“Without a doubt, without hesitation, I choose gardening over the gym. I can’t stand going to the gym. It doesn’t appeal to me. Give me gardening every time.” – Mary Berry of the Great British Bake Off
BY JULIA ANDERSON
Even though I grew up on a farm, I didn’t put a seed in the dirt until grown and married. A patch of exposed soil six inches wide and a few feet long out of an apartment sliding door gave me my first green thumb inspiration.
Flower seeds from a packet purchased at the grocery store rewarded me that summer with colorful blossoms and bouquets That was in 1969. They were zinnias.
I have been gardening since. Sticking with the basics, I grow beans – pole beans and bush beans. The other usuals include zucchini, some kind of lettuce, carrots, kale and spinach. Last year, I threw in nasturtiums for color. They were a visual color riot AND EDIBLE.
They make a return visit this year, along with zinnas.
Everyone is writing about the appeal of gardening while quarantined at home during the Great 2020 Virus Outbreak. The New York Times, the Seattle-Times, Wall Street Journal and others all have produced lovely pieces written for people who might be sticking their first seed in the ground.
Beginners as well as those of us already in love with gardening have been flooding online seed companies with orders. Garden supply retailers (deemed essential businesses) are seeing robust sales, two and three times that of a normal season.
Here are my tips for starting a garden on a budget:
Make a Plan: Where will your garden be? How big? Is there an open spot in your yard or along the side of the house? Is there room for a garden box on the patio or a flowerpot on the apartment balcony? All you need is some dirt, sunlight for at least half the day and water (once or twice a week).
Understand the work and time required: Taking care of a garden or even a flower in a pot requires attention (time). Plants need sun and regular watering (but not over-watering) to do well. Plants also need weeding and occasional pruning.
Make sure you (and your family) are willing to regularly put time tending the plants once it begins to grow.
Put together a budget: What do you have on hand, what do you need? A basic “garden” should not cost more than $20 in seed, plus a few tools. A scratching tool, trowel and maybe a shovel to dig up the soil are the basics. Tools could add another $50 to the upfront costs. But I’ve used kitchen forks and spoons to work up and plant in small pots.
A patch of dirt or a medium-sized planter box in direct sun more than half the day.
A trowel and a scratching tool for working up the dirt, planting and keeping weeds at bay.
A shovel, if you dig up a larger patch alongside your house or in the yard. Maybe a heavy rake and a hoe, so you can weed without bending over.
Additional needs and ideas: Bamboo or wooden sticks for pole beans to climb on, cuttings from perennial flowers from a neighbor’s yard with permission. Annuals die at the end of each growing season. Perennials return.
Seeds, not starts: Packets of seed typically cost $2 to $4. Seedling starts, already sprouted and growing, are more expensive. Try starting your own seeds inside using shallow tin cans placed near a sunny window.
Seeds packets are available at many grocery stores and at ag retail stores, both considered essential businesses during the stay-at-home quarantine. Keep in mind that the cheapest seed is not always best in terms of germination and plant performance during the growing season.
What to plant: If you have a small area (planter box or flowerpot) go with a packet of climbing Blue Lake pole beans, since they don’t need much space and will grow upward on a wooden pole or two. Or how about a cherry tomato plant (best purchased as a plant) that will reward you all summer. Stick in a few cucumber seeds at the edge of the planter. They hang out and trail down.
Throw in some nasturtiums for color, if you’ve got room. They are edible and look great on a plate. Lettuce from seed would be my next choice.
If you have a larger planting area put in bush beans (green and yellow), kale, spinach and more lettuce. Zucchini plants have never let me down for their dramatic size and production. Love’m.
TO REVIEW: Hopefully, you already own basic garden tools, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money. If not, start with a scratching tool and a trowel. (Or use a spoon from the kitchen). Buy a few packets of seed at about $2 a packet. Go with the basics: climbing pole beans, a cherry tomato plant, and a packet of mixed lettuce.
For me gardening is everything. It clears my head and restores my soul. I get physical exercise while creating beauty. I walk around my garden and yard at the end of the day and give thanks for the miracle of life. Mornings, I stroll outside (when it's not raining) with a bowl of cereal while looking at plants, shrubs and thinking about what comes next.
A quote from actor Helen Mirren reminds me of what gardening is all about -- “Gardening is learning, learning, learning. That's the fun... you’re always learning.”
"A beginner's guide to starting a coronavirus victory garden," Seattle Times, click here.
"In Lockdown, Discovering Gardening's Restorative Powers," -WSJ, click here.
