Excuse Me, My Penny Please

I don’t understand why some local businesses think it is okay to place a price ending with 49 cents or 99 cents, and then ring up the item after rounding up the price to 50 cents or $1.00. It is at times like this when I have to say, “Excuse me, my penny please.”

Now, some store owners will say sorry and give you the penny. 
Then there are those who act as though the penny is no big deal, so why are you making a big deal about it?

Why A Penny Is A Big Deal

First off, it’s a big deal to me because I have to generate no less than 60 cents in premium income to generate income of six cents. Then, after income taxes, (State, Federal and Local), and setting aside 15.3% of that for the full FICA payment (No employer to pay half. And you wonder why your boss isn’t so happy about big raises. Any raise, you see, generates an additional 7.65% increase in the amount they have to send to Social Security on your behalf.), and thinking about things like rent for home and office, office supplies, utilities for home and office, insurance for car, home and business, and oh yes, food, I am left with my penny.

Why This Post, and Why Tonight?

When my daughter bakes apple pies, it is now traditional I walk at least one slice down to my friend Stepfon, the station agent at my local train station. We became friends after he observed me swiping into the subway every night and then sitting on the bench while waiting for my daughter to return home after rehearsals which would go late into the night.

One night, as I was getting ready to swipe in, he informed me as I never got on the train, and was simply waiting for my daughter, he could extend certain courtesies to me to help me save some money.

While I appreciated his kind offer, I refused, telling him how my father worked for Transit for 20 years and didn’t take any sick time until he was on the job for about seven (7) years. Many a morning he got dressed and went to work even when ill because that was a point of pride for him. The first time he took days to recover from a most terrible flu,  the dreaded “Bee-Keys” showed up at our house to make sure he was actually home. I was home and answered the door for them.

Well, let me tell you after he finished his tirade spraying snot and spittle all over them and his Bajan temper blazing hot enough to launch a rocket ship into space, those two guys took off apologizing, running for their lives.

Even though he took sick days in later years, they never sent anyone to the house again.

I also pointed out all the cameras around the station, and remarked some minor functionary with a bone to pick might just pick on Stepfon and ruin his good service record.

From this, we became fast friends. When I wasn’t at the station to meet my daughter one night, and she told him I was in the hospital, he came to the hospital the next day before his shift to check on me.

Not many people like Stepfon left in this world.

Back To The Pie

So after I left the station to return home, I realized there were no Brillo pads in the house. Carl’s store, my regular go-to convenience store closed early because of the cold, so I went to another store on the strip. I walked in, saw the box of Brillo on the shelf, walked over and saw the price was $2.49. Now I love coupons which only the supermarkets and larger pharmacies accept, but I’d forgotten to include Brillo on my shopping list the day before.

The price of $2.49 didn’t seem so bad for ten (10) pads so I went to the counter and handed the box to the proprietor.

She rang it up for $2.50, and looked me dead in the eyes as if to say, “Argue with me.”

Price of $2.49 is clearly marked on the Brillo box

I was about to raise hell for my penny, and then, thought wiser of such a move. Never again will I purchase coffee and a croissant from this store while waiting on my laundry. I will bring my tea or coffee in a thermos, and I’ll bring toast or a slice of cake which I will buy at a supermarket where the scanner, for the most part, charges the correct price.

Most importantly, this store, which essentially stole my penny, will never see another penny of my money again. There are three other convenience stores at the station, giving me options about who will get my business.

Watch Your Pennies And The Dollars Will Grow

Years ago, there was a television commercial which spoke about sound financial management. One of the actors, dressed as a fly fisherman said, “Watch your pennies, and the dollars will grow.” I try to follow this advice and share it with my clients.

So think about it, 99 more pennies like mine and the proprietor has one dollar. The same thing happens when you put 20 nickels or 10 dimes together.

Which is fine and dandy, as long as I’m not getting ripped off for my penny. Believe me, I can find more friends for that penny to use for my own purposes.

