ObamaCare is Our Own Dang Fault

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” — President John F. Kennedy, inaugural address, 1961

I have been thinking a lot about Kennedy’s admonition as Americans are waking up and smelling the ObamaCare coffee. I am wondering why are Americans so shocked.

Americans had been warned by health insurance experts. They told us such promises were impossible to achieve. The experts told us that you could not socialize medicine and extend the same level of health care for all. The resources do not exist. If nothing else, there are not enough doctors.

But you didn’t have to be a healthcare expert to know this. Even common sense would dictate that expanding healthcare coverage for more people would cost everyone more. Of course employers would rather pay a fine that is cheaper than paying ever-rising health insurance premiums. You like to save money too, don’t you?

ObamaCare would have never gotten off the ground in Kennedy’s day. Americans were still too much against anything that smacked of socialism.

But we are a different America now. Kennedy’s 1961 audience was made up mostly of those who had lived through the depression and at least one world war. If they were young enough to have no memory of such trying events, they had parents who did — and they talked about it. Such collective experience has been buried in our nation’s cemeteries.

We have forgotten that those who lived through those events sacrificed more than most of us have. My Grandmother Webbe, who was born 104 years ago, was coming of age during the depression. It left an indelible mark on her and her peers. They never took prosperity for granted. They saved everything because they never knew when a time of need would happen again.

­­_______________
Even common sense would dictate that expanding healthcare coverage
for more people would cost everyone more.
_______________

Kennedy’s statement was offered to a people who understood that individual rights meant individual responsibilities. These were a people who believed in the Judeo-Christian God to whom they were accountable. They did not see jobs as a right but a privilege they worked hard to achieve and maintain. They did not rely on government but the strength of family and community. Some people fell through the cracks, so government got involved. Some will fall through the ObamaCare cracks as well.

But the audience is different now. Our rights do not stem from a creator to whom we owe an account of our lives. That presumed creator in the Declaration of Independence’s who endowed us with rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has been substituted by the government. The freedom of assembly, religion and expression now extends to the right to personal offense and lawsuits that censor Americans from speaking truth.

And we don’t ask ourselves what we can do for our country. We expect more from others than we do ourselves.

As a result, the question of what we can do for our country has been answered for us. Doing for our country means paying higher taxes and accepting a lower standard of living. These are taxes necessary to finance our high expectations from governmental programs promised by politicians to get elected.

And this is our fault. Rising health care costs is a direct result of Americans having greater expectations to live unhealthy lives without having to pay much of the health care tab.

_______________
Kennedy’s statement was offered to a people
who understood that individual rights meant individual responsibilities.
_______________

ObamaCare is also the result of a civil war taking place in this country, but of a different kind.

It is not one being fought with guns, but something less obvious and perhaps more sinister: propaganda. We are surprised by the effects of ObamaCare because we wanted to believe the promises it made to us.

Recently I gained new perspective on the War Between the States by reading the southern states’ perspective. It turns out my great, great grandfather, Henry H. Gill, fought in the civil war for the Confederacy. I felt I owed it to Henry H. Gill of the 1st Northern Virginia Infantry to see the war through his eyes.

Growing up in Cleveland, I already knew the north’s perspective. Of proud Yankee blood, I felt great that my ancestors were on the right side of history. Another ancestral line is made up of Quakers who left Virginia in 1799 to live in the slave-free Northwest Territory.

When it came to slavery, the north was right. But when it came to state’s rights, the Confederacy was right.

From their perspective, their own country went to war against them. Many Americans who are being forced into ObamaCare feel their government is imposing on them. ObamaCare won political support even though about half of Americans were against it. We are a country divided about health care.

The confederacy fought back. Most soldiers were not fighting to maintain slavery. Frankly, most of them could not afford slaves anyway.

The confederate states wanted liberty from the federal government forcing its agenda on them. This is no different than the genesis of the Declaration of Independence, which came about because Mother England was doing the same. My ancestors fought in the Revolutionary war as well.

