Your Time is Valuable so Outsource your taxes to H&R Block

When I was a director at Sun Microsystems I attended a meeting for women directors where the speaker was a woman engineering vice president. This woman grew up and was educated in India. She was highly effective and highly respected. The purpose of the talk was to help other women move into positions of senior leadership.  I will never forget one thing she said. It had a big impact on me.

I think the impact was so big because I really did try to do it all. When my daughter Shannon was about 12 she gave me this sign as a Mother's Day gift. She didn't intend it as a joke. She thought maybe we should start using it.

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I grew up thinking that woman could do it all, have a career,  raise children, nurture friendships, exercise, cook, maintain a clean and beautiful home, maintain household finances…. the list goes on and on. Once I had a family and a career I learned that the reality is that you can't do it all. There aren't enough hours in the day. I came to the conclusion that if I tried to do it all I would be mediocre at everything.

The woman VP who was speaking to us that day said that she didn't understand why American woman tried to do it all themselves. She said that in India woman have help and don't feel guilty when they rely on help to allow them to focus on the important things. She recommended hiring help. She called it outsourcing. It made me realize that if I hired help I could focus on my career, my children and the other priorities in my life.

As I said I didn't follow my own advice very well. I outsourced very few tasks but some of the  things which could be outsourced are cleaning, cooking, laundry, paying the bills, driving the kids around, and doing taxes. I used to think I had to do them all myself. If I was starting over I would figure out a way to have someone else do many of these things. I would create a support organization for me incorporated.

If you are a woman or a man today with a busy life I suggest that you think about hiring help. Instead of spending hours doing your own taxes have H&R Block do them. One of the benefits of doing them yourselves is you learn how taxes work but if you have someone like me do your taxes you will save time and you can still make it a learning experience. Allow me to do the detail work and you can focus on asking questions and understanding how your taxes fit in the big picture of your life.

Another advantage of having H&R Block do your taxes is that for just $35, you can purchase the Peace of Mind® Extended Service Plan. If you owe additional taxes due to our error in the preparation of your return, we'll pay up to $5,500. But more important if you get an audit or an IRS letter you can outsource the handling of it to H&R Block and you can focus on the important stuff.

As I was writing this post it occurred to me that over the years I didn't do a very good job of following my own advice. But I still think it is pretty good advice

As you know I am a tax preparer for H&R Block. Obviously all the opinions in this blog are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for H&R Block.

Tamarind to make Pad Thai

I subscribe to a  magazine called Cuisine at Home. A few days ago I decided to make the Pad Thai recipe out of the latest issue.

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The recipe called for several food that are unusual to me. (sambal oelek, tamarind paste, fish sauce) I was able to find everything but the tamarind at my local grocery store. I had never heard of tamarind paste before and had no idea even what I was looking for. According to the recipe "Tamarind is a staple in Thai cuisine and gives the dish its sour note with a tangy, dried fruit flavor that tastes somewhat like raisins and lemon".

I tried  two grocery stores yesterday and had no luck, The staff I asked were no help at all. So I gave up. Today I went to our local Mexican grocery store.

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Right away a man asked if he could help me and showed me where to find the tamarind paste.

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Tonight I made the recipe. Although the paste said it was seedless I did have to take out a few seeds but other than that the recipe came out well.

 

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Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Last Wednesday I led the discussion for the Book Club of the  Reno Newcomers Club. We discussed Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I originally read Wolf Hall about a year ago. To prepare for Book Club I listened to it on CD. 

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I enjoy English history and studied it when I was in High School in Australia. I remember that when we learned about Henry VIII we learned the ditty:

Henry the Eighth had six wives

Divorced, beheaded, died

Divorced, beheaded, survived. 

Wolf Hall is mainly about the period when Henry is trying to divorce his first wife Katherine so that he can marry Anne Boleyn. The story is told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell who rose from a blacksmith's son to become the first Earl of Essex and Henry's chief advisor. The book starts out with Cromwell, as a young boy being beaten by his abusive father. It ends when Cromwell is at the height of his power, Anne Boleyn has been crowned Queen and has given birth to daughter Elizabeth, and the English church has broken free of the Roman Catholic Church.