Ten Brillo pads for $2.49, I mean, $2.50

The Moral Of The Story

To business owners everywhere, do yourselves a favor. I don’t care what you want to charge or whether it is overpriced, just don’t play the penny game.

In the end, the penny you take will cost you many, many dollars.

Eustace L. Greaves, Jr., LUTCF is a New York State licensed Independent Insurance Agent and Broker, a Defensive Driving Instructor and Delivery Agent and an Annual Filing Season Program Income Tax Preparer. 

You can reach Eustace by email eustace@insuremeeg.com  or telephone 917-783-7209, to make an appointment to review your insurance program and close any insurance gaps in your insurance program.

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Home, Cooperative, and Condominium Insurance for First-Time Buyers

For many people, buying a home or apartment usually involves borrowing a large amount of money.

What You Need to Protect Your Investment

So, when you borrow a great deal of money from a lender to purchase your home or apartment, you need to make sure you’re protecting one of the single largest purchases you’ll make during your lifetime. A comprehensive Homeowners, Cooperative or Condominium Insurance policy represents the best way to protect your investment from many kinds of property and liability losses.

What Goes Into Rating Your Homes’ Insurance

First, don’t wait until two or three days before your closing to start looking for the perfect homeowner’s policy. Start getting quotes when you go to contract because this usually gives you a window of opportunity of at least 30 to 50 days to get quotes and make an intelligent insurance purchase. Ask every broker or agent you contact for a quotation based on your homes’ full component replacement or construction cost (RCT), not the market value or the mortgage amount. Ask them to provide you with a printed copy of the replacement cost calculations. You want to guarantee you own enough coverage to completely rebuild your home after a covered loss. Our office uses a “Property Insurance Quote Work Sheet,” to develop an accurate replacement cost.

Following is just some of the information you should know and provide to each insurance agent:

  • Your homes’ outside square footage (If you just give the inside dimensions, you won’t have any walls;
  • How many legal apartments (Illegal apartments/tenancies are a huge no-no);
  • Number of floors above the basement or slab;
  • Whether your walls are plaster or drywall. Are they painted, wallpapered, wainscotted, have ceramic tile or other coverings and the percentage of each;
  • Number of bedrooms;
  • Number of  bathrooms;
  • Number of  kitchens;
  • The last partial or complete repairs or upgrades were made to the roof, plumbing, heating, and electrical systems;
  • Is the roof gabled or flat? What type of roofing material is on the roof?;
  • Does the house use gas or oil for heat?
  • Does the electrical system use circuit breakers, or fuses?

Building Ordinance

If your home was constructed before the current building codes became law, include  Ordinance or Law coverage. This is necessary so you can meet those additional rebuilding costs caused by building code changes.

When buying a home, purchase an HO3 policy. Besides replacement cost coverage, this policy also provides coverage for detached garages and tool sheds on your lot, your personal property, additional living expenses so you can rent a temporary apartment in case of catastrophic damage to your home, and liability insurance in case you’re sued. If your property doesn’t qualify for an HO3 policy, you do have an option. The New York Property Insurance Underwriting Association (a.k.a. “The Fair Plan”) offers a fire insurance policy that meets bank insurance requirements.

Determine how much personal property coverage you need by preparing an up-to-date home inventory of everything you own, down to your last sweat sock. With a good home inventory, you stand an excellent chance of being fully compensated after a covered loss. Without one, your full recovery is doubtful.

Unsure about the value of your jewelry, furs, silverware, cameras, and fine arts? Get them appraised. Even the best policies offer only limited amounts of coverage in their basic contracts for these valuable articles. To get proper coverage for valuable items, you’ll need to show a current appraisal before you can add an endorsement to your policy for each item’s value.

Why Flood Insurance

Consider buying flood insurance. A typical home, renters, coop, or condo policy does not cover flood losses. If your home is located in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), the law mandates your bank must require flood insurance for closing and for the life of your mortgage. Even if your home isn’t located in an SFHA, broken water mains, or even severe thunderstorms or hurricanes can create flood losses.

