Monday, February 12, 2018

Week of February 5 - 11

I started the week with a cold - pretty mild for a couple days so I thought maybe I would make it through easy, but by Tuesday morning it was so bad I went home from work, and also took Wednesday off. Kept things light for the rest of the week plus didn't have time for much while making up work hours. I didn't quite even feel up to the time or energy required for the stair climb (was on Sunday) and DNS'd.

Workouts

Monday: Tap class (60 min)

Saturday: Family/tempo-ish run 1.85 miles (12:38 pace, 50* and sunny, afternoon, 176 spm)

Total running: 1.85 miles
Average daily steps: 10,523
Weight: +34 (-2 lbs!)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Week of Jan 29 - Feb 4

The week started with a sick kid, and by the end of the weekend I'd come down with it myself. Resulted in some shifted schedules, especially more of a bare-minimum than I'd have liked on the weekend.

Workouts

Monday: Run 2.0 miles (13:13 pace, 48* and drizzling, evening, 166 spm) - including 1 mile time trial (10:56, 178 spm) + JM cardio (15 min)

This is actually a postpartum best mile! I did one in May in 11:05, and in August of 11:50 (yeah, the opposite of improvement over that time period). So I went into this run just hoping for something in the neighborhood of 11:00. Not too bad!

It's frustrating trying to keep my pace easy for most of my runs, and that easy pace being, so, so, ridiculously (compared to my prior self) slow. But I can do some fast runs (I've done some tempos/keeping up with Abe runs, lately, and those have been semi decent!), and I know it's progress, even if it's slow. It still sucks sometimes. 

Tuesday: Rest day

Wednesday: No Buts Night Run 2.05 miles (14:57 pace, 45*, evening, 166 spm)

Thursday: Swim 750 yards

Friday: Stroller run 1.65 miles (15:33 pace, 57* and lovely, late afternoon, 166 spm)

Saturday: Stairmaster 60 flights (14:21) + incline walk 5 min (5%, 0.28)

Sunday: Yoga (20 min) + bike trainer 3.35 miles (10.1 mph, 81 rpm) + run 1.0 mile (15:34 pace, 52*, evening, 160 spm)

I decided to work on cadence bike rather than resistance, and build up the strength at this (ostensibly best - around 90 rpm). 

Total swimming: 750 yards
Total biking: 3.35 miles
Total running: 6.7 miles

Stair climbing: 108 flights
Average daily steps: 11,019
Weight: +36 (-1 lb)

Monday, January 29, 2018

Week of January 22 -28

Busy season is busy. (Already! Specifically have one large return we're trying to get at least a draft done by end of the month.) Got into the 50+ hours this week, but all things considered I feel like I got in a lot!

Workouts

Monday: Tap class (60 min) + swim 500 yards 

Tuesday: Stroller run 2.0 miles (15:31 pace, 48*, late afternoon, 166 spm) + core (5 min)

Wednesday: Rest day

Thursday: Stroller run 2.0 miles (15:19 pace, 43* and drizzly, late afternoon, 164 spm) + JM weights (20 min) + core (5 min) + pull ups 

Friday: Bike trainer 3.5 miles (10.5 mph, 59 rpm)

Saturday: Stairmaster 120 flights (25:02)

Sunday: Long run 3.05 miles (14:53 pace, 59* and beautiful, afternoon, 164 spm) + JM weights (20 min)

Total swimming: 500 yards
Total biking: 3.5 miles
Total running: 7.05 miles

Stair climbing: 158 floors
Average daily steps: 11,529
Weight: +37 (-1 lb)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Week of January 15 - 21

An oddly busy week with evening stuff going on, so cut out the weights for this week. 

Workouts

Monday: Rest day

Tuesday: Tempo run 2.0 miles (11:41 pace, 52*, late afternoon)

Wednesday: JM cardio (15 min) (I thought all the workouts in the Jillian Michaels program I'm doing are 20 minutes, but apparently not.)

Thursday: Run 2.0 miles (14:36 pace, 45*, late afternoon)

Friday: Swim 750 yards + bike trainer 2.45 miles (9.7 mph, 61 rpm)

Hey! Almost looks like a day someone who's planning to do a triathlon again in the future might do.