Wolf Hall is 532 pages long and can be confusing to read at least initially until you get a feel for Mantel's prose. Mantel uses "He" to talk about Cromwell even when she has just been talking about someone else. I loved the book because I really felt like I was sitting on Cromwell's shoulder in the early 1500's at Henry VIII's court.

YouTube has a three part interview with Hilary Mantel at a book store called Daunt Books. It is fascinating to watch and listen to. I really recommend it. Here are links to the three parts:

Part 1 – Hilary Mantel at Daunt Books

Part 2 – Hilary Mantel at Daunt Books

Part 3 – Hilary Mantel at Daunt Books

Mantel is working on sequels to Wolf Hall. The first, which will focus on the downfall of Anne Boleyn apparently will be titled, Bring up the Bodies. The second which follows the rest of Cromwell's life after Wolf Hall will be titled, The Mirror and the Light. 

As I was reading Wolf Hall I kept wanting to know what happened to the characters. For example I wondered how Thomas Cromwell was related to Oliver Cromwell who was Lord Protector of the English Commonwealth in the mid 1600's. In preparing for the book club discussion I researched the answer. Thomas Cromwell's sister Kat had a son named Richard. Richard is a significant character in Wolf Hall. After his parents die Richard becomes Thomas Cromwell's ward and changes his last name to Cromwell. Richard Cromwell is the great grandfather of the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell.

I also wondered about the sweating sickness that killed Cromwell's wife and daughters. In my research I learned that the English sweating sickness is a disease that no longer exists and has intrigued medical historians. It only occured in England and Wales. It came out of nowhere in 1485 and disappeared without a trace in 1551. It was characterized by sudden onset, profuse sweating, prostration,  and death or recovery within the space of only 24 hours. 

Some of the interesting Wolf Hall reviews I read include:

Thomas Cromwell has mainly been portrayed as a villain in history.This was the case in Robert Bolt's 1960 play A Man for All Seasons and in the Showtime series The Tudors. Hilary Mantel portrays Cromwell very believably  and sympathetically. I loved Wolf Hall and I really cared about Cromwell.

 

 

The H&R Block Tax Class

Last September I decided I'd like to work for H&R Block doing taxes during the 2012 tax season. I took and passed the H&R Block tax class during October nd November. The class was 7 weeks long, 4 days a week 3 hours a day. It cost in the neighborhood of $200. The class was a prerequisite if I wanted to work for H&R Block. 

The class was well worth the cost even if I wasn't looking for a job. In fact the books alone were worth the cost. They were amazing. They were very well written and they made what is a confusing and convoluted subject easy to understand. There was a text book, a work book with 50 case studies and a California tax book. They added up to 4 inches and 8 pounds of books!

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All those case studies were a lot of work. We started out doing all the returns by hand which accomplishs two things. One, you really understand how taxes work. When I took my CFP tax class at UC Santa Cruz I memorized that taxes  = income – adjustments – deductions + credits.  After doing 50 returns by hand I know it. I can visualize it on the forms. I know how the forms work to determine taxes owed.

The second thing that doing returns by hand accomplishes is that it makes you really appreciate the computer. About half way through the class we started also doing returns in the computer. I love computers!!

Doing the returns by hand meant that we had a lot of homework. This class was a lot of work. I spent literally hours reading and doing returns.

Another good thing about the class was the people I met. Going through a challenging difficult process with other people forges friendships. One of those people was Susie Iventosch who has written a fun cook book about taxes called Tax Bites and Tasty Morsels: Who's Been Eating my Pie?

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Finally I have to say the class was fun! I have the kind of logical mind that likes puzzles, spreadsheets and challenges. Finishing a return and getting the right answer was a moment for celebration. Yes! I solved it! It reminded me of completing a difficult puzzle or solving an adventure game and discovering you have found the prize.

I would highly recommend the H&R Block tax class. I feel prepared to do real returns for people accurately and with confidence.