Archive for Retirement

Yard Cleanup - Feeding the Chipper

Feeding the Chipper

Over the past months (maybe over a year) we have trimmed mesquite tree branches away from the driveway and in the back and front yard areas. We also recently removed a few branches from the plum tree in the courtyard to encourage it to grow upward. When we don’t have time to break the limbs down and stuff them into the refuse bin, we sometimes drag them across the road to our lot over there to be dealt with at a future time.

Well, the future is here. Yesterday, Damsel and I took the chipper that we bought last spring over there to dispose of the branches and create some mulch for Damsel’s gardening. I took the 3KW Honda Generator in the back of the pickup so we could have power to run the chipper.

We got most of the work done in that single session and created a box full of wood chip mulch that Damsel can spread on her trees and other items she grows. There remains some thicker branches that we will chop into firewood for our neighbors that have fireplaces.

When operating the chipper, the manufacturer recommends protection for eyes and ears (pieces fly and it’s loud). I borrowed the goggles and earmuffs from the range bag for the job. Click on the image to enlarge.

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Medicare Wellness Checkups

medicare.pngThis is the first year that The Damsel and I have signed up for a Medicare-approved (and 100% covered) “WELLNESS” check up with our local healthcare clinic. Damsel has just become eligible for this procedure and I, after several years of non-compliance, decided we should do it together. Since it is covered, it might be interesting to see what this senior health checkup is all about.

We made our appointments for the checkup for both of us at the same time with our healthcare provider. When we arrived for the appointment we were escorted to a treatment room in the clinic. Our provider was a Nurse Practitioner who greeted us and then started through her checklist of things to discuss. There would be no examinations other than verbal today. She referred us to our Regular Family Physician if we had specific health issues that may require physical examination and/or treatment.

The following topics were discussed for each of us starting with me and the with the Damsel:

  • Wellness Discussion - History of chronic or other past and current health issues
  • Advance Directives - what to do regarding our healthcare desires if we become unable to communicate them
  • Substance abuse screening
  • Depression screening
  • Nutrition discussion
  • Exercise discussion
  • Preventative health and fall risk discussion
  • Immunization record and possible additional immunization needs discussion
  • Adult depression screening
  • Cognitive exam (verbal memory and confusion testing)

We were advised that our response to the latter cognitive exams showed no signs of confusion or memory loss (eat your heart out JOE BIDEN). We were given a detailed printed record of the discussions and exam highlights and it looks like we’re pretty much normal with our petty arthritis and joint pain. Our dental and vision care is up to par and other than a couple of potential immunizations (tetanus, shingles, pneumonia) we’re OK.

The one thing we were short on was advanced directives; we both need to get our health treatment desires in writing via a “Living Will.” Pursuant to that, I prepared a Healthcare Directive and Medical Power of Attorney document for each of us; we will be having them notarized this week and will file them with the Arizona Department of State, the latter which will issue a wallet card for us to direct first responders how to act upon our wishes should we become comatose or otherwise unable to communicate.

The directives are only a start upon our last wishes documentation. We have a bunch of details that need to be ironed out before crossing over the bridge to Paradise. Those will be getting resolved over the next few months.

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Family Milestones and Other Events

Beethoven at 10 Years OldFirst of all, Happy Birthday to our beloved Beethoven (a.k.a “Bay Bay”) who is ten years old today. He is the youngest of the two Miniature Pinchers that run our household. We adopted him about eight and a half years ago and, needless to say, is a beloved family member.

Image - Bay Bay at Ten - Click to enlarge

Spring months bring a flurry of birthdays and such to our household and the family in general. Between now and the end of April, birthdays for all three of our granddaughters and one great granddaughter will occur. Moreover, we will probably have another April birthday this year as our middle granddaughter is expecting another little sister to her three year old on her 27th birthday. That will make a total of four great grandchildren. And tomorrow is the 24th birthday of our youngest granddaughter, who is engaged to be married at a date not yet known to us. Perhaps in June.

In other events, we are expecting a call from the Vision Center where both Damsel and I had our eyes examined and ordered new glasses. They typically are ready after a week or so and we will be making a second trip down to the valley (about 35 miles distant) to retrieve the new eyewear.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic is being reported ad nauseum by the FakeNewsMedia© who blow it out of proportion mainly to discredit President Trump. The Media and Democrats (repeating myself) couldn’t give a red rodent rectum about the victims of a pandemic and merely use it to try and make the administration look bad - Trump Derangement Syndrome.

In the business news, the misreporting of the virus story has spooked investors to the point where our holdings in mutual funds have declined considerably, but not to the point of despair. We’re looking at it as an opportunity to eventually get back to where it was before because the distributions will now buy more shares at a discounted price. We remain solvent.

Our desert home is showing signs of spring already. There are flower buds appearing on many of the native and imported cacti around the yard. We were supposed to get some rain today, but currently it is sunny with no echoes visible on the radar in our vicinity. Although it will remain cool today thanks to a frontal passage, we will be expecting highs in the 70s later this week. We wish everyone (including ourselves) a nice, early spring.

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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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