Why Renters Insurance

Not ready to purchase just yet? Purchasing a Renters Insurance policy to protect your possessions is a smart move. Should you suffer a burglary or fire loss without Renters Insurance coverage, you may be forced to replace your lost possessions using the money you saved for your future home.

Other Coverages To Consider

Buy life, disability, and long-term care insurance policies, and establish an emergency repair fund. The worst tragedy your family could suffer is losing your home because a family wage earner who lacked insurance dies or becomes disabled. Also, unexpected home repairs force choosing between either paying the mortgage on time or making necessary repairs. Don’t let your sacrifices and hard work to become a home or apartment owner go to waste. Buy the life, disability, and long-term care insurance coverages necessary to protect your investment, and create an emergency fund so life’s unexpected events won’t destroy your dreams.

You’ll work hard to purchase and keep that home, so put plans in place to protect your investment.

Eustace L. Greaves, Jr., LUTCF, a.k.a. BrooklynCovered.com, is a New York State licensed Insurance Agent and Broker and Continuing Education Monitor. Call him at 718-783-2722, or email him at Eustace@insuremeeg.com to check your life, home, flood, disability, renters, coop, condo, long-term care, and auto insurance needs.


Posted in Co-op Insurance, Condominium Insurance, Disability Insurance, Flood Insurance, Homeowners Insurance, homeowners insurance policy exclusions, insurance quotes, Life, Life Insurance, Long Term Care Insurance, Personal Insurance, Renters Insurance | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Home, Cooperative, and Condominium Insurance for First-Time Buyers

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) Overview 1.5

An overview of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) represents major changes our nation’s tax code.

Here’s a look at some of the more important elements of the new law which will impact  individuals and families. Unless otherwise noted, the changes are effective for tax years beginning in 2018 through 2025. That’s right. The next seven (7) years.