Saturday: Stairmaster 55 flights (15:03) + yoga (20 min)

So I guess this establishes that the machine I used the prior week is definitely NOT calibrated the same as the one I usually use. I did feel particularly tired, but the same level was not nearly as easy on this one.

Sunday: Stroller run 1.3 miles (15:53 pace, 158 spm 48* and clear, afternoon) 

This was a mostly run/some walk, don't want to but something is better than nothing, kind of day. 

Actually, what really got me out the door was setting up/calibrating a foot pod for my garmin. (Resulting the spm stat - steps per minute - included with the run.) I got it so I have the option for tracking even if I run on the treadmill (which I might do more often at the rec center), but I think it might be a fun toy regardless!

Total swimming: 750 yards
Total biking: 2.45 miles
Total running: 5.3 miles

Stair climbing: 85 flights
Average daily steps: 11,184
Weight: +38 (+2 lb)

Friday, January 19, 2018

Running in the Rain

Here in Portland it's the rainy seas... oh, wait, that's all year round! We're in one of the rainy seasons. You can't avoid running it, but you can make the best of it!

Wear a hat. This is particularly crucial if you have glasses, but regardless I think just keeping the rain off your eyes can do wonders to make it less annoying.

Be visible. Even if technically during "daylight", the rain makes things dark and gloomy. Wear bright colors and make sure cars can see you!


Christmas lights on the stroller makes it safer and more festive!

Consider trail shoes. Particularly in the fall, I like to wear trail shoes so I have a bit of extra traction over the wet leaves and avoid slipping.

Protect your stuff. Put your phone in a bag if you think it'll get soaked; have a cover for your stroller. I debated buying a weather shield for the stroller, but I can't even imagine not having it now - I can take N with me through rain, wind, or cold!

Enjoy it! If I'm looking forward to a run, it doesn't matter too much; but if I'm on the fence the rain definitely isn't encouraging. But it can't be avoided, so you might as well enjoy stomping in some puddles!



Linking up today with Fairytales and Fitness and Running on Happy for Friday Five 2.0

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Toastmasters: A Taxing Change

This project from the Speeches by Management was about communicating a change to a group - and, essentially, persuading them to accept the change. Considering the depth into which I'm currently looking into the tax reform bill, it seemed like the perfect top! 

The guidance for developing the speech was to:
  • Provide a convincing need for the change - be honest, direct, sincere.
  • Explain the nature and scope of the change.
  • Customize a description of changes in terms that clarify benefits to your audience
  • Be empathetic and acknowledge any resistance as legitimate, but emphasize benefits.

Given the nature of the project, though, my goal was not just to inform the group of what the changes are, but to demonstrate why they should accept and will benefit from the changes. Admittedly - not an easy task given my personal feelings on the matter. As a thought exercise, as well as for practice in speaking to clients, though, my goal when presenting this speech was to avoid making clear my personal thoughts on the bill. I've annotated here to make it clear. 

A Taxing Change

Why did the accountant cross the road? 
Because she looked in the file and that’s what they did last year. 

Well, this time next year we won’t be able to rely on our good friend SALY - same as last year, SALY - quite as much. There are frequent changes to our income tax system, but the last time we had a major overhaul to the tax code was 1986. The Tax Reform Act of 1986, had goals simplifying the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, broadening the base while lowering the rate, and shutting down loopholes and tax shelters that had arose over the years. It set limitations on many types of deductions, and left us with the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. 

Now, we’re another 30-odd years down the road, and one could definitely say we’re in need of yet another overhaul. The current tax code is about 2,600 pages long. In addition, there are regulations and court cases, that comprise a great deal more of guidance that must be understood and incorporated into the application of the actual law itself. 

That many rules and regulations make it hard to follow the tax law and file your own return, with data from 2014 showing that over half - 56% - of individual tax returns are done through a paid payer, plus another third - 34% - rely on tax preparation software. That’s a far cry from the much-lauded concept of filing on a postcard. 

