My Mom Let Me Draw On My Walls

by on 01/15/14 | 2 comments |

Fam at the Indy Launch Party

It’s my mom’s birthday today and instead of sending her a card I wanted to tell one of the many stories of how she has impacted my life. This story is from a long time ago but is still something I remember and talk about often. I love you, mom (and don’t worry, you look amazing holding that Bud Light!)

It’s not easy being the youngest kid in a family of amazing basketball players, especially when you love drawing cartoons more than shooting hoops. I was in the 5th grade, my hair was long and I spent more time on a skateboard then on a basketball court. At this point my oldest brother and sister were two of the best high school basketball players in the state and my youngest sister was tearing it up in middle school. If there’s one thing the Hupfer’s know, it’s basketball.

Me, on the the other hand, most days I chose to stay inside during recess so I could have more time to doodle who-knows-what. I carried around an entire bag full of art supplies — paint, pencils, pads of paper, kneaded erasers and anything else I could get my hands on. I guess I liked basketball, it was all around me and I’ve played it all the time but it wasn’t at the top of my list of priorities. I was an artist and that’s all I could think about.

Enter my amazing mom who, even though I’m sure she was a little worried about my lack of interest in the family sport, was all about be bringing out my creative side. Until my interest grew in drawing and painting I had no idea my mom even had an artistic bone in her body. But soon I found out just how talented she was and I can still remember being amazed at the drawings of Disney cartoon characters she could whip up with little to no effort. You name it, she could draw it. I swear the woman can do anything.

Back then I had a bedroom with a pretty sweet walk-in closet that was turned into a room where all of my toys were stored. I didn’t go in there much anymore since I had outgrown most of my toys but when I was given a drawing table for Christmas it changed the game. Toy box was out, drawing table was in and I felt like I was finally going to have a place all to myself where I could really explore my creativity.

It’s also worth noting that also around this time is when the Super Nintendo was launched and it was pretty much the most amazing thing, ever. Every other friend of mine got one for Christmas. But, unlike most other parents my mom wasn’t about to buy me one. Instead she decided to buy me the drawing table and I was totally cool with it. I can still remember the feeling of raw excitement when thinking about getting it setup in my closet.

Just when I thought the drawing table was the best thing that could ever happen in my life my mom then drops another bomb on me. She bought some white paint and told me we’re painting the walls of my newly christened drawing room.

“You going to help me paint the walls?”, she asked.

“Why are we painting it?” I wondered.

My mom looks at me, smiles and says, “How else are you going to be able to draw on them?”

How could I say no? We quickly painted the small room and when it dried I had a bigger canvas than I could have ever imagined. It was all mine and I couldn’t believe it. My mom was actually going to let me draw on my walls. I thought it was awesome then but looking back now it’s pretty much the most amazing thing, ever. Once we moved the table in the fun began.

For the next year or so I covered the walls with every cartoon character I could find. Tiny Toons, Loony Tunes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Bart Simpson were drawn, painted and showcased right there in my own little space in the world. In a time when she could have easily worried about me not following in my family’s basketball footsteps, my mom supported me and fed my creativity and imagination.

This is one of the many reasons why I love my mom and a small glimpse of how important she’s been in shaping who I am today. I’m not sure how I got so lucky but I’m really glad I did.

 

The Time Between Things

by on 10/20/13 | 1 comments |

Time

I can’t say that managing my time is one of my strengths. I have to structure my days in a way that makes sure I’m up on time and where I need to be when I told someone I’d be there. I’ve written about some of the different ways I make sure this actually happens and most of the time it works. Most of the time.

When it comes to being on time and getting things done I’ve found that there’s a culprit that causes more problems than anything. I call this culprit the Time Between Things. This is usually the time that’s filled with checking my phone for something that doesn’t really matter but other unneeded activities can eat up this time, too.

The Time Between Things are the minutes between having plenty of time and rushing. It’s when I’m about to jump in the shower but I decide to play with my dog for a few minutes. It’s that time after lunch when I should put away my phone so I can be early to my next meeting but instead I scroll through my Twitter feed one more time. It’s the time between getting into bed going to sleep after I’ve looked through Facebook for an hour.