But we are a different people now. Our expectations are different. We ask what our country to do for us instead of the other way around. Such expectancy paved the way for ObamaCare. This is our own dang fault.

This is no longer the country for which my ancestors fought. I don’t think they would have felt comfortable here anyway.

Like what you see? Then follow me!

Why Charles Ramsey Is My Hero

Charles Ramsey hero shirts for $20. Proceeds are for the victims. Visit http://store.onpointpromos.com/shop/charles-ramsey-cleveland-hero-tee/

Charles Ramsey hero shirts for $20. Proceeds are for the victims. Visit http://store.onpointpromos.com/shop/charles-ramsey-cleveland-hero-tee/

Charles Ramsey is my hero. It’s not just because he and other brave neighbors freed three kidnapped women and a little girl who lived in the hellacious prison of Ariel Castro’s Cleveland home.

Though that alone would cover it.

It’s because I see more truth and character in him than in many of the privileged and powerful.

I grew up in Euclid, a mostly working class white neighborhood on Cleveland’s east side. Euclid borders Richmond Heights, where Ramsey lived, though he attended Brush High School. Being the first one in my family to get a college education, my journalism degree paved the way for me to become a Cleveland reporter and radio talk show host for the former AM-1300 WERE. For personal reasons, I moved to the Washington, D.C. area and found myself a fish out of Lake Erie among the Potomac River’s privileged and powerful.

A class act, Ramsey is far richer than many of the powerful and privileged. Ramsey has his integrity. He is bold, candid and a breath of fresh air. His language may offend the sensitive, but he speaks truth.

He does not offend me. I would rather hear his slang than live where people walk on eggshells for fear of speaking truth. Our government is reluctant to call the Boston bombing or the shooting at Fort Hood acts of Jihadist terrorism, but you cannot fool Cleveland. Clevelanders unapologetically call something what it really is. The logic is clear: How can you address a problem without honesty?

In rescuing Castro’s victims, Ramsey said he only did what anyone would do. In this, he assumes that most of us value and exhibit true character. But unlike heroes like Ramsey, too many of us are just too chicken to get our hands dirty. But heroes will and do. They have the innate qualities to overcome the idol of self-preservation that ignores the suffering often close to us.

And for his heroic act he will not accept reward money. A dishwasher for a downtown restaurant who lives in a west side working class neighborhood, no doubt he could use the extra bread. In an interview with Anderson Cooperhe said the only thing before for the rescue that kept him up at night was not having enough money. Now he can’t sleep because he feels bad that the victims were next door and he did not even know it.

Given that Cleveland has had a depressed economy with double-digit unemployment for years, he is grateful he even has a job.

And while I suspect his life has not been an easy one, he recognizes that it does not compare to the hell these women have suffered.

_______________
A class act, Ramsey is far richer
than many of the powerful and privileged.
_______________

While to some, he lacks some social graces, Ramsey has more class than some of the educated reporters and commentators who have covered this story.

During an interview with Ramsey, George Stephanopoulos mentioned he attended Orange high school. What Ramsey full well knew and understood is that George’s alma mater was a high school of the privileged. Ramsey could have pointed out that his Cleveland is very different than George’s. He had the class to resist the “I can’t relate,” kind of comments. Instead, he joked about the high schools being rivals, but that’s all right.

My suspicion is the only things these two have in common are a shared passion for the Indians, Browns and Cavs.

Ramsey certainly has more class than the sports commentators I heard last week on FM-WJKF 106.7. They joked that everyone shown from Ramsey’s neighborhood were missing at least one tooth. Even though they acknowledged Ramsey’s heroism, such negative comments were untrue and in bad taste.

When the media revealed that Ramsey had a criminal history of domestic violence, Ramsey did not freak. Not missing a beat, he acknowledged his past and pointed out ways he is trying to improve his life.