This past year, with stated goals of simplifying the tax code, benefiting the middle class and families, and growing the economy, the Republican party set out to make significant changes to the tax code. This long-awaited bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, was passed by Congress and signed into law in December, mostly taking effect beginning with the 2018 tax year. Is it everything we’d hoped for? Depends on who you talk to! 1  

First of all, sorry to break it to you, but you won’t be filing your 2018 tax return on a postcard. Particularly for businesses, but even for individuals, so long as there are any exclusions or deductions, it won’t fit on a postcard. There are reasons - economic or social and cultural - for not simply taxing gross accession to wealth with no deductions. For example, deducting medical expenses or excluding certain types of forgiven debt, are arguably rules that make the system more fair. An equitable tax systems inherently precludes total simplicity. No tax reform will totally eliminate those types of considerations. 2

Many of the biggest, as well as - I’d say - least simple, provisions of the tax reform act, apply to businesses, both corporate and taxed at the individual level (sole proprietor or passthrough). These do address many areas of potential abuse, as well as reducing tax. In addition, there was an effort made to try to equalize the taxation of businesses held in different legal forms. The law reduced the rate on “C corps” from 35% to 21%. In contrast, “passthrough businesses”, continue to be taxed on their owners 1040s, but now get a 20% deduction - reducing the effective tax rate to under 30%, and putting C corps and passthroughs on a more level playing field. 3

Whether this tax cut to business owners actually does trickle down and help grow the economy, as asserted, is yet to be seen 4, this tax cut will be felt by pretty much all types of businesses, and show a benefit to small, family businesses who operate as passthrough companies. 5

On the individual tax side, as will more directly impact all of you, the temporary individual tax changes follow a similar concept as in 1986 - eliminate some deductions to broaden the tax base, but lower the rates. 

Personal exemptions and dependent exemptions have been eliminated, and instead essentially rolled into the new standard deduction. This standard deduction is almost doubled from last year. For example, if you’re married filing jointly, no kids, and took the standard deduction, under the old law it would total deductions of $21,300. By comparison, the new higher standard deduction for 2018 for married filing jointly is $24,000 - so you actually get to reduce more of your taxable income. 

The obvious pitfall is that the new standard deduction is based on filing status, regardless of dependents. Even with just one kid and a dependent exemption, under old law you would have added another exemption and now total $25,450 - it looks like you lose out compared to the flat $24,000 standard deduction. Fortunately, the child tax credits have been expanded to compensate. Instead of a $1,000 mostly nonrefundable credit for that one qualifying child, you now have a $2,000 credit, $1,400 of which is refundable. In addition, there’s a $500 (nonrefundable) credit for other dependents who don’t qualify for the child credit. 6

If you’ve ever itemized deductions, you know that the benefit is when your allowable items - mortgage interest, taxes, charitable contributions - exceed the standard deduction. With the exemptions rolled into the higher standard deductions - that threshold to benefit is higher. While there is definitely a segment of taxpayers who will lose out on itemizing, the trade-off here is clear simplification. 7

Itemized deductions is often seen as preferable, but it also requires gathering and maintaining records of your deductions, compared to just getting the standard deduction “for free”. I can’t tell you how many people, clients and not, who meticulously try to save records throughout the year - and yet aren’t anywhere close to actually benefiting from the deductions. Only about a third of taxpayers actually itemized under the prior system, so this will reduce the burden of doing so even further, and ultimately not change anything for the majority of taxpayers. 

For the taxpayers who continue to itemized deductions, there are some modifications and eliminations of what qualifies. A cap on deducting state and local income and property taxes at $10,000 was big news at year end, while some rushed to make payments to deduct in 2017. There is a modification to the limits for deducting mortgage interest. There is also an elimination of the “2% itemized deductions”. These include investment fees and unreimbursed employee expenses. 8

While there are definitely taxpayers who greatly benefited from being able to deduct large amounts of expenses in these categories, for the most part these expenses represent not the economic reality of earning money - in which case it makes sense to deduct and offset the income - but an encouragement of social norms. For example, deducting mortgage interest encourages home ownership. The ability to deduct employee expenses, such as salespeople often do, makes employees willing to accept expenditures that might more appropriate be paid by their employers. Modifications to the tax benefits of incurring expenses might alter people’s behavior - some might say good, some might say bad - but ultimately this might result in a more accurate reflection of economic reality. 9

While we are still awaiting IRS guidance on some of the more nuanced changes, there are definitely opportunities to plan for the 2018 tax year and considerations to keep in mind for making decisions, such as structuring a business decision or whether to incur a mortgage for a new house. While not every taxpayer will see a reduced tax burden, many will. 

