I collect all my tax records in a bucket along with any other documents that I might need for the previous year.
Most old people I know keep their tax records in various piles in various places complete with envelopes. (Why individuals save envelopes, I don’t know.) The main filing place is usually the kitchen table where they are moved around at meal time and frequently fall on the floor. As a result, they can’t find anything when it comes time to file. Remember, a good trash can is invaluable to an old person.
Record keeping is simple for most old people who don’t have a business.
- A bucket in which you throw all relevant bills, bank statements, social security statements, credit card statements, tax refund notices, mortgage statements, etc. NO ENVELOPES!!!
- If you need something, sort through the bucket.
- At the end of the year you take last year’s tax return, or a copy, remove the staple and note all the blanks that contain information. ie social security income received.
- You go through the bucket and paper-clip each item to the relevant part of last year’s tax return. All charitable contributions are paper-clipped to the charitable contributions section; all income 1099 forms are paper clipped to the income section.
- You fill in the current years information in red pen on last year’s return.
- You track down the information for the items that you don’t have documents for. ie a missing 1099.
- You add the items in the bucket that don’t appear on last year’s return if they are relevant.
- You take last year’s tax return with all the documents attached to your tax preparer, or you fill out the new return with the information.
- You put a new label on the bucket, add a copy of the 2017 tax return and forget about it until the end of 2018.
- You file the return and attach last year’s return with the paper-clipped documents attached to your copy of this years return and put it in a safe place in case you are ever audited.
The result is all the information is in one place and you, or your children or guardian, can instantly access whatever is needed for the previous year. If you are audited, everything you need to support your return is attached to your copy. If you die, your heirs can simply go the bucket and get needed information.
“Seventy-Five” may be a senior’s financial tipping point. You have memory lapses, don’t think as clearly and worry more, or worse, don’t worry at all about financial matters. Financial planners are targeting you, beady eyes glistening in the darkness. And, of course, deep down, you are beginning to realize that you don’t trust your own decisions; and, really don’t know whom to trust. Your financial life, like the rest of your life, has become uncertain and confusing.
You need to automate. A few suggestions:
- Direct deposit social security, pensions, dividends, rents and other income.
- Automatic payment of regular bills, using a credit card or your checking account. Pay gas, electricity, water, mortgages, taxes, rent, car payments, insurance, church pledge, long-term care premiums and credit cards on-line. Pay anything you can automatically.
- Have a geriatric mentor. A trusted person (kid) who will receive copies of all financial documents and who can monitor for suspicious activity, receive late or termination notices, and who can generally track your financial old age.
- Periodic alerts:
- Tax filing deadlines – accountant
- Property taxes – mentor, mortgage company, accountant
- Long-term care insurance – mentor – You don’t want to default on this.
- Minimal number of accounts
- One credit card
- One debit card
- One brokerage account
- One bank account
- Index funds
- Cash account
- Contacts – you should have habits that alert people when you don’t participate
- Mail carrier
- Senior Centers
- Regular social get-togethers
- ie “Have you seen the geezer recently?”
- Monthly review of accounts, etc. by mentor or trusted person.
- Hire a property manager if you own rental units; direct deposit of rents and copies of statements to mentor.
The bottom line is that you can change any of these depending on your level of competence and how you feel about dealing with financial matters. The point is that your survival should be automatic if you don’t feel like dealing with it. You should not have to think about the basics; your financial health should be based on checks and balances.
Outsource is a business term whereby certain activities are contracted out to other businesses or individuals. The reason is that the task can be done cheaper, safer or better by another and it allows the outsourcer to focus on its primary task.
This can be applied to old age. At 75, due to physical and mental problems, it may be cheaper, better and safer to have certain tasks outsourced. It may even turn out to be life-saving if you decide to climb a ladder and clean the leaves out of the gutters instead of hiring it done.
At 75 you need to think about what you can outsource and what you can do yourself.
Ten things that you might consider outsourcing:
- Anything that requires a ladder, a stool or standing on the couch to fix.
- Medical advice
- Paying bills – you can outsource with automatic payment plans, an accountant, or a kid.
- Legal advice
- Charitable donations
The list is not complete. You should modify it according to your needs. Old people are stubborn. They think that they are more competent than they are. They think that they can still do things, that they can’t do. The result is that they frequently injure, kill or bankrupt themselves when with a little outsourcing they could continue to live happy, productive lives.
The most important part of outsourcing is KISS. (Keep it simple, stupid.)
Life is a series of problems; and, problem solving. At 75 you are faced with a unique set of possible problems. These are problems which you might not have the time or the ability to solve after 75. You should be aware of them. You should plan for them; or, at least think about them.