While the media outlet that revealed Ramsey’s past apologized, the journalist in me wonders why. Had the media not reported it, would they have been accused of not telling Ramsey’s whole story? How would Ramsey’s ex-wife have felt?

I am further inspired because he has the guts to face himself. From the revelation, we learned more about the man and witnessed his personal courage. Those who squarely face their issues and make steps to improve are heroes.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Ramsey told the Washington Post over the weekend he was actually suspended from work last week after rounds of ammo from an AK-47 fell out of his pocket when he leaned over.
Now you can find a sandwich named after him at Hodges restaurant.

Blogs are supposed to be short. Ramsey deserves more words than I offer here. His honesty, courage, humility, and selflessness are just some reasons why Charles Ramsey is my hero. If you agree, please share this blog.

And consider buying a “Charles Ramsey Cleveland Hero” t-shirt. The proceeds are for the victims.

Remembering 9-11

Every generation has a moment in time of a shared memory. For us, it is September 11, 2001.

We cannot help but stop for a while and think about it. And we should not fight it. Perhaps we do not think about it enough. A moment of silence does not seem to be enough.

That day some 3,000 people went to work on a crisp and beautiful pre-fall day not knowing they would die from terrorism. It was the day after Labor Day and for many, the first day of school. My neighbor Knell and I were stay-at-home mothers. I had just gotten over three months of morning sickness. I was pregnant with my daughter Kristen. Marianna was a toddler. Knell and I were planning to go for a walk.

John, who was my husband at the time, was a newsroom editor. He called to tell me one of the Twin Towers was ablaze. A plane had sliced into one of the towers. I was bewildered, remembering that planes were not allowed to fly over Manhattan. In the few minutes that it took me to go next door with stroller and toddler in hand, I was in Knell’s family room watching a second tower ablaze. “This is not an accident,” I said. “This is terrorism.”

Knell wondered if we should go on our walk. I said we should because we were in Arlington, Virginia, quite far from the burning towers of New York. As we naively pushed our strollers, neighbors in cars stopped to ask us if we knew what happened. We thought we did, but learned that as we were walking, a plan had struck The Pentagon less than two miles away. We couldn’t reach our husbands on her cell phone. We quickly pushed our strollers home as neighbors we didn’t know opened windows and asked us if we knew what was happening. We just knew we had to get home.

Knell and I talked about it today, eerily remembering how the weather then was just as today — the cool weather and clear blue sky. It was simply too beautiful not to take a walk.

As if the events in New York’s financial district and the Pentagon were not enough, the news media reported endless rumors. Even the Washington Monument was hit, one rumor said. We sat at home with the non-stop television reports, helpless. Chicken Little’s apocalyptic sky was falling, getting out of the district was nearly impossible and we wondered if or when we our loved ones again.

________________
The fact is, most of the people who died on 9-11 were in the course of employment,
qualifying their families for workers’ comp.
But liability and life insurance costs made workers’ comp an insurance footnote.
______________

Schools closed. The numbers of the estimated dead were up to at least 15,000 people. Thankfully, those estimates were wrong, but the real number was bad enough.

Marianna had always noticed the airplanes going over our home, as we lived under the flight path of Reagan National Airport. The weeks of silence, the anticipation of something else happened loomed over all of us. It was hard to sleep. It was hard not to worry about what the future held.

Life in Washington, D.C. would never be the same. I wondered what kind of world my baby would be born into. Our nation’s innocence was lost. Terrorism was no longer a reality in faraway places. Preventing it would become the new normal. We continue living our normal lives not knowing how much we have been protected from another incident, but also knowing it is likely to happen again.

I cannot help but think that the World War II generation would have not taken the “move on” approach to such a horrific day. I suspect they would have made this a Federal holiday. But instead we honor the dead by trying to live normal lives to mark a day that could not be less normal.

