Super Financial Intentions

The New Moon always feels like a good time to set intentions* and this go round, I set intentions with a “Landmark Birthday” in mind. Granted, these intentions are lofty (they may be bigger than lofty but we’ll go with that) so I’m calling them my Super Intentions. Since this blog deals with my financial state, I’ve decided to share my Super Financial Intentions with you all.

Without further ado…

By my 30th Birthday/Life Anniversary, I will…

  1. Have erased at least 80% of my student loan debt (roughly $81,000).
  2. Have amassed a savings of $20,000.
  3. Have cleared ALL of my medical debt (approximately $2,700).

Now you are probably wondering why these are being called SUPER INTENTIONS? Not only is this month’s new moon considered a Supermoon (the moon looks larger because it’s a bit closer to Earth) but my Landmark Birthday is 504 days away. That makes these goals completely outlandish seeing as I take home roughly $1,900 a month.

These goals are so crazy that I was almost afraid to write them down but there is something about putting pen to paper that makes a goal seem more attainable. Now you’re thinking to yourself, “Okay Young. That’s cute. But come on, how are you going to do this?”

Short answer – I have NO clue whatsoever but as my Life Coach Stephanie would say, “[My] job is not to figure out the details.”

Longer answer – I have thought about it and I plan to take baby steps. In light of this, I came up the following “rules” for myself.

  1. Unless a trip is sponsored, I will cease traveling until after my 30th
  2. For each leisure purchase, 15% of the total purchase price goes to the smallest uncleared loan.
  3. Every penny counts so all of my “extra” money will be split evenly between my three goals.
  4. I will stick hard to a budget because I don’t have a choice here. My priority? My financial freedom.

I will be keeping a tally of where I am on these goals and I’ll be sharing with you all (so you can share my joys and defeats).

Do you all have any financial goals by a Landmark Birthday? If so, share below in the comments.

~Young

*I’m not superstitious, I just like rituals.

Is This Thing On?

*taps mic and cues intro from Public Service Announcement*

Allow me to reintroduce myself… MY NAME IS YOUNG!

Well, actually, it’s not. That’s just a nod to Jay Z, or as I like to call him, the Best Comeback Artist since Jordan Actually Retired.

Hello Good People, Followers, Readers, and Others who just haphazardly stumbled across my small space of the internet. It’s been a long time since I blogged (unintentionally, it’s been exactly a year), but not having a laptop, internet connection, and emotional wherewithal will zap even the mightiest Greek god of the urge to share.

I’m going to keep this short, as it is just a quick note to let everyone know that I’m back (for mostly good). For the newbies, I’ll take a moment to share some things about myself.

From my name, you should be able to tell that I AM Young, Gifted, Black…and well, Broke. To say the same thing differently, I’m an under-30, Ivy-League and two-time graduate who is overeducated and underemployed. Although my current job isn’t the most ideal, I stay because the benefits are great and I work with this fine ass man who I might or might not want to have babies for. To top it off, my net worth is currently so far in the negative, I laugh in sheer desperation when I log into Mint.com (#shoutout to da mints).

Even with all of that and a grasp of basic financial principles, I AM STILL BROKE.

The reality is that I’m like many of my peers and much of America. If there were a self-help group for people who “have it together” but still (BARELY) live paycheck to paycheck (P.O.P. Hold it down!), I’d nominate myself for President without a moment’s hesitation. The crazy thing is that although I know I’m not alone (statistics don’t lie and too many people like my tweets about Sallie “Navient” Mae on Twitter), I still feel isolated.

And that’s why I write this blog. To get the emotional “yuck” that’s tied to my dire financial situation out. I’m not alone and I don’t want anyone else to think they are alone in this either.

Here’s what you get here:

  • Regularly scheduled posts two to three times a week
  • Honest accounts of my financial status and my progress to reaching my personal goals
  • Information that I have found helpful in my goal of erasing my debt and starting anew

Here’s what you don’t get here:

  • SOUND FINANCIAL ADVICE BECAUSE I AM NOT A FINANCIAL EXPERT (my name is not Suze.)

