Category Archives: friendly finances

Tax Time…that is, if you’re not rich!

I had half forgotten that taxes are due tomorrow, since we filed our taxes months ago, but then I read the local Willamette Weekly cover article on  9 Things The Rich Don’t Want You to Know About Taxes .

It’s really in depth, and pretty darn infuriating. Since I know you all won’t take the time to read the full article, here are the tax myths that he tries to dispel:

  1. Poor Americans do pay taxes
  2. The wealthiest Americans don’t carry the burden
  3. In fact, the wealthy are paying less taxes
  4. Many of the very richest pay no current income taxes at all
  5. And (surprise!), since Reagan, only the wealthy have gained significant income
  6. When it comes to corporations, the story is much the same – less taxes
  7. Some corporate tax breaks destroy jobs
  8. Republicans like taxes too
  9. Other countries do it better

Not surprisingly, it was the last section that really got me going, wondering for the umpteenth time why I live in a country that likens taxes to torture and can’t understand how creating a system of mutual support is a good thing I wrote last tax season about green taxes and  taxing priorities , and have made my socialist tendencies known. Call me socialist, but I’d happily pay into a system that provides a safety net and makes many predictable expenses less expensive. Instead families are stuck wondering how to budget for unpaid maternity leave, save for college and retire with a reasonable standard of living.

What gets me is that all these tax myths are being created by those who pay the least proportionally. Obama is proposing a  modest tax increases on the wealthy , but it’s still no where near equality. I try to be an optimist in my personal, but politics lately are getting under my skin, and the tax debate reminds me of how much better I think we could do for our families. 

Would you pay more taxes for more services?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Introducing Adaptu

Hubby tipped me off about Adaptu, a new online finance management tool. They will have stiff competition with Mint and everything else online, but I’m certainly willing to give it a try.

My initial impression is that they may be on to something. I know that I start this blog in part because I wanted to connect with others online…certainly not because I’m financial authority, but because I wanted to connect with others with similar goals and values. 

Plus, being public about my finances has kept me accountable (even when I had very few readers in the beginning!) 

My only reluctance about using a program like Adaptu is the time-suck it can create, but just like writing this blog, I need to look at the big picture. If it help us reach our goals, it’s worth my time.

Here’s Adaptu’s intro video:

You may have a quirky impression from watching Portlandia, but Adaptu is Portland based!

Will you try out Adaptu?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Mortgage refinance complete

Yeah!!! Our mortgage refinance is complete

We’ve been anticipating our refinance for a month plus now, so we are very excited to have this goal completed. Refinancing has taken a lot of diligence, but it’s worth it. One interesting difference between now and our last home purchase was that the IRS is clearly auditing, our mortgage lender Home Street made the honest typo of listing our address as SE instead of NE. The mistake triggered an inquiry from the IRS, and it had to be fixed before we could sign. Personally, I didn’t mind the inconvenience and I appreciate that there is more due diligence lending taking place now.

Given the mortgage atmosphere, we were cautiously optimistic about the whole process. Hubby didn’t want me to share anything until we had locked the rate, and even then we were holding our breath to make sure that the appraisal went through.

The appraisal did turn out to be a bit of a disappointment, not surprisingly, our house is not what it was worth when we bought it two years ago. But neither of us dwelt on that fact, and decided instead to focus on the long term investment. We never expected to get rich quick; we just wanted a home to raise our family and live our lives. 

It turns out that we needed to bring $3k+ cash-to-close, but at least now we don’t have a payment until March. Like I justified to Hubby, we’ll be able to save the difference in a few months, so it’s worth dipping into our emergency fund. 

Now that it’s a reality, we’ll be able to starting planning the savings in our family finances. Once our emergency fund is repaid, we’ll create a fund for home improvement/maintenance. Then we are planning to begin saving for our dream of buying property on the coast and building small eco-friendly cottages!  

What would your family do with extra savings?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

One PacificCoast Bank

This week I learned that our “eco-bank” is now One PacificCoast Bank. The acquisition and merger of  ShoreBank Pacific with a community bank OneCalifornia Bank  wasn’t altogether surprising, since the original Chicago-based ShoreBank closed last summer. But it stills makes me feel a lack of control over our own money, and I certainly hope that the sum will be greater than the parts. I also hope they’ll be able to dominate community lending and invest more people’s money in solving community and environmental issues. 

From the media release: “Together we can bring the value of sustainability to a broader audience and  provide greater opportunities for employees, as well as the communities that  OneCalifornia Bank and ShoreBank Pacific serve,” said David Williams, CEO of  ShoreBank Pacific.

Last spring we made what for us was a pretty big decision to merge our funds  to ShoreBank Pacific. We’ve been very happy with our choice, and banking solely online has been really convenient…though it’s kind of funny that their branch doesn’t even have an ATM!  

At a recent new year’s party (celebrated like true families at E.S.T.), I got into a conversation about the benefits or reasons for switching from a corporate bank to a community bank or credit union. One couple was considering switching banks, but wondered what was in it for them. I told them a bit about our story, and another friend chimed in about why they choose credit unions. I was honest in saying that switching banks is a total pain the neck, but that I feel better know that our money is being invested in projects I would support, sectors like alternative energy, specialty agriculture, specialty fish, and green building . It’s really a feel good choice, but there’s no real financial benefit of sticking with a corporate bank. Now I can see the fruits of my labor in local projects, and remember that we are all connected.

Are you a customer of a community bank or credit union?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Small Change

Last week I was excited to have my first interview as a blogger, especially since it’s for an upcoming article in  Metro Parent magazine. The writer and I chatted on the phone for nearly an hour, and I was amazed at how quickly the time passed. I realized how reticent I am to give advice, because every family is so unique. My approach has been to simply share our story, and hope that I can relate in a way that helps you think about what actions you can take. My only true advice is just begin where you and start with small steps, don’t waste time and energy feeling like your family should be greener – either in the eco or cash department.

Naturally after my interview I continued to think about things that I could/should have said, but not in a bad way though, because it got my creative juices flowing. Then I got a chance to read an article a friend had shared with me from Family Circle. Small Change includes some great tips, since I truly agree that the best money strategies are all in your head!  I love this quote:

“The people who feel the best about money aren’t the ones who have a lot of it,” says clinical psychologist Maria Nemeth, Ph.D., author of
The Energy of Money: A Spiritual Guide to Financial and Personal Fulfillment . “What they do possess is a knowledge of how to earn and spend that reflects their deepest values.” While there are countless factors beyond your control, a few simple changes will allow you to have power over your outlook and attitude. And that’s priceless.

The article also reminds you to:

  • reflect on how your parents’ attitudes about money influence your own
  • admit your mistakes and then move on
  • play out the worst case scenario (but just once!)
  • take a gut check on your deepest desires
  • keep your goals handy with a photo of your goal in your wallet
  • take one action a week!!!

Lastly, thanks Courtney for getting me the interview and sharing your magazine!

What small changes do you take to keep your attitude positive?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.