A freelance journalist at the time, I tried to sell the New York Times a story about the workers’ compensation implications. The fact is, most of the people who died on 9-11 were in the course of employment, qualifying their families for workers’ comp. But liability and life insurance costs made workers’ comp an insurance footnote. It’s hard to get the media to care about workers’ compensation.

Thousands of workers still live with the ramifications of cleaning up 9-11. Families continue to suffer from the loss of loved ones. No sense can be made from such intense evil.

We did try to return to normalcy after that day, but no camera could adequately capture the evilness of the dark black charred hole in the Pentagon. That view is forever etched in my memory. Even now, when I drive by it, I cannot help but notice newer stone that restored the building’s polygonal shape.

My world is very different now. I have moved farther away into the suburbs and will soon be married to Alan, who was serving our country in the Navy that day. My girls asked me so many questions on the way to school today. I painted a picture of what happened, but stopped short of answering the reasons beyond 9-11. How can you describe how sick and mislead people carefully calculated mass murder in the name their God?

I grew up during the cold war and fear of the Soviet Union dropping nuclear bombs. We know now they were as afraid of us as we were them and that shared fear protected us all. Superpowers are easier to keep at bay than individual terrorist groups underwritten by our dependence on foreign oil. But we didn’t know what we know now and our heroin-like dependence on foreign oil is a tough to addiction to break. Environmentally friendly technology moves at a snail’s pace while there’s no limit to making smart phones smarter.

We do not do enough to memorialize 9-11. We are simply too busy to stop for ritual as past generations did. And ultimately, the busyness that distracts us from 9-11 might be our ultimate curse.

This blog has surpassed its ideal length, but I don’t care. This is part of my way of remembering that awful day that changed us all forever.

Why I Love My IBM Selectric

My “new” IBM Selectric arrived last week.

Big, beautiful and sexy red, my fiancée Alan remembered I had always wanted one. Like me, he appreciates the value of retro equipment. He collects pinball machines.

My friends laugh at me, wondering why I would want the heavy industrial-weight machine.

“You can do everything you need on a computer,” my friends laughed, as if I have not been using those for a quarter century already.

The scoffers do not understand that there is no substitute for the IBM Selectric for quickly achieving certain tasks. There are times when I just want to dash out a label, envelope or quick note.

With my Selectric, there is no going through endless windows and inserting something “just right” to produce what I need. Moving a mouse or selecting control “P” doesn’t apply.  Each keystroke is instant.

_______________

Sliding the black “on” button forward,
I heard the hum of my red productive beast.

______________ 

The proprietor from A to Z Typewriter Company brought her in and smiled at my delight.

He understood. The tried-and-true typing machine is in such high demand, he said, that he quit selling all matter of business machines.

There is high demand for good old-fashioned typewriters, he explained. Secretaries do not want to part with them. Schools want them for typing classes.

And there are people like me, who lack the patience to go through windows, give explicit instructions and load labels and envelopes “just right” into often quirky printers.

Sliding the black “on” button forward, I heard the hum of my red productive beast. I excitedly put a piece of paper in the typewriter, snapping the lever firmly into place. Memories of my old typing days flooded my mind. It all came back to me, like getting on a bicycle.

My fingers securely glided into the concave keys, my felt the hum of my red productivity beast. As I typed whatever came to mind, I felt the assuring punch of each keystroke.

In satisfying glee, I typed away and quickly made a typing error. I forgot how to use the backspace correct button! It did work, the gentlemen explained, but not on my computer gloss paper. I would need to purchase good, old-fashioned typewriting paper for it to work perfectly. I laughed knowing that I had typewriter paper saved for this day. But alas, it was packed away in a box somewhere.

Progress does not always mean better. Of course, the computer, with its demanding endless treadmill of upgrades and corresponding nuisances, reigns supreme for most tasks. My Selectric only asks that I keep it clean, dust-free and oiled.

