Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Taxes, Retirement & Condo Living

I'm happy this week is almost over and I've managed to complete my tax returns for another year. I've  actually completed them just over a month early but can't file just yet. I have to wait for one final receipt and it will be at least another two weeks before I get it in the mail.  So I will just have to wait.

I dread tax filing every year.  I always want to have oodles of time to work on the taxes and just do it all in a leisurely way.  So I often put it off and in the meantime the task hovers over my conscience like a bad dream.

I  usually have to hunt around for receipts that come in during the year.  Though I do keep the paperwork in a bit of order, there always seems to at least once receipt that comes in much later than the others or doesn't arrive at all so it isn't only a question of when I want to work on the return. It is often a question on waiting on others.  I'm not so patient when it comes to these things.

Some receipts are only available on line, some are only receivable by mail and others are available on line and/or through the mail.  Each year there are also countless medical receipts that have to be kept, sorted and tallied to see if they can be used as a tax deduction.  Despite a lot of money being spent on prescriptions and dental work, it never seems to add up to enough to be useful on the tax return.  Likewise with charitable receipts.  Much of my giving is to grassroots charities in other countries.  Our government does not recognize these as charitable donations and only accepts donations from charities registered in Canada.

Then there are receipts for contributions to registered retirement savings plans. This is tricky because one has to have enough contributions to make sure you don't over contribute, or under contribute, such that you owe more taxes. I do save throughout the year for these contributions but it never seems to be enough.  So I have to try and find the funds in my budget to do a top up before the deadline.  Overall, as you can see, I get a lot of receipts.  Though it is time consuming to deal with all the receipts and keep on top of it all, it isn't actually that complicated to prepare the tax returns.  Especially if one has the right on-line tools for tax preparation..

In addition to these financial challenges, this is the time of year when our Strata has it's Annual General Meeting.  Like clock work, there is an inevitable increase in the overall budget of the Strata.  We usually have increases of up to 20% and it is a bit ridiculous.  These  increases to the Strata budget means increases to the personal budgets of each and every owner to cover the Strata's budget plan.  I have ever yet to receive a 20% increase in pay to compensate for these kinds of increases.  This is one thing I detest about living in a condo.  The complete inability to limit the expenses related to the overall condominium structure or limit the fees I have to pay every month.  On the other hand, I do not like the idea of living in a fully detached home (house) and all that that entails.

About 3 months ago a  long time neighbour who lives down the hall told me he was trying to sell his apartment.  He was going to take his condo unit off of the market because he was having difficulty selling.   Today he told me that he sold his unit and is moving in two weeks time back to the city where he grew up.  He also told me that 3 other owners on my floor have sold their properties and are moving!  Actually, it is more like two owners moving out because one of them simply sold his unit to move to a larger one on my floor.

Over the years I've heard many resident owners say they will not be able to retire and continue living in the suites in my building if the monthly condo fees keep going up.  This might explain the reason for so many owners moving now or they may have other reasons like retirement, job changes, growing families, etc.  Though I've thoroughly enjoyed living where I am,  I too have begun to consider the possibilities of moving on. Especially now that I know the Strata Council will be levying large fees next year to cover the cost of  re-piping the other half of the building.  Owners just paid multiple thousands each for re-piping the half of the building where I live the year before last. To be honest, I've lost track of the countless numbers of special assessments over the past decade. That is why I'm starting to think of the possibility of moving.  Also, my property taxes go up each and every year.  Even though property values went down in 2012 in my city, my property taxes still went up. That is what I call a fraud.  For now, I don't have definite plans of moving.  I will still enjoy the convenience of where I live and the beautiful mountains I get to see almost every day.

It wasn't my intention to write a complaint post but I'm being real. I'm saying just how much I find this time of year challenging, especially falling so closely on Christmas.  Dealing with financial matters and financial planning and trying to stay ahead of things is a never ending task for most of us.  Personally I find it a chore and it isn't my favourite thing but it must be done.

