Monday, November 14, 2005

Good Advice!

There's always tomorrow.... right? not necessarily. I came across this article and it reminded me to get my ducks in a row now and now to procrastinate and wait till the last minute. This is good advice. Now if I can just practice what I preach I will be okay! Lead by example... right? Good luck to all of you. I know I will need it!

Five months from now, you may be richer if you read this today
By Martin Skala, Correspondent of The Christian Science MonitorMon Nov 14, 3:00 AM ET

The April 15th income-tax deadline is still five months away. But making some savvy tax moves before Dec. 31 can save you hard-earned cash at filing time. When you prepare your tax return after the close of the calendar year, it's usually too late to trim your tax bill. So reviewing your tax situation now will also make the filing process less stressful next spring.
"For effective tax planning, you want to control the timing and way by which your income is reported and your credits and deductions are claimed,' says Bob Scharin, senior tax analyst at RIA, a provider of tax information and software.
Deferring income into the following year and accelerating deductions into the current year has been a time-honored strategy for minimizing taxes. This conventional wisdom, however, no longer applies to thousands of taxpayers who are hit by the alternative minimum tax (AMT), experts say.
The AMT, created in 1970, was crafted to insure that even the wealthiest paid some tax. Originally set at 10 percent, the AMT has since risen to 28 percent and has become a widespread "add-on" tax for many middle-income families.
"You don't have to be wealthy to feel the repercussions from the AMT, and it's different for everyone." says Jennifer MacMillan, a tax professional in Santa Barbara, Calif. "Many deductions and exemptions allowed for regular tax purposes are just wasted if AMT kicks in." she notes.
The AMT, for example, does not allow deductions for dependents or for state and local taxes. Married couples earning $146,000 or more can lose as much as 80 percent of their itemized deductions, according to Ms. MacMillan. Therefore, prepaying state and local taxes due in January, normally a smart way to obtain a 2005 itemized deduction, would not make sense for a taxpayer caught in the AMT net.
The only way to be sure if you are running afoul of the AMT is to do an estimate of your total income, itemized deductions, and credits on a 1040 form and again on an AMT work sheet. If the AMT calculation turns out higher than what you owed on Form 1040, you owe AMT tax.
Figuring out the interactions between the AMT and the regular tax system can be perplexing, according to Peter Michaelson, a tax specialist with Eisner LLP, a New York accounting firm. That's why middle-income taxpayers should consult a tax professional if they are borderline candidates for the AMT, he says.
Taxpayers also need to tread carefully to avoid pitfalls caused by income-contingent tax breaks, tax advisers warn. These tax breaks - deductions and credits that taxpayers lose when their income goes beyond specific "phase out " thresholds - have proliferated in recent years. Taxpayers have to calculate the trade-offs between boosting their income and what it would cost if they lost some of the tax breaks they enjoy such as the child tax credit or educational credits. For example, a spouse's part-time job may raise a family's adjusted gross income.
A jump in income could also sharply reduce deductions and credits for which they may be eligible. Families that qualify for these tax breaks should consider their tax situation in both this year and next before taking steps to shift deductions or income, says Mr. Scharin.
Whether taking a deduction or exclusion is better than a tax credit, depends on your tax bracket. A deduction or exclusion reduces the amount of taxable income that falls within your tax bracket. A credit, on the other hand, reduces, dollar for dollar, the amount of tax that you compute on your taxable income. As a general rule, the lower your tax bracket, the more appealing a tax credit is likely to be.
Here are some strategies tax experts recommend you pursue before year-end:
Sales-tax deductions. This is the last year you can elect to deduct state and local sales taxes instead of state and local income taxes as itemized deductions from federal filings. The sales-tax deduction may be advantageous if you are buying a big-ticket item such as a boat or car this year. If you live in a state with a relatively low income tax rate and high sales tax, you should also consider taking this deduction.
Fund transactions. If you've owned an appreciated mutual fund more than 12 months and decide to sell before year-end, sell before the December dividend distribution. That way your entire gain - including the amount attributable to the upcoming distribution - will qualify for the 15 percent capital-gains tax rate. If you wait, you may owe as much as 35 percent on the ordinary income part of the distribution.
If you want to acquire an equity mutual fund, wait until after the distribution (which is taxable income) in late December. Otherwise, you'll get back part of the money you just invested with a tax liability to boot.
Retirement planning. Maximize contributions to deductible IRA and employer-sponsored 401(k) plans, which have higher limits this year. IRA contribution limits increase from $3,000 to $4,000. If you are 50 or older, you can add a $500 "catch-up" payment. If you have a 401(k) plan, the contribution cap rises to $14,000, or $18,000, if you will be 50 or older by year end.
Many retirees with part-time jobs are unaware that they can continue to contribute to a traditional IRA from earned income up to age 70-1/2, according to tax-specialist Michaelson. After that, you can only make nondeductible contributions to a Roth IRA and you don't have to withdraw Roth IRA funds during your lifetime.
Prepayments. If you own a home, ask the town assessor for your real estate bill, and prepay 2006 property taxes before year-end. The same thing goes for your January mortgage, especially if you anticipate you will earn less next year.
Gifts. Give appreciated securities instead of cash to college-bound children or grandchildren. You can give $11,000 this year ($22,000 if he or she is married) to a recipient without raising gift- or estate-tax issues. If you are in a 25 percent tax bracket or higher, you have a strong incentive to give securities to children. The youngster is likely to be in a lower income bracket and may pay as little as a 5 percent capital-gains tax upon sale of the asset.
Stock losses. It's been a tough year in the stock market, and many investors are likely to have some losers that they want to unload. Use any realized losses to offset capital gains from other sales, plus as much as $3,000 of ordinary income. You will generally get the most tax-saving benefit with a short-term loss. That is because losses on stocks held for 12 months or less go first to offset short-term gains that could be taxed at rates as high as 35 percent.
Bunching deductions. If you have paid off the home mortgage, or otherwise find yourself unable to itemize deductions every year, give "deduction bunching" a try. It clusters deductions into every other year to enable you to benefit from itemizing rather than taking a standard deduction every year.
Copyright © 2005
The Christian Science Monitor

