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Black-eyed Peas for Luck, CitiMortgage for Money

Unlike many black women across the U.S., I am not tasked with making black-eyed peas for luck and greens for money to celebrate the new year. My one and only task to prepare for the coming year is quite simple:

Make a mortgage payment on December 31.

This is no small feat. Banks close early. Call centers are swamped. I can't set up my online bill pay function to do it because the bill pay function starts before my paycheck is deposited. My mission is simple: Pay the mortgage over the phone before CitiMortgage closes for the day on December 31.

You see, BMNB and I have been in income tax hell for the past three or four years. When we moved to California and were waiting out the overpriced housing market, we no longer had a primary residence for purposes of mortgage interest and property tax deductions. As a double-income, no kids professional (albeit civil service professional) couple with few tax deductions, we were getting taxed out of the behind and coming up short every year. We re-jiggered our withholding, increased our deferred comp contributions, even increased our charitable contributions, but to no avail. We still owed. Big time.

Finally, BMNB got to the end of his rope and decided we had to pull the trigger and buy a house, no matter how much it cost. So last year we did, but late in the year. And, desperate for the mortgage interest deduction and having made only one mortgage payment, I sprang into action on December 31, making our January 1 mortgage payment one day earlier for the sole purpose of getting the mortgage interest deduction for our 2008 tax year. It helped. We still owed, but it definitely helped.

This year, with me being furloughed and given the availability of mortgage interest and property tax deductions to us for the entire year, we're looking at a much better outcome for tax year 2009. Having been in income tax hell for so long, BMNB and I don't make any major money moves -- or even some minor ones -- without consulting our accountant and taking into consideration the tax consequences of any move we make. Oh, and we got a new accountant. I prefer to think of him as our personal tax samurai. He's aggressive on our behalf and gives us helpful tips throughout the year to make sure we're not "surprised and ambushed" by the IRS and FTB as we've been in the past.

So, in order to maximize our mortgage interest deduction, my one and only task was to make a mortgage payment today before CitiMortgage's customer service phone lines shut down. I prepared the night before, having my checkbook, our mortgage statement, and, most important, CitiMortgage's customer service number sitting by the phone. It was the first thing I did when I woke up this morning. I got kicked out of the customer service phone que once, but I promptly got back in the game and made our payment with the assistance of a customer service rep with a lilting East Indian accent. We wished each other a Happy New Year.

So, in our household, it's not greens for money -- it's CitiMortgage for money.

Happy New Year, Y'all. May you enjoy a healthy, peaceful, and prosperous 2010.



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