Tulsa Here We Come! – A Thanksgiving Trip Report

Frazzled nerves, irritated staff, grumpy travelers, and frequent delays – welcome to travel during Thanksgiving. And that’s during a typical year, not during the pandemic of our lifetime.

I present Thanksgiving 2021, my trip home.

 

Monday, November 22nd

8:04 pm: My Thanksgiving tradition of watching Planes, Trains, and Automobiles takes on extra significance this year as I prepare for a trip home through congested airports filled with anxious, mask-wearing travelers and short-tempered TSA agents. My mind runs through the possibilities of weather delays, sickouts, long lines, crowded restaurants, and an all-around surly mob.

 

Tuesday, November 23rd

4:20 pm: We arrive at the Pittsburgh International Airport.

4:35 pm: After checking in, Lori notices her ticket doesn’t say TSA precheck. Mine does. I have a choice to make. I can either enjoy the speed and convenience of the TSA line by myself or embrace chivalry and join Lori in a line where I’ll have to empty my bags, remove clothing, and submit to a body scanner.

4:36 pm: I wish Lori good luck.

4:37 pm: We race through security separately.

4:41 pm: I win.

4:42 pm: I’m amazed at the short lines at the security checkpoint. This is not what I was expecting at all. The TSA agents are friendly and don’t look understaffed or overworked.

4:44 pm: I wave to a shoeless Lori after she exits the body scanner. She doesn’t look as annoyed as I would have thought.

4:47 pm: We are both through security. I’m shocked at how quick it was.

5:11 pm: We have dinner at Penn Brewery for our last Pittsburgh meal. It is 10% full. I realize it’s early, but the airport restaurants are dead.

5:38 pm: I’m trying out a new travel app called Flighty. It promises to make “travel stress-free” as it notifies you of delays and information about your flights. I enter our flight numbers.

5:40 pm: I’m alerted that the airplane for our connecting flight is an hour delayed.

5:42 pm: I’m alerted that the airplane for our connecting flight has been changed and is not delayed.

5:44 pm: I’m alerted that the airplane for our connecting flight has taken off late – two minutes late.

5:45 pm: I decide that I may not need this many alerts as they are stressing me out.

9:04 pm: We land in Dallas after an uneventful flight. My mask is getting swampy, and I wouldn’t mind taking it off as we get something to eat, but the restaurants in the airport are all closing for the night. Like Pittsburgh, the Dallas airport is close to empty.

9:33 pm: My American Airlines app offers me $200 to give up my seat to Tulsa. Nice try American, you’re going to have to put another zero on that number to get me to stay the night in Dallas.

9:40 pm: The first surly traveler of the evening! He’s loudly telling anyone who will listen that our flight is delayed because it is empty and will be canceled. He must not have the American Airlines app.

9:42 pm: My Flighty app informs me our flight is delayed until 10:40 pm. American is telling me departure remains at 10:30 pm. Who is right, and what does the surly passenger know that I don’t?

9:47 pm: American Airlines admits we will be delayed. I’m starting to warm up to Flighty – it knows the future.

9:52 pm: As I repeatedly run my soapy hands under the bathroom sink faucet, trying to trigger the sensor to release water, I start to wonder if we’re really that close to self-driving cars.

10:11 pm: Ditto as I raise and lower my phone, trying to get the scanner to register my boarding pass. The gate agent looks slightly annoyed with me.

10:29 pm: The aircraft door closes, and miraculously the seat next to me is empty!

10:35 pm: I place my Kindle on the empty seat – because I can.

11:25 pm: Off the plane, and we head toward baggage claim.

11:29 pm: There are not enough mints in the world to make the air inside my mask fresh.

 

Wednesday, November 24th through Friday, November 26th

A three-day whirlwind of family, friends, and food. Too short, especially after skipping 2020.

 

Saturday, November 27th

3:01 pm: Arrive at the Tulsa International Airport to begin our journey home.

3:02 pm: As we approach a kiosk to check our bags, an airline customer service agent waves us over. I look around to make sure her friendly smile is meant for us and not a more worthy first-class passenger. No, we are the only ones around. I realize that either the airport is so slow the agent is trying to fight boredom by helping us, or I’ve reached the age where I look unable to operate an airline kiosk. I’m happy either way.