If you’ve stuck around through my unintended and accidental hiatus, thank you from the bottom of my heart which is way bigger than my bank account. If you’re new here? Welcome, welcome, and welcome! I hope you stay around.

~Young

#DailyTaxTip – Questions to Ask Your Tax Preparer BEFORE Filing Your Taxes

After having a conversation with a coworker where I asked what questions they’d have for a tax professional, I realized that many people don’t interview the person that plays a significant role in their financial life for the year. With that, I began to think of things you should ask your tax preparation specialist BEFORE having your taxes done and the “Top 10” questions are below. Remember, this is just a starter list. Whatever comes to mind during your conversation should be asked but make sure you interview them.

After all, they work for you.

  1. How long have your completed tax returns for people?
  2. Do you have a current PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number)? (NOTE: Every tax preparer who is compensated for completing tax returns for other individuals should answer this with a yes. If they do not, ask what year was their last official PTIN issued.)
  3. Do you have a current EFIN (Electronic Filing Identification Number)? If not, why? (NOTE: While most tax preparers need both numbers, those who utilize electronic software or work through a company tend to work under an umbrella EFIN of the larger organization.)
  4. On average, how long does it take you to complete a simple tax form (1040EZ)? How much longer does it take you to compete a tax form complete with extra schedules (1040 with extra forms)?
  5. Which forms are you most comfortable filling out? (NOTE: The more complex your financial situation – you have multiple income streams and qualifications for credits – the more forms your preparer will have to complete. It is easy to get confused in this process so be sure to understand which forms apply to your situation and what your preparer is able to handle.)
  6. How many clients do you file for in a given tax season?
  7. How many of your clients have been audited? (NOTE: I encourage people to ask this question because it speaks to the quality of the work. You can also ask if a particular type of client is audited, i.e., a business owner, to get an idea if it’s a simple trend that can be explained.)
  8. Do you work outside of the regular tax season? Why or why not?
  9. What advice do you give to your clients concerning their financial status/habits? (NOTE: Most tax preparers are not financial planners/professionals BUT they should have something to offer you concerning your financial situation, especially for common situations like saving for a child’s education or for retirement.)
  10. How and when can I contact you if I have further questions?

You should never feel pressured into using a service, especially when your finances are concerned. The moment you do, collect your things and run for the hills (or just exit quietly through the door). I hope these questions help you become more comfortable discussing your tax situation and other financial issues.

**

Since 2010, Courtney has been using her training and expertise to provide affordable, accurate and ethical tax preparation services to those in her community. She firmly believes in the saying, “When you know better, you do better,” and it is always her intent to educate others on things that significantly impact their lives. 

#DailyTaxTip – Credits! Credits for Everyone! (February 22, 2014)

Good morning! The Daily Tax Tip is back and today I’m explaining credits.

To begin with, you need to understand what a credit is. Simply put, a tax credit is an amount that’s deducted from the total amount of tax a person owes back. A tax credit differs from deductions, which reduces the amount of money the government can tax, and are given out for various reasons. The most common tax credit is the income tax and it recognizes what you’ve already paid toward your tax burden. Other credits may be offered as a subsidy (think the Health Care Tax Credit that’s being offered now) or to get you to invest or spend money on certain things.

Below is a list of the three most common tax credits available:

Earned Income Credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is available to you if you worked but did not make a lot of money. Granted a “lot” is predetermined by the government and is based on your total income and filing status, but it is worth the research. This credit is a refundable credit (which means you see the money in your refund). There are different qualifiers for this credit and the caveat here is that you usually see the money if you have a child (there have been some cases where people qualify for the credit without children but that amount isn’t as much).

Child and Dependent Care Credit

This credit is available to those who have qualifying child OR dependent care expenses. The credit is given to you in the form of a percentage of the expenses you spent during the year (up to $3,000). Generally, you receive the credit for children less than 13 years of age or a mentally/physically incapacitated dependent. There are some caveats to this credit, so if you receive it, be sure that your tax professional explains it to you.