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

School Pictures 2005!

Garrett---3rd grade, 8 1/2 yrs old ^

Matthew---7 th Grade, 12 1/2 yrs old.

Jacob---9th grade, 14 1/2 yrs old.

ASHRO Catalog

I absolutely love this magazine! It is called ASHRO. Visit their site and check it out! I am from the heritage of English, Irish, Welsh, American Indian, and some Spanish(Spain). Needless to say, other than my brown eyes and occasional light tan, I am as white as they come! This magazine is not just for African women. I love the colors and the bold styles! Oh yes...and the hatsand the shoes!! ooh ooh and the jewelry and various accessories! love it!!!

Monday, November 07, 2005

My Garrett

This is a fairly recent photo of my baby Garrett. He is 8.. excuse me, 8 1/2 yrs old. He is on the Sperry 3rd Grade tackle football team. I will tell you more with more pictures later, but right now we have to leave to go to practice! They have playoffs this weekend so they have to work extra hard this week.

Go Pirates!!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

My Matthew

Matt-Matt has had aspirations of becoming a professional chef since he was 6yrs old. (Yea! Iron Chef America!)

Here he is having his first attitude bruising my ribs just one month before he was born--------->
Oh baby! he was 9 lbs and 14 1/4 oz. That kid belly laughed out loud in the hospital. Which granted, we were there a week. (I had been in a minor car accident at 7months which caused me a few complications)

Matthew is absolutely a funny kid. He's another little genius child as well! When he was in Mrs. Winters' class in 5th grade they were reading a book called "The Whipping Boy." In this story there apparently is a character that goes by the name, "The potato man." Well, Matthew being the shy, quiet, and introverted child that he is (not!) he dubbed himself "The Potato Boy." He would write things on the board signed the potato boy. Not anything bad, mind you. He would write things like "do your homework says the potato boy!" or "I'm watching you-- The potato." Mrs. Winters was really great about it because it was encouraging the children to get into the story. So I think she kind of encouraged it. She has a little girl named Tristan who at the time was like 4 yrs old. All that year Matthew had a new little shadow named Tristan. She loved to play with Matt Matt. And of course, all that year Matthew would come home and ask me for a baby sister!! Not gonna happen! We already had his little brother Garrett and this baby making factory is shut down!!

<--------Here is little Beetlejuice (Matthew) and Pumpkinhead (Jacob) when they were 18 months and 3 1/2 yrs old. They have absolutely been hilarious funny little critters! Every holiday is an absolute joy! The boys just make everything so worth while. These people that don't celebrate Halloween because it's "evil" (insert evil laugh here wahahaha!!!) are sooo missing out! Picking out costumes, making costumes, getting all dressed up, going to parties, going on hayrides, hay mazes, pumpkin patches, pumpkin carving, making spoooooky halloween cookies, making caramel apples, rice crispy treats, playing spooky games, going trick or treating, and then digging through the mound of candy is all so much fun to do with your children!! It's not about evil stuff. It's about celebrating the lives of those since passed, celebrating your own lives by living life to the fullest and with the most joy and rewards. Matthew is so full of life. He loves to laugh and to make others laugh. He is just a little comedian. He is an excellent trumpet player. He is going to be trying out for High School MEOBDA Honor Jazz Band soon. He's only in 7th grade (Which at Sperry is not yet high school band.) I just know he will do well.

