Saturday, January 30, 2010

Do You Qualify for the Government Retiree Credit?

You may have heard about the Government Retiree Credit and wondered if all retirees qualify. The name sounds like it could be a credit FROM the government FOR retirees, right? Wrong. It’s actually a credit specifically for certain folks who are retired from government service. And not just any government service qualifies – it has to be service that was NOT covered by social security.

The one-time, $250 credit per eligible retiree is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. In order to take the credit, a retiree must:
  • Have received during 2009, a government pension or annuity for service not covered by social security.
  • Have a valid social security number.
  • Attach a completed Schedule M to the 1040 or 1040A tax return for 2009.
Please note that this credit is refundable. This means that you may get the money even if you didn’t pay tax in during the year or owe taxes now. You can’t take the credit, however, if you got the $250 economic recovery payment during 2009. And if you also receive the Making Work Pay Credit, the amount will be reduced by the amount of your Government Retiree Credit. Are you confused yet?

For more information, check out the IRS website. The easiest thing to do, however, may be to just fill out a copy of Schedule M, following the instructions for each question, and see what it says at the end. Doing so should clearly show whether or not you qualify.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Be a Quitter! Stop Finishing Books

Stop wasting precious time finishing books that don’t grab you in the first few chapters. Life is just plain too short – you can’t possibly read every book there is anyway so be choosy!

It took me a long time to come to this conclusion but I’m so glad I did. In fact, it’s one of my New Year’s goals. So far so good – I have at least four books that I’ve quit reading after only wasting an hour or two on them. Think how much extra time I’ll have at my disposable over the course of a full year!

If you’re like I was and have a relentless compulsion to finish books once started, give yourself permission to stop this counterproductive behavior starting now. Resolve that you are not going to continue reading books that are boring, offensive or stupid. It doesn’t matter what the critics say – the only thing that is important is how you feel about the book. It is your time being spent, after all.

If necessary, gain some first hand experience with quitting. Get a book or two (or three) that you KNOW you don’t want to read and practice quitting during the first few chapters – or even the first few pages. Imagine how much more enjoyable your reading time will be when you only read those books that are worthwhile!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Is It Ever Too Late To Reinvent Yourself?

This is a question that was posed recently in a query looking for stories and advice from people who have started a business after 50. As I was drafting my response, I realized it should be a post to this blog. Duh. So here it is –

Too late? Never! Just after 50 I started a custom memorial quilt service. Drawing upon my life-long sewing experience, my relatively new interest in quilting and my tendency to re-purpose clothing, I began taking orders for custom memorial quilts and have created several keepsakes from clothing is the past year and a half. Then this past summer I began taking on some freelance writing and in the past few weeks I’ve opened an Etsy shop. So that’s actually three small businesses I’ve started after 50.

My advice to other retirees contemplating starting a business?
  • Think about what you know and what you love to find a good fit for you.
  • Stay alert – opportunity often knocks softly.
  • Focus on developing several small income streams rather than relying on just one or two larger ones.
  • Start slow and test the waters but give each idea a fair shot.
  • Set parameters on how much time, money and other resources are to be committed to each endeavor and stay within those parameters.
  • Have a clear definition of success for each venture and a set date on which it will end if goals are not being met. NOTE: This isn’t about giving up but rather about realistically assessing whether or not something is working.
  • Regularly reevaluate, remain flexible and make appropriate changes when warranted.
As stated in the side bar of this blog, I really do believe that the best years are yet to come!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Supplement Retirement Income with Freelance Writing

Many retirees are interested in making extra money. Some need to supplement their income just to get by. One viable income producing option is freelance writing. Thanks to the Internet, most anyone can find a variety of opportunities from the comfort of home.

I began my freelance writing journey quite by accident. Last summer I stumbled upon the No Job For Mom (NJFM) blog and found out about Textbroker and eHow. Once I knew what to look for, I found endless opportunities online just waiting to be explored. I'm a firm believer, however, in using my time wisely by learning from others and this is where various blogs are so valuable.

To that end, I track the NJFM blog daily as Felicia always has good, relevant info to share. I also keep my eyes peeled for other blogs of interest. Today, through a comment on Felicia's blog, I found a great post that could save a newbie a ton of time. Master Dayton has generously shared 50 Things Beginning Writers Should Know. Makes me glad I'm still a beginner!

If you're a retiree who would like to make some money from home, consider whether freelance writing may be right for you. Do your research to zero in on the legitimate opportunities and to avoid those that are a waste of time or worse yet, a scam. There's a wealth of information available based on the personal experiences of those further along the path. Seek the wisdom of these pioneers and when the time comes, share your knowledge and experience, as well.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Quilt for a Cure – My Small Contribution

My local quilt shop is coordinating a challenge to help the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life. Participants are given a packet of fabrics from which to create a 12½” block. The blocks will then be sewn together to create a sampler quilt to be raffled as a fundraiser for Relay for Life. What a great idea!

