This blog is about balancing life and money, mostly, usually, well at least that’s true within a lot of leeway. Blogs are good for open-ended musings. But I don’t expect that this blog, nor balancing life and money, to be fixes for everything. They are all just parts of the puzzle.
I tackled a puzzle this week when I did my taxes. Six hours of work resulted in an amount owed that equaled the amount refunded, zero. That’s balanced. It’s also easier than it seems. Frugality has its benefits.
The less money I spend, the less I have to make, the lower my tax bracket, the less I have to spend in taxes, the less I have to make. Do you see how this is going? At some point deductions, allowances, and various losses take the amount due from capital gains and income and leave me owing nothing. Nothing withheld. Nothing to refund either.
The result was zero but the effort was significant. I hate filling out taxes. I rarely use the word “hate”, but I pull it out for a few things, including having to fill out official forms. Six hours of being casually walked through the numbers by TurboTax could have been effortless, but that zero cost me a massive headache, tightened muscles, and a strong need for a run, my karate exercises, some meditation, and a spiced martini.
Maybe I over-reacted. I suspect that I’m not alone. I don’t want to imagine how bad I would have felt if I tried working through the paper forms using the IRS tax guides. Hours probably would’ve stretched to days. The subsequent medications would have been stronger than any martini.
“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” It was nice to give zero.
Believe it or not, I actually look forward to paying more taxes. Our government can’t run on fumes, and shouldn’t operate on massive debt; and while the government is massively inefficient, so are most charities. The real reason though is that if I am paying higher taxes it’s probably because I’ve made more money. Living frugal is fine, but I won’t turn down simultaneous, substantial wealth.
I’ve been wealthy, though I may not be now, as measured by my own criteria. Wealth can only be measured personally, which is good because it also means we each get to set our own goals. Claim success and you are successful.
Back in those wealthy days it was nice to actually send the US Treasury non-tax money to help pay off the debt. I don’t like the federal debt, but this is my country, and therefore my responsibility. We can fix this, but it probably involves many such individual efforts and probably the hiring of different managers.
People, businesses, and governments can have money problems. One trick is to remember that money is not the problem. Money is a resource. It is emotionless. One trap is to tie emotions to it. A famous misquote is “Money is the root of all evil.” The complete quote is, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” The emotion tied to money is the issue. Loving money is ill-advised. Hating money is unproductive. Fearing money is counterproductive too.
I know people who many would consider to be wealthy, but who deny the existence of their monies because of fear, upbringing, an excess of humility, or a repulsion from being considered a part of a “class”. They don’t want to be one of “them”. They discount the existence of their IRAs. Inheritances, pigeon-holed savings, windfalls, are left off the ledger when they calculate their net worth. Millionaires convince themselves to work extra decades because they don’t have “enough” even though their only true limit is self-imposed.
When I was wealthy there was plenty of money but there were plenty of problems. Health issues, family disputes, conflicting obligations, household repairs, garden and lawn maintenance, car upkeep all gave me more than enough to worry about. The wealth allowed fixes via money, but worries persisted. Being stranded in a winter storm on the Interstate was miserable no matter how much money or resources were available for eventually fixes. Hypothermia happens and money doesn’t warm well enough.
The main problems came from time spent on obligations that didn’t fulfill a life’s interest, that weren’t aligned with a life’s values.
Balancing money and life can’t be done with money alone. Time must be respected too.
Ignoring wealth wastes time. Decades spent chasing a few more dollars or company benefits are years of a life spent living someone else’s life and agenda, unless your career is your vocation. Statistics suggest that vocationally engaged careers are in the minority. There’s no fix for getting those years back.
I have an idea of how much time is worth for me. If nothing else, I know that spending $100 on tax preparation software was worth days of savings, and untold avoidance of stress-related health consequences.
My taxes balanced. My time and money were spent in balance. My responsibility is assuaged for another year. At least I’ve fixed that worry and that unfilled spot on my to-do list.