Home > Need advice: Serious work thoughts at tax time

Need advice: Serious work thoughts at tax time

February 18th, 2015 at 03:57 pm

It's tax time and this is the time of year I always get super depressed about work. I freelance, so I'm all 1099 income. That means self-employment tax (I pay all the SS and Med taxes because I don't have an 'employer' to pay half for me like w-2 workers).

I don't make that much. The last few years I've made about $20k working part-time. I cut back last year after I looked at my taxes (more on that later). In 2014, I made a little over $10k.

I work from home part-time because my kids are young and I've been struggling to balance work deadlines and the kids since they were newborns.It's been seven years. Of non-stop deadlines. I work in media, so there is always a deadline and the cycle of deadlines never ends. And when I say deadlines I mean more than one each week, whether or not it's summer vacation, a snow day, or the kids have pink eye.

It has not been easy. I frequently get stood up by people I'm interviewing who assume I work in an office all day and have plenty of time. This throws a complete wrench into my life, as does every snow day. My life is a house of cards and one little thing sends it all tumbling down. If I go out of town or know the kids have spring break, sometimes I have to do four or five extra articles and interviews in advance just to meet my deadlines for that week off. (Stress!).

But, my thought in doing it was that I wanted to have options. I didn't want to have a 10 year gap in my resume once the youngest got to first grade, if I needed to go back to work full-time in an office.

So here I am, seven years on. Even thought I've cut back on assignments, it's still a grind. Now I'm doing the taxes, and alas, I have to look at the cold hard numbers and what I actually "profited" from all that work.

And the reality is, it's almost all for nothing.

-I made $10,500
-I paid $4,555 in childcare to work (I have since cut back, from $555 to $225/month since I also cut back at work)
-I put $5500 in my IRA

On paper, it looks like I "made" $500. Before taxes.
Now let's look at that.
Before I factored in my income, we were due for a tax refund of $7,155
After? $3575, including a measly $943 tax credit for the nearly $5k I paid for childcare. Plus, I need to pay $400 in city taxes on the money I made.

So, the math after taxes?
10,500-4,555-3980(tax refund/city)= 1965 profit, not including the IRA.
If I hadn't worked at all, I would have put $3980 profit into the family account, in the form of tax refunds and tax savings.

So the question is, should i keep doing this?

I have felt as if any money was worthwhile in this economy, even if it wasn't much, but looking at the cold hard numbers just makes it all so frustrating. Is that small amount of money worth all the work I have done. All the stress juggling the kids and work?

I'm not sure.

Let me also throw in some background .

I work in journalism and we all know that's a dying industry. Very few people actually buy a newspaper anymore. My company has been laying off people since 2005. Going back to a full-time job in this industry probably isn't in the cards.

Even so, I've been passed over four times by my boss for full-time jobs. I was only once considered, and then immediately not when I said the salary would have to cover childcare for two young kids plus profit. Instead, they have hired all men, who either have grown or no children or a spouse who is like me and manages to make it all work with no hiccups for the husband.

After the company Xmas party it also occurred to me that I no longer want to work full-time in this industry. Talk about depressing. everyone is stressed out, overworked, understaffed and unhappy. I also don't have the fire for the industry that I did when I was younger. I felt deep down it was time to move on.

But that would be admitting my first major career is over and then figuring out what next?

So, what would you do? Do you have any sage advice? Am I looking at this all the wrong way?

11 Responses to “Need advice: Serious work thoughts at tax time”

  1. Bluebird Says:

    Thrift, I understand your dilemma. I currently work full time outside the home and have two boys just a little older than yours. The juggling is exhausting at times. I personally would not continue working part time at home in your current field. I would take a break and evaluate other options, such as your gardening bringing in some income or other things you enjoy doing. Possibly, you could work a part time job for a few hours while the boys are in school. Are there any garden centers or nurseries in your area? Having a part time job that you can leave behind at the end of your work day would be nice and a lot less stressful for you. Good luck!

  2. Buendia Says:

    I completely understand. I work for myself as well, and there are many times it has been so frustrating (for all the reasons you mention). I do have an office, and that makes things easier. And my daughter is in 4th, which is also easier, but as you mention, a snow day or even a a field trip can really mess things up! On the other hand, I love the flexibility and being able to pick her up from school each day. I love being able to drive on those field trips. It's a tradeoff, because I full time or even part time job for someone else wouldn't be as flexible.

    When I was transitioning to owning my own business, I worked part time for another architect (a friend of mine who had a lot of work and needed help). Maybe keep doing some of this freelance work while you transition to another field?

    My husband, by the way, was a journalist for a long time... same issues you've had with the field. He then went to work in a sort of related field (it was still communications and writing, but for the internet). That led him to website design, which he never liked. Then back to communications and writing (for a non-profit). So he's now communications director for a non-profit, which is not exactly journalism, but he does a lot of writing, and now social media as well. So there are ways that you can still use your talents in a different job!