3:09 pm: Lori and I stare at each other in disbelief. We managed to check our bags and make it through security in 8 minutes.

4:13 pm: The airport is empty. I laugh to myself. What happened to the craziness I was expecting? Where are all the scary crowds I was worried about?

8:21 pm: Atlanta.

8:22 pm: We come face to face with the mob. The Atlanta airport is noticeably packed. Strangely, the restaurants near the gates are closed, so we head towards the food court to find dinner.

8:23 pm: We enter the food court, and it is mobbed. Lines are 40 deep and snake through the entire area. I’m not even sure where they begin and end. I don’t like the idea of wading through this mass of humanity to get a cold burger and soggy fries.

8:24 pm: I peer through the crowd and notice an escalator rising out of the horde, leading to what I imagine is a better place.

8:25 pm: We are face to face with a host at Gordon Biersch. There is a 50-minute wait for a table, but the bar is open seating. The bar it is.

8:26 pm: We strategically position ourselves behind a couple finishing off their drinks.

8:28 pm: A seat, multiple football games on tv, and a menu in a relatively uncrowded venue – I am happy.

9:03 pm: Thanksgiving travel takes a toll on the traveler next to Lori. He’s cut off after the bartender slides him a bourbon. The fellow traveler takes it very well as he looks at his watch, downs the drink, and heads off to catch a flight, or find another bar.

10:37 pm: Someone has foolishly put Lori and me in charge of the safety of all souls on our aircraft. I’m not sure how we ended up in the exit row, but I’ll take it.

10:49 pm: Our flight is delayed. We need a part. I’ve seen this show before, and it usually doesn’t end well. 

10:59 pm: Hat tip to the Delta mechanic who had the Thanksgiving weekend late shift. We’re off.

 

Sunday, November 28th

12:30 am: Pittsburgh greets us as we fly directly over downtown. Heinz Field is ablaze even at this late hour. Snow is falling.

12:40 am: We land.

2:07 am: Home at last. I’ve been flying to visit family for Thanksgiving/Christmas for many years, and I don’t think it ever went this smoothly. I prepared for the worst, but travel for Thanksgiving 2021 turned out better than I could have ever expected.

P.S: If you’re the Delta mechanic that replaced a part on flight 2899 to Pittsburgh on November 27th, I’ve got a $100 Amazon gift card waiting for you. 


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    Financial Advisor David Tuzzolino

     

    David Tuzzolino, CFA, CFP®, is the Founder and CEO of PathBridge Financial, a firm that specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services for clients that are nearing retirement and love to travel.

    Three Ways to Reduce Your Pennsylvania State Taxes and Save More Money

    Federal taxes get a lot of attention, but what you pay in state taxes is a big part of your tax bill, too. For Pennsylvania residents, there are some strategies that can both reduce this bill and help you meet other financial goals.

    This article covers Roth conversions, capital losses, and the PA 529 plan, which are three areas of the Pennsylvania tax code that can save you a lot of money if you understand them, or cost you a lot more if you don’t. While I’m not a tax expert, and this is not an exhaustive list of money-saving opportunities, I often run into these three less-known situations when helping my clients avoid unnecessary taxes. 

    Disclaimer: These tax strategies are complex and contain many nuances. Please check with your tax advisor before implementing any of the strategies presented to see if they apply to your specific situation.

    Does Pennsylvania Tax Roth IRA Conversions?

    Roth IRA conversions are one of the most attractive opportunities available to save on federal taxes if you have significant assets in tax-deferred retirement plans.

    Why is a Roth conversion so attractive? It allows you to pay taxes when you’re in a lower tax bracket.

    There is often a significant drop in income for retirees between their retirement date and when they start taking social security or are forced to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from their retirement accounts. If you retire at age 55 and wait to take social security until age 70, you could have 15 years of depressed income. This period is the sweet spot for Roth conversions.

    The conversion process involves taking money from tax-deferred retirement accounts, paying taxes at the federal income tax rate, and putting the money into a Roth IRA account. Your money will then grow tax-free, can be withdrawn tax-free, and there will be no estate tax at the federal level for these accounts. In addition, Roth IRAs are not subject to required minimum distributions, which gives you more control over your income levels. Unfortunately, PA has an inheritance tax that can be as high as 15% depending on your relationship to the deceased, but that’s a topic for another day and doesn’t change the attractiveness of a conversion.  Refer to the 5-year rule for exceptions and limitations involving conversions.