The Time Between Things is between my first alarm and after I’ve snoozed 5 times. It’s what decides if I drive the speed limit or sprint to the train. It can cause more anxiety and stress than most things in my life and I’m over it.

The Time Between Things needs always requires my attention and now I’m going to do something about it…right after I watch one more YouTube video.

 

Another Year, Another Marathon Fail

by on 06/19/13 | 2 comments |

Running Fail

I’m not happy that I’m writing this post right now but hey, that’s how things go sometimes. For the third time in four years (here’s last year) I didn’t end up running the San Francisco Marathon I was training for (so much for this post). To be honest I’m not sure if I’m ever going to run a marathon. My body seems to be telling me that it’s not the best idea and if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a runner, it’s that I should be listening to what my body’s saying.

So why did I miss it? I was getting towards the end of my training and ramping up my mileage but an ankle sprain took me out of my groove a few weeks ago. I’m just now getting back to running in the mornings, which is awesome, but it’s slow going (and I’m ok with that for now).

Failing and not following through with something sucks but it’s also when I learn the most about myself. Looking back at my failed marathon training here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Don’t Rush Training

From the beginning I was pushing it to ramp up my distance for the marathon. I ended up cutting a full training schedule in half to accommodate the time I had before the race, which wasn’t very smart. Pushing my mileage to the level needed for a marathon takes a level of time and attention that I wasn’t giving it. This isn’t what knocked me out but it played a part.

Don’t Change A Running Gait Halfway Through Training

I’m not sure what I was thinking with this one. Sometimes I do the dumbest things. For some reason I decided to change my heel strike to a mid-foot strike right in the middle of my training and the first time I made the change was on a 10 mile run.

My calves were so sore I couldn’t walk right for the next week and I’m sure I did more damage to my body than I’ll ever realize. After talking to a doctor who knows much more than I do about running he would have made a more gradual change to get me to where I needed to be.

Warm Up Before Running

My buddy Smitty is a triathlon maniac and one big thing he taught me was that warming up before going for runs is really important. I’m not talking about doing a few stretches, this is a focused 15-20 minutes of stretching and warmup exercises before the real running begins. I’m almost always in a rush to get out the door in the mornings so this is a hard one to make happen but it’s something I need to do every time. It’s better to take more time warming up and running a shorter distance than running farther and potentially getting hurt. I want to be able to run for a long time so I need to do the things that will keep me healthy.

I’m sure I learned even more but these are the three main things that came to mind. Running, especially as I get older, requires more time and attention than I’m used to giving it. I need to make sure to stay on top of these things if my 33 year-old body is going to keep moving into my old(er) age. It’s not going to get any easier.

 

Riding On The Tractor With Dad

by on 06/16/13 | 0 comments |

Dad's Tractor

The tractor was old and dad started it with a few strong turns of a crank. I can still hear the chug-a-chug of the engine once it fired up. It was a bright orange Allis-Chalmers that was older than my dad but it looked brand new. That’s how dad likes to keep things.

The house I grew up in had a big yard which meant dad mowed a lot. Each year once the grass started to grow dad spent hours on that bright orange tractor and our immaculately manicured yard was proof of his dedication. Every hill and ditch got the attention from dad it deserved and no uneven blade of grass was left in his wake.

On special days before I outgrew the space on the black vinyl seat between dad’s legs and the noisy manual stick shift I would get to ride with him. He would guide the tractor by pulling the stiff black steering wheel left and right while I held onto his thighs and the large wheel wells that were high on either side of us. Once we slowed down he would sometimes let me steer but not when we were going full speed. That tractor might of been old but it wasn’t slow.

Most of the time there was too much noise to talk but nothing really needed to be said. I was with my dad and together we were on an adventure. Magically the laps around our familiar yard were transformed into something new and exciting. Warm sunshine covered our faces while the vibrations of the old tractor moved every part of us that could shake. Strong, intermittent smells of exhaust and fresh cut grass came and gone as we made our way through the pattern my dad could have followed in his sleep.

The time spent with dad on his tractor was special but I didn’t realize that for a while. Most things dad did for me seemed normal, like they were supposed to happen and for me they always did. It’s funny, as I get older I continue to realize just how awesome my dad really is and all of the ways he’s impacted my life (and still is). Dad, here’s to you and all of the times we’ve had together — especially while on the tractor. Happy Father’s Day.

