hours to complete. This is the first year I’m trying to outsource the tax planner to a bookkeeper; my hope is that my reviewing it will take a lot less time than my doing it. (Gotta delegate, right?)

In terms of actual taxes, April 15 is usually pretty rough as a self-employed business owner because my retirement savings are due, to be invested in one huge chunk, usually; final taxes for 2015 will be due, which may be higher than what I paid the previous year in estimated taxes; and the first chunk of estimated taxes for 2016 will be due, using new numbers based on my 2015 taxes. Those are three unknown numbers — and in the past we’ve had some nasty surprises where I needed a lot more in cash on April 15 than I had set aside. (Hooray for the emergency fund!) Now, after paying work-related bills, I earmark about 40¢ of every dollar I earn for month-to-month living expenses, and save the rest in Ally accounts that get 1% interest for taxes and retirement. I’ll breathe a happy sigh of relief should April 15 come and go without too many surprises.

Ladies, how about you — do you do your taxes by yourself? Do you consider them complicated or easy?  How did you find your accountant? 

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The F@#$ Off Fund

the f-off fund -- a discussion with professional womenSomething that everyone seems to be talking about is the concept of the “f$*@#$ off fund” — the original piece in Billfold went viral, and I’ve seen it popping up everywhere in conversation from FreeKesha stories to the discussion of that Yelp employee who got fired after complaining about her salary publicly (here’s Ask a Manager’s brief link to get you started on that drama). For those of you who haven’t yet read it, in the article, a hypothetical woman has to stay with an abusive boyfriend and a sexually aggressive boss because she doesn’t have the money to leave or quit. Here’s the core of the article, but note two things: a) the original is worthy of the 6 minutes Billfold helpfully tells us it will take to read it, and b) warning: language ahead.

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Tales from the Wallet: Retirement Savings

retirement savingsLadies, how much do you save for retirement? Why do you do it? There was an interesting commenter thread about feeling saving burnout and wanting to splurge a little — do you count retirement savings as something you can cut back on, absent a strong need? We’ve talked about how much to save for retirement, what kind of tax-savvy investments exist to maximize your retirement savings, when to pay down debt vs. save, and where retirement should fit in your total money roadmap.

(Pictured: Hobo ‘Taylor’ Glazed Leather Wallet, on sale at Nordstrom for $70.)

For my $.02, I didn’t get started saving for retirement in a 401K or other tax-savvy vehicle until my late 20s, and I regret that — as they say, there are few powers in this universe stronger than the power of compound interest, and this kind of chart always freaks me out. My husband and I have generally taken the view that saving for retirement is one of our top priorities, and we max out every tax-advantaged vehicle. Like most parents of small kids, I’ll admit that these past few years (yay, childcare expenses) have been tight, and we’ve been moving money from our other, non-tax advantaged savings in order to max out our retirement accounts. (In case that’s unclear — I try really hard for us to spend less than we earn, and I kind of freak out if our take-home earnings for the month are less than we need to pay our bills. But then I remember that our retirement savings and 529 savings are deducted before they get to our take-home earnings, so as long as I can use our other savings to make up for the shortfall, I feel OK about it — within reason.)

How about you, ladies — what are your strategies for retirement savings? Does anyone get a match or perk you’d care to tell us about (anonymously)? Any good tips on how to do it? 

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Tool of the Trade: Online Shopping Apps

Online Shopping AppsWe’ve talked about some of my favorite online shopping tools before, but not in a while — and a lot of the older ones have gone belly up, so let’s discuss the best of today’s online shopping apps. Ladies, what are your favorite tools these days? These are the ones I use:

  • Covvet: This takes the place of the dearly departed Shopping NotesPoachIt, and Hukkster. The idea is simple: If you see a product you like, you click a bookmarklet on your desktop and tell the program what price you’d like to pay — then they’ll notify you if/when it goes on sale. I use this a LOT, and really like it — my only regret is that it doesn’t work on my iPad.
  • Amazon Wishlist. A year or two ago, Amazon changed their wishlist so that it now can track products on ANY site. If they can match it on Amazon they’ll let you know; otherwise they link your list to the third party site. I have zillion gift idea lists in here; it also helps me keep track of all the makeup I want to try/investigate in person.

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Tales from the Wallet: Paying Down Debt vs. Saving

paying down debt vs. savingIt’s the New Year, and I heard a lot of chatter among commenters about when they should be paying down debt vs. saving. It’s a huge question, and we’ve talked about some related things (like how to pay off huge student loans and live within your means), but we haven’t talked about when to save vs. when to pay down debt in too long. Readers, what are your best thoughts on paying down debt vs. saving? When is getting out of debt a priority?

(Pictured: Comme des Garçons ‘Super Fluo’ French Wallet, $204 at Nordstrom.)

A few thoughts from me:

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Open Thread: Vacation Time

Vacation Time | CorporetteAs the close of 2015 is almost upon us, here’s a question: did you use your vacation time? If you did (congratulations), please regale us with stories — wheredja go, whadja do, how’d you find the time to plan/schedule it, which app/service would you recommend, etc. — but if you DIDN’T (which historically was me), why not? Did you just have too much work? Did you not feel comfortable scheduling something with your work calendar? Was it a budget/priority thing? For everyone — do you have any big plans for 2016?

For my $.02 — I almost never used all of my vacation time, and looking back it was largely because I worried it would reflect poorly on me at work. I also was worried that I would spend all this time/energy/money researching a vacation only to have it cancelled at the last minute due to work. I felt pretty comfortable in BigLaw scheduling trips to see my parents, both because we had religious reasons (Christmas, Easter) for the trips, as well as because I knew my parents had good Internet service and would understand if I had to turn it into a working vacation. And of course I would tack on a day or two here or there if I was traveling for a friend’s weekend wedding or whatnot.

But in terms of fun vacations, particularly in places without reliable Internet access? The stress usually stopped me from going. For example, my now husband took me to Paris a few months after we started dating, and I was terrified the trip would be cancelled, that there would somehow be a disaster ON the 5-day trip (I had nightmares of having to find an “Internet cafe” to work in for hours, paying in 15-minute increments with a dial-up modem). I worried that when I left I would be working without sleep to get all the work done — and I worried that when I returned there would be a mountain of work waiting for me. The trip turned out fine, of course. (Ok, I got food poisoning, which was less than awesome for a romantic vacation, and we totally failed to make it to Reims because I misunderstood the train schedule, but workwise it was fine.)

Another reason I didn’t travel much while working in BigLaw: I could never get the timing right to travel with friends, and I never dated anyone seriously enough to even ponder a vacation together (until I met my husband) — and I was hesitant to travel by myself as a single woman. In my non-profit job, I didn’t have nearly as much vacation time, I didn’t have seniority to choose when to take it, and we didn’t have the budget anyway to take vacation without some serious sacrifices. [Read more…]