What I’ve Learnt This Year, Including Getting My Finances Organised

When I was a child, I remember watching a movie in which a wild bird was shot. It was flying overhead so beautifully, so free. But suddenly a man took a musket, aimed, and hit the bird right in the heart. I remember the horror I felt as I watched feathers fly in all directions and the bird spiral downward, landing on the ground with disturbing finality.

I pretty much forgot that incident, at least the emotional impact of it, until quite recently. I have been working in a college at a job that until recently I really adored. It was a very creative job, allowing me to bring all of my past experiences together into a harmonious thread, which I used as a base for further imaginative ideas. I loved my students, my courses, my research, the campus, and the wonderful opportunity to utilize all of my experiences in service of life. I was accepted, appreciated, and respected. I was definitely on a crest and part of a team.

But a new administration came in and wanted to revamp the school according to their vision. Fair enough, but that included making room for friends of those newly in power. Some people had to go. I was evaluated using incorrect criteria. So, Bang! Without warning and in mid-flight I was shot directly in the heart. The shock almost killed me. I watched as all that I had built over those happy years spewed forth into a million pieces. I felt myself spiralling downward faster and faster until I landed with a mighty thud on a very hard, unyielding earth. That seemed to be the start of an ongoing cycle of loss. In the few months left at the job, things have gone from bad to worse with one insult after another. In other areas of my life, too, people have severed ties that I thought were solid. Others who meant well gave simplistic, one-size-fits all titbits of truths, so typical of pop-spirituality. “No matter what happens, you have a choice of how to react.” In other words, “Overwhelming pain is bad. Feeling deeply and intensely reacting to injustices done to you show you are out of control. That is bad. You are wrong because you are weak.”

Equally insulting, although also well intended, were those who jumped in with quick fixes. “Just get another job. Why not go to another university? Can’ t you go back to your old job?” That is to say, “Jump to another situation and everything will be fine. Get a quick answer. Avoid the pain. Don’t go into things too deeply.”

Because all these things, I have felt layer after layer of my life, my beliefs, and my trust peeling away. I have been feeling fleetingly insecure.

Long ago a much older friend wisely told me, “Hindsight is a wonderful thing.” That is, with time every event in our lives becomes meaningful, and we understand the perfect timing of everything. I am not yet distant enough from this trauma in my life for that global perspective to arrive. But with tremendous effort, I have finally managed to separate myself an inkling from my intense feelings. Only an inkling, but enough to begin to look around and to think, “OK. Where do I go from here? How do collect myself and start again? Or should I even try to collect my ‘old’ self at all?”

I am not sure how to answer those questions yet. But I do know that as I sift through the rubble, I wish to salvage a few crucial things. Hope is one. So are determination, expectations for opportunities to come, gratitude for those few who did support me, and, I am still working on this one, the ability to completely forgive the ones who hurt me the most.

What I’ve learned financially

Most of us think of tax time as the time from the end of December through the middle of April. And, while this is the time of year that everyone really starts thinking about gathering documents and figuring what they owe (or what refund is coming), the truth is that you’re better off keeping things organised throughout the year. It means less work and bother later on.

On top of that, organising your taxes throughout the year can help keep you on track for better tax efficiency. As summertime draws to a close, now is a great time to make a few tax moves to set you on the right path:

Organise Your System

If you haven’t organised your paperwork yet this year, now is the time to do it. Go through your receipts and documents and straighten everything out. Create a file for your receipts and organise your information as you receive it. Set it up so that you can find what you need, when it’s needed. You can even do it with paperless finances. Get organised now, and it will be much easier come April.

Josh Scott from SimplePayday keeps his organisational skills solely to the office, leaving his home-life free to be over-run with chaos.

“As part of my job I have to be super-organised and regimented. This means filing everything. So, at some point I simply carried this over to my personal finances and taxes. Just as I file everything away, very methodically, that I am working on, I now apply the same rule to my taxes and personal affairs.”

Evaluate Your Investments

Check your portfolio to determine your situation. While many people prefer to wait until the end of the year to sell losing investments, it doesn’t hurt to look through your portfolio and identify which investments no longer fit your goals. Figure out which investments might provide you with a tax advantage from a capital loss. You can sell now, or you can wait until later, but start thinking about how you want to proceed.

Make a Few Charitable Donations

Donate to charity all year. If you haven’t made your donations, or if you plan to make more, start doing so now. Take the time, now, to look ahead and start adding up where you can give to receive a tax deduction for your charity.

Give Gifts

This year (2019) is a great year to reduce your estate, if you have one. For now, the estate value exclusion is set to expire with the year (unless Congress acts), and the unified amount you can give as gifts, tax free, will also fall. It’s much more fun to give money away now, tax-free, when you can watch the recipients enjoy it. Right now, the amount you can give, total, is $5.12 million. You can give $13,000 to individuals, up to the limit. You can reduce your estate, and your heirs will enjoy more money — tax-efficiently.

Look for Other Credits and Deductions

As you consider the rest of the year, look at what other credits and deductions you might be eligible for. You can consult with a tax professional to find out what options you have, and especially which credits and deductions are set to expire soon. Plan now, adding up the possibilities. From business expenses (if you have them), to learning credits, to other tax breaks, look at how you can reduce your income, as well as reduce what you owe through credits.

What I’ve learnt

I have learned a lot. I know much more about people and power. I have awakened and developed parts of myself I never knew I had. I know I have a heart cracked open wide, and so I feel more deeply. I seem to look into the hearts of others who are suffering in sadness and be able to sincerely say, “I know. I am there, too.”

I am ready to open myself even wider to the beauty and suffering around me, and to see that no matter what, they are, and always have been, twins and an integral part of life and of who I am to become.

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