And while surrounded by plastic mother board machines that offer so much more, my Selectric knows its industrial steel strength will outlast the planned obsolesce of its office neighbors. It is a reminder of days long gone when manufacturers employed Americans to pridefully make products to last. Such solidity has been dwarfed by our consumerist economy that exploits workers to make cheap products destined for the landfills that liter the beauty of rural America. We pay a lot for junk, and China laughs all the way to the bank.

I was born to write and will do so until my aged body and mind releases its last word. Like my great-grandmother’s Treadle sewing machine, my Selectric will faithfully be there for generations to come.

When the Lights Go Down in the City

Washington, D.C. is powerless. The storms that blew through the city of personal and political power last Friday night were the worst I had ever been through. I heard the house’s walking creaks and a tree branch fall on the roof above me. It was the most frightening storm of my life.

Of the 2 million people who lost power Friday, about 70 percent have had their power restored. Several roads remain impassable while businesses and major streetlights remain in the black. Federal workers are on liberal leave.

I am not among the fortunate who have electricity. It is day five of being powerless. This is the first time I have been through a long-term power outage, let alone in extreme weather. My mind bounces back and forth between cleaning up the storm’s mess during a heat wave with no relieving air conditioning and the blog I intended to post. It sits safely in my office computer. If only I had saved it in the cloud…

I have lived through the area’s worst blizzard, 9-11, Hurricane Isabelle and last summer’s tropical storm followed by a rare East Coast major earthquake. I’ve seen the Washington D.C.’s strengths and fragility.

_______________
 It seems the people who complain the most do the least to help.
_______________

You learn a lot about people when crisis happens. It seems the people who complain the most do the least to help. Too many people expect more from others than they do from themselves. With so many trees and wires down, so many exhausted workers doing their best, our response should be patience and gratitude. Our ancestors lived through such situations and did not expect so many guarantees in life. We would do well, as a nation, to follow their example.

A power company representative explained the storm left the ruin of a hurricane with no warning, so there was no way to prepare. But this did not stop a politician from proclaiming the power company was not doing enough and threatening to keep his foot on the company’s butt until power is totally restored. I wish he would shut up and just help with the massive clean-up!

While the situation is inconvenient, I like it when Washington is powerless. Neighbors are unplugged from their busy lives and are outside actually talking to each other. It reminds me of the blue collar neighborhood of my childhood, before computers and cell phones. Life was less harried. I knew my neighbors well and we did not need a crisis to come out and talk. Our society has lost something beautiful in the relentless demands of schedules and technology.

I admit my blog felt like a relentless demand as Google and social media experts insist on regular blogging for optimal results. I hope you have enjoyed this one even though it is not as practical as most of my posts. I promise part III of what every employer should know about workers’ compensation is coming.  I’ll be back on the grid soon enough, but I must admit I’ve enjoyed the respite.

For Mother’s Day: Lessons Learned From My Grandma

Since Sunday is Mother’s Day,  I want to honor my grandmother, Anna Mae Webbe, and share some of her wisdom.

Born in 1909 before women had the right to vote, she spent her earliest years in picturesque Belmont Co., Ohio. Grandma was the proud and loyal wife of William Frank Webbe, an award-winning insurance salesman for the American Association of Automobiles. Even when she could no longer drive, she continued her AAA membership out of loyalty.

She came of age during the Great Depression, which influenced her spartan lifestyle. Until her dying days, she saved envelopes for scrap paper.

A dear and kind soul, she sacrificially contributed to my college education, making me the first of my family to earn a bachelor’s degree. She wrote the society column for the Willoughby News Herald. Ironically, I became a journalist and public relations professional in the insurance industry.

Church was the center of her life. Three days before she died in 1994, she was leaving for church in her Sunday best not knowing it was Tuesday. She suffered from a massive stroke, making it to church for eternity.

Here’s what I learned from a woman who joyfully served others.

1#  Don’t let age slow you down. When grandma was in her 70s, she played whiffle ball with me and my brother.