He doesn't like for me to know about his love life, but I think he has a girlfriend who is also in band. I have my motherly ways of just knowing things. He still doesn't like it. He'll just have to get used to it. This is my kid that likes to stay up with me and have heart to heart talks for as long as I will let him stay up. I always cherish those times! He likes to skate (on a skateboard). I guess I'm showing my age. Skating to me is when you have skates on that have four wheels on each foot. Yet again, the times they are achangin'.

There's a little bit to get you started about Matthew. You'll get to know all about Garrett next time.
"Stick it to the man!"~~in memory of Jay Wedlake

Thursday, November 03, 2005

My Jacob

This is my precious Jacob Charlie Weathers Qualls (14 1/2)! This picture is at last weekend's football game: Us (Sperry Pirates @ Pawhuska Huskies). I must say, we have a pretty awesome band.
Right now he is "going out" with a cute little girl named Ashley. A bunch of the girls got together with Jacob's little brother Matthew and pranked him. They sporked the front yard and wrote all kinds of goosey sweet stuff all over his windows. He was in shock I think from the intense friendship that he has with these kids.
My baby Jake currently wants to be a forensic scientist. This does not surprise me in the least. He will be the best there is too! Once upon a time a few years ago, my husband working the graveyard shift was home at night on the weekend but could not sleep. He was up playing the PS2 in the living room when he heard Jacob shout, "Dad! Dad!" Gary jumped up and ran into Jake's room to see what on earth could be the matter. Well, Jacob was sitting straight up in bed with his eyes open but kind of glazed over. He said, "Dad! Dad! I finally figured it out!"
Gary said, "Figured what out?"
"The molecular stability of drizzle!"
"What?!? You did what?"
"Oh Dad. Nevermind." And to that he lay back down and slept peacefully the rest of the night.
His dad, Gary, was a little amazed. We all were.

This kid is like a genius child. I thought I was bad asking why, what if, and how come when I was a child. Forget about it! Jake has us all beat! He could rationalize and theorize with any formidable opponent.
And above all that, he has the sweetest disposition of any teenage boy I've ever known. He believes in chivalry and courtship. And he is still only 14 and 1/2. (I have to put that 1/2 in there!)
God help me. He's going to have to chase the girls away with a stick.
He went to his first high school dance this year. The homecoming dance. That's when he and Ashley started going together. Of course he still has other girls waiting in line, so to speak. But I can understand being a young teenage girl with stars in her eyes.
Speaking of eyes, when Jacob was born his eyes were the strangest lavender color. They were so beautiful, it took your breath away. He still has sparkling beautiful hazely eyes.
That's the beginning of me telling all of you about my baby Jake. (And yes, he will still be my baby when he's 40!)

Quote of the Day

Be exceptional. Make tremendous efforts to be extraordinary. What a privilege to be here on the planet to contribute your unique donation to humankind. Just make sure you do so....

-- Shelby LynneMusician. Her songs can be heard on Starbucks Hear Music™ station, XM Satellite Radio Channel 75.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Photo in the News: Grand Canyon to Get Glass Bridge

I found this on National Geographic's website. I know it's from August. But, it just looked so totally cool. I had to include it!!!
August 26, 2005-Fear of heights? This is definitely no place for you.
The all-glass, balcony-like "Skywalk"--shown in an illustration released this week--will extend over the edge of the Grand Canyon, 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) above the Colorado River.
"The Skywalk will be an attraction unlike any other in the world," said Sheri Yellowhawk, CEO of the Grand Canyon Resort Corporation. The company is building the bridge in the Hualapai Indian Reservation on the south rim of the canyon.
The Skywalk is scheduled to open to the public in January 2006 as part of a new resort on the reservation. The resort, known as Grand Canyon West, is to include a re-created Indian village and a restaurant perched on the edge of the canyon. Tourism is the reservation's biggest source of income.
Grand Canyon West will be on the western edge of Grand Canyon National Park, about 120 miles (about 200 kilometers) from Las Vegas. But perhaps not even the Las Vegas Strip's over-the-top attractions will be a match for this glass-bottom walkway over the world's biggest gorge.
--David Braun, National Geographic

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Quote of the Day

A man falls in love through his eyes,
a woman through her ears.

~ Woodrow Wyatt