Bullish: Personal Finance Made More Enticing with Shirtless Men and Unicorns

I have a stack of yellow, thin-ruled legal pads full of Bullish column ideas, some of which regard Important Responsible Adult Things To Do. (See Bullish: Pre-Internet Productivity Tips for the Young and Sprightly.)

However, many of these topics are so goddamn boring that it would be hard to get anyone on the Internet to finish reading, because the Internet, I am told, is all about pageviews and cats.

Did you know that Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, once suggested that the U.S. complement the Statue of Liberty by building a Statue of Responsibility? I mean, yes, responsibility is important, but … kind of a buzzkill, there.

You know I like men (for my thirtieth birthday, I held a male beauty pageant in a bar and invited lady-bloggers to judge – although one should also see Bullish: Picking a Boyfriend Who Doesn’t Hold Back Your Career or Bank Account). And I kind of considered retiring from writing after Bullish: How to Be a Productivity Unicorn.

So, all these ideas have now come together on this fine Friday, and I hope you enjoy this post on three Responsible Adult Things you should take care of, made more enticing with male models and unicorns (at least for those of you who like men, unicorns, or both).

Your Taxes: Deduct the Hell Out of Everything

The above is not actually my accountant, Max Kleynburd of Max Kleynburd and Co. Accountants and Advisors, although Max is a pretty handsome guy, but with a less intimidating trapezius.

More importantly, though, Max and I have the following discussion every year:

Me: I am so organized! Look at my spreadsheets! I cataloged all my expenses already! Aren’t I the best client ever?

Max: Okay, that’s pretty organized. But … did you entertain anyone for business?

Me: Well, yes. But I didn’t include it because … um … I don’t know, all the people I have drinks with are, like, fashionable 27 year old women and that’s not what business looks like in the movies. I never have drinks with gray-haired men in suits.

And then later:

Max: Do you use a home office?

Me: Not really.

Max: Where do you work?

Me: At home.

Max: Do you always sit in the same place?

Me: Well, yes.

Max: How often do you work there?

Me: Um, seven days a week.

Max: How much did the desk cost?

Me: Really?

Max: Yes.

Okay, the above (legal disclaimer!) are not really quotes from Max, but here’s what Max said when I asked him for the biggest mistake many young people make regarding their taxes:

How about this – many people overlook an astonishing number of deductions by making the mistake of trying to fit themselves into a “box”.

Most of the expense guidelines haven’t been updated in decades. And while the IRS has issued exhaustive guides for deductions that could be taken by say a bricklayer or a mailman, what’s today’s fashion blogger or a media strategist to do? The answer lies in one simple truth — any expense that can be demonstrated to be both “necessary and material” in order to produce an individual’s living would be bullet-proof in the event of a challenge from the IRS. The moral of the story is to never overlook any deductions simply because they aren’t part of the widely-used trifecta of “travel, supplies and meals”.

Max also convinced me to deduct the cost of a bookcase that contains literally nothing but test-prep books (people always walk into my place and respond in horror/wonder to the SAT/ACT/AP/SSAT/ISEE/TACHS/GMAT/GRE/LSAT shelf, and then I serve them drinks to distract them from their traumatic childhood testing memories).

In sum: save receipts for everything (credit card bills will also suffice). Entertainment expenses don’t become non-deductible just because you enjoy entertaining the people you work with.

And, consider getting a real accountant. I had been doing my own taxes for years when my BFF sent me to Max. The few hundred dollars I spent resulted in at least a thousand dollars off what I thought I had to pay in taxes – plus, I saved myself about six hours of tax-preparation agony (and at least two months of low-level underlying trepidation about the horrible day I would be spending communing with some online tax website).

Writing a Will

Look at the ethereal unicorn, looking into the light! The light that shines towards the abs! The abs are so beautiful that death barely matters! I’ll bet the model has to clean his abs with a special brush.

Someday, we will all die. As I mentioned in this week’s Bullish: Do-Gooding on a Dollar a Day, if you have savings and want it to do some good after you die, you should have a will. The site DoYourOwnWill.com allows you to make a will for free, online (if you have a complicated situation or over $5M in assets, they’ll try to sell your their paid service). The document is legal in every state except Louisiana.

I went through this system myself, and was able to generate a will in literally seven minutes. Once you finish, you print it out and get it signed by witnesses who won’t be receiving anything in your will.

Completing the form made me realize that all my expensive stuff is pretty much clothes and shoes, and I don’t know anyone my size who wants those things when I die. So, I’ll have to go back and take care of that. Maybe appoint an executor who can auction off 70 pairs of size-9 heels.

Most importantly, in the case of my sudden death, I want my savings to build a school somewhere, not pay off my relatives’ credit card debt. Not that my relatives aren’t nice people, but U.S. dollars just go a lot further in a country where $1 a day keeps a young woman in college (see the Women’s Education Project). And check out Bullish: Do-Gooding on a Dollar a Day for philanthropic suggestions for while you are still alive and non-ethereal.

Insurance (and Unicorns! And Abs!)
Look at the beautiful setting sun behind the unicorn! It seems to be shining its rays right onto the refulgent chest of the well-oiled, beswimsuited fellow! Also, you should consider renters insurance. Mine only costs $124 a year.

I am always a bit sad when people who have never been any good at making money in the first place try to hold fundraisers, mostly by doing the same things that never make them any money in their regular lives (see Bullish: How to Make Money From Being Hip as All Fucking Hell).

Once, it was a comedy night for a comedian who had lost everything in a fire. The event yielded a couple hundred bucks at best. And then all of the comedian’s friends, having spent their mojo performing and promoting, feel that they’ve done their part to help, despite the fact that comedy shows in bars are a terrible way to make money, and some poor dude is left starting over with not much.

Renters insurance is actually really cheap, and makes you feel a lot better, especially if you live in a really sketchy New York apartment.

To make the most of renters insurance, you need to take an inventory of your possessions. This site recommends that you “go through each room systematically with a computer and list the items line by line in each room.” Furthermore:

Be sure to mark all items and take pictures of both large and small, describing them in detail, where you purchased them, model numbers (if necessary) and serial numbers. If you still have receipts for the larger items that you purchased, you might even consider making copies of the receipts and then scanning them and sending an email to yourself with the PDF attachments.

In last week’s Bullish: How to Delegate, and Why It’s Important Even if You Just Make Coffee, I shared my adventures in having a personal assistant. One of the weird-ass tasks I had her do was “Photograph everything I own for insurance purposes, put the photos on a CD, and mail the CD to my parents. And if you see anything embarrassing, don’t photograph it and just pretend it never happened.”

Finally, when considering renters insurance, look at whether your policy offers “actual cash value” or “replacement cost coverage.” For property that loses value over time (iPads! iPhones!), an actual cash value plan will only pay you the “used” value of the item, which won’t be enough to get a new one. A plan that offers replacement cost coverage will actually pay for new versions of the items, minus any deductible.

There are thousands upon thousands of people whose entire job it is to try to sell you renters insurance, so it’s pretty easy to google the matter and receive a bunch of quotes from different companies. Again, mine is just $124 a year. Hard to argue with that.

In Bullish: Preparing For Getting Hit By A Truck, I also recommended disability insurance, which is a good idea but hardly sexy, even when a unicorn’s horn is pointing directly at a set of perfectly tanned pectoral muscles.

I hope your week has been brightened by sharp, sharp horns and charmingly countable individual abdominal muscles! Don’t you feel responsible?

originally published on The Grindstone