2#  If you don’t like a subject in school, do well at it so you don’t have to take it again!

3#  Be careful of what you throw away. You never know when you might need it.

4#  Remember birthdays. Acknowledge them.

5# Always send a thank you card.

6# Serve God and others.

7#  Don’t replace anything until it is truly beyond affordable repair. Grandma could have never anticipated a world of planned obsolesce. I don’t replace anything until necessary.

8# If you need a girdle, for God’s sake, wear it! (Though, of course, it is best not to need it!)

9# Don’t waste food.

10# Lipstick also makes rosy cheeks.

11#  Buy U.S. Savings Bonds for college. Grandma took me to the bank and cashed savings bonds she and my grandfather bought for me. That money got me started at Ohio University. While I know experts say this is not the best way to save, I sentimentally started buying them at my first post-college job. By the time my daughters start college, some will be reaching 30 years of maturity.

12# Be polite and kind to all.

13# Pray.

And finally, join AAA, you never know when you will need it! I have been a member since 1990 and it has saved my bacon many times.

Annmarie’s 9 Habits of Highly Efficient (or Productive) People

My sister shared an article on the “8 Habits of Highly Productive People” on her Facebook page. Knowing I am an efficient and productive person, she asked if I would be blogging on the topic. The article offers some good advice, but my tips are different and arguably better.

Here they are:

1. Sleep. The experts say that most of us need 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep per night. I generally need about 7 to 9 hours regularly. Without adequate sleep, it’s hard for me to concentrate. I also find myself over caffeinating or craving unhealthy carbohydrates.

Besides, going without sleep lowers your attention span and immune system  — definite productivity killers. Neglecting adequate sleep can lead to cancer and heart disease, researchers say, definitely affecting future productivity.

2. Exercise. It boosts your immune system, heightens attention span and provides an energy boost

3. Purge. The more you have, the more you have to manage. Make it a point to spend some time each week to go through your office. Delete old emails and old versions of files. Get rid of paper copies of stuff you already have on your computer, which, of course, is backed up regularly.

And all that stuff around your house? You don’t need most of it. Parade just published a good article on this topic.

4. Watch less TV. I’m too busy for television and so are you. You have a life, live it. Most stuff produced by Hollywood nowadays is soul killing anyway.  I regularly watch American Idol with my daughters. That’s it.

5. Limit web surfing. It is so easy to web surf like mindlessly turning television channels. If you find yourself diverting from your computer tasks because of the web, schedule yourself time to just surf.

6. Maintain a list of priorities by day, week and month. Schedule small tasks that you never seem to get around to that are important.

7. Remove distraction. I use a kitchen timer and close myself off to the rest of the world for a given period to remain focused.

8. Break the procrastination habit. Procrastination presumes that there will always be time to get something done, which creates time debt. This is a faulty assumption given that you don’t know the future. When you are not motivated to do something, force yourself to spend 30 minutes just getting started. If you are like me, you will into the task and are likely finish it.

9.Medicate. Most of us do with this caffeine, but too much interrupts sleep. One company I wrote about tracked the lost productivity from allergies and found that employees who take allergy medication are more productive. Do you get depressed a lot? Seek help and consider life-style changes before medicating. Chronic pain is also hard on the body and mind.

Don’t ignore your body! See a doctor to see if you have an underlying condition.

Annmarie’s Five Favorite Business Books

Winning by Jack Welch. Straightforward and gutsy, Welch tells it like it is and encourages readers to do the same. Written for managers and employees, Welch’s advice is clear and even inspiring. “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” Welch’s book demonstrates how to make that happen.

Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson. Effectively marketing your business does not have to be costly. Since I share that philosophy, I recommend this book to my clients. Be forewarned, however: The book offers so many good ideas that it is easy to become overwhelmed. Pick out a few, see what’s effective, and try more, Levinson advises. I have also read some of the spin-off books, which do not compare to the original.

