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Home > Archive: September, 2009

Archive for September, 2009

Eye Exam & Glasses; Interpreting IRS Rules

September 26th, 2009 at 09:02 am

Yesterday I got my eyes examined & ordered 2 new pairs of glasses. I got the 2nd pair for when I'm using the computer. It has been suggested in the past that I get a 2nd pair, but this go round the eye doc just flatout said that I need a 2nd pair and explained that my focusing muscles are getting weaker (probably due to a combination of getting older plus my current job involves heavy computer use of things that are often hard to read). This doc just does exams and writes prescriptions (which he wrote out for 2 pair); he does not sell glasses, so does not have a financial incentive to get me to buy 2 pair.

This was my first exam and new glasses since we opened our HSA.

I paid for the exam & the glasses with my HSA. Checked the IRS regs (Pub 502 which defines reasonable medical expenses for deductions and that covers what can be paid for using an HSA) and as is often the case, the rules are open to interpretation.

This is what it says about eyeglasses:
"You can include in medical expenses amounts you pay for
eyeglasses and contact lenses needed for medical reasons.
You can also include fees paid for eye examinations."

So, it's very clear that the eye exam could be paid for with the HSA. But the glasses? What exactly do they mean when they say "needed for medical reasons"? Are they just trying to exclude contacts that people wear purely for cosmetic purposes? Or is their a higher standard?

I'm extremely nearsighted with astigmatism. I know that if I don't wear bifocals my eyesight will continue to get worse. I know that without my glasses I cannot drive a car, nor move around much without the risk of serious injury. (My own hand does not come in to complete focus until it is 4 inches from my face. So without my glasses I would be tripping over or running in to things and injuring myself.) Does this qualify as "medical reasons"? I certainly think so. But would an IRS audtitor agree? If they asked if my glasses were medically necessary, I suppose I'd just ask them to try mine on and tell me what THEY think.

Decisions and A Bold Move

September 23rd, 2009 at 07:18 pm

1. Estate Documents: Decided to go for a DIY simple will instead of a trust. I think a trust would be better, but I don't have the confidence to do one on my own. After reading as many reviews as I could find, decided to use NOLO. Ordered their Simple Will book plus CD, and their book on Special Needs Trusts plus CD (because of my brother's situation). I decided against the on-line version since I'll need to do 2 wills (one for each of us), and I know I'll be redoing them in the future, so might as well have the disc I can use over & over again without having to pay over and over. DH has already conveniently forgotten his promise to let me hire an attorney when we turn 50. Sigh. Also, I want to read up (especially on the Special Needs Trust) before I get started.

2. Roth Conversion: We have looked at the idea of converting our IRAs to Roths upside down and sideways and have decided that it's not the right decision for us. We will NOT be converting. Since running the numbers involves making lots of assumptions, I could be wrong, but based on what I know for sure right now and our best guess of what the future will hold, it doesn't make sense for us. Everything we are reading is saying "convert, convert, convert" so I guess we are going against the grain yet again by not converting.

3. Readjusted Tax-Def Retirement Plans: I have mentioned before that we got a bit aggressive with DH's 2008 tax year contribution to his tax-deferred retirement plan, due to the "clearance price" on stocks, putting 100% of it in the Vanguard S&P 500 Index Fund. Last night we moved almost everything in both of our tax-def plans to the Vanguard Wellesley Income Fund. It has a target allocation of 35% stocks (tho currently it's 39%) and 65% bonds. The only portion of our plans that did not go in to Wellesley is a piece that we have to keep separate for tax/recordkeeping reasons that is still in the STAR Fund. DH actually wanted to go to 100% bonds, but I completely disagreed, so we went with Wellesley. This represents a pretty significant shift for us (according to Morningstar X-Ray, we were at 51% stocks before the shift), and I think it marks the beginning of our pre-retirement retreat from stocks. Right or wrong decision? Who knows? Time will tell. But a lot of thought went in to it, and again, as unconventional as it may be, it seems like the right move for us.

Fun & Fairly Frugal Weekend

September 21st, 2009 at 06:17 pm

Saturday I spent all day at a volunteer event ... hard work but also social & rewarding & fun.

Sunday DH & I went to Asia Cafe where we spent $17 total (including tax) on a great Szechuan Chinese lunch. It's counter service so there is no tipping. The food is great; best Chinese we've had here in Austin. I highly recommend it to any Austinites who might stumble upon this blog.

After that we went to the Pioneer Farm Museum. Austin was having a 1-day event where admission at many museums around town was free. (Regular admission at that museum is $8.) The museum itself was really interesting, but what I enjoyed the most was how it prompted DH to start reminiscing about summers he spent as a child on his grandmother's farm ... using the outhouse, traveling down an unpaved road, feeding chickens & hogs, etc. It's not something he has talked much about, and I enjoyed hearing those memories. His grandmother was a tough & wonderful woman that he loved dearly.