"How to start a vegetable garden on the cheap," - Living on the Cheap, click here.
“If I panic, everyone else panics,” – Kobe Bryant, (1978-2020)
BY JULIA ANDERSON
“For companies hard hit by the economic effects of COVID-19, the actions they take today may spell the difference between survival and liquidation,” says Renee Fellman, a business turnaround expert in Portland, Ore.
Fellman with 30 years of experience helping businesses dig themselves out of trouble is offering a survival tip sheet for business owners struggling to pay the bills. Over her career, Fellman has been interim CEO of 19 companies from a wide range of industries. She's consulted with many more. (Her ideas earlier appeared in an article she wrote for The American City Business Journals, which owns the Portland Business Journal and others.)
10 STEPS to take charge, now from Renee Fellman
1. Employ the tool used by every competent turnaround professional: Prepare a conservative, detailed weekly cash plan for the coming two to three months. If needed, prepare daily plan for the next few weeks.
Be realistic so that you can use this to help ensure that your company does not run out of cash. Going forward, compare budget to actual each week.
2. If the plan shows you will run out of cash, create an action plan to reduce costs and/or increase revenues and collections. Important: Convene a meeting of your most capable managers, review with them the cash plan and every line item on your financial statements and solicit their input and ideas about how to increase cash, increase revenues and decrease costs.
Prepare a written action plan based on the results and specify who is responsible for completing which actions by what date. Nailing down plans and responsibilities is critical.
3. Implement purchasing controls so that only expenditures specified in the cash plan are made. Define who has authority to approve which expenditures, in what circumstances and in what amounts. What other approvals, if any, are required?
4. Eliminate non-vital expenses.
5. Unneeded assets? Old, slow-moving inventory? Try selling these at a discount.
6. Stop producing money-losing products and providing money-losing services. One troubled company joke is, “We’re losing money on every job, but we’ll make it up in volume.” If you are unsure which are money-losing products or services, engage a professional who can quickly analyze the numbers.
7. Accelerate receivables collections. If your business is not totally cash or credit-card-based, consider offering a discount for early payment. For those who cannot pay in full, try to establish a payment plan.
8. Too often, troubled companies specialize in selling to customers that do not pay. This problem is often exacerbated in times of stress. Do you have customers who are unable to pay the amounts they owe you? Are you unsure about their credit status?
Require them to pay cash in advance and design a fail-proof internal system to ensure that your company receives payment before providing its products or services. This benefits your customers, too, by ensuring that they can obtain needed materials and services.
9. What opportunities for additional revenue do you have in the current environment?
10. Monitor the kinds of assistance available for your business and confer with your professional advisers (tax, employment law) to ensure you comply with current requirements.
Editor’s note: The information above is provided solely for informational and educational purposes and does not fully address the complexity of the issues or steps businesses must take given their specific situations and applicable laws.
For MORE: www.reneefellman.com
Renee Fellman, winner of the Turnaround of the Year Award from the international Turnaround Management Association, helps companies improve profitability at warp speed. She has served as interim CEO for 19 companies and has rescued privately held, publicly held, family-owned and employee-owned businesses from the brink of disaster.
BY JULIA ANDERSON
Many people are struggling, right now, to come up with cash to pay for everyday items: food and gas for instance. It can be easy to make money moves today that you end up regretting down the road. Here are the best and worst ways to raise cash in a hurry from the American Institute of CPAs. Check out its web site 360financialliteracy.org.
Do's and Don’ts of getting cash in a hurry.
Immediately apply for unemployment benefits through your state’s Dept. of Labor. Many states are extending eligibility to people who have lost jobs because of virus closures. There’s nothing to pay back, if you qualify. Available to parents who had to stop working to care for children.
Free up cash flow. When every dollar counts, evale ALL your spending habits and all your monthly bills. What can you get rid of? Credit card fees, cable fees, subscriptions. Put your student loans in forbearance (on hold). Talk to your landlord about rent reductions, your bank about mortgage payment. PRO: Frees up cash, immediately
Sell things: Something valuable around the house, jewelry, a second car. CON: You may have regrets, later. If you sell stock, you might pay capital gains taxes, later.
Check with your community: Many religious groups and foundations maintain funds to help those in need. Check to see if you qualify.
Get a side gig. A job is better than no job!!! Despite the closures and layoffs, some employers are HIRING!! --- Grocery stores, delivery companies, distribution warehouses and call centers for essential businesses such as banks. Become a shopper for a grocery delivery service. Be Creative and don’t whine about the $12 an hour. You might be surprised.
