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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cleaning Up the Files: Personal and Financial Archeology

Everyone must know by now that I can't keep track of or organize physical objects. It's all here....somewhere. So as I go through bits and pieces of paper in order to do not only my taxes, but the taxes for Miss Ema and Frugal Son, I keep coming upon pieces of paper that merit attention.

**For instance, I am shredding some of my financial statements from 2007 (pre-meltdown). I don't need them any more. It is distressing to note that I had about the same amount of money then as now--though I've continued to pour money into my accounts.

**In another for instance, I am finally opening some of the statements--still in envelopes--from the downward slide of Fall 2008 till....well, perhaps continuing. Even though things have recovered a bit, it is still gut wrenching to see the plummeting.

**I found a column clipped from the Times-Picayune in 2004. It was written by Jonathan Clements, a great favorite of my rather's, who wrote a column called Getting Going for the Wall Street Journal. Sadly for me, though not for him, Clements now has a lucrative position with an investment bank or something. Anyway, this particular article suggested ways to allocate retirement funds so as to deal with the various bad things that can happen. Like inflation, like a major financial meltdown. Of course, in 2004, everyone was saying that, after the meltdown of 2000, we would see the next one not to worry. Clements suggested keeping 5 years of living expenses in a safe place--like CDs. How such advice was ridiculed in 2004; experts were then saying "You can always take money out of your home appreciation." I think Clements's advice would have saved a lot of people a lot of misery.

**Then I found a journal that belonged to my son. All pages were empty, except the first page, which has a single sentence. Dated February 2, 2003: I am only beginning to write a journal because of a great tragedy.

Anything interesting turning up as you prepared your taxes?


Over the Cubicle Wall said...

I noticed my 401ks were finally about back to pre-meltdown levels. Because I am not able to touch any of that money for a long while yet, I am looking at it as being able to buy shares at a deep discount right now. That said, I feel very bad for people who lost so much right before their retirement.

Shelley said...

I had a fixed term bond that matured the first of November and the money was automatically moved to another account, which pays very little interest. I didn't have a plan for what to do with it until April (when the new fiscal year starts here in the UK) when I could put it in a tax-sheltered account. They only send annual or bi-annual statements here, so I had to ring up to find out the interest earned in Nov & Dec. Boy, I really should have made another plan for what to do with that money...

simple in France said...

Your post title made me laugh since I've been doing quite a bit of Archeology here in France in my husband's childhood bedroom in my in-laws home. I found one of my own paystubs from the year 2000--how did he get that? We were only dating at the time.

And the worst thing that I've found in reference to my taxes? In a recent package my mom mailed me from the States. . .my taxable interest on an account I'd forgotten about...I already filed our taxes! Ugh.

Duchesse said...

Sometimes looking back is really not a good idea. My friend Howard once lost everything. His accountant said, "Your net worth is zero" and H. said, "My net worth is the same as it ever was, I just have no money."

Frugal Scholar said...

@Cubicle--I hope you are right. I said the same to my colleagues in 1987. But I'm 20 years older than you are and that makes a difference in my attitude.

@Shelley-I did something even worse, which I'm not even going to mention. Don't beat yourself up. And you may be able to take out the money with only a small penalty.

@simple--It's easy to file an amended return. I've found some wonderful stuff too. Sometimes being sloppy has its benefits--in the discovery of forgotten items.

@Duchesse--That story almost gave me a heart attack.

Funny about Money said...

Not much going on here, except that for the first time I owed federal tax instead of having a wash or even getting something back. This resulted from my response to the Great Desert University's furlough scheme: I upped the number of exemptions so as to minimize the damage to take-home pay and then forgot to drop them back to zero after the furloughs ended.

Probably, too, it was aggravated by the income from the two community college sections I took on in the fall, after Her Deanship told me she was closing our office and canning all five of us. I ended up earning almost six figures...too bad I didn't realize I could get away with that before...