  • Tax Rates.  The new law imposes a new tax rate structure with seven tax brackets: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%,  32%, 35%, and 37%. The top rate was reduced from 39.6% to 37% and applies to taxable income above $500,000 for single taxpayers, and $600,000 for married couples filing jointly. The rates applicable to net capital gains and qualified dividends were not changed. The ‘kiddie tax’ rules were simplified. The net unearned income of a child subject to the rules will be taxed at the capital gain and ordinary income rates that apply to trusts and estates. Thus, the child’s tax is unaffected by the parent’s tax situation or the unearned income of any siblings. 
  • Standard Deduction.  The new law increases the standard deduction to $24,000 for joint filers, $18,000 for head of household, and $12,000 for single and married taxpayers filing separately. Given these increases, many taxpayers will no longer be itemizing deductions. These figures will be indexed for inflation after 2018.
  • Exemptions.  The new law suspends the deduction for personal exemptions. Thus, starting in 2018, taxpayers can no longer claim personal or dependency exemptions. The rules for withholding income tax on wages will be adjusted to reflect this change, but IRS was given the discretion to leave the withholding unchanged for 2018.
  • New deduction for “qualified business income.”  Starting in 2018, taxpayers are allowed a deduction equal to 20 percent of “qualified business income,” otherwise known as “pass-through” income, i.e., income from partnerships, S corporations, LLCs and sole proprietorships. The income must be from a trade or business within the U.S. Investment income does not qualify, nor do amounts received from an S Corporation as reasonable compensation or from a partnerships a guaranteed payment for services provided to the trade or business. The deduction is not used in computing adjusted gross income, just taxable income. For taxpayers with taxable income above $ 157,500 ($315,000 for joint filers), (1) a limitation based on W-2 wages paid by the business and depreciable tangible property used in the business is phased in, and (2) income from the following trades or businesses is phased out of qualified business income: health, law, consulting, athletics, financial or brokerage services, or where the principal asset is the reputation or skill of one or more employees or owners.
  • Child and family tax credit.  The new law increases the credit for qualifying children (i.e., children under 17) to $2000 from $1000, and increases to $1,400 the refundable portion of the credit. It also introduces a new (nonrefundable) $500 credit for a taxpayer’s dependents who are not qualifying children. The adjusted gross income level at which the credits begin to be phased out has been increased to $200,000 ($400,000 for joint filers).
  • State and local taxes. The itemized deduction for state and local income and property taxes is limited to a total of $10,000 starting in 2018.
  • Mortgage interest. Under the new tax law, mortgage interest on loans used to acquire a principal residence, and a second home is only deductible on debt up to $750,000 (down from $1 million), starting with loans taken out in 2018. And there is no longer any deduction for interest on home equity loans, regardless of when you incurred the debt.
  • Miscellaneous itemized deductions. There is no longer a deduction for miscellaneous itemized deductions which were formerly deductible to the extent they exceeded 2 percent of adjusted gross income. This category included items such as tax preparation costs, investment expenses, union dues, and unreimbursed employee expenses. So, all of your auto expenses, for example, are no longer deductible.
  • Medical expenses. Under the new law, for 2017 and 2018, medical expenses are deductible to the extent they exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income for all taxpayers. Previously, the AGI “floor” was 10% for most taxpayers.
  • Casualty and theft losses. The itemized deduction for casualty and theft losses is suspended except for losses incurred in a federally declared disaster. So, if you are renter, or a coop or condo or dwelling owner who lacks comprehensive coverage for your personal property, now is the time to purchase coverage.
  • Overall limitation. The new law suspends the overall limitation on itemized deductions that formerly applied to taxpayers whose adjusted gross income (AGI), exceeded specified thresholds. The itemized deductions of such taxpayers were reduced by 3% of the amount by which AGI exceeded the applicable threshold, but the reduction could not exceed 80% of the total itemized deductions, and certain items were exempt from the limitation.
  • Moving expenses. The deduction for job-related moving expenses is eliminated, except for certain military personnel. The exclusion for moving expense reimbursements has also been suspended.
  • Alimony. There is some truth in the old song, “It’s Cheaper To Keep Her.” For post-2018 divorce decrees and separation agreements, alimony  is no longer deductible by the paying spouse and is no longer taxable to the receiving spouse.
  • Health care “individual mandate.” Starting in 2019, there is no longer a penalty for individuals who fail to obtain minimum essential health coverage. (This will probably lead to fewer Americans purchasing health insurance, and more states reducing or eliminating Medicaid contributions for health care plans.)
  • Estate and gift tax exemption. Effective for decedents dying , and gifts made, in 2018, the estate and gift tax exemption is now increased to roughly $11.2 million ($22.4 million for married couples).
  • Alternative minimum tax (AMT) exemption. The AMT has been retained for individuals by the new law but the exemption is now increased to $109,400 for joint filers ($54,700 for married taxpayers filing separately), and $70,300 for unmarried taxpayers. The exemption is phased out for taxpayers with alternative minimum taxable income over $1 million for joint filers, and over $500,000 for all others.

As you can see from this overview, the new law affects many areas of taxation. I plan to hold at least one (1) public seminars in Brooklyn, to ‘drill down’ into just how the new law will affect you. There will be a fee charged for attendance at these seminars to offset the cost of the venue, and painkillers.

Eustace L. Greaves, Jr., LUTCF is a frequent presenter in the areas of personal insurance, personal income taxation,  and budget and credit strategies for many organizations, including, Neighborhood Housing Services of NYC, Inc., HCCI, Impacct Brooklyn, and Bridge Street Development Corporation. He is a New York State licensed insurance agent and broker, and  NYS Defensive Driving Delivery Agent and Instructor.

You can reach Eustace at Eustace@insuremeeg.com, or 718-783-2722.


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Posted in Income Tax, Income Tax Planning, Income Tax Preparation, Schedule A, W-2 Wage and Tax Statement | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) Overview 1.5