Alzheimer’s is the worst. Not for the geezer. If he gets it, it slowly becomes someone else’s problem. The geezer really won’t care once he has gone beyond the initial stages. However, I can plan for it and for other problems. A more difficult problem is a spouse’s dementia. It defies logic; which says it all. It is not rational; and, is impossible to deal with.
The following is a list of twelve problems that I have found unique to a post-seventy-five life. These are problems that I worry about. The list is not complete, but is a base to work from. They could come at any time, but seem more unique to old age.
- Dementia/Alzheimer’s in a spouse
- Serious illness; you or your spouse
- Death of a spouse
- Elder scams and fraud
- Clutter and too many possessions
- Care – medical, home, companion
- Financial problems
- Transition to Alzheimer’s – The period from normal to “late stage” Alzheimer’s
ARE YOU READY?
The following magic 7 are essential:
- Advance Health Care Directive
- Automatic bill payment
- A mentor; or someone, preferably a kid, to keep an eye on you and advise you; with a Power of Attorney
- A living trust, if you have sufficient assets
- Experience with alternate transportation: buses, Uber, senior transportation systems, neighbors with cars.
- A social cohort; a group of people, about the same age, that you contact regularly
- Third party notifications on bank accounts, stock accounts, etc. when an unusual, or non-authorized event takes place.
Look around your house. You could almost be on one of the TV clutter shows. You trip over stuff that you haven’t seen, much less used, in the past 50 years. Most mechanical things you don’t even know how to use. And, where can you buy film for one of those old cameras; or get it developed?
I have switched to jeans, so have no use for all the stained, checkered pants with zippers that don’t work that I inherited from other old male relatives. The style is not coming back. And, how many three-piece suits that don’t fit do I need? And, of course, with cremation, there is no need for a suit to be buried in.
Your kids don’t want your stuff; and, you can’t even get your spouse to take it in the divorce. It keeps piling up.
Look at the bright side. You still pay taxes! If you pay taxes, you get deductions including charitable contributions, so….. Let’s donate the stuff.
You need to find a 501(c)(3) charity that accepts used goods. Your donation is tax deductible. My wife and I use St. John’s Thrift Store in Albuquerque or Assistance League. You can search the internet for a charity near you. You haul your stuff in, they take it, sort it, and sell it cheaply to support what they do. They give you a receipt that doesn’t list what you donated; that’s for you to fill out.
It is a win-win-win solution; some clutter is gone; you have done a good deed; someone gets to put your junk to good use; and, you can deduct the value of your donation from your taxes.
How do you value this stuff? Even though the non-profits can’t value it for you; and, you really don’t want to know what they think it is worth, there are on-line lists that will help you.
And, what does the IRS think about all this? No problem as long as you follow the rules.
It is easier than a yard sale; you won’t trip and fall over the stuff; and, you can reduce your taxes.
Try it; but, remember, you are not getting any younger. Donate while you can still drive to the thrift store.
WARNING! A thrift store is a dangerous place. I found a great denim jacket for $8 and several paperbacks for a quarter each. I was intrigued by a number of things I hadn’t seen for years. I may go back with my tax refund.
I had 100,000 miles on my Honda Civic and it was time for a new car. I am too old too negotiate; and, as an old man, I am always afraid that I will screw something up. I like simple. I like a deal; even if I am the only one who thinks that I got a deal.
I decided on a Prius. Consumer Reports liked it. With expensive gas, 55 miles to the gallon sounded nice.
The sticker price on a 2013 Prius was $25,350 plus, taxes, license, etc.
I took my Civic to CarMax; they told me they would buy it for $7000 and the offer was good for seven days. I didn’t feel like arguing with a dealer over a trade-in and a young teacher friend needed a car, so I sold it to her for $7000; provided I could keep it until I got the Prius.
I have three sons, a brother, two sisters and numerous other relatives and friends who live around the country and whom I visit. Consumer Reports Auto Buying Guide let me enter a zip code and gave me a price and a dealer. I entered the zip codes of relatives that I visit. Spartanburg, SC, near where one of my son’s lives, had the best price.
I agreed to buy the Prius for $21146.97 plus optional equipment of $399, NM Sales Tax of $634.05, and NM License and Title of $79, for a total of $22259.02. This was all done by e-mail with my credit card for a $500 deposit. Two years of free maintenance came with the car.
The dealer put my name on the car and said I could pick it up any time in the next month.
I flew into Spartneburg, SC. the dealer picked me up at the airport, let me drive the car since I had not driven a Prius, filled out the papers and I was on my way in an hour. They gave me a 30 day transit permit, and I left.
I drove the car to visit my son, drove back to NM, seeing part of the country that I had never seen before, and stopping to see several old friends along the way. Two weeks later I received, a bill of sale, a check to the State of NM for the sales tax and a check to MVD for the license.