  3. CB in the City Says:

    I work at a college, and our marketing/communications department is almost entirely made up of journalists who were laid off from the Chicago Tribune. I'm sure they don't find their work as exciting as it used to be, but they have full-time work, benefits, and a lot less stress.

  4. ceejay74 Says:

    I would think one of the less immediately tangible benefits would be keeping your skills sharp and avoiding a big blank period on your resume for when/if you want to go back to work. That said, if you want to pursue a new direction that has nothing to do with your previous and current work, an unpaid internship in a new field might be more valuable eventually.

  5. ThriftoRama Says:

    Thanks for the advice, guys.

    A few more things to add:

    First, I now make much less per assignment than I did before the recession. About half actually, as rates were cut in 2008 and have not been raised once since then. I've been writing a regular feature, weekly. This is my sixth year. Without a single raise, on an already crappy freelance rate. I mentioned this to my editor and he was like "Yeah, it's a shame. Nothing we can do about it." So there is no more money to be made by asking for more. Publications simply do not have it.

    I have thought about making more from other ventures. First, the garden. I do have the opportunity to teach classes on garden topics through a friend's farm shop. I've had offers, but haven't had the time. I also sell some things I grow in that shop, such as luffa sponges. I also would like to try my hand writing short nonfiction books on gardening topics and self-publishing on Amazon. Or even through a real publisher. I have also just finished my first novel.

    It's just a question of do I continue to struggle through all this for so little pay off, or should I just throw in the towel and start exploring ventures for the next phase of my life? We will be okay financially without my job, but I might have to economize more to make up for the immediate cash flow.

  6. TarWalker Says:

    This post really resonated with me. I've done similar thought searching recently. It's not a fun process. The thing that really helped me was the realization that when something is a grind and you are struggling, even though you are doing your best, you really aren't. When you enjoy the task, your best takes a whole other level.

    Plus when something in your life drags you down, it takes up your bandwidth for other parts of your life. Life is too short to let that happen for long. What I was giving to my job mentally, even when I wasn't there, was causing me to sacrifice in my dealings with my children. It wasn't worth it.

    One last thing, I've recently seen people come back into pretty nice jobs after having a break on their resume or even doing part-time, non-related work. All that seems to matter is your willingness and ability to do a job, how you can apply what you had been doing to the jobs tasks, and almost more importantly who you know.

    Best of luck with your decision!

  7. ThriftoRama Says:

    Wow. Tarwalker. You did touch on something there. I do get short and snippy with my children when work isn't going well. And, we often have to sacrifice doing fun things so I an wait around for whatever work call I need to make (and sometimes get stood up for).

    I'm giving this a lot of thought. I hadn't had a resume since 2005, the last time I had to look for work, so I did one just to see what it would look like for me now. It's pretty impressive. And, I could probably get away without having a real gap. If I quit my weekly gig, it would be the biggest chunk of money, but it wouldn't mean that I couldn't say yes to occasional projects that come along.

    Hubby feels very strongly I should move on. In part because of the bandwidth part. Emotionally. He even said when things go badly or I'm bogged down with work, he feels like it eats into my mental space and makes all of our lives miserable. Even my mother thinks I should move on. I'm about to turn 40, and my mom, at 68, gave me the advice that I had to live and be happy now because life was short.

    Maybe I spend too much time trying to do the 'responsible' thing?

  8. Bluebird Says:

    I think you should move on, too. Without the stress of the current job, you will have the opportunity to be more open to other scenarios. You will probably feel like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders (I know I would!). Life is too short! It will all work out...I know from all of your posts that you will be just fine, and will probably be much happier in the long run!

  9. LuckyRobin Says:

    I think you should quit. It sounds like you would be a lot happier pursuing other options. And if you have to live on one income for a while, well, it's not as hard as a lot of folks make it out to be. We've been doing it since my husband was only making $22K a year. He makes considerably more now, but the point is, we did it then. Take some time, figure out what you want to do, and then figure out how you are going to do it.

  10. MonkeyMama Says:

    I say listen to your mother and your husband. Big Grin The irony is that it is the more responsible thing to do. I would want to work on a more long-term viable income source. & honestly, even with much older kids we still can't get the math to work on a second income actually making any financial sense. Preserving our health, sanity and happiness has always been much more important then busting our butts for literally a few dollars. The lost income (net) you are talking about will be so easy to make up with so little effort.

  11. ThriftoRama Says:

    I can't tell all of you how much your input and advice means to me. I'm still mulling the options, but I think I'm leaning toward letting most of the freelance go. I'm wrapping up a few big projects, and filing the taxes, then I'll come up with my game plan. I will keep you posted.

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