My Life as a Volunteer Tax Preparer – Ch. 2.6

March 9, 2010 by  
Filed under Taxes

Wow – tax season is flying by. My weekly visits to the volunteer tax office seem to fall closer together. Today was unremarkable compared to other tax days except that one of the taxpayers I helped was male, the first I’ve had in a while.

This guy was an interesting subject.  He was close to my age and working as public works truck driver. He had a decent income, particularly considering that he could not read or write! I learned this from the woman who came with him to aid in the exchange of information between us. I don’t often meet older adults who are born in this country but have remained functionally illiterate.

I say he had a decent income but alas, he had no money to spend. He had a mortgage with payments exceeding $1200/month. On top of that, he was sending $1000/month to the bankruptcy court. Those two payments don’t leave much left. When I asked him if he had purchased a vehicle in 2009, he said he couldn’t because of the bankruptcy. He added that he couldn’t get a credit card either. He said it in a way that suggested that he would be borrowing like crazy if he could. I’m guessing that his lack of education and reading ability contributed to a lack of financial self-control.

Oh, and did I mention that he was supporting his 48 year old cousin, who had been living with him throughout 2009?

Another interesting taxpayer was an older woman who had been widowed in 2007. When her husband died, she decided to sell their two story house and move into a senior high rise. She talked about the task of trying to get rid of a house full of “junk” (her word) that they had accumulated over the years. We will be facing that eventually and I’ve already been thinking about how to do that. One strategy: Imaging the memorable junk  before giving it away should solve a lot of the emotional problems associated with “stuff separation anxiety.”

This nice lady’s retirement income was from a small pension, a small Social Security benefit, and interest from bank CDs. The CD interest income exceeded all of her other income combined. When she sold her house, she put all of that cash into the CDs. That was before the crash so she lucked out. I don’t think she will be changing her strategy now, although interest rates are lower than ever.

A third taxpayer also lived in a senior high rise. I asked he if she enjoyed it. She said that she did – lots of activities, great view. It was interesting to me that she selected this particular residence specifically because meals were not included. She said that she did not want to be told when to eat. I can understand that, as long as you have the energy and temperament to cook and eat by yourself.

Next week we will be in Las Vegas for a family trip so no volunteer tax stories until the week after. But, I may have some interesting Vegas stories to report. Stay tuned!


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Comments

4 Responses to “My Life as a Volunteer Tax Preparer – Ch. 2.6”
  1. Gail says:

    “I’m guessing that his lack of education and reading ability contributed to a lack of financial self-control.”

    I tend to disagree–if financial health was truly correlated with educational attainment and literacy level, this country would be in much better shape!

    I believe financial self-control is linked to psychology, upbringing, and personal values more than anything else. And not knowing the circumstances of this man’s bankruptcy (medical bills?) it may an unfair assessment. Undoubtedly despite his good income his illiteracy has made his life a difficult one.

  2. Brian says:

    ” He added that he couldn’t get a credit card either. He said it in a way that suggested that he would be borrowing like crazy if he could.”

    If you have read the situation correctly then I think that maybe his need to spend could stem from his only entertainment choices being TV and radio.

  3. Snowy Heron says:

    I love these stories about the long term results of people’s financial behavior. They really teach us a lot.

  4. kitty says:

    “I’m guessing that his lack of education and reading ability contributed to a lack of financial self-control.”

    I have to agree with Gail here. A lot of “financial self-control” is really common sense (which unfortunately is not that common). One can be over-educated and have no common sense, and some uneducated people have pretty good common sense and hence money behavior.

    I admit mine is completely anecdotal experiences, and I’ve no idea of how it works out for groups. But I did know a guy back in the early 90s with a PhD in Math who lost his house to a foreclosure and whose car was reposessed and who was borrowing money from an Eastern European live-in nanny…

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