One of those things, again

mostly about money

If you have ever had something go wrong, you might have put a neutral spin on it and said to yourself, “Well, it’s one of those things.” I’ve been saying it a few times recently.

ITEM: I have been feeling off with a head cold for much of the month. Since I’m not “sick” – no temperature, two negative COVID tests – I’ve taken various anti-allergy meds. Could I be having seasonal allergies? It WAS 60F (15.6C) on 10 February,  breaking the record for the date in Albany by 7F. Absurd. I was looking forward to a big snowstorm forecast for 13  Feb, but it was a bust as the weather pattern shifted to the south.

ITEM: I was supposed to pay our city taxes by the end of January. To avoid writing a check because checks are expensive, I arranged for our credit union to send them a bank draft, which cost us nothing. But I could not find the bill, so I went to the city’s website and got an amount.

We got a letter from the city in early February with the bank draft returned. I must have picked up the amount from the PREVIOUS year’s taxes. Now we need to pay a couple hundred dollars more, about half of it being interest, by 29 February. So I must either resend the bank draft and write a check for the difference or go to City Hall with the bank draft and cash. This process was supposed to make the process easier and cheaper. I muffed it, though, and it is neither.

ITEM: Likewise, my wife missed the payment date to pay the Spring tuition for our daughter’s college tuition. This involves two-step authorization, which is too boring to detail. But it was more money out of pocket.

Less money

ITEM: At the beginning of the month, I pay specific bills just after my Social Security check hits my bank account, notably my Discover card. But this fiscal dance was getting a bit treacherous. I had less money than I counted on and had to go to our credit union to take out money to put in my checking account.

As it turns out, I had authorized payment for my MasterCard, which I seldom use, but I needed to do so after losing my wallet. On 9 January, the amount due was paid in full. Twice. I didn’t notice this until I got the next MasterCard bill, which showed a CREDIT. I don’t know how that happened, but I’m using that card for everything until the credit is gone. 

ITEM:   I saw that I got a letter in the mail from the Albany Police Department. Maybe they had a breakthrough in discovering who took possession of my wallet’s contents.

No such luck. I received the contents of a letter from someone surnamed Rogers, who had mailed to the Albany police chief, disputing a traffic ticket in precise detail of alleged misconduct by the APD. “I require proof that I did what you are accusing me of. You have until Friday 12/22/23 @ 5:00 pm to get it to me. If nothing is received… this ticket will be null and void.”

I note that the street number is the same as mine, but the street name, while starting with the same letter as mine, is not mine. The ZIP Code is different.  I took it to my local police station.

ITEM: In good news, I’m getting a free week of the Boston Globe online due to some class action suit I probably signed onto. Even better, my payment in Ambrose v. Boston Globe Media Partners LLC, Case No. 1:22-cv-10195-RGS, was approved, and I received a payment of $158.03. 

Cashing in the savings bonds

paying for higher education

Savings BondI wanted to start cashing in the savings bonds I bought thirty years ago. Late in 1992, I decided to buy $100 US savings bonds through my job’s payroll plan; they cost $50 each.

The first two EE bonds matured recently. The elder, from 1992, was now worth a whopping $207.36. However, the second, from 1993, was valued at $164.12. It’s like me to get on a  good thing after it peaked.

I checked my bank’s website, which suggested they would cash them, but I went there and was told, “We haven’t done that in years.” Then I checked my credit union’s online bot, which told me I had to prove they were mine, even though my name was on them. I would need an unsigned copy of FS Form 1522.

After posting my confusion on Facebook, I got advice to try my credit union, my bank but to give them notice, and another bank. Ultimately, I went to my credit union, which was easier than anticipated.

I noticed that my bonds from 1993 through 1995 are getting 4% interest, which will cash out at about $160 each at maturity. But the 1996 and 1997 ones now receive 2.82% interest and will only be worth about $125 eventually.


One of my relatives has several matured savings bonds left by a spouse, which they have not yet cashed because they are wary of the tax implications.

From Smart Asset: “You won’t pay state or local income tax on interest earnings, but you may pay state or inheritance taxes if those apply where you live.

“You have one option for avoiding taxes on savings bonds: the education exclusion. You can skip paying taxes on interest earned with Series EE and Series I savings bonds if you’re using the money to pay for qualified higher education costs. That includes expenses you pay for yourself, your spouse, or a qualified dependent. Only certain qualified higher education costs are covered, including:

  • Tuition
  • Fees
  • Some books
  • Equipment, such as a computer

“You can still use savings bonds to pay for other education expenses, such as room and board or activity fees, but you wouldn’t be able to avoid paying taxes on interest.”


I’ve known a couple of people dealing with estates involving savings bonds. They involve more legalese than I need to share here.

They may need to provide death certificates they do not possess. I know that, e.g., the city of Albany provides them “upon proof of entitlement under New York State (NYS) Public Health Law.” In Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), NC, you can get one when “seeking information for legal determination of personal property rights.”

Oh, I know I have lost one bond from 1993. I can tell because there is a gap in the dates issued. Since I have a TreasuryDirect account, I can replace it by filling out FS Form 1048. It shouldn’t be signed before being witnessed by a notary.

22 years: Negotiations and love songs

taxes could have been the death of us

Roger & CarolI highly suspect that we’ve managed to stay married 22 years because of Negotiations and Love Songs. It includes a division of turf.

When we’re on ZOOM at an event, we are generally at separate devices. This is a function of having very different computer habits involving when to mute et al. It is also that we often see couples on the same screen and we sometimes have difficulty hearing one or both of them.

Conversely, when we’re watching our Sunday church service on Facebook Live, we generally sit together. This allows us the opportunity to worship together. Back in the olden days – March 2020 and before – she’d be in the congregation, but I would be in the choir loft.