It was the easiest and cheapest car deal that I had ever done. It is now two years and 40,000 miles later and I still get between 55 and 60 miles to the gallon.
The savings, after deducting tax and license was: MSRP $3804.03; Albuquerque, Consumer Reports price, $3135.03; Tucson, CS price, $3135.03. Several others I tried were in the same range.
The downside was that I had to drive back from Greenville, but I visited friends and saw a part of the country I had not seen before. The hotels and meals were reasonable and the Southwest Ticket I would have bought anyway to see my son and I only had to buy a one-way ticket, so I really saved the cost of the hotels and meals. I didn’t lose any work as I am retired, so….
Outsourcing is all the rage; but mostly has been defined as sending out work to reduce costs. If you are old you should outsource. The reason is to cut costs, but not just in monetary terms, but also in terms of health and wellbeing. You can’t afford to fall; fail to file taxes; or, miss important deadlines.
You have already outsourced. You didn’t do the surgery to implant your pacemaker, you outsourced the job to a surgeon. When you were younger you could do more things for yourself. It was no problem to climb up on the roof on an old ladder and lean over to get the leaves out of the gutter; but, at 73, NO! You can’t afford a fall. It will cost a lot and may be the beginning of the end.
What should you outsource? It depends on the individual, but you should consider the following:
- Anything that involves climbing or balancing.
- Financial care including preparation of your taxes.
- Medical care
- Memory related
Who should you outsource to:
- A spouse, unless s/he is near your age and condition.
- A child – hopefully you have a good relationship
- An accountant
- An attorney
- A close friend whom you trust
- A bank
- A handi-person
- Someone referred by a friend, neighbor or family member.
- Angie’s list
At what point do you outsource? Sooner rather than later.
What if you don’t outsource?
- It may cost you a lot more.
- It may affect your health.
- It will cause you anxiety.
- It may be the last thing you don’t do.
The biggest problem is that you think that you are still competent. You haven’t taken a long hard look in the mirror lately. And, you can be stubborn and obnoxious. The result is that you think you can do something that you can’t.
Think about it.
We need a “SENIOR INDEX” indexing people over 65. There is a consumer price index for seniors and a S&P 500 stock index. Why not a single number published daily that would show how old people are doing?
How to index old people? An age index, so every morning I could track the number of people over 65. (This might be scary.) A death index charting those over 65 dying? An obesity index for fat elders? Certainly a senior financial index charting net-worth, savings, income, and expenses of seniors. I would like to know each morning how seniors were doing. It would be the first thing I read in the paper. It could appear on CNN right after the stock market indexes.
The index should be simple; limited to factors affecting people over 65; and have a base year. I like 2005 which was the year I turned 65. A search engine coud track the variables daily, apply a senior algorithm and come up with a number. I would know how I was doing adjust my life accordingly and call my doctor/funeral director, if necessary; much as I do today when I see the S & P 500 index going up or down.
Tongue-in-cheek components of the SENIOR INDEX:
- Net worth
- Number with dementia
- Number with driver’s licenses
- Number of drugs taken
- Number of grandchildren
- Life expectancy
- Marital status
- Size of house
The components could be weighted depending on their importance to old people. I am looking for a number like the stock market indexes. I want something new to obsess over. It would have exaggerated importance; and, would probably be meaningless. Someone would figure out a way to commercialize it; and then sell us something based on the change in the index.
A snapshot of people over 65 would provide guidance when those under 65 decided what to do about us. If the index went up/down laws could be passed raising/lowering social security, medicare and Medicaid. The possibilities are limitless.
I can’t wait for the SENIOR INDEX! What about you?
OODA Loop: observe, orient, decide, act.
On Sunday, Thomas Friedman,* in the New York Times, described the airforce training principle for use in arial dogfights. Dogfight? Why does the Geezer immediately think of old age and fellow seniors?
Observe where you are, who you are and what your situation is. A mirror helps. List. Don’t judge at this point; just observe reality, not hopes or fears. Where are you in real time?
Orient yourself using a “senior compass.” Focus on health, economics, family, resources, life expectancy , dementia probabliity, insurance, and any factors unique to you; all the while looking in the mirror. Locate where you are in relation to these factors.
Decide what you are going to do: downsize, move, sell, get a roommate, hospice, long-term care facility. Your decision is based on your observations and orientation; not on what someone else does. The decision should be taken in consultation with your “WingMan.” Test your decision by asking: What happens if I do nothing? Where do I end up?
Act on your decision. You can make adjustments along the way, but you will have a plan thought out; hopefully prior to senility.
Now you are ready for battle; and, old age is a battle. Your goal is to increase the odds of a pleasant and reasonable old age. It will not be perfect, but will be better than “winging it.” Your “OODA Loop needs to be better than the OODA Loop of old age.
You need a wingman!