By Janet Groene, F47166
Part-timers think in terms of spring spruce-up and fall storage. Full-timers live by a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week, 12-month-a-year schedule in which spring cleaning could take place during any month of the year and fall layup may never take place at all. Full-timers do need to keep abreast of some annual tasks, however.
This month’s column lists a number of “things to do” each year. As you read, keep in mind that this information is not meant to be financial or tax advice. Full-timers, like others, need the advice of professional accountants and tax advisers — especially professionals who are familiar with your federal tax situation and with the laws of the state of your official residence.
Before you begin your future planning, visit an office supply store that sells two-, three-, or five-year calendars so you can work well ahead. A one-year planner isn’t enough.
If you’re self-employed or otherwise subject to making quarterly income tax payments, your first one this year is due by the 15th of this month. If you pay state income taxes, they may be due annually on the 15th as well. If you’re funding a traditional IRA or Keogh retirement account, contribute as much as you can as early in the year as possible so interest can grow tax-free. If you work seasonally, it’s time to start looking for a summer job.
Don’t wait any longer to reserve a summer campsite, especially if you’ll be spending summer in an area with a large seasonal population. Most “regulars” in these areas make reservations for the following summer when they check out the previous fall. Even if you call now, reservations may already be in short supply.
April is income tax month in the United States, no matter who you are or where you’re living. Be prepared to file your tax returns and pay what you owe. Extensions are available, but the meter continues to tick on any interest you owe.
While April 15 is the deadline for filing your tax return, it is also the last day you can establish or make a contribution to your IRA for the previous year if you haven’t already done so.
June marks the unofficial start of summer in most of North America, and in the United States, which lasts until Labor Day. That means there’s only a short window of opportunity for travels and activities at those latitudes that will start becoming frosty by September or October. June also is the start of hurricane season, which extends through November, so consider where you want to be as the storm season heats up. If you’re self-employed, a quarterly tax payment is due by the 15th of this month.
Mid-year isn’t too early to start thinking about what to do about your retirement account, what stocks to put on your “watch” list with an eye to possible sale before year’s end, and the tax advantages of having high-priced elective surgery or dentistry done in the same tax year or extending it over a two-year period. Seek your accountant’s advice to help you decide what’s best for you. If you work seasonally, it’s time to start looking for a winter job.
July is pay-up time for Florida state intangible asset taxes, but the state that is your official home base may have other deadlines during the year for paying taxes, filing for homestead exemptions, or other obligations or benefits. Try to stay one step ahead of these payments, especially if your mail is delayed in reaching you.
If you’re subject to quarterly income tax payments, another is due by the 15th of this month. If you’re having a good financial year and it looks as though you’ll owe more taxes than you thought — especially if you’ll be getting a late-year retirement distribution — you may have to revise your estimate of the year’s taxes to avoid paying a fine.
November is the time to think about last-ditch tax measures. The piper may not have to be paid until next April 15, but steps must be taken before December 31, or it’s too late. The more you know about tax codes, the better. Rates and regulations change each year. Some steps are best delayed until January 1, especially if new tax laws kick in then to affect your investment situations. Other steps should be taken before the end of the year so you can take advantage of deductions for this year. In 2002, the standard deduction is $4,550 for one person or $7,600 for a couple filing jointly.
For example, medical and dental deductions benefit you only within certain limits. If you need expensive bridgework or other elective procedures, it could be to your advantage to pay the entire bill in the same year and take the deduction, or space out the bills over two tax years. Or, say you’ll be quitting your job or retiring during the next year. Your income may be lower after you stop working, so you could benefit by deferring as much income as possible this year and collecting it next year when it will be taxed at a lower rate. Even though you may never have filed the long form before, it’s always worth a look to see if you’d gain by using it this year.
It isn’t easy to time a new baby (and another deduction), but you can decide whether to get married or divorced before December 31 or after January 1. One day could make a significant difference in your tax bill.
If you have loved ones in other countries, make the first of this month the deadline for mailing Christmas packages overseas.
Certain milestones have an important effect on your financial calendar.
- By April 1 of the year after the year you turn 70 ½, you must begin withdrawing from your tax-deferred retirement account, whether you need the money or not. Rules keep changing, so keep abreast of this important date.
- The month when you turn 59 ½, you can take advantage of any retirement funds that could not be accessed before that age without risk of penalty. Investigate carefully so you know the conditions, requirements, advantages, and drawbacks of tapping into retirement savings this early.
- Know when your certificates of deposit, bonds, and other savings instruments mature and plan well ahead for reinvestment at the most advantageous rates. These dates may be months and even years away, but if you miss the magic deadline, the money may be reinvested automatically at prevailing rates — and tied up for another full term. In the case of some savings bonds, interest stops by a certain date. If you don’t cash them in and reinvest, your savings aren’t earning a penny.