 

Bay Area Man Takes Shirt Off, Gets Sunburnt At Ocean Beach

by on 06/02/13 | 0 comments |

Ocean Beach

In what might be a first in San Francisco, a man went to Ocean Beach today and took off his shirt. Bare skin exposed to the sun isn’t a common occurrence at one of the Bay Area’s most popular surf destinations which left many of the locals questioning the man’s intentions.

One of the hundreds of surfers wearing wetsuits that day was taken back by what he saw. “I had my eye on him ever since he left the parking lot and when he reached down to take off his shirt I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

A woman wearing Lululemon chimed in with similar disbelief. “He took off his Ray-Bans, pulled off his shirt and kept walking toward the water. It’s like he thought he was in SoCal or something.”

Removing clothing is commonplace at most beaches but not in San Francisco. Most beach goers wear multiple layers of clothing including hoodies, light jackets and anything with a North Face logo.

It was also reported that the man wasn’t seen applying any sunscreen so there were no doubts about the likelihood of him getting sunburnt.

An older Asian man doing Tai Chi on the boardwalk witnessed the man once he had his shirt off. “He was really pale, I doubt he gets much sun.”

After asking him whether or not the man without his shirt got into the water he quickly responded “Are you crazy? That water’s freezing!”

For the time being this man’s actions are considered out of the ordinary and there are no expectations of seeing similar behavior from others in the future.

 

A Wedding Ceremony Script For First-Time Officiants

by on 05/27/13 | 30 comments |

Beach Wedding

After officiating my first wedding and taking the time to pull together the wedding ceremony script I thought it would be good to post what I came up with for others to use. There are lots of things that can be added/removed from this example but it’s a good foundation that can help save some time for any other future first-time officiant out there.

In this particular wedding ceremony script there’s some humor, reading of vows, exchanging of rings and pouring of the unity sand but feel free to do what you need to this script to make it your own. Have a great wedding!

Processional Ends

Minister: Please be seated.

MInister: We’re all here today to celebrate the relationship of [Bride] and [Groom] and to be witnesses and supporters of the commitment they share with one another. Together we’re a group of the most important people in their lives and they’ve brought us here to publically recognize that we’ve all played some special part in the love they share today.

[Bride] and [Groom] wanted me to thank you all for being here and to recognize how important each and every one of you are to their relationship. They would also like to recognize all of those who couldn’t make it here today as they are certainly missed but not forgotten on this day of celebration — especially [something funny like their dog or other pet].

Speaking of important people, there were none more important in influencing the lives of [Bride] and [Groom] than their parents. With that being said, who gives [Bride] away in marriage to this man?

Father answers: “Her mother and I”

*At this point the Father let’s go of Bride’s arm, hugs and kisses her and gives her hand to Groom and sits down. Bride then hands her flowers to her maid of honor and Groom and Bride then stand there holding hands facing one another. They can be holding hands at this point or standing side-by-side facing the minister.

Minister: Marriage gives permanence and structure to a couple’s love. It’s a way to tell one another that no matter how much you snore or how much you spent while out at the shopping mall, we’re still in this together. It’s more permanent than the weird tattoo that [Groom] got on his arm in his early twenties and has more staying power than [Bride]’s cute southern accent that she’s had since they first met (you can add anything funny into this section that makes sense for the bride and groom). Marriage is telling the person you love that you’re not going anywhere and that’s a powerful commitment for two people to make to one another.

A good marriage must be built on the foundation of this commitment. In marriage the “little” things are the big things. It is never being too old to hold hands. It is remembering to say, “I love you” at least once a day. It is never going to sleep angry. It is standing together and facing the world. It is speaking words of appreciation, and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways. It is having the capacity to forgive and forget. It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow. It is a common search for the good and the beautiful. It is not only marrying the right partner — it is being the right partner .

The road that has brought [Bride] and [Groom] here today hasn’t been easy. It’s been filled with challenges that they weren’t necessarily prepared for. But together they’ve taken each one on and have used those experiences to strengthen, not weaken their love.

Reading

*This can be any type of reading you prefer. Also, someone else can read it if you preferred

Minister: In the Bible, first Corinthians chapter 13, verses four through eight tells us:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Reading of the Vows

*Groom, be sure to have these in your pocket and Bride, be sure to give these to your maid of honor.