Please speak to a tax professional about your individual tax situation if you have any questions, but I hope this has provided a helpful overview of the new tax law and the provisions that are likely to directly impact your tax returns going forward.


1 If you're talking to me? No, it is not what I'd hoped for. But considering how it was created, basically what I'd expected. 

2 Nor should it. While many complexities do not help create equity, you cannot have equity without complexities. The simplest tax (e.g., flat tax on all gross income) would be incredibly regressive. 

3 There's still double taxation, since the remaining 79% of income in the corp, to be distributed to the owner, is either compensation (at higher individual rates) or dividends (up to 20% cap gains rate + 3.8% net investment income tax). Assuming you distribute all of the remaining corp income, it's still a higher total tax, but only by a couple percent.

4 Yet to be seen, but highly unlikely.

5 It will also show a benefit to many not-small businesses owned by very wealthy families, that happen to operate as passthrough companies.

6 The actual benefit of a credit versus deduction depends on your tax rate, as well as where you are in relation to phase outs (but most phase outs are much higher now). If you get the child tax credit, I think most people will come out ahead; if you have other dependents, you'll probably lose out.

7 While I do think there's an upside to it being more obvious how hard it is to meet the bar to be worth itemizing, I think marketing the whole thing as "we've doubled the standard deduction!" without equal emphasis on it actually being a replacement for exemptions was incredibly [intentionally] misleading. It's really just consolidating renaming the same thing and they were just betting (likely correctly) that most taxpayers won't quite comprehend that.

8 The real losers are very high W-2 earners - they won't get any benefit from business stuff, but if you're paying 9.9% to Oregon on a $1 million salary, losing that state income tax deduction is a big tax hike.

9 I'd be fine with limiting social incentives via the tax code, but that's not what the law does overall. It just incentivizes what the party in power values, e.g., business ownership and privilege. And plays with incentives just to make the math work. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Week of January 8 - 14

Work started getting a bit crazy already, and I'm trying to figure out how to handle busy season with kid that isn't just total survival mode like last year (granted busy season is always a bit of just surviving, but one tries to find ways to make it more than just that!). Yoga was the first thing that got dropped - nothing until Sunday evening. 

For many reasons, it's important to me to prioritize fitting in workouts - but the reality is that during this time of year that means fitting in a 20-30 minute workout more days than not. Doing multiple workouts in a day, to get in shape for a tri next summer or even just for weight loss, is something that has to be subject to other constraints and might not always happen when I want to.

Workouts

Monday: Tap dance class (60 min) + swim 600 yards

Tuesday: Family/tempo run 2.05 miles (12:01 pace, 46* and drizzly, late afternoon)

Wednesday: Rest day

Thursday: Run 1.95 miles (15:50 pace, 50*, late afternoon) + JM weights (20 min)

Friday: Stroller run 1.55 miles (15:39 pace, 52*, late afternoon)

Saturday: Stairmaster 100 80 flights (17:43) + JM weights (20 min)

I was able to handle a much faster level this time on the stairmaster! Which might because I was getting over colds the last two weekends so those were slower than I realized, but I also used a different machine (there are two at the rec center), so we'll see when I get back on the other one how consistent they might actually be (in terms, e.g., level 10 = x floors/minute).

Edit: A couple weeks I later I used this machine again, counting the actual steps at different speeds - based on a fairly arbitrary assumption of 12 steps per floor, this is definitely overcounting, and in my opinion the real floors is 80% of what the machine says.

Sunday: Long stroller run 3.0 miles (15:28 pace, 55* and windy, mid-morning) + restorative yoga (10 min)

Total swimming: 600 yards
Total running: 8.55 miles

I managed to get get in the pool! I don't want a repeat of 2017 when I realized I only swam once the entire year.

Stair climbing: 155 135 flights
Average daily steps: 12,209
Weight: +36 (no change)
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