Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Couple Must Come to Terms With Finances

DEAR HARRIETTE: I’m having a hard time keeping up with the Joneses, so to speak. My husband and I moved into a new neighborhood after he got a fat promotion. We like it a lot, and some of our neighbors are great. But we realized quickly that they have many expectations about how they engage each other. They have already hosted weekend parties and invited the whole neighborhood this summer. We have attended some fun events, but they are way over the top for our budget. What we thought was a leg up in our lifestyle is nothing to these people. We are poor by no means, but we feel like we stick out. How can we continue to live within our means and be active participants in our new neighborhood? -- Sticker Shock

DEAR STICKER SHOCK: You have to come to terms with who you are and what you can afford. You may not be able to host the same level of lavish party as your neighbors, but ask yourself what you can do. Can you host a themed party that is fun and engaging, even if it is not as opulent? Or go in the opposite direction and host a simple, casual barbecue where you serve affordable food and drinks? If you can host a modest event where you feel comfortable, you can set the tone for your guests to feel comfortable, too.

Instead of attempting to keep up with their luxurious lifestyles, establish your own niche. Those who enjoy your events will keep coming. Others will trail off. That’s fine, too.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I feel like I am drowning in tax debt, and it’s all my fault. I was so busy trying to keep things going in my family that I was working hard but not paying attention to my taxes. I hadn’t filed for a few years, and now the IRS is all over me. They have threatened to garnish my wages if I don’t file everything by a certain date. I feel paralyzed with fear about this, but I don’t have time for that. I have to get moving and complete my taxes. What can I do to get started? -- Tax Fear

DEAR TAX FEAR: You absolutely must talk to the IRS as you work to fulfill their requirements. They will work with you if you stay in touch with them. Garnishing wages happens when taxpayers avoid communicating and making a plan with the IRS.

Get an accountant who can help you file your back taxes. Your accountant can get on the phone with you to talk to the IRS about exactly what you need to do and how to get it accomplished. Stay in close touch with them so that they know you are following directions. Go to a local IRS office, if needed, and establish a rapport with a representative who can help you sort through your challenges.

Be clear that the time for hiding is over. Many people have had their wages garnished and even gone to jail for evading taxes. Do not become one of them.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)