Archive for Retirement

Drain the Swamp

Winter Spa

I wish draining the DC Swamp were this easy. This is our patio Spa now winterized. Click on the image to enlarge.

Late last fall, Damsel and I siphoned most of the water from the Spa since the weather was no longer conducive to dipping in it. That exercise got rid of 95 percent of the water, but left some in the bottom of the tub and in the internal plumbing.

We left the spa in that condition for a couple of months, but tonight the weather forecast calls for our first freeze warning of the winter season. There is a cold air mass descending on Lower Arizona which will take us below 0° C. Most of the rest of the country have already been there, but this will be our first freeze of the year.

Back to the Spa; residual water in the internal plumbing can freeze and damage the plastic used for directing water internally. There is also a water filter that can be damaged if frozen. So, today, we got out the wet/dry shop vac and sucked out most of the water from the internal plumbing, as well as removing the puddled water from the seats and the bottom of the tub. I removed about ten gallons of water which is two loads of the vac.

Now, the Spa is drying out and when dry, I will replace the cover.

We can hardly wait for the warm part of spring to show up so we can refill and reheat the Spa and resume enjoying our hot turbo massages and when summer comes, use it as a cool bath when it’s 110° outside.

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Tax Returns E-Filed Today

irs_logo.pngEarlier than anticipated, the last important 1099 document became available today. I expected at least two more weeks before the investment consolidated 1099 would be available. But, since I reported being 99 percent complete on the 17th of this month, it was a mere few mouse clicks to validate the latest documented information and file the returns, both AZ and FED. The 2019 Tax Season is done except for a small refund from the IRS which (according to the IRS) will be e-deposited within a week or two.

For 2020, we will continue to track our expenses with the assumption that we may use itemized deductions rather than the standard deduction which was the case for the 2019 return. We may not ever file using itemization again, but we will track expenses as though we were going to. We will also continue with our contributions to charities that we see fit to support, particularly those that support Veterans, the Second Amendment, Christianity and Canine Rescue (among others not mentioned here).

Speaking of tracking expenses, I have been using Quicken for a long time. So long, in fact, that the file size of my records going back for the last twenty years has somehow exceeded the programs data storage capability. The symptom is that I get corrupted data when I start the program and have to load in a backup record to make it behave correctly. It is a bit tedious in that I have to make a backup of the data on a daily basis and restore the backup the next time I use the program. The gurus at Quicken say there isn’t a practical limit on record sizes, but I believe there is a declaration somewhere in their code that screws up my very lengthy financial data records.

As soon as I can get to it, I am going to start a new Quicken File with the first of this year as the starting date. It will be easy to update recent (January ‘20) data, since the program can download it directly from our financial institutions. I will keep the old file on hand since I find it handy to look back in the registers from time to time. There are a lot of important things logged into the old data which I would hate to permanently lose.

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The Wickenburg Quilt Show

Hot Rod Quilt

The Damsel and I took time out from our busy retirement lifestyle today to attend the Quilt Show being put on at the Community Center Downtown. I posted the photo I took of one of the unusual quilts featuring “Hot Rodding USA.” Click on the image to enlarge.

There were hundreds of quilts on display, each one being a unique artwork unto itself. There were themes of Christmas, Halloween, Cowgirls, Boots, Aprons, Winter Scenes, Animals (Dogs, Cats, Horses, Livestock), Rodeo, University of Arizona and a myriad of more conventional quilting styles.

The people attending and running the show were mostly in the “senior” category, although I did see a couple of under 12 kids at one point. Despite being a weekday afternoon, there were a lot of people attending. We had to park out in back of the community center and walk a bit to get inside.

Inside the community center, there were vendors catering to quilt hobby aficionados as well as vendors selling finished quilts. Some, but not all of the quilts in the display area had Price Tags on them. Like you might expect of original folk art, some of them were a bit pricey now, but might continue to increase in value as time goes on.

We enjoyed our little outing today, and expect to attend more local events in the near future. There’s always something going on of interest in our little western town.

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2019 IRS Return 99% Complete

taxes.jpgAs of today, I can say that the 2019 returns are about complete. All we’re waiting for is the final 1099s from investments, retirement, etc. One such investment 1099 won’t be available until the second week in February, so we will have to wait another month for that little (very minor) tidbit of fiscal information.

Looking at the bottom line, i.e. the cash back or balance due, it seems that we planned pretty well in 2019 and the resulting difference is a relatively small amount in our favor. We used a predicted tax rate based on past experience and forecast that value for 2019 in our “Withholding Planning” spreadsheet. We adjusted the rate of withholding according to the results of the spreadsheet and it worked out to a difference to within a few hundred dollars from breaking even. I love it when a plan comes together.