Minister: [Bride] and [Groom], the vows that you are about to make are a way to share your love and commitment to each other in your own words. Sometimes poems, verses and quotes just don’t get the point across the way you need them to and the best option is just to do it yourself. These vows are your way of openly declaring your promise to one another as well as to all of those who are here in attendance today.

[Bride], ladies first.

Bride: Reads her vows.

Groom: Reads his vows.

Exchanging of Rings

*Get rings from Maid of Honor and Best Man. Feel free to customize what you say to each other if you like.

Minister: [Bride] and [Groom] will now exchange rings to symbolize their commitment. Rings are derived from humble beginnings of imperfect metal to create something striking where there was once nothing at all. It is customarily worn on the ring finger as it is the only finger with a vein running directly to the heart. The wearing of the rings is a visible, outward sign that they have committed themselves to one another.

Minister: [Groom], please take [Bride]’s hand and repeat these words.

Minister: I give you this ring, as a symbol of our love,
Groom: I give you this ring, as a symbol of our love,

Minister: for today and tomorrow, and for all the days to come.
Groom: for today and tomorrow, and for all the days to come.

Minister: Wear it as a sign of what we have promised on this day
Groom: Wear it as a sign of what we have promised on this day

Minister: and know that my love is present,
Groom: and know that my love is present,

Minister: even when I am not.
Groom: even when I am not.

*Groom puts ring on Bride’s finger

Minister: [Bride], please take [Groom]’s hand and repeat these words.

Minister: I give you this ring, as a symbol of our love,
Bride: I give you this ring, as a symbol of our love,

Minister: for today and tomorrow, and for all the days to come.
Bride: for today and tomorrow, and for all the days to come.

Minister: Wear it as a sign of what we have promised on this day
Bride: Wear it as a sign of what we have promised on this day

Minister: and know that my love is present,
Bride: and know that my love is present,

Minister: even when I am not.
Bride: even when I am not.

*Bride puts ring on Groom’s finger.

Pouring of the Unity Sand

Minister: By sharing your vows and exchanging rings here today you both have decided to share the rest of your lives together. You are no longer two separate people but one couple together. This unity is symbolized through the pouring of these two individual containers of sand. One, representing you, [Bride] and all that you were, all that you are, and all that you will ever be, and the other representing you, [Groom], and all that you were and all that you are, and all that you will ever be.

As these two containers of sand are poured into the third container, the individual containers of sand will no longer exist, but will be joined together as one. Just as these grains of sand can never be separated and poured again into the individual containers, so will your marriage be, united as one for all of your days.

*Walk over and pour the sand — usually while music is playing.

The I Do’s

*This is it, time to make some magic happen.

Minister: [Bride] and [Groom] you have professed your love by exchanging your vows. You have symbolized your commitment by exchanging rings. And you have expressed the end of your individual lives by the pouring of the unity sand. With all of this there is just one more question I need each of you to answer and then we’re off to the reception to celebrate.

Minister: [Bride] – do you take Groom to be your husband; to live together in the covenant of marriage? Do you promise to love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?

Bride: I do.

Minister: Groom – do you take this [Bride] to be your wife; to live together in the covenant of marriage? Do you promise to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?

Groom: I do.

Minister: By the power vested in me I now pronounce you husband and wife. [Groom] you may kiss your bride.

*It’s kissing time! (keep it classy, kids)

Minister: It’s my great honor and privilege to be the first to present to you Mr. and Mrs. [Groom’s Full Name]!

*Time to get our party on, but first we need to get everyone out of the wedding.

Recessional Begins

How I Got Ordained As A Minister And Officiated My Friend’s Wedding

by on 05/21/13 | 1 comments |

Panama City Beach

I spent this last weekend in Panama City Beach, which thanks to several spring breaks and family vacations I’m very familiar with. It’s been a few years since I’ve been there but it’s just how I remembered it. Hot weather and some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.

I love me some PCB and it’s a great place to party but this time around I was going for a different reason. This trip was all about Ryan Mollenkopf (I call him Mellonhead). He’s one of my best friends who was getting married and I was going to be playing a bigger role in the wedding than I’m normally used to.

