Josh and I got married in 2007, right around the time that he earned his Associates Degree in architectural technology. He wanted to further his education, and planned to attend a school in Illinois where they offered a degree in Construction Management. Unfortunately, his degree wouldn’t transfer completely because it was an Associates of Applied Science*, and not the Associates of Science the university required for the full degree to transfer. Josh didn’t want to take a whole extra year or more of school (which would require more loans). So, he floated this idea to me: what if we started a masonry business?
*Josh was able to get the state of Missouri to pay for part of his college education because he’d suffered a career-ending injury in his previous line of work**. Unfortunately, the state would only pay for more practical degrees. Where things got muddied is that SIU Carbondale had previously told someone at STLCC Meramec that Josh’s degree would transfer in full. Due to the consequences of this communication error, Josh soured on the idea of more school. I was not a fan of his decision.
I took a lot of convincing. And, being the type of person I am, I did some research. I got valuable opinions from people whose business acumen I respect, and all of them were unabashedly enthusiastic about Josh as Entrepreneur. I checked out books about small business and entrepreneurship and started reading everything I could. I took notes. I even wrote a business plan.
Almost immediately, we had problems. Take a new marriage between headstrong people, add a new business, and baby, you’ve got a dysfunctional stew going.
We had a business falling out in 2009 or ‘10 (who cares, really) because he wouldn’t let me participate beyond being his secretary. I wasn’t okay with that and disagreed with many of the choices he was making, so I opted to let him do whatever he wanted as long as all I had to do was reorder business cards and do minor tax preparation duties. Due to a combination of factors, most of them related to his poor decision making timed with a weird industry-wide lull, the business failed. We actually lost quite a bit of money his last year in business.
The last two years Josh owned a business (‘11 and ‘12) we didn’t do taxes. I was too busy with a baby, and he didn’t stay organized enough for me to jump in and easily help. A year’s worth of receipts had to be sorted, spreadsheets created, etc. And then a second year’s worth of receipts…
In 2013, Josh was no longer in business for himself. Within 2-3 months of starting a job he was excited about, Josh (along with 8 other people) got laid off. For 2-3 months, he scuffled for work. He applied for dozens of jobs - jobs he was qualified for, many he was overqualified for, and even a few that he was laughably unqualified for. Through a friend of a friend, he finally got some work as a valet parking attendant. This was obviously not lucrative, but we were at least able to buy food and diapers.
Prior to this, he’d never had a problem being employed, Yes, the economy was now bad. Yes, he’d been laid off and I’m sure that doesn’t look good. No, he’s not the most educated person in the room. But he has years of management experience, years of sales experience, and no employment gaps. He’d put in several years at each of most of his jobs, including the most recent jobs. So he was baffled. This had always been the one thing he hadn’t struggled with. He’d always been employable.
Maybe his prior employability had been a reflection of the better economy. Josh has a felony conviction on his record. He was a minor when the crime was committed, but he had a public defender and was charged and convicted as an adult. He served 5 years of probation, which ended way back in 2003. He has been in no other trouble with the law in that time. He’s completely reformed. But I suspect that his record could be why companies stayed away from him. Why risk it if they’ve got dozens of other applicants without felony convictions?
In August, he finally got somewhere. After beginning the process with a telecom company in June, he was finally offered a job. He was also offered a job selling cars. We were faced with the choice of Job A with the telecom company, which had certain, decent income but also several drawbacks, or Job B selling cars, which had low base pay but the opportunity for much more money, while being less physically demanding. He chose Job B.
Job B was a bust. After a long, slow winter where only a couple guys made any real money selling cars, Josh and 3 other guys were let go. The employer wants him to come back when he’s less financially stressed out, though. Apparently being broke stresses Josh out? Who knew?! So, Josh has been looking for a job again for over a month. He’s returned to the telecom company where he got to pick up midway through their long hiring process, but we’re still waiting to hear if they want to hire him.
Back to the tax situation. Josh is friends with