2016-02-14

Paperless statements

Update
I took a day off work to get the taxes done. I use TaxAct to do my own taxes. Since I have a business as well as an HSA I must use the premium version. I have a checklist that I run through every year to make sure I have all the right paperwork and numbers before sitting down. Even so, this year it took most of the day (with breaks) to do the Federal, State, and City taxes. One of the biggest surprises this year was the number of Amazon 1099's I received. Early last year, I switched from using my SSN to my EIN at Amazon and Smashwords. That resulted in double the number of 1099's (one for each tax number from every sub-division). Next year will be better. Lesson learned - if you switch from using your SSN to your EIN, be prepared for a large number of 1099's.

Work on Dragonverse Origins has been moving along but at a slower pace than I would like. Usually, my wife goes out with one of her friends at least once during the week giving me a few hours of time to write. Because of the weather and how she's been feeling recently, she's been staying home. This means my writing time is reduced. I've also been catching up on Colony which is becoming a very interesting show. I just hope they don't stretch out the mystery of the visitors for too long because I'll lose interest in waiting for the answer to the show's ultimate question. Origins stands at 78,627 words. I'm working on moving the story along to the ending.

Endings are not my strong point and I tend to finish things up too fast. I'm trying very hard not to do this in Origins. I do need to time-compress at the end but I've got to figure out how to do it without making it seem like I'm rushing. If I don't compress, then this is going to be a VERY long book. I try to hit a target of around 85,000 words and I'm almost there.

Paperless - The Problem of an All-digital Life
A friend of mine and fellow writer publishes a blog series on going paperless. I've always been a big fan of using less paper but recently, I've been rethinking the logic behind doing so. If you rewind back in time several months you would find that I was totally paperless for all my credit card statements, bank statements, utility bills, etc. I really didn't need them because I would use Quicken to automatically synchronize and balance all these accounts. But there was a sinister dark side waiting for us.

My wife is not a very computer-savvy person. I am (I'm a programmer). Running the automatic Quicken balancing program is easy for me. Not so much for her. Setting up a new account would be a nightmare for her. As long as I'm around, paperless statements make a ton of sense. But what happens if I suffer a sudden heart attack or end up unable to do my part with our finances? I have set up so many computerized ways of doing things that she would be lost. I needed to change that. I decided to return to paper.

The biggest problem I encountered was when it came time to gather the forms for filing the taxes. Because I'd gone paperless, I had to navigate to a handful of websites, hunt around until I found where the tax forms were located, and print them. Even with a checklist, I started wondering if I missed any. Immediately after finishing my taxes I did two things: 1) I went to every website I needed to and opted out of paperless (except for one that would have charged me) and I put together a document telling my wife (or executor) where I store things and how to retrieve them.

My wife and I use LastPass to store all of our passwords. This is a wonderful program and I highly recommend it. But even with this wonderful program, having to navigate to a bunch of websites just to see your statements is a pain in the neck. Now that I'm receiving most of my statements in paper form, I can rest easy that my wife will be able to handle things if I depart before she does. It also means that if we both leave this life together, our executor will be able to figure things out far easier than if I had remained totally paperless.

We also have virtually all of our bills set up to be automatically paid through a single credit card. This is a wonderful idea and we don't have to worry about paying hardly anything. My car loan and my home mortgage is set up the same way -- everything is handled automatically. But what are our bills? Would an executor know about them? To safeguard this information, I wrote it all down: What account is automatically paid via which credit card; What money is automatically going into which account; Where are all these accounts.

These are things everyone should think about - not just writers. If you were to suddenly pass away, would your spouse be able to handle things? If you and your spouse were to pass, can the executor of your will find everything? We live in a digital age that has made things so much easier on all of us. But nobody stops to think about what happens when the person who set up their digital life is no longer around? Unless all this information is written down and maintained up-to-date, things are bound to be lost. If you live a paperless life or you have things computerized and digitized to make things easier -- now is the time to write it down and put a PRINTED copy of all that information in a safe place.

One more tidbit: If a massive solar flare were to wipe out the internet and erase all the data on your computer, could you financially survive? Such a flare is possible - one narrowly missed us only a few short years ago. Write down the phone numbers and addresses of all your financial institutes and other important entities and put them in a safe place. Am I paranoid? No. But I like to be prepared for anything. So, stop reading, gather your information, and put it into writing in a safe place.