- Several months before your retirement date, learn what you must do to collect Social Security benefits. You can begin collecting Social Security at age 62, but will not receive full benefits unless you wait until the full retirement age of 65. The age for full retirement will gradually increase to 67 by 2027.
Don’t miss the chance to get Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance), and a Medigap policy on the day you turn 65.
- Make note of the dates when annual insurance policies, license registrations, driver’s licenses, and any state vehicle inspections are due and when warranties and extended warranties on your coach and all its furnishings and accessories expire.
- Check the monthly “Association Calendar” in Family Motor Coaching magazine and mark dates of conventions and rallies on your own calendar as far in advance as possible, so you can coordinate these gatherings with your travels.
- While most vehicle maintenance is done according to mileage, some is done by the year. Mark your calendar to flush the brake and coolant systems every two years; replace accessory belts and windshield wiper blades every two years, unless they need replacement earlier; and re-treat or seal the RV roof as recommended by the sealant manufacturer. Does your water tank have sacrificial anodes? Replace them every year or two as recommended by the tank manufacturer.
- Choose one month each year to take inventory and rotate galley emergency supplies. Always replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on the same date each year, even if they aren’t giving a “low battery” signal.
- Do you get a discount on your vehicle insurance by taking a 55-or-older refresher course? Mark your calendar for when you must re-take the course to keep the discount in effect.
- Friendly reminders from your gynecologist, dentist, proctologist, and other medical professionals may fail to reach you on the road. Make note of the months you get your annual Pap smear, breast exam, colonoscopy, dental check-ups, and so on.
Magnavox has introduced the MobilePAL wireless phone to provide nationwide caller location in emergencies. Until now, 911 operators couldn’t always pinpoint the location of callers who are on a cell phone. The new phone uses global positioning satellite (GPS) technology to give emergency responders your exact latitude and longitude. The phone retails for approximately $300, but rebates bring the price closer to $100. Service plans start at around $10 monthly. Call (800) 584-4176 for more information.
Books for travelers
Insight Guides, the publishing house known for its sturdy field editions and brilliant color illustrations, has a new series of Discovery Travel Adventure books at $19.95 each. I’ve seen the volumes titled Birdwatching, which is a must for all bird lovers, and Backcountry Treks, which is perfect for those full-timers who travel with raw-boned adventure in mind. Examine the books in bookstores, and you’ll be sold by the photography and clear, well-presented text. They can also be ordered by phone at (800) 432-6277, or online at www.insighttravelguides.com.
If your navigator’s eyesight isn’t what it used to be, look for American Map’s new 2002 Large Scale, Large Type U.S. Road Atlas ($21.95). It’s spiral-bound for easy use and rounded at the corners for durability. The type is 34 percent larger than the print in standard atlases. The atlas can be found in bookstores, ordered from the publisher by calling (800) 432-6277, or online at www.americanmap.com.
Of special interest to full-timers is an annual Woodall’s directory, Guide to Seasonal Sites In RV Parks/Campgrounds, which lists only campgrounds that rent sites by the month or year. The 2002 edition is a slim volume that’s free by calling (800) 323-9076. A special section lists campgrounds that have telephone hookups. Woodall’s North American Campground Directory ($19.95) gets heavier each year, so you might want to consider the company’s separate, slimmer volumes. Individual guides are published for Eastern ($15.95) and Western ($14.95) North America. Slimmer still are the regional guides to New York, New England, and Eastern Canada; the South; the Frontier West; the Far West; the Great Lakes; the Mid-Atlantic; and all provinces of Canada. Each small guide is only $6.99. Any of these publications can be purchased at bookstores, through online booksellers, and at www.woodalls.com.
Rough Guides are ready and readable, covering dozens of locales worldwide. A new second edition of the New Orleans mini guide ($9.95) by Samantha Cook is a pocket-size dynamo that will help you sight-see, dine, and shop the Crescent City in great style. This or other Rough Guide travel publications can be found in bookstores or by ordering online at www.travel.roughguides.com.
A picture book titled simply USA (Watson-Guptill Publications) features the work of Jordi Miralles. It’s perfect for full-timers who love good photography that captures the American scene. The 500-page book has more than 900 color photos and sells for $29.95 in bookstores, online retailers, or through www.watsonguptill.com.
Traveling with a theme gives exciting new interest and purpose to the full-timer’s itinerary, and here’s one I hadn’t thought of: following wild mustangs, state by state. Believe it or not, these horses are found in almost every state, and the Bureau of Land Management is still uncovering new herds in the wild. A new book by Lisa Dines, The American Mustang Guidebook ($19.95, Willow Creek Press), is a combination travel guide, horse guide, natural history guide, and American history book, all in one volume. If you’ve ever thought of adopting your own wild pony, this book tells you how.