I'd like to share my block. I chose Hand of Friendship for the center, with the Quilt for a Cure logo from the fabric in the middle, and then bordered it out to the correct size.

As the printing on the fabric was faint, I darkened it with a pigma pen. As usual, I didn’t manage to think to do this BEFORE I sewed the block together. Oh no – I waited until it was completely done so the pressure was on! Had I messed up my tracing, it would have been back to the beginning. But luck was with me and I stayed on the lines.
I actually have enough fabric left to make another block so may get that done before the deadline in Feb. If so, I’ll be sharing again!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Declutter Your Clothes

Week 3 of the AARP Clutter Challenge focuses on clothing. How many items do you have taking up valuable space that you won’t, don’t or can’t wear? Time to clear out the excess and release those items! Clutter Challenge leader, Ciji Ware, recommends “getting rid of anything that doesn’t suit your present age, stage, lifestyle, or size.” Does that sound like half of your clothes? Well, there are many options for moving clothing along.

If you have items that you just can’t part with but that are no longer usable as is, consider whether they can be upcycled. Think throw pillows or quilts, such as the one pictured here. Check out my Custom Memorial Quilts blog for ideas. Just click on the specific project pages on the right. And if you’d like a quilt made from your clothing, I’d be happy to help – see details on my website,

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Do Your Family a Favor – Declutter Before It’s Too Late!

AARP is having an 8-week Clutter Challenge lead by decluttering expert Ciji Ware, author of Rightsizing Your Life: Simplifying Your Surroundings While Keeping What Matters Most. Although the second week has just ended, you can still join in. All you’ve missed so far is Paper, Part 1 and Dead Electronics, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to catch up.

An interesting thread was recently started by one of the challenge members – "Consider decluttering by giving things away to family/friends before you expire." Have you thought about this? It actually makes a lot of sense and would be oh so appreciated by those left behind.

Do you have items that you’d like to pass along to specific people? Why not now? How much simpler would life be if you could shed yourself of excess possessions? Start freeing yourself and your space today! What are you waiting for?

If you're interested in Ms. Ware's book, I've included an Amazon link. I have an Amazon Affiliate account so if you buy one by clicking on this link, I’ll get a little kickback. But if you'd just like to read it rather than own it, check your local library or ask around - a friend or family member may already have copy that you could borrow.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Live Each Day to the Fullest -

"It's only when we truly know and understand that we have limited time on earth - and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up - that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had."

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Monday, January 11, 2010

Update on WildernessCrafter at

I’ve had Wilderness Crafter at Etsy open nearly a week now and am very pleased with my experience thus far. I’ve listed close to 20 items and have made 2 sales. The first came last Fri - a vintage Holly Hobbie doll and wardrobe pattern destined for South Korea. The second order came in just last night and I haven’t gotten PayPal payment confirmation on it so may have to cancel. I’ve notified the buyer and hopefully she’ll get back to me soon. If not, I’ll have to assume that she abandoned her order prior to completing the final step which is authorizing payment.

When looking at options for making money at home, Etsy shows promise as a way to generate a little income – only time will tell how much. Listings on Etsy are limited to handmade, vintage or craft supply items so definitely not for everyone but perfect for me. The system tracks views per item and I’m impressed with the amount of traffic. It also allows for comments and ratings on both sellers and buyers so it’s easy to see feedback on any member. Being brand new, there is no feedback on me yet. I have to wait until a customer receives an order and then comments.

The listing process and uploading photos is a little time consuming but I’m getting faster. The process is straightforward so the slowness lies with me. And it’s not just the online portion – the photos have to be taken first. I’m not much of a photographer so this is another area where I am increasing my skill and speed. The pricing is the trickiest part. I find myself spending quite a bit of time researching recent sales of the same or similar item before selecting a price. But that’s a good thing because I’ve also discovered that I’m not good at guessing.

My biggest problem is the one I’ve brought on myself by collecting all this stuff over the years. Now that I’m digging deep to unearth treasures to list on Etsy, I’m face to face with the monster I’ve created. I keep reminding myself that I’m decluttering AND making a little money so it’s a win-win. Things I am never going to use will be finding their way to other homes, freeing up space in mine and I’m contributing to the bottom line around here, as well. Can’t beat that!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

An Etsy Shop – Viable Moneymaker or Frustrating Time Waster?

Many retirees could use supplemental income and the Internet provides a variety of opportunities to make some extra money. One such opportunity is Etsy. With an Etsy shop, you can sell all types of handcrafted items, crafting supplies and anything vintage, which is defined as an item at least 20 years old. (Wait a minute - are you kidding me? In that case, everything I own except my car is vintage!)