Retirement Savings Contribution Credit

If you make eligible contributions to a recognized individual retirement account (IRA), you may be eligible to take a credit based on the percentage you contributed during the year. With this credit, there is an income ceiling (you can’t take the credit if you make over a certain amount) and your income determines your credit rate (the lower your income, the higher your credit rate).

 Your tax professional should walk you through an interview before they even complete your paperwork to understand your spending behaviors for the past year and your goals for the upcoming year. If you are eligible for credits, they should also take the time to explain why you received the credit. These two conversations will allow them to offer you advice on credits you should be aware of, what you can do to take advantage of other credits in the future and provide you with some security if you’re questioned about it.

**

Since 2010, Courtney has been using her training and expertise to provide affordable, accurate and ethical tax preparation services to those in her community. She firmly believes in the saying, “When you know better, you do better,” and it is always her intent to educate others on things that significantly impact their lives. 

I Took a Pay Cut

Haven’t been here to write about my financial life in a bit. Don’t worry (it won’t happen again – I have planned blogging into my day like a real blogger).

I do have some great news – I have a job again!

Being someone with a small business to run (especially with a service and not a good), this takes a bit of a load off of my shoulders. I’m always tired but I have a steady check and I can move toward finally getting on my feet. So let’s celebrate.

The not-so-great news is that I took a pay cut with my new job. I am no longer a salaried employee and I only make $14.01 an hour. But as with every decision that I make, there is a method to my madness.

With my $14.01 an hour, I am eligible for overtime – to the tune of time and a half. I also receive amazing benefits that I only pay roughly $85 every two weeks (in my salaried position, I was paying over $200/month for just medical and dental). I will even have the option of contributing to a retirement plan (and I plan to take full advantage of this).

The other great thing about my pay cut? I qualify for some rental programs where I don’t have to pay market rate. In my salaried position, I made too much for these programs but not enough to pay the market rates of rent (thank you gentrification – this is me being cheeky). With my student loans, I am eligible for income-based repayment plans (look into those y’all) and my payments are now super affordable. So affordable, in fact, that I can pay over and make more of a dent in the principle amount. I am even a member of a credit union.

This is great. The pay cut is great. And I never thought I’d say those words.

#DailyTaxTip – January 20, 2014

Good morning and welcome to my first post in the Daily Tax Tip series!

Those of you who read my posts regularly may or may not know that I subscribe to the School of Multiple Income Streams and in addition to my “day job” (and blogging), I am also a Certified Tax Preparer. Since 2010, I have been completing returns and making sure that I stay up-to-date on our nation’s tax code. Most days, it’s super fun. Other days, it’s just fun. Let me get right into today’s #DailyTaxTip so that I don’t bore you with more of an intro (this won’t even be included in future posts).

“Daily Tax Tip” for January 20, 2014:

What is the most important thing to get right on your annual tax return? If you said, everything, you are correct (that was a little tax humor). However, the one thing that sets the tone for your entire return is your FILING STATUS, so it is imperative that you use the one that works best for you. The United States Tax Code recognizes five categories for individuals to pay their income tax. They are below, with a brief explanation for each.

Unmarried Taxpayers (fall under three categories):

  • Single: Unmarried, divorced, a registered domestic partner, or legally separated according to state law on December 31.
  • Head of Household: Unmarried taxpayer who maintains more than half of the cost of a household for more than half of the year for oneself and a dependent.
  • Qualifying Widower with Dependent Child(ren): Taxpayers who maintain the principle residences of qualifying dependents AND whose spouses have died in either of the last two years (2012 & 2013) can be considered surviving spouses if they have not remarried.

Married Taxpayers (fall under the last two categories):

  • Married Filing Separately: Given some tax situations, a married couple may feel it is best to file separate returns and this status allows them to do so.
  • Married Filing Jointly: A couple that is married on December 31 may file a joint return BUT should the couple have a legal separation or divorce by December 31, they can not file a joint return for any part of the year.

Some other quick things about your FILING STATUS:

  1. It is determined by your marital status on December 31st.
  2. It determines your tax liability.
  3. It determines your standard deduction AND exemptions amount.

