I Don’t, Anymore!

June 30, 2014 at 8:03 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

WEDDING SEASON IS OVER!

Well, for me.  Finally.  Today marks the last day of a month where I’ve attended three weddings on three different Saturdays. I was a bridesmaid in two of these weddings and all three were out of town.  It was an honor to be a part of so many special days but I’d be lying if I said I was sad to see this month draw to a close.  If I never see a taffeta gown, bright pink bridesmaid dress or professional photographer trying to choreograph candid shots, it’ll be too soon.

Check it out!

The first two weddings were for my two best friends from high school and so they were obviously exciting affairs.  I knew a lot of people in attendance and even though I spent hours and hours having hair, nails and make-up done while smiling for the cameras, it was a pretty fun time.  I just realized that there are many people out there who think spending hours and hours getting hair, nails and make-up done while smiling for cameras is the exact definition of a good time – alas, I am not one of those people.

Which made the wedding this past weekend even sweeter – I wasn’t in it and didn’t have to do a damn thing other than show up, watch, drink, eat and dance.  All of which I did without abandon.  I honestly didn’t even really know the bride and groom as the bride is a cousin of Scott’s who even he barely speaks to.  It was all very nice though and there was an open bar so I really didn’t have anything to complain about.  Still, weddings eat up time and money and I’m looking forward to pocketing a little more of my paychecks over the next few months.

I told my sister she’s not allowed to get married for at least a year and I hope she realizes I meant it.  Scott and I have talked about taking that plunge ourselves and after spending these past weeks basically being immersed in wedding culture, we’ve figured out a lot of things we don’t want to do.  I wish The Field Museum would just let me get married in their great hall but I’m pretty sure that renting that place out costs about three times as much as I’d be able to spend on a wedding to begin with, so there goes that idea.  Do people have weddings where they ask guests to pay for things like chairs and flowers instead of giving gifts?  Can I do a pot-luck thing where everyone brings a vegetarian dish and I provide the booze? Can I do an entire wedding over Skype? Why can’t it just be easy and cheap, much like the bride and groom?  Seriously the wedding industry is such a racket and I will gladly do everything I can to subvert that when my own time comes.  And yes, I know Vegas is a cheap and easy option – trust me, we’ve talked about that.  The thing is that if I were to get married I would want the people I love to come out and celebrate and the party is the expensive part.  I’m all for having a big bash that has a brief 15 ceremony somewhere near the beginning.  I don’t need 10 bridesmaids, sequins, glitter, jewels, veils, huge churches, fake eyelashes, fake boobs, Spanx and Hummer limos that blare Snoop Dogg.  Not that that stuff isn’t fun – it totally can be – and if that’s your idea of a great wedding then more power to you.  I’d personally like to be barefoot in a park but things like rain and dog poop will probably render that impossible.

It’s kind of crazy how even though I’m so sick of thinking about everything wedding-related, my stupid brain automatically starts planning my own non-existent shin-dig.  It should get better with the more time and distance I put between myself and any other wedding festivities and if it doesn’t – well, I’m an adult and I can have my own open bar any damn time I want!

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Where Have all the Postings Gone?

April 13, 2014 at 8:06 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

So, I’ve been busy.  A little too busy to blog post.  I’d like to say it’s going to get better but it really might not, although I would like a concentrated effort to write a little more often.  And since it’s been such a while since I’ve written, I feel like I should just do a brief recap on what I’ve been up to:

  • Remember how my last post was me bitching about weddings and babies and whatot?  I just spent my entire Sunday traveling to, attending and traveling home from a bridal shower for a girl I’ve never met.
  • The other thing I spent my Sunday on was some time at the gym.  Guys, I accidentally became a gym rat.  I’ve liked going for a while now but a few weeks ago a brand new gym opened a five minute walk from home and I want to hang out there all the time.  And it has a sauna, which allowed me to feel the warmest that I’ve felt in damn near a year.
  • A brand new and amazing grocery store also opened in the same building as my gym and it has also quickly become a new favorite haunt.  I cannot even describe this place to you but I will say there are three separate booze bars plus a sushi bar, oyster bar, BBQ pit and more.  This is in an area where the only option we had before was a crappy CVS that charged $5 for a tiny box of Chips Ahoy.
  • Scott and I came dangerously closes to killing an entire regular-sized box of Chips Ahoy between the two of us last night.  This was after coming home from the new grocery store.  At least I had spent some time at the gym earlier in the day.

    My dirty little secret.

  • I didn’t spend too much time in the gym because yesterday was the most beautiful day Chicago has experienced in a long, sad while.  I think Spring really may be something that will actually happen this year.  All over the city people walked, ran, pushed babies, pulled dogs and sat around on sidewalks eating and drinking.  I almost shed a tear.
  • I did shed a tear when I dropped a bridesmaid dress I get to wear in June off for alterations.  It had three layers that each needed to be hemmed, plus the woman who was helping me told me that whoever made the dress had done it wrong and it was going to cost me a lot to fix – and that is why it looked like my panties were in a bunch both in my crotchal (I think I just made up a new word) area and around my ass every time I zipped up the dress.  Getting quoted nearly half of what I paid for the dress to begin with is what caused the tear.
  • This whole attending/being in weddings thing sure is expensive.
  • Speaking of money, at least I have a job where the people still seem to like me.  They installed a vending machine that gives us free soy milk.  Oh, and I was given a bunch of free tickets to Cubs games last week and when I went the seats were the best that I’ve ever had in Wrigley Field – by far.  Suffice to say, it’s a step up from the place that took away our coffee and confiscated our water cooler.
  • My new job gives me Good Friday off as well, which is good (see what I did there?) because I’m going home this weekend to help my mom celebrate a milestone birthday – I will not be saying which milestone.
  • I will also be celebrating my time as a volunteer at The Field Museum one night this week.  It’s our annual volunteer dinner and the museum will be wining and dining those who donate their time all evening.  I plan on taking full advantage.
  • Sort of like how I took advantage at that bridal shower today and helped myself to a not insignificant amount of spiked punch and a few chocolate covered Oreos to sneak home for desert throughout the week.  I don’t feel too bad because they didn’t have many lunch options for vegetarians and I was hungry.

It appears that I’ve come full circle.  Until next time!

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Making Sense of Cents

September 17, 2012 at 11:32 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no mathematical genius.  So perhaps what I’m about to tell you does make actual fiscal sense but I’ll be honest – it’s about as confusing to me as Finite was in college.

There’s a new woman who works in my office and for the last few days, she’s been begging people to let her buy them Starbucks pastries or beverages because apparently she has some rewards card and she needs a certain amount of points in order to remain a member.  She accrues points by making separate purchases so she’s trying to buy as much as she can as quickly as she can so she doesn’t lose whatever other benefits she has by being this fancy card holder.  Now, I’m not much of a Starbucks drinker (because their coffee is too strong but mostly too expensive) and I won’t even pretend to be privy to the special, super secret knowledge that cardholders seem to possess.  Also, I’m too lazy to look much into it.   But it seems to me that making multiple purchases of expensive products that you wouldn’t otherwise make doesn’t exactly financially outweigh whatever benefits you could be getting from some plastic, semi-exclusive card.  I’m not sure exactly how much this woman has spent out of her own pocket but I know that she’s bought things for myself and at least four other coworkers two mornings in a row.  I even offered to give her some cash for my blueberry muffin but she said that since I was helping her, she was happy to buy it.

Um, is it really worth it?

Am I missing something?  This woman is our accountant for crying out loud, so surely she’s got it figured out.  Either way, I guess I’ll let her buy me more pastries if she wants and keep my mouth shut about my real thoughts on the matter.  Good thing I have this blog to confess my doubts on!

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Money Talks

August 16, 2011 at 9:47 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t read or heard about the brilliant editorial piece that Warren Buffett put out this week, here it is again.  I highlighted some of the especially interesting points:

OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Guys, trust me. I know what I'm talking about.

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)

I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.

Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.

Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.

But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

He’s a pretty smart guy and the President was smart enough to agree with him.  Unfortunately, other members of Congress are acting like a bunch of spoiled 8-year-olds and the fact that they’re digging their heels in when it comes to budget talks and frank discussions on job creation and the economy just shows how out of touch with reality some of these people are.  I really don’t like getting too political in this space (though I’m sure it’s obvious which side I lean towards) but these men and women are seriously pissing me off and I had to say something.  Get it together, guys, or let Warren run in 2012.

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