In the evening I crashed & watched High Fidelity on DVD from the library.

There was a fair amount of driving around, and of course the cost of the lunch, but all in all it was a fairly frugal weekend for a whole lot of fun.

Some Major Compromising Going On ...

September 13th, 2009 at 08:28 pm

As mentioned in my last post, on Thursday we met with an estate planning attorney. DH & I talked about it a bit on Friday, mostly me asking if he wanted to proceed and him saying "maybe later ...I want to think about it a bit more." On Saturday I came to the conclusion that DH was never going to go for the high lawyer fee, that he was going to keep saying "later" indefinitely, and that could mean our documents not getting redone. As much as I really want to get some professional, proper documents in place, I also know that if I push DH all I'm going to get is push-back. (Same thing would happen if he tried to push me in to a major financial decision against my will ... we are both pretty strong and kind of stubborn that way ... it really bugs me when I hear people say things like "my way or the highway" when it comes to financial decision-making in a marriage ... but, I digress.)

So, I came up with a major compromise that I'm not thrilled about but that I know will at least mean getting new documents in place.

I asked DH if he would agree to let a top-notch estate planning attorney of my choice do our estate documents, regardless of the price, when we turn 50, if I do the documents myself now using Legal Zoom or DIY software. His eyes lit up like Christmas morning and he readily agreed. I think I'm going to have him put it in writing ... He has been known to conveniently "forget" promises made years prior. Big Grin

Now I need to decide which program to use, and more importantly I need to decide if I want to do a DIY revocable living trust (the thought is intimidating, but maybe I just need more knowledge) or if I want to stick with a simple will for the time being.

Getting Older Sure Beats The Alternative

September 10th, 2009 at 04:49 pm

Today DH & I had a consultation with an attorney who specializes in estate plans. Tho it's been almost 2 years since we moved to Texas, I wanted to wait until after we had purchased a house to re-do our estate documents. DH is a bit flabbergasted at the cost (we really should go for a trust this time instead of a simple and less expensive will) and may need a bit of time to get used to the idea of the cost before we proceed. But I really don't want us to delay too long ... Such an important part of our overall financial plan.

Yesterday morning, while I was running the good ol' Epi Slim over my face (those of you who will recall my angst about a facial waxing may be interested to learn I have adopted a DIY approach), I started thinking about the upcoming lawyer appointment.

Thoughts started to wander: estate planning ... facial hair removal ... I sure am getting older! The instant that thought started to turn into a whine, my thoughts jumped to my friend from college, SB.

SB turned 21 over winter break of his junior year. He went out drinking to celebrate, crashed his car and died.

Hard to believe that was over half a lifetime ago.

Hard to believe it's already been 8 years since 9/11/01.

I will take getting older and all that comes along with it thankfully.

Free Coloring Pages

September 5th, 2009 at 10:31 am

For all the parents, homeschoolers, teachers, and adults who like to color, this is a pretty cool site:

Text is http://www.coloringcastle.com/ and Link is

(I discovered it when putting together "informational packets" for our 7 relatives who will be visiting from overseas. I wanted simple & clear maps of the USA & Texas, so they could get a sense of where Austin is. The maps on this site fit the bill exactly.)

Family Visit = Will be FUN (and a bit overwhelming)

September 4th, 2009 at 03:25 pm

I've mentioned that my in-laws were planning to come for a visit. FIL just got the go-ahead from his doctor, so it's official, they are coming in November.

I think I mentioned that a few aunties & uncles decided to tag along, so we were expecting a group of 4-5.

Last night DH told me that another couple relatives decided to tag along as well, so now we're up to 6-7 visitors ... for 3 weeks! Big Grin

The good news? This will be FUN! The more the merrier. I am so glad that they are seizing the day and making the trip. This will be the last trip overseas for FIL, and the other relatives would never come alone, so I think they realized that it's now or never. These are all senior citizens, and for several of them it will be their first (and quite possibly last) trip out of their country.

The bad news? I am not equipped for a household of 9 adults. I am going to have to buy things I had not planned on buying, such as another air mattress, bedding, towels, slippers, eating utensils, etc. And renting a passenger van is the only option with that many people and all of their luggage and only 1 driver (DH while I'm at work) ... that's not cheap (I called several places today to get an idea of price ... we're talking $2K plus tax not to mention the gas). I had budgeted $4K for this visit (DH will be visiting various cities around the country with them so we will have those expenses in addition to housing & feeding & transporting), but clearly that is not going to be enough.

You'd better believe I will be keeping an eye out starting now for bargains and stocking up on "essentials" such as TP, etc. If we're going to be spending over $2K just on transportation alone, we better save a couple bucks anywhere we can.

While the thought of having 7 international visitors staying in my house on top of working is a bit overwhelming, I must remind myself that the most important thing is to give these family members a wonderful stay that will provide them with happy memories for the rest of their lives.

Breathe ... plan ... breathe ... plan ... breathe ... work the plan ...