She has bank accounts, as do I. Then we have joint accounts. I certainly don’t fault couples who operate otherwise, but this works for us. I pay for the mortgage, utilities, Internet. She buys groceries, pays for the vehicle, and makes the church contribution.

Some couples share email, but we never could. I may still have a lot of it to go through, but I’ve read them all. She often has stuff unread; we’re talking four digits.

This brings us to taxes. Before we were married, I usually filed a 1040A or even a 1040-RZ (as in easy). I never itemized my deductions. This was codified by a philosophy of a radical Catholic couple I know. The general theory is that you give not for the deduction but because it’s right. The fact that it was EZ was a bonus.

But my wife, who owned rental property before, and when we were first married, filled out a Schedule C. So she’s always done the long-form taxes.

Last year of the century

I remember quite vividly the spring of 2000 since we had gotten married the year before. Not only we filling out the 1040 form, me for the first time, but we had also received a decennial long-form Census and were completing that as well. I will say that the Census info was extremely accurate.

But doing the taxes was causing us… stress, every year. This was particularly true when we must have done something wrong a couple of times and ended up paying penalty and interest. So we ended up hiring someone.

One time, the accountants ALSO got something wrong, and we had to pay more, but they absorbed the penalty and interest. I figured if they’re professionals and muck it up, how should I know? I know there’s TurboTax and the like, but trust me, this is one of those expenses designed to preserve the union.

This year, she asked me which amount goes on the work form for my Social Security, the amount before or after the Medicate expenditure? I don’t know. This suggests the gross before Medicare comes out. But does the Medicare payment and other medical expenses reach the 7.5% threshold for deductibility? (I fell asleep while typing the previous sentence.)

So, as the Paul Simon compilation title goes, Negotiations and Love Songs. Happy anniversary, dear.

Health reports: how can we keep from singing?

I’m giving a talk about March, Books One, Two, & Three>, graphic novels by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell for the Friends of the Albany Public Library Tuesday at noon.

singingYou may recall that my sister Leslie had a serious bicycle accident back on June 4, 2018. She missed about six months of work recovering and has had a number of medical procedures.

On April 8, 2019, she had a couple more surgeries, around her eye socket and nose. They were done more or less simultaneously, in order to minimize the total time of recovery. She’s doing well.

Meanwhile, I’m recovering from whatever health thing that I had. You know you’re unwell when you have to stop and rest walking DOWN the stairs.

On Sunday past, I barely got out of bed, except to watch two recorded basketball games that had been on the day before. And I couldn’t view anything more than 30 minutes at a time. It was impossible to focus enough to read or write.

Even back at work this week, I felt… loopy. I was still taking meds all week, including one at night that contained codeine. And I couldn’t ride my bicycle for the same reason.

I’m glad my wife finally submitted the paperwork for the taxes to get done. Usually, that process starts in the third week in February, during the school break. But because of our extreme busyness, worse than usual, it didn’t begin until the last week in March.

It’s just as well. Last year we got back around $700 federal; this year we PAID about the same. I was happy that all those early filers girded me for what I thought was a likely outcome.

Even though I’ve not seen five minutes of Game of Thrones – it’s just not my thing – I find myself skimming all episodes, RANKED BY TOMATOMETER; I blame my pharmacist. There are even GoT Oreos.

And speaking of religious behaviors, it’s Holy Week on the Christian calendar. Monday: I get my annual physical. This is a fortuitous occurrence, as it will be the follow-up to the treatment for my illness. I think the yo-yo weather is wreaking havoc with my allergies as well.

Tuesday: My daughter’s heading to Montreal on a ONE-DAY trip, which means getting her to school by 5:30 a.m., and picking her up around 10:30 p.m.

Also, I’m giving a talk about March, Books One, Two, & Three, graphic novels by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell for the Friends of the Albany Public Library.

Wednesday: Get my teeth cleaned.

Thursday: Sing.

Friday: Not sing, but attend service.

Easter Sunday: sing, a LOT, if I still have a voice left.

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Who Pays: Analysis of Tax Systems in All 50 States

The vast majority of state tax systems are regressive, meaning lower-income people are taxed at higher rates than top-earning taxpayers.

Who-PaysI’ve been perusing Who Pays: A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States because that’s what I do. It is “the only distributional analysis of tax systems in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This comprehensive report assesses tax fairness by measuring effective state and local tax rates paid by all income groups.”

If you’re NOT from the United States, you may nevertheless find it interesting. “No two state tax systems are the same; this report provides detailed analyses of the features of every state tax code. It includes state-by-state profiles that provide baseline data to help lawmakers and the public understand how current tax policies affect taxpayers at all income levels.”

The conclusions are not surprising. “THE VAST MAJORITY OF STATE AND LOCAL TAX SYSTEMS ARE INEQUITABLE AND UPSIDE-DOWN, taking a much greater share of income from low- and middle-income families than from wealthy families.”

The “terrible ten” of states with the most regressive tax policies contain some of the states I frankly expected, but it had some revelations. “Washington State is the most regressive, followed by Texas, Florida, South Dakota, Nevada, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.”

That said, “Those in the highest-income quintile pay a smaller share of all state and local taxes than their share of all income while the bottom 80 percent pays more.”

In other words: “Forty-five states have regressive tax systems that exacerbate income inequality. When tax systems rely on the lowest-income earners to pay the greatest proportion of their income in state and local taxes, gaps between the most affluent and the rest of us continue to grow.”

The report, the sixth edition, was put out by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. “The report was originally released in 1996 and has since been updated in 2003, 2009, 2013, 2015 and 2018. The 2018 report includes tax changes enacted through September 10, 2018.”

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial