Friday, January 05, 2007

IRS Withholding Calculator

Remember to adjust your federal withholding allowances if you anticipate any major changes in your life this year. I'll be quitting my job to go back to school full-time this fall, and potentially selling my condo, so I actually need to reduce my withholding allowances.

Use this handy calculator provided by the IRS to ensure that you don't have "too much or too little income tax withheld" from your pay. In other words, you don't want to give the federal government an interest free loan for a year, but you also don't want to be banged with a huge tax bill a year either.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

TurboTax at Costco

As I've mentioned in the past, sometimes it's still cheaper to buy things offline. I was going to order TurboTax Deluxe 2006 through this week, but decided to hold off a few days to see if the price would change. Well, last night I was rifling through a stack of mail, and noticed a coupon booklet from Costco. Normally, I would just toss the booklet into the recycling bin immediately because I rarely want or need any of the featured sale items. But this time, I decided to flip through the booklet quickly. And low and behold, there was a $15 off coupon for TurboTax Deluxe, for either the Federal and State version or just the Federal version. Since I don't really need the State version (you can file your IL tax return online for free), I'll probably just pick up the Federal version. Kind of interesting to note that the Costco list price is a few dollars cheaper than the price listed on But even if you factor in sales tax, with the $15 off coupon, I'll definitely come out ahead by purchasing the item at Costco ($16.99 plus tax). The coupon is valid from Jan. 15 - Jan. 21 only. So, I'll need to remember to make a Costco run that week.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Update on 1st Time Experience with Craigslist

As I mentioned in a previous post, I purchased a new iPod nano for myself a few weeks before Christmas. So, now I need to get of my old iPod mini. I just posted it on craigslist last night, so we'll see if I get any nibbles. I found a comparable listing for a used mini on, but I think the seller is asking way too much for what is essentially an obsolete item. Maybe he's factoring in the cost of shipping and amazon's listing fees? Or the fact that it's now a 'collector's item'?

*Updated on 1/5/07

Well, 2 days after I posted my ad, I got an email from K who wanted to buy the iPod for $25 less than my asking price. I did a quick search for iPod minis on craigslist, and someone had posted a similar item for $75 several days ago. So, I told K that I would come down $10 from my asking price, but that was it. A day later, he agreed to buy the iPod for $90, and we arranged to meet in person. In the meantime, I had posted the item on for $129 because there were several listings ranging anywhere from $199 to $250. Some of the items were in better condition, some in worse condition. And wouldn't you know it, after I had agreed to meet K but before I could pull the listing from, someone actually bought the iPod for $129! But since I'd already promised it to K for $90, I decided to go through with the original sale. Much to my regret, I had to issue a refund to the second buyer.

All this to say, my first experience with craigslist was relatively positive. I just wish I had been more patient in holding out for a seller on Even taking into account the amazon commission and the cost of shipping, I would've been better off selling the item to the second buyer.

My friend pointed out that I could've asked K to meet or beat the $129, but in my opinion, that would've been jerking the guy around. And I'd been on the receiving end of that kind of behavior when I purchased my condo. To make a long story short, I'd already agreed to pay list price, but after verbally accepting my offer, the seller decided he wanted more money. I wound up walking away from the deal several times because he was such a jerk. But after two other deals fell through, the seller finally agreed to my terms in writing. Personally, I miss the days when 'my word is my bond' actually meant something and handshake deals were the norm rather than the exception. As an attorney, I'm often times asked to come up with a creative argument or loophole to get someone out of having to follow through on something they agreed to. So you can see why I'm a bit disillusioned with the practice of law.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Retirement Savings - The Magic Number

Happy New Year!

Okay, so everyone in the pf blogging community is talking about New Year's Resolutions and Goals for 2007. I haven't put much thought into that particular topic yet because I have too many variables in play right now. If I get into graduate school, I'm going to quit my lucrative job and try to find a part time job. If I can't find a part time job that pays enough to cover my property taxes and monthly assessments, I'll need to sell my condo. If I sell my condo, I'll need to figure out where to live. And so on and so forth. You can see why it's a bit difficult for me to set any concrete financial goals for 2007.

So to ring in the new year, I thought I'd blog about retirement savings instead. When I first met with my financial planner in 2004, he told me that given my lifestyle and values, if I decided to quit saving for retirement altogether, I would still have enough money to retire comfortably at the age of 67. I couldn't tell if he was joking or just being overly optimistic. But a recent article in the Your Money section of the Chicago Tribune makes me think that perhaps he was right.

Where are you on the road to retirement and how much should you have saved by now? According to senior financial planner Christine Fahlund, here are some rough guidelines. If you're...
30 years away from retirement, 100% of your income
20 years away from retirement, 2 times your income
10 years away from retirement, 6 times your income

The article goes on to say that the above "goals are generally achievable if you've been socking away 15 percent of income steadily since your 20s or 30s….if you started late, you need to save a higher percentage of your paycheck.”

I'm guessing that by 'savings' they mean liquid assets vs. equity in your home. Either way, it looks as if I'm well ahead of the curve, which makes this whole career transition thing a bit more palatable, thank God.