This year is the first year that we have taken the standard deduction rather than itemizing. We went through the deductions exercise to see if we could surpass the new $27000 (married filing jointly) Standard amount, but the total of all our deductible fees, charity, mortgage interest, medical premiums and other miscellaneous items did not surpass the Standard. That actually makes it easier for us if we can depend on claiming the SD in the future, but we will track the deduction numbers just in case.

Tax year 2020 will be a bit different from the past since the Damsel will become eligible for some SSA income. We have that factoid programmed into the 2020 version of the spreadsheet to account for the difference. The delta from adding her income will be conveniently offset by a reduction in my draw from the IRA to retain about the same level as before with an appropriate cost-of-living increase of course.

Now awaiting the forms so we can claim our paltry refund. :)

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Getting Organized in 2020

Getting Organized

We finally got the new laptop and external display set up in the home office. Thanks to having some shelves to relieve the desktop clutter, we now have a better sense of organization. The photo above is preliminary since we have some desk lamps on order and we’re going to replace the aged speaker system with a new bluetooth system. The lamp in the left will be going away along with the old speaker system.

The shelf itself was advertised as a TV stand, but the literature it came with shows it is intended to be a shoe rack (for Imelda-wannabees, I guess). Regardless of that, the shelves are now serving as a desk organizing unit.

Frequently-accessed items and the wireless router/modem get the top shelf of the organizer, while less-frequently-accessed items get lower places behind computer monitors and such. It’s impossible to hide all the wires, but I think it is much better than it used to be. I’m sure that as time goes on, I will tweak things here and there.

I’m still installing applications and transferring files to the new machine as the need arises. I have the old computer set up in the motorhome out back and since it’s on the LAN, I can get most of what I need from the old system without having to go out there.

I sure like the new laptop computer. It is super fast compared to what I’ve been used to, although it isn’t in the supercomputer category by any means. Still, I’m enjoying the change.

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Winter Cactus Flower

Winter Cactus Flower

Damsel’s so-called “Christmas Cactus” has flowers opening about a week after the holiday. From the looks of the plant, it’s showing that many more of the flowers will be opening over the next several days. Damsel took this image today when the sun was shining into the front window where the plant sits on the sill.

We didn’t post a new year message on the eve or the day, but we take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy and prosperous 2020. We let the post slip in favor of just relaxing and doing the usual holiday things, football bowl games, food, you know - celebrating in our own way.

It turns out that the switch from the old laptop to the new one has a few wrinkles. I have slowly been transferring all my “stuff” to the new one, but need to stay on line here until the complete switch over. My laptop is also the print server for the household, and it would put a drag on things if it were to be down for too long.

Another project associated with the computer replacement is the overhaul of the desk/workstation in the office. It needs to be reorganized and updated to new stuff. I just finished assembling a three-level desktop shelf (something needed for a long time) that will hold the various devices and get a lot of the stuff currently on the overcrowded desk up and out of the way.

So, we’re making progress on everything while keeping the pace comfortable for ourselves as we move through it all. Again, may you all have a blessed and happy new year.

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New Office Furniture for the RV

Office ChairEarlier this fall, the Damsel and I purchased two office chairs to replace the stock RV dining room chairs. Today, I finished assembly of the first of the two and took the photo seen at the right. The chair is positioned facing aft just behind the cockpit chairs. It will move to its normal position at the dining room table after assembly of the second chair.

The original chairs consisted of two fixed and two folding chairs which were a matched set of four. We only used the folding chairs on a single occasion when entertaining friends in Kalifornistan in 2018. At that time, one of the original folding chairs COLLAPSED while one of our friends was sitting on it. Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt. The RV dealer replaced the chair, but we haven’t trusted them since.

Damsel and I used the fixed dining chairs as office chairs when we would set up our computers on the dining table. After a while seated on them, however, our butts would get sore or fall asleep. We then resolved to replace them with some chairs comparable to those we currently use in the Arizona Home Office.

We figure we can just have a couple of garden-variety folding chairs standing by in the RV wardrobe closet for the rare occasion where we have guests in the RV. The old set of chairs, which are reasonable-looking and nice as a set, will be donated to a local charity for resale.

The second office chair will be assembled sometime in the first of the year, well before they will be needed for our spring excursion. The first one, pictured above, sure is comfy to sit in. Click on the image to enlarge.

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