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about an Etsy shop for a few years and finally took the plunge. I won’t go into the frustrating and yet-to-be-resolved saga of my Etsy registration nightmare. Suffice to say I’ve got a shop! Now we’ll see if Wilderness Crafter actually produces any sales. (Cool banner, huh?)

What I like about Etsy is that it’s focused on my kind of stuff – quality unique handmade items and craft supplies. And beings I’ve been accumulating for years, a lot of my supplies fall under the vintage category, as well! I’m on a quest to divest myself of excess, however, and this may be just the place to pass along my vast array of crafting and sewing and crocheting items that have been piling up over the past few decades.

I have a few reservations about Etsy. First, in order to buy from an Etsy shop, you have to be a registered user. With my experience trying to register, I’m not sure requiring buyers to register is a good idea. Second, I wonder how many buyers are also sellers? Is the Etsy community just one big group of people buying from each other? And third, does anyone really make any money over time? What kind of traffic does Etsy really generate? How many sellers close up shop after a short time?

On the other hand, it costs nothing to open a shop and is an inexpensive place to sell. The system, when it’s working, leads you through the item posting process step by step. Uploading photos is easy and the shop is nicely formatted. It costs just $.20 per item to post for 4 months. If the item hasn’t sold in that period of time, it expires and must be renewed, costing another $.20 for another 4 month. If a sale is made, Etsy gets a percentage – less than 4% - can’t remember exactly. So there are two big pluses from an economic standpoint – free to join, inexpensive to sell.

Etsy also has a wealth of how-to information on all aspects of the Etsy experience. If I live to be 150, I probably won’t have time to read it all! But there’s really valuable information on SEO and how to promote your shop and maximize sales. All for free. So there’s another HUGE plus.

At this point, I’ll wait and see how it goes. I want to get as many items posted as possible over the next few weeks and then watch what happens at Wilderness Crafter. At just $.20 per item for a 4 month trial, I can afford to experiment. And who knows? Maybe I’ll be wildly successful on Etsy! Either way, I'll report back in late April or early May.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Save Money with Homemade Cards

Saving money during retirement is always a good idea and one of my goals this year is to NOT buy a single card. Not for birthdays, Mother’s Day, thank you or anything else that comes along. Not even the 2/$1 cards at the dollar store. I still want to give cards, however, so will have to get creative and make my own.

Without further adieu, my first opportunity has arrived! With two grandsons having January birthdays, I obviously need two cards, right? So I made them today.

I have to admit that I used blank cards I got on sale for $4.99 just after Thanksgiving. In preparation for my 2010 card-making extravaganza, I actually bought a couple of boxes that contain 70 cards and envelopes each. I also have to admit that I already had a couple of boxes in a different set of colors that I bought last year, also on sale. So yes – do the math – I have about 280 cards on hand to embellish. This should get me by don’t you think?

I’ve also been saving all types of already-used cards over the past several years, planning to recycle them – and now I am! Finally! And I’m going to use fabric and ribbons and buttons and whatever else I can find. But for these first two, I played it safe.

The one with the deer combines a fabric square (the deer) with the front of a recycled note card. The other uses cute cutouts from an old birthday card (cheating, I know). As they’re both for boys, I used a sharpie to change the hot pink on the word Celebrate, one balloon and the party hat to red. So that’s two down and many, many more to go. Hopefully I’ll get braver and more imaginative as time goes by!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

State Board of Equalization Blues

For those of you in California who own a business and must submit sales and use tax to the Board of Equalization (BOE), I have a word of warning. The BOE efile system seems to be having some serious problems this year.

Last year, I chose to file online and don’t recall having any problems at all. This year I was required to file online and it’s taken me multiple attempts over a 3-day period to get it done. I have finally prevailed, but not without a lot of frustration – many “Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage” messages that required re-logging in, pages within the system that refused to open at all, fields that refused to accept data, and the list goes on.

From the way it acted, you’d think that I was one of millions overloading the system but I think not. How many businesses are small enough and simple enough to have all their tax info ready to input on January 1? And how many are choosing to spend time on New Year’s Day taking care of that? So you can see my point about being in an extreme minority when accessing the system during this time.

Not sure if it’s the coding for the split tax (remember – it went up 1% April 1st) causing the problems or what. The bottom line is this – if you must file online, allow plenty of time. DO NOT wait until the last day or so. And if you experience problems, be sure to let them know. They have a nifty link at the bottom of every page that you can click to tell them if you have problems with the site. (Of course, they may remove it after they get all my comments!) Also, once you’re finally finished with the return, there’s an opportunity to take a survey on your experience. Do it. It’s only a few questions long and allows you to give feedback on your experience and suggest improvements.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Day Thought

"We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day."

--Edith Lovejoy Pierce