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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Death and Taxes: Meditation and Confession

An embarrassingly predictable and prosaic title, it is true.

First DEATH.

Since my father died 5 months ago, I check the obituaries each morning on the New York Times website. I'm not really interested in who died. But there is a general feeling in my family that my father was cheated out of his lifespan. He was 80, it is true, but his father lived to be 99 and his mother lived into her 80s.

He wasn't sick. In fact, he was hale and hearty, a very tall, big, LOUD, talkative fellow who had gone to aerobics that morning. He died while watching a movie on television with my mother: he said "My head hurts" and "That's Tom Hanks." A blood vessel had burst in his brain. I guess he really died a few days later, about nine hours after we had the life support turned off.

Reading those obituaries increased my sense of unfairness. So many 98 year olds! Even 88 year olds! Today, I saw that Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick had died. She was a very famous literary scholar. Her most famous work is called Between Men and it is about homosocial (as distinct from homosexual) desire. This is something of a development of the work of Rene Girard, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, which is about triangulated desire.

The point here, looked at in the context of literary works, is that the relationships that count often are not the ones between men and women, but rather those between men. The men are battling it out for honor, prestige, or whatever. Just read the beginning of the Iliad and you'll know that is true.

I didn't use Sedgwick's work too much in my own teaching or studies. But I've got to say that it helped me understand the dynamics of my own little world at work. Thank you, Eve Sedgwick. You were only 58. You definitely didn't get the lifespan you deserved.

Now for TAXES.

Yes, it is April 15. I've always done the taxes, though in a very time-consuming, inefficient, and probably costly way. I even did the taxes for Mr. FS before we were married.

But this year, I can't finish. What pushed me over the edge was the fact that I had to cash out the UGMA accounts I established for my children. I put in about $3000.00 for each of them. Ten years later, that's about what was left. TIAA instituted fees for accounts with low balances, so, to avoid the fees, I cashed out. This was lucky because it was right before the really big stock decline. (Too bad I didn't cash out of my bigger accounts at the same time!).

Anyway, I have no idea how to do this--gain, loss, what is it? Frugal Son also earned $1200.00 last year. I told both kids I would figure out how to do the taxes for them.

While I was flipping out about this, I neglected my own taxes, which involve only slight complexities--a little self-employment income for each of us. Since paying off our house, we don't even do a long form.

A five minute computation indicated that we will be getting a refund. I do this every year, and I am always right within $50.00. Nevertheless, I have to slog through the forms, which takes hours. Even though I like doing computations, I am disorganized.

So--extensions for all! I am thinking of sending in a small check for each child just in case a small amount is owed.

Dear Readers: Please say it's OK for me to get an accountant! Mr. FS has been begging me to do this for years. And--how does one find an accountant anyway? Help.


Duchesse said...

Accountant: Yes! and a frugal move as they will make sure you don't pay more than required. Ask people you respect for a referral.

Life Span: Dear Frugal, when we lose someone we love, we never, ever have them for long enough. A friend is dying at 50, and another died Tuesday, at 56. Wonderful people who would have contributed to the happiness of so many for decades more. I wish they'd had longer, yet I realize 'deserve' is not a concept that applies to the unknowable aspects of life. If "deserve" worked, my sister would have lived for past 42, my mother would not have made it to 99.

Over the Cubicle Wall said...

Accountants - ask everybody you know for a good one. Also ask them who the bad ones are that they know of.

Lifespan - My father died at 66, and my oldest brother at 33. I am in between those two ages, and try (not always successful) to reflect on that and to be grateful for every day.

Taxes - blah.

Mary said...

Yes, yes - get an accountant! I know mine pays for himself many times over every year in the amount of money and the amount of time he saves me.

Funny about Money said...

Get accountant. No one can do taxes without accountant. Mine is actually a tax lawyer. Charges less than the accountant did and extracts larger refunds from the IRS.

I love to read the Times's obits. Noticed the Sedgewick report...she died way too young. Several others passed untimely through the veil this week.

Anonymous said...

My father was 77, but he reckoned that, having survived teh second world war (he was in the Navy throughout) every day was a bonus anyway.

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

Dear friend Frugal wonderful fun loving dad died in 1976 when he was a mere 45 years old. I still long for his smile and gentle ways. I promise, it does get better with time but the truth is that you never stop missing them. I hope that makes sense?
The accountant???? It's a wise move.....they can save and find money that we don't think of because we don't know all the ver changing tax laws. Check around for prices. I found one for us and our business for a pretty reasonable price in Newnan and check around I did!! I told each prospective that I was checking prices and I could be swayed by $5.00. Never hurts to bargain, no?

Steady On
Reggie Girl

Frugal Scholar said...

@All--thanks for the "permission" to get an accountant!

Thanks too for putting up with my monthly meditations on mortality. I have a friend who is a psychiatric nurse. She told me that at 6 months, you hit the low point. I have one month to go. Thanks again.