    Unlike the federal government, Pennsylvania does not allow you to put money into a retirement account tax-free. You will pay a 3.07% tax when you first contribute to any retirement account. The state will also tax you on any IRA gains if withdrawn before their official retirement age of 59 ½.

    The critical distinction to remember is:

                  A Roth conversion performed before age 59 ½ will be subject to the 3.07% Pennsylvania tax.

                  A Roth conversion performed after age 59 ½ will not be subject to the 3.07% Pennsylvania tax.

    This difference can cost you thousands of dollars. When completing a Roth conversion, there are many factors to consider, including the timing of income, your current federal tax bracket, and your expectations of future tax rates. However, don’t forget to include the Pennsylvania 3.07% tax into any decision you make if converting to a Roth IRA before 59 ½.  

    Can I Carry Forward Capital Losses in Pennsylvania?

    The federal government allows you to carry forward capital losses. A $100,000 loss generated by selling a stock can be carried forward into future years. If you have a $100,000 capital gain the following year, it washes out, and you pay nothing in federal taxes.

    Pennsylvania, however, does not allow residents to carry forward a loss into future years to offset gains. Instead, you lose it if it’s not used in the year it is generated. In this example, you will owe state tax on the $100,000 in capital gains in year two. That’s a $3,070 check.

    How do you avoid losing this potential deduction and pay less state tax? As long as it doesn’t adversely affect your federal state taxes, such as generating a short-term gain now or in the future, it often makes sense to sell a stock with capital gains in the same year. Also, there is no 60-day wash rule when it comes to generating capital gains. You can immediately buy back your investment. However, keep in mind your one-year holding period to achieve long-term capital gains will reset. 

    Caveats:

    • You don’t want to convert long-term capital gains into short-term capital gains and pay more in federal taxes
    • Consider the impact this might have on dividend-paying stocks and the taxation of dividends
    • You can apply $3,000 in capital losses to earned income at the federal level, so you may not want to offset capital losses completely
    • Always weigh the tax implications on both a federal and state level before making any decisions
    • Capital gains and losses do not offset for spouses at the state level

    Of all the topics discussed in this article, capital gains and losses may be the most intricate. Please do your homework and check with your tax advisor before making any decisions.

    How Does the PA 529 Plan Tax Deduction Work?

    The following discussion only applies to PA 529 plans. You can read about the difference between this plan and out-of-state plans here.  Like the other topics in this article, I recommend you talk to an expert to determine the best alternatives for your specific situation.

    There are many ways to save money for your child’s education, and a 529 plan is one of the most popular alternatives. Benefits include no Pennsylvania state tax on contributions, the growth of assets, or withdrawals. Because of this triple-tax-free treatment, it usually makes sense to run all applicable education expenses through your 529 plan.

    The money you contribute can be withdrawn in approximately ten days, so even if your student is near the end of their college experience and your 529 plan has run low on funds, or has been completely drained, it can benefit you to make payments through the plan. You’ll avoid the 3.07% Pennsylvania tax and have more money to pay college tuition.

    Conclusion

    Planning for retirement is a process often filled with compromises and sacrifices. So it’s especially sweet when you can save thousands of dollars by deftly navigating tax laws. While federal tax laws get most of the attention, understanding Pennsylvania tax laws is just as important. Sometimes no compromises or sacrifices are necessary to save thousands of dollars, just some well-applied knowledge.


    Your questions about planning for retirement and travel answered. Where to go? What to do? How to plan it? How to afford it?

    You’ll not only be signed up for my newsletter, but you’ll also get a PDF that shows you exactly what a comprehensive retirement plan for people who love to travel is all about. Thanks for reading!

     

     
     
  • *Privacy policy: your email address is safe, and you will never receive SPAM.

    Financial Advisor David Tuzzolino

     

    David Tuzzolino, CFA, CFP®, is the Founder and CEO of PathBridge Financial, a firm that specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services for clients that are nearing retirement and love to travel.