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. The authors urge readers to re-think the competitive landscape (red oceans) in their industries to create a blue ocean that makes the competition irrelevant. Sounds good in theory, and there is a lot of it, but it does offer excellent strategic guidance that promotes out-of-the-box thinking.

Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. This is not a business book. It is a book about relationships. But since so much business dysfunction results from a lack of interpersonal boundaries, this is an important book. Unfortunately marketed to a religious audience, this book contains biblical references that might put off other audiences. The book, however, is far more about psychology.

Principle-Centered Leadership by Stephen Covey. The sage who also gave us the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” demonstrates that being moral and highly principled in business is not only the right thing to do, but it is just good for business. Published during the business era of Tom Peters’, “In Search of Excellence,” Covey’s work has better stood the test of time. While I agree the world needs more morally and ethnically principled individuals, the committed Mormon’s likely belief that he is preparing to be the god of his own planet should be kept in mind. We already have enough would-be gods in business and politics.

Kudos to Turbo Tax (and My Tax Tips from the Trenches)

Benjamin Franklin said that the only two sure things in life are death and taxes. It is also certain that for most people, preparing taxes are complicated.

Taxes are due April 17, 2012!

As I wrote in a previous blog, customer empathy (http://wp.me/p25Cue-B) is key in attracting and retaining clients. My most recent experience with TurboTax (http://turbotax.intuit.com) demonstrates such impressive customer empathy that I am compelled to share it. (Wouldn’t you like your customers to do that as well?)

Most of us dread doing taxes amid the looming Fear of Audit that pervades the complicated process.  Many hire professionals to avoid the hassle. But by the time I collect and organize the documents, the work is already half done.

Enter TurboTax. To benefit the most from this tax preparation software, you should become intimately acquainted with how your circumstances affect your taxes. Thanks to a helpful representative from the Internal Revenue Service, I qualified for an additional deduction and a credit. Confusing wording in TurboTax’s “interview” questions, however, made entering this information impossible. ­­

God was smiling on me when Sharon W. answered my call. Past TurboTax customer service reps were unable to help me with this question so I tried calling again. Empathetic and understanding, Sharon W. did not give up until she could help. After reaffirmingmy qualifications, she patiently walked me through the “interview questions” to satisfy the software. She was empathetic and understanding of my situation. With her help, I saved $500.

_______________
Together, we shared the rush of triumphant excitement as I hit the “file” button.
_______________

I had two other problems and she was about to get off work. I had finally found someone very helpful and I did not want to be thrown into to the general call center. So she offered to call me the next day.

And she kept her word! On the second call, she helped save me additional $800! Together, we shared the rush of triumphant excitement as I hit the “file” button.

Producing easy-to-understand tax content to a consumer audience is not easy, and TurboTax generally does this well. Providing such a consistent level of excellent customer service is not easy either. TurboTax would do well to use Sharon W as a model. I hope she someday sees this post. And no, this is not a paid endorsement.

And while I am not a tax expert, here are a few tips from the trenches:

1)     Know what is deductible. It’s painful to discover deductions you missed. I know. I amended my 2010 taxes.

2)     Keep good records. Keep track of every possible deduction. Since I pay for my own health insurance, I spend enough on medical expenses to get a tax deduction. I also faithfully track all my family’s medical expenses, including mileage for doctor visits, parking, co-payments and deductibles.

3)     Develop spreadsheets for next year’s deductions by specific tax questions. My spreadsheets for business and medical expenses are broken down by exact information the tax forms ask. My spreadsheet features business categories that include telephone bills, supplies, hardware, marketing and training.

4)     Do not procrastinate. I generally don’t, but this year I had so much client work I didn’t realize until March I was missing a 1099 form. Track expenses as they come so you don’t forget anything.

5)     Begin doing taxes after collecting all the paperwork necessary. TurboTax is, however, is great about picking up where you left off.

6)     Be persistent and insistent on receiving true customer service.