Will You Marry Us?

Let’s rewind things a bit and listen in on a phone conversation I had with Mellonhead a few months ago. We hopped on a call after he had sent me a text telling me about an awesome idea he had. If you know him like I do this would both excite and scare the crap out of you at the same time. After catching up with some small talk he let me have it.

“So what’s this idea you want to tell me about?” I asked him.

“Well, since the wedding is in Florida we don’t have a minister to marry us we were thinking that you could do it. Would you be up for that?”

As with most decisions I make it didn’t take me long to think about it before saying yes. I mean, how many times will I get to marry one of my best friends? When I agreed to doing it I felt a funny feeling in the bottom of my stomach and I have to admit that I love that feeling. It usually means what I’m doing is a little crazy, but awesome and I’m more than OK with that.

A Secret Surprise

The only stipulation I had after agreeing to be their officiant was that it had to be a surprise to everyone else at the wedding. The best men (there was two of them), the family and our friends would have no idea I was going to do it. Me, Mellonhead and his lovely wife-to-be Stephanie would be the only other people who knew about the plan.

I would be a normal groomsman up until the wedding and at the last minute when we realize there’s no minister we’ll do the reveal. Me being the officiant would be pretty sweet but being able to surprise everyone at the last minute would be epic.

Minister Hupfer and Planning the Wedding

It's Official

About a month before the wedding I did some research about how to become an ordained minister online. I’ve known several people who have done it before but I didn’t know exactly where to go online to do it. After doing a little bit of research I used American Marriage Ministries and in a matter of minutes I was officially a minister that was able to be perform a marriage ceremony in Florida (each state has different rules, so be sure to check them out if you’re want to do this).

Getting ordained online was even easier than I thought it was and I didn’t even have to pay for it. It’s totally free to be ordained and once you’re official they try to upsell you on some things which you don’t have to buy. You’re emailed a confirmation and just like that you have the power to marry a couple. God bless the internet.

After I was officially ordained the only other thing I had to do was put together the script that I would read during the ceremony. This actually took a lot longer than I thought it would but after piecing some things together and adding in some feedback from Mellonhead we had a great looking script that they were happy with. Even though it took me 3-4 hours to get the initial draft of the script on paper the process was actually pretty fun.

Keeping The Secret

Once all of the logistics were done all I needed to do was show up at Panama City Beach and keep the secret for one more weekend. It’s pretty easy to keep a secret like this when I’m in San Francisco but being around all of the people who were there for the wedding made it way harder.

I had to do some sneaking around in order to make it work and my cover was almost blown a few times. But thanks to the hectic nature of the time leading up to a wedding no one figured it out.

Almost Busted

The craziest thing that happened was when one of the bridesmaids in the wedding and her husband happened to sit across from me on my flight in. Mellonhead, his wife and most of their friends are from Nashville and I ended up flying through there on the way to Florida. I met some bachelorettes on my connection flight from Denver into Nashville who were also going to PCB with some friends they were picking up along the way.

Once all of them were on the flight out of Nashville we were talking about how I was going to be the minister in a wedding and that it was a surprise to everyone. By that point I had drank a couple of beers so I’m sure I was being a loud talker.

After landing in PCB I headed to the house that Mellonhead and his family was staying at and not long after I see a couple that looks awfully familiar. Before I know it the husband of the bridesmaid notices me and starts talking about how we were on the same flight and that I’m going to be marrying the couple.

I freaked out and rushed over to talk to them before anyone else knew what he was talking about. I said hi and once they were away from everyone else I told them how it’s a surprise to everyone and that they can’t tell anyone about it or I’ll kill them. (I’m kidding about threatening to kill them but I did tell them to keep it to themselves) What are the odds, right?

Enjoying the wedding

MInister Hupfer

Somehow my cover was never blown and we were able to surprise everyone during the wedding. It was one of the coolest moments I’ve even been part of and I felt very privileged to marry two people I love and care about so much. I didn’t screw anything up and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. We laughed, we cried and an amazing man and woman dedicated their lives to each other in front of my eyes.

Panama City Beach

I’m not sure if I’ll ever officiate another wedding ceremony but it felt oddly natural to me so who knows. In the meantime two of my favorite people are now a married couple and my signature is on their marriage license. Awesome.

