Thursday, June 18, 2009

2009, so far...

Let me tell you about 2009 so far.

Everyone knows about the economy. Nothing need be said, here, about that, except to mention that we have not been immune from cuts in income and losses to our retirement plans.

March 2, 2009. My wife’s mother passed away. She was 79 and had been ill and declining for some time. While not a big surprise, you can never be truly prepared. My beloved wife of 40 years, called G here, and our youngest daughter flew to Idaho for the services. G still grieves and occasionally becomes very blue and weepy.

April 10, 2009. G had a stroke. While driving. After her loss of consciousness, she struck another car. Her car slewed to the right and rolled 1 ½ times, coming to rest on the roof. Amazingly, no one was seriously injured in the accident, although our car was totaled and there was damage to two other cars and some minor injuries. My wife’s injuries from the accident were limited to minor bruising from the seat belt. She is recovering well from the stroke and has no paralysis or loss of speech, but she has suffered some loss of vision and of skills and memory—and these losses are painful to her. She cannot drive now and has had to close her business, with the loss of income and pride in self-determination that brings. Our insurance paid off the loan on the car. All in all, it could have been so much worse.

She was hospitalized for a week after the event, mostly for follow up of the stroke. During her medical care, the doctors found an enlarged thyroid which may be cancerous. We are still working on the follow up and tests for that. Many medical appointments have been on our calendar. Since she cannot drive any more, I have had to take time off work to drive her or arrange other transportation. We don’t live on a bus line and a one-way taxi ride to our medical facility is about $50.00. Thank God for our good medical insurance.

Also April 10, 2009. G’s step mother fell on her front step and hit her head on the concrete. She had to be air-evacuated 160 miles to a hospital in Boise where they operated to remove clots from her head and relieve pressure on her brain. She required several weeks of in- and out-patient convalescence. She is 85, and is doing well now. I hope my Father-in-law has good medical insurance.

While G was in the hospital, between visits to her and my work, I struggled to complete our IRS forms. Last year I had under-witheld and had to pay a large amount when I filed my taxes. So, I increased my withholding in April of 2008. But not enough. This year, even though I’ve not had a raise, the additional amount I had to pay was even greater ($3500 on top of what had been witheld) plus I had to pay a penalty for underpayment. So I called my company’s HR department and again increased my withholding. The very next day: the Obama administration announced reduced withholding as a “benefit” to workers and part of the Stimulus Plan. My withholding has actually gone down as a result. So next year will probably be a replay with underpayment and penalty.

On the first of May, we received a letter from the State informing us that we had been accused by an un-named party of sexual abuse of two of our grandsons. The letter explained that an investigation had been completed and the charges were found to have no merit and that we could write to request the records be destroyed. We don’t know who filed the false charges, but we have our suspicions, and, if true, the scurrilous action, taken as revenge for imaginary wrongs, does not bode well for family harmony. We have not seen those grandchildren nor their mother since the end of March. G has taken this especially hard, and we are now seeing a counselor to learn how to deal with the grief of our losses this year and this hateful false charge against us. Had the investigator not had the integrity to publish the true findings, if she or he had had an axe to grind or a name to make, the false charges could have literally destroyed our lives. I wonder if the person who filed the charges has any idea of the potential impact?

On the morning of May 5, on my way to work I stopped at a stoplight. The 20-year-old girl, texting as she drove the car behind me, did not. She was doing about 30 when she hit me. I was on my motorcycle. The 1-year old customized 1300 cc V-Twin was totaled. But it could have been so much worse. I was not hurt at all—did not even have any stiffness the next day. But I miss my bike. Her insurance paid off all but $432.00 of the loan, so the debt is gone, but so is the bike. After nearly 45 years of driving with only a couple of minor accidents, we have totaled two vehicles in less than a month.

In mid-May, we had our home air conditioner serviced before its summer workout. The technician found a Freon leak in the inside air handling unit. So that had to be replaced. Another $3500 gone.

At the end of May, G received the settlement from her Mother’s estate: $12,000 from her Mother’s traditional IRA. Now since it came out of a tax-deferred IRA, it becomes a “taxable event,” meaning we would owe taxes and penalties on the total amount. To avoid having to give the IRS about a third of her inheritance, we chose, at the advice of our broker, to put $6,000 dollars each into our own IRAs, thus canceling out the taxable event. I gave the broker a personal check for $12,000 having deposited the cashier’s check from the estate into our joint checking account. At the time of deposit of the inheritance check, the teller said they would make an exception to the 5-day hold rule for deposited checks, since we have been with the credit union for nearly 40 years and have a good record, and it WAS a cashier’s check, after all. Guess what. When my personal check for $12,000 was presented for the deposit into our IRAs, it bounced because the $12,000 deposit was on hold. Result: who knows? So far fees and embarrassment and no resolution. This was the biggest check I've ever written--by far--and it bounced! Oh, the shame. The credit union did refund their fees on my account (after I complained) but we don’t yet know what the other financial institution is going to do. It’s been two weeks and I’ve not yet heard from them. Our broker is not returning my calls.

Still, we have so much to be thankful for. We have each other. We have our faith and a God we feel good about praying to. We can still pay the mortgage and utilities. We have one good working vehicle and it is licensed, insured, and inspected, and has good tires and a full tank of gas at the moment. The pantry is full and the (new) air conditioner keeps us comfortable. We sleep soundly at night, comfortable and relatively secure. We launder our clothes and bathe in fresh, clean, heated water. We even still have 200 TV channels of nothing to watch, internet, and a Netflix subscription. We are breathing, upright, walking and talking. We have many loving family members (and maybe one that is not so loving) and a number of very good friends at work, in our neighborhood, and at church. As tough and frustrating as this year has been, so far, our lives are still better than most alive on this earth today.