Borrow from family and friends. This is tricky. Put the agreement in writing to ensure that you’re all on the same page about payback terms. Move into your parents’ basement.
Make a Retirement account withdrawal: This is a last resort because it jeopardizes your long-term financial future. Rules have been relaxed for these types of withdrawals due to the coronavirus. Check with your fund account management firm.
Borrow from a retirement account with your employer using a hardship withdrawal. Depending on your plan, you can sometimes get a check in hand within a day. You are borrowing from yourself with the idea you’ll pay it back. There are rules regarding withdrawal amounts, paybacks.
Get a credit card cash advance: This is the absolute worst way to get cash because it is EXPENSIVE money. --- High fees, and high interest charges.
Payday loans: Same bad deal -- High fees, high interest. You can get caught in never-ending cycle of borrowing against the future.
Stick with options that have the shortest recovery period as we all try to “flatten the coronavirus curve.” In other words, don’t dig yourself into a hole from which you CANNOT RECOVER!!!
"The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax." -- Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist, (1879-1955)
BY JULIA ANDERSON
Federal and state agencies are doing their best to keep the economy going as we move through the virus crisis. A key element is leaving money in our pockets, longer.
On the tax front here’s what’s happening, so far:
The federal deadline for paying 2019 personal income tax has been extended
from April 15 to July 15.
The purpose of these moves is to leave more money in our checking accounts short-term to help us pay for immediate expenses (food, rent) as we sit home in quarantine.
“How you invest during retirement is as critical as how you invest in preparing for retirement," ----
- Daniel R. Solin, author, "7. Steps to Save Your Financial Life."
BY JULIA ANDERSON
The big virus crisis stimulus bill passed by the U.S. Senate and now headed to the House and the President, suspends for the rest of 2020 the requirement that seniors over 70 1/2 take RMD (Required Minimum Distribution) withdrawals from their tax-deferred savings accounts.
We said this was a possibility a few days ago in our most recent post here at sixtyandsingle.com but suggested it might not happen until later this year. Now, Congress is charging ahead.
RMD withdrawals are determined as a percentage of your nest egg such as a Rollover IRA at the end of the prior calendar year. In 2020, retirees were required to take RMD withdrawals from their tax-deferred nest egg based on the value of their funds on Dec. 31, 2019 before the big market crash.
Now, this year’s withdrawal requirement has been suspended. This is long-term help for seniors already worried that they might run out of money before they die.
Tax law requires RMDs to begin the year you turn 71/2, (now 72 with the recent change).
RMD money, by the way, is taxed as ordinary income on your federal income tax return.
The suspension is good news for two reasons:
1. Seniors can avoid taking taxable money out of their retirement savings when their investments have likely been hit by the 30 percent market downturn. The money stays and helps reinvest in the expected recovery over the long-term.
2. The RMD suspension lowers seniors’ taxable income in 2020. We will be getting out their calculators to see how much less they can withdraw but still pay their basic household bills. Or we may choose to live without RMD income all together. Either way our taxable income in 2020 will be lower. That’s good news going into 2021 when we pay estimated taxes based on 2020 income.
For those not yet over age 70, the IRS uses a life-expectancy actuarial chart to calculate percentage withdrawals for you that increase each year. For example:
If you are 72 this year and had $500,000 in your retirement tax-deferred nest egg on Dec. 31, 2019, the required withdrawal amount would have been $19,531 or $1,627 a month. Next year, the withdrawal amount would increase to $20,565, ($1,713 per month) assuming that the value of our nest egg increased from earnings by 5.5 percent.
If you are 72 this year and had $1,000,000 in your retirement tax deferred nest egg on Dec. 31, 2019, the IRS required that you withdraw $39,062 from that account this year. That’s $3,255 a month. Under normal circumstances, next year, the withdrawal amount would have increased to $41,131, if your remaining balance went up in value thanks to earnings by an estimated 5.5 percent.
All that is on hold thanks to the suspension. Take it or leave it, it’s up to you.
IRS RMD basics: click here
IRS RMD worksheet: click here
Nerdwallet.com click here
Kiplinger.com "Everything you need to know about RMDs." click here.
I meet women all the time who face job and money transitions and who want to do them right. It’s about building confidence and taking charge of the future. This is your money. No one cares more than you do!
Editor's note: All information provided at sixtyandsingle.com is for informational purposes only. Sixtyandsingle.com makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information or any damages arising from its display or use.