Nearly 28 years ago, I was working at IRS as an Estate Tax Attorney. Today you need an estate of over $5,250,000 before you pay any taxes and double that if you are married. This means that in every 1,000 people 1 (.14%) will pay taxes. Imagine that! This means that if 10 people died each day – and your local paper published those obituaries – it would be over three months before you saw an obituary of someone whose estate had a to file and pay estate tax.
Although it was a populist tax for only the few and very wealthy, I did not like the negative atmosphere of taxing people. I wanted to help people. For those last years, I have been able to do that using my skills as a CPA and attorney to do estate planning and taxes; but mostly Social Security.
I want my office blog to center on those ideas – but mostly on Social Security. Today, however, I think I would like to reflect about what I think are several important ideas for your life. Form follows function. Here are some “somethings” that I think make a difference in life.
1. Education. I think getting a “good” education is the single most important thing you can do to have a good life. Now I don’t mean an “expensive” education or college. I mean a survival education in learning about “things”, “people”, and “ideas” – that means knowing the who, the what, the where and the why. Of course education is usually good for our future financial picture; but how can we function in today’s malaise of bureaucratic gobbledegook? How can we be good citizens? How can we appreciate the difference from the average things from median things? How can we protect ourselves unless we know things like – how people act and think, how ideas are shaping our world, Like the immigrants of old, have a practical and a theoretical education – study to be a doctor but don’t forget how to run the family store in the meantime.
2. Health. I have paid the price over the years of not taking care of myself. We all abuse our bodies through unhealthy practices, unhealthy work practices. We think we are invincible; and then one day something happens and … well there we are “limited” in what we can do. A good body is good for the body, the spirit and costs less financially to maintain.
3. Dreams. If we don’t have dreams, then there is no purpose for goals. It doesn’t matter where we are going or what we are doing because we will be swept along with everyone else in the tides and eddies of time. To the blind everything is sudden. But if you do have dreams – different from your current work and life – then you have to plan your future or you will be taken down the river of time like everyone else. Retirement is the stopping of something. Planning and getting a life is what you set goals for.
4. Joy. What makes you happy? Determine what you really “need” to be happy. Then work, plan and proceed to make that joy. Some people say “If only I could….x,y,z… I would be happy”. Really? A new car makes you happy – if it does – because you like “showing off” or fulfilling the advertising purpose of the automotive industry <g>, or because it should be care free, or because it is powerful enough for your “mountains”. Whatever your feeling of joy in the material thing,– it is just that —your feeling of joy. Learn how to get that all the time. Don’t get to your “heaven” in the end, be going all along.
5. Centered. I used to envy “A personality types” because I am soooooooooo not there. I thought that making lists and checking them off and accomplishing the goals with family, jobs, money and ‘things”. Wow, what could be better. But the re is no formula for “being.” Aristotle would have us excellently fulfilling our distinctively human function. But guess what? We are not all the same personality. While a certain amount of un-ease causes us the reach for thing beyond our grasp and to accomplish more than our comfort zone. Too much is dis-ease and we are unable to motivate and carry forward to the extent needed. Know where your center lies and hold to your core beliefs or else you will find that you do not know yourself – and not be able to handle it.
6. Finances. This is where the tires meet the road. Have a plan for this month, the next six months, and beyond the next year. Gear your expenses to your income – and if you can – put the extra income as the years go on – into a variety of things.. Eliminate debt. Have three months savings, before taking on other debt.. Sometimes we do not quickly adjust our expenses to our income. Sometimes, the misfortune is just beyond anything we could do. We may not be millionaires — yet we pay at the current rates for the median $230,000 house over 30 years nearly $475,000 (including taxes and insurance). Over the same 30 years we spend nearly $100,000 on food – per person. And most of this money has to be purchased with income – that is taxed. “How can we save?” is a more important question than how can we earn because each dollar saved is equal to a dollar and a half earned.