One of my favorite cartoons shows a man shaking his finger at a dog sitting in front of him. The man is saying, “Bad dog. Bad dog. Don’t do that or you won’t get any treats and I won’t take you for a walk today.” In the next panel, we see the same scene from the dog’s point of view. Here’s what the dog is hearing. “Dog, blah, blah, blah, treat, blah, blah, blah, walk, blah, blah, blah, today…”
That’s about what I hear when I speak with my accountant and the man who invests what little money I have been able to salvage from my profligate life style of doggie and birdie surgeries. They seem to be speaking the same language and it sounds an awful lot like this; “bonds lalalalalalalala stock lalalalalala tax liability lalalalalala.”
It’s clear that the language being used resembles English and that some of the words actually are English. But that’s where the similarities stop and that lalala sound starts in my head.
My cousin Toni once tried to explain stocks and bonds to me because she felt that as a women alone in this world, I needed to understand finances better than I apparently did. She was about three sentences into her explanation when that lalala sound started. Unfortunately, we had just begun a car ride that would take almost an hour to complete. By the end of the hour, the lalala’s had formed into a musical tribute to the Beatles in my head.
I felt her concern about my finances was a bit out of proportion to what my finances actually were. Without giving away any state secrets, let me just say that Nick Nolte would probably run through my entire life savings in the first two hours of one of his binges and he wouldn’t even be very high when the money ran out.
So I’m not apt to spend a lot of time worrying that someone will embezzle the funds. Once they used them to buy a ticket to Mexico, they wouldn’t have enough left to book a hotel room for a week.
But this time of the year I am forced to seriously look at how uselessly I spent my money last year and how much Uncle Sam wants to charge me for my wanton ways. I get papers from my bank, my investment counselor, my accountant – just all sort of people who seem to feel I should have a handle on a variety of numbers and percentages and stuff that apparently, taken together, add up to the sum total of the federal government’s interest in me since I stopped protesting the Vietnam War.
And so at tax time I find the lalalas running a continuous loop in my mind – like the refrain from “It’s A Small World.”
People seem to come out of nowhere at tax time to try and explain to me how, if I just followed their suggestions, I could pay the government less during the year and end up with more even after paying taxes. They are usually working under the theory that if I don’t let the feds take the maximum out during the year, I will have extra money each month that I will then invest wisely.
Right. Like that’s what I’d really do with that money. I would carefully put aside the extra money, invest it wisely, have it available to pay the IRS in April and have the interest it bore me to show for my efforts. Lalalalalala….
I would prefer to do it the way my father taught me. Let the feds take the maximum out during the year and you will always be assured a refund when you file. It’s the way I’ve done it my whole life and so far dad has never been proven wrong.
And so again this year, as friends beat their heads against the wall trying to figure out their tax forms, I pay my accountant to do them for me, secure in the knowledge that my refund will cover his costs and leave me with enough extra to buy that new cage my birds have had their eyes on.