 

Stopping My Heel Striking By Changing My Gait

by on 05/08/13 | 0 comments |

running gait

Now that I’m training for another marathon (that’s in less than a month) I’m starting to get back up in mileage. I’m running around 20-25 miles a week right now and my long runs are over 10 miles. My runs during the week are getting longer, too — I went out for 7 miles this morning before work, which is just under an hour of running.

Getting to double-digit mileage in one run is a big change compared to going out and running a few miles. The longer you run the more you start to notice the need for good form, a good warm-up and good nutrition. Neglecting any of these can result in some type of weird injury that will stop anyone from running.

I say this because after running this much there’s one thing that’s become clear — I’m a heel striker. It’s not the worse thing in the world when you’re running shorter distances but as I ran more and more I could tell that things were hurting that shouldn’t be. My gait is way off and it was causing some pretty serious pain.

These weren’t muscles that were hurting, they were knees, hips, IT band, arch of my foot and top of my foot. All things that can kill any hopes of running a marathon faster than I can eat a tub of hummus.

For the past week or so I’ve been figuring out a way to battle these types of pains I’ve been feeling but it never hit me that my heel striking was the root of the problem. After thinking more about it and talking to one of my buddies who is a running maniac I put it all together and decided to do something about it. I decided to completely change my gait and go from heel striking to mid-foot strike.

I didn’t really think about the fact that changing my gait is a big deal and that my muscles were going to hate me for it and I just went and did it. On my longest run so far. Yeah, that wasn’t the best idea.

For the next 4-5 days my calves were as sore as they’ve even been in my entire life and I was a little worried that I had done some serious damage. But, after time went on they healed up, became less sore and at this point I’m back to my old pace while running without much, if any, heel striking.

I can tell that putting the pressure on my calves instead of my joints is the much better way to go and ever since changing my gait I’ve had no other types of pain that I need to be worried about. I can tell my calves are still getting used to me running on my mid-foot but it’s only a matter of time before they’re used to it.

I’m really happy I made the change to my gait and if you’re heel striking you might want to think about changing yours, too. Just take it easier than I did and change it gradually. Your calves will thank you for it.

 

Being Mature Enough To Know I’m Immature

by on 04/22/13 | 0 comments |

Immaturity

There was a point in my life not too long ago when I realized I was being immature. Not pick my nose and you’ve got the cooties immature but something much worse. I was immature in how I interacted with the world and what I expected from it.

From the outside I looked like I had it all together but on the inside I was floating along, doing what I thought I needed to do to live a successful life. Good job — check. Plenty of friends — check. Going to church — check. Muscles and a tan — check (lame, I know). Women — check. If you knew me around this time you would have probably thought I had everything going for me or at least I looked like I did. But what I started to realize was that I had everything I thought (and what other people thought) I wanted but nothing that I actually needed.

This is the point in my life where I was mature enough to know how immature I really was. Like my junior year of college when my metabolism changed there was something going on much deeper inside of me that needed my attention. I had been going through my life doing what I thought I should be doing but there was something missing. I had so many amazing things going on around me but I still felt empty. It was all about me but living like that only made me realize that there was never enough out there to fill me up.

From that point until now I’ve been working on being mature and it’s been a several year process up to this point. Yes, there are still times when I act stupid and have some fun, that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about becoming the type of man I really want to be. Someone who has one foot planted in the present while the other foot is moving me into the future where I’m more mature in all parts of my life.

It’s not been an easy path but I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by several men (and women) who have put an investment in me that’s worth more than I’ll probably ever realize. They’re my role models, the vision of the man, father and husband I really want to be and they know what it takes for me to get there. It’s a daily struggle to focus on what they’re telling me but I can already tell it’s totally worth it.

Being immature is the easy way out and it’s not a good way to live. True maturity in all parts of my life is something worth working on and it’s never too late for anyone to start. And don’t worry, you can still pick your nose — just try not to do it in public.

 

Why I Owe Money On My Taxes And The Importance Of The W-4

by on 04/16/13 | 1 comments |

The tax man cometh!

