My Life as a Volunteer Tax Preparer – Week 8
This week’s edition of my experiences in the AARP Tax-Aide volunteer’s office will be somewhat abbreviated. Recent demands of my paying job are extending the Mr. ToughMoneyLove work day at both ends.
One couple was interesting in that they were playing the “double-dipping” retirement strategy to the max. Between the two of them (both of retirement age), they were receiving four government pensions plus Social Security, for a total of six monthly checks from one government agency or another. On top of that, the husband had gone back to work full-time for our local government (one that was already sending him a pension check).
Altogether, this couple was pulling in over six figures in government money in retirement. Neither was college educated. Congrats to them, I think.
I met with an 83 year old woman who saddened and aggravated me at the same time. She came in with a six inch high stack of papers related to different tax years, going back as far as 20 years. Unfortunately, she was missing some critical data for tax year 2008. She sat in front of me , shuffling through her papers and mumbling irrelevant comments about bank interest. I begged her to let me search her papers for the missing documents. After 20 minutes, she relented. I looked. Not there. I told her that I would make her a new appointment to return with the needed papers. Instead of leaving, she continued to look through her mess of stuff, still mumbling.
She was obviously a very confused woman so I was patient with her. I almost had to request help to get her out of the volunteer office so I could meet with my next appointment. Finally, she left. The worst part? She was driving a car!
My walk-in appointment was a late ’70’s retiree who was doing very well with rental properties and investments. He had prepared his own return (quite complicated) using pencil and calculator. He wanted me to “look it over.” After making a CYA speech about not having time, etc., I scanned it and made a few comments. He seemed to be lonely and needing to talk, because that’s what he did the entire time he sat in front of me.
One thing he said I found quite interesting. He was bragging about his recent “sweet deal” (his words) investment in GM bonds. They were non-callable, paying 7% until maturity in 2012. He had purchased $500k worth, at 13 cents on the dollar.
What he really liked about the bonds was that they could be redeemed at face value if he died. He called it his “win-win life insurance policy.” As long as GM remains solvent, his assessment is a good one.
Finally, I met with a couple who had just celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary, even though they were 20 years apart in age. I congratulated them, noting my marriage of 31 years and how many retired folks I met with were widowed or divorced. They looked at each other and almost simultaneously commented on how they could not imagine surviving without each other. The wife in particular was grateful that her husband (the older of the two) had stuck with her through severe illnesses over the years.
The wife had prepared a draft tax return showing that they owed the IRS some money. I was glad to tell them after I prepared my version of the return that she was mistaken – no taxes owed. I love the smiles I see at that point in my meetings.
That’s it for this week. Stay tuned and thanks for reading.