I hope that this Daily Tax Tip proves useful for many of you. Make sure you follow the hashtag #DailyTaxTip on Twitter and if you have any questions at all, do not hesitate to ask.

Happy Filing!

***

Since 2010, Courtney has been using her training and expertise to provide affordable, accurate and ethical tax preparation services to those in her community. She firmly believes in the saying, “When you know better, you do better,” and it is always her intent to educate others on things that significantly impact their lives. 

Confession: I Hate the Term “I Fell On Hard Times”

I have sat on this information for quite a while — since 2005 or 2006 actually. Before I get into this post, I’ll share that I have disabled the comments (don’t need any extra shit and lot of y’all aren’t as nice as you think you are).

Since March 2013, I’ve been debating on something really heavily – filing bankruptcy. Since January 14, 2014 at 7:44pm (CST), I’ve been crying my face off while telling myself that jumping from the Crescent City Connection won’t end my problems (because knowing my luck, I would somehow survive even though it’s so high up and I can’t swim).

Why would something make me cry this hard and contemplate ending my life though? Like many other people, I fell on hard times (but I hate this and I’ll explain why).

As of January 14, 2014 at 7:44pm (CST), I am the Co-Signer of two student loans that have since gone into default. I could buyout my portion and some of my freedom back for a mere $8,000 (the collections agency’s words, not mine…certainly not mine) if I act fast and do it before Friday.

Except it is the middle of the week and:

  • I am sleeping on a Cousin’s couch after having been put out of the place I was staying because I wasn’t bringing any money in. Honestly, I feel that my time here has run short and since I’m not a “Priority Group” within the Homeless Population, I don’t have a bed in anyone’s shelter.
  • I have applied and applied and applied to all kinds of jobs that I can think of. Here’s the latest sting in my life – I did a tiny experiment to see if people would hire me if they thought I had a record. Do you know I got two call backs? Apparently, companies get tax credits (or breaks) for hiring a percentage of this population and even if you’re overqualified, they’ll consider you if you’ve been to jail. Those two organizations have since put me on a “Do Not Hire” list…not that they were going to hire me to begin with.
  • In addition to the TWO student loans that have defaulted, I have my own loans to worry about. I’ve been making good faith payments to my companies of like $10, $20, or $40 when the money comes my way. Yet, even though they know I’m homeless, with a struggling business and no part-time job money, they insist on telling me how stupid I am for having gone to school, got two degrees and then unfortunately, have been unable to find a job in a market where jobs tend to go to people hiring folks know and not necessarily who can do the best job.
  • I am questioning if I actually made the right decision to leave a job that physically, mentally and emotionally made me sick because there was a steady paycheck even though my hair was falling out because everyone else has said that it was quite dumb.

With all that being said, I just want to say quickly that I hate the term “I fell on hard times.” Why? Because no one falls on that and if a person says that to you in a conversation, it means that you are actually an insensitive person who comes across as incapable of showing empathy because you would “never” find yourself in that situation.

Hindsight is ALWAYS 20/20 and that’s what people don’t want to admit. But you know what else people don’t want to talk about?

The emotional toll it takes on you. It’s emotionally taxing to keep the secret because you are embarrassed. You aren’t freed by sharing this because people judge you and tell you that “you should have just used a budget” and “well that wasn’t very smart and instead of helping you and not criticizing you, I’m going to tear you down more.” You don’t feel better when you admit it to yourself either. In my case, whenever I’m adult enough to answer my phone and not send my bill collectors to voicemail, I have arm and leg pain AND a migraine and chest pains for at least 24 hours. Seriously.

As I shared in another post, had I known back in 2004 that I would be facing this mountain of bullshit in January of 2014, I’d have dropped out and…well…I don’t know what I would have done. But I’d rather live a mediocre existence barely making ends meet THAN have to deal with other people pointing out how my own personal decision-making skills and not a flawed system is the reason I’m in this.

I didn’t fall on hard times. Like everyone else, this shit hit me like a f***ing ton of bricks.

NOTE: I disabled comments because I don’t want to read other strangers who have made questionable ass decisions in present day foolishness say how “stupid” that was of me. Sallie Mae has that on lock.