I’ve been paying my taxes for a long time now but to be completely honest I never had any idea how it all actually worked. My tax information isn’t very complicated. It’s me and Stephanie’s W-2s and a couple other minor things so there’s not much to them. Most years I punch in a few numbers into TurboTax and like magic it shows me a couple of green amounts that end up being refunds. It usually wasn’t that much, like around $1,000 or so but over the years I’ve grown to really like refunds.

What Are Those Red Numbers?

But unfortunately this year’s taxes were a little different. After punching in the tax numbers into the assigned boxes the upward scrolling numbers on my screen weren’t green, they were red. Not good and first I thought there was something wrong with TurboTax. I changed a few of the numbers that I thought might have been the problem and the scary red dollar amounts didn’t budge.

Was it possible that we owed money on our taxes this year? It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me but like I said, I didn’t really understand how taxes worked at this point. I just punched in the numbers TurboTax told me to and like magic it would tell me how much money I was going to get back. It used to be like Christmas in April but this time around it wasn’t going so well.

After the shock wore off I decided to do some research into why we owed so much money and how this could have happened to us. After searching around on the internet for a while I quickly learned why we were into the situation in the first place and the mistakes we had made to get us there. I thought it would be good to share some of these learnings so that if any of your are ever in the same situation you can make better decisions than we did.

It’s All About The W-4

When you first get a salaried job you’re given a W-4 form to fill out. It’s probably one of the most confusing forms you’ll ever see and the more you read it the more confused you will become. I’m not sure what robot was assigned to write the copy for this thing but it’s a doozy.

However, believe it or not the purpose of a W-4 is not to confuse you or make you feel stupid. It’s there to help you tell whoever’s doing your payroll how much money to take out of your paycheck each month for taxes. The money they take out is called withholding allowance and what you choose on your W-4 will determine how much they withhold each time you get paid. The amount that is withheld eventually ends up on your pay stub under the taxes section (always our favorite part).

The most common way to determine your withholding is by choosing exemptions, which you can select on the W-4. These include single, married, kids (dependents), low wages and so on and the more you choose the less you’ll be taking out of your check each payday. These exemptions are then added up and the total number of exemptions you have will then determine how much you’ll be withholding each time you’re paid.

W-4 Confusion

The more exemptions you choose, the larger your paycheck it going to be but the less you’re going to be paying in taxes during the year. This is great short-term but it can come back to bite you later and this is what happened to me and Stephanie. We both filed as married on our W-4s which meant we were withholding less taxes than we should have. Mix that and a few other factors like getting paid more this year than last year and we still owed Uncle Sam a good chunk of change (and Uncle Sam always gets what he wants).

Understanding Your W-4

I guess what I’m saying is be sure to do the right thing on your W-4 and you should be ok. Now that we both know this neither of us are claiming any exemptions which should help even everything out. Who knows, maybe we’ll get another refund next year?

If you need an easy way to figure out how much you’re withholding simply divide your total taxed income (do it for both Federal and State Taxes) by how much total income you’ve brought in year to date. For example, if you have earned $10,000 and have paid $1,000 in federal taxes then you’re withholding 10% of your earnings on the federal side. Do the same thing for your state taxes and you’ll know your the total amount of withholdings.

The next thing you need to do is figure out what federal and state tax bracket you’re in and if your tax bracket percentage is higher than what you’re withholding from your earnings each month then you’re going to owe the tax man at the end of the year just like I do. On the other hand if you’re withholding more from your earnings than what’s required by your combined federal and state tax brackets then be ready for Christmas in April because you’re going to get a refund.

Let’s Go Over This One More Time

Just to be clear let me go over this one more time. If you’re withholding 10% of your earnings for federal taxes and you’re in a tax bracket that’s 20% then you’re going to end up owing back 10% of your total yearly earnings to the federal government at the end of the year. Believe me, you don’t want to do this. It’s not a lot of fun.

The easiest thing to do, even if you’re married, is to claim yourself as single on your W-4. That way you’ll be withholding more than enough from your earnings during the year and you won’t have to worry about it. If you’re making an obscene amount of money you might want to take out even more but if that’s how you’re rolling you’ve already hired a good CPA to take care of this in the first place.

I hope this is helpful because the last thing I want to happen to you is what happened to me. No one likes to owe taxes and if you follow this advice you should never have to. If you have any thoughts, questions or corrections on this topic of taxes feel free to let me know, I’m learning just like you are.