I'm just grateful that I have the capability to use my mind and skills to do what needs to be done.  The ability to use the computer and computer software for this purpose is another huge help and blessing. I know many who still are not able to take advantage of these helps like a few of my senior women friends.  When I started using an on line tax preparation program several years ago, my spending decreased from $130 Canadian a year (to get someone else to prepare my taxes), to $15.95 a year.  It sounds like a small thing.  But for all the increases in bills annually, one has to find savings somewhere.  These days, I also have the ability to minimize taxes by using the on line program to forecast taxes owing or refundable, based on the level of retirement savings contributions I make.  That is something I could not do when I went to an outside tax preparer.  I am more empowered now that I handle all these tasks myself.

 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 

How about your dear reader?  How do you cope with taxes and retirement planning? Do you enjoy the number crunching or not?

 I need to take some photos concerning my giveaway before I can post the details.  I hope you will all join in.  Stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

I hate those kind of chores too :/ but you feel so much lighter when they're done!!
So excited to hear you're having a giveaway :) xxx

Joyful said...

Yes, you are absolutely right. You do feel lighter when they are done and that is why I try to get the chore done early. Too bad I now have to wait for a receipt!!

momto8 said...

you are one step ahead of his...that pile of receipts is staring at us and every night we think we are going to get to it...

Joyful said...

I understand ...such a familiar situation. I hope you can get to it soon so it will no longer be staring at you. x

Cindy said...

I guess I'm one of the lucky ones, my hubby takes care of all of it. We do go to a tax place to have it done, though. They do a good job and we're happy with them.
Have a wonderful day!

Joyful said...

Hi Cindy, It is nice not to have to deal with it I'm sure ;-) I'm glad it is finished for another year. Have a great day too!

Denise said...

I love you sweet friend.

Joyful said...

Same to you, dear heart. x

Jenny Woolf said...

I hate doing taxes too. I hate doing them even more than I hate paying them!
If you are happy where you are, that's a pretty big plus. Do you have any say in how the condo is managed?

clairz said...

It is so hard to wait for others when you are ready to get on with a task, like doing taxes. I certainly agree with you on that. How wonderful for you that you have kept up with technology.

It isn't easy to plan for our older years so that we don't have to keep moving. In our city we have a senior community that offers three levels of housing: A completely independent living choice, apartments with some medical assistance and all meals in a community dining room, and a complete care unit. It seems like a good idea for when we can no longer live here in our own home. Once you live there in the community, you can move from the more- to the less-independent options as needed. It's a lively place with lots of social events, lectures, and concerts. They reach out to the community at large as well, so already we find that we are attending events held there in their auditorium. It seems like a wonderful alternative to some of the dreary nursing homes we remember from the past.

Joyful said...

Hi Jenny, thank you for your visit! I wonder how many people actually enjoying preparing taxes, lol; with the exception of those that get paid to do it. I am happy where I am. If I had loads of funds, I would completely remodel though and "green" my space. If I had even more funds, I would buy the place next door and make an even bigger apartment. One can dream ;-)

Joyful said...

Hi Clair, yes, it is hard for some of us to wait. I am glad that I am very open to using the computer and using new programs though I must admit to balking a bit more as each year passes, lol. I find that there is a tendency for the companies to invent new things constantly so they can keep making money and make us think we need something. I say "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". I usually wait awhile for some new program to "settle in" and then I buy it though this year I was ahead of the game in getting Windows 8. My brother is a techno geek and so he is largely responsible for me keeping up with things.

You are doing well to have found a place to possibly retire. I see they have come a long way these days with spaces that speak to the multiple needs of aging boomers. I'm not sure yet where I will end up. My thoughts right now are it won't be here in the big city but I can't honestly see myself living in most other places either. I need to pray about it and also a lot will depend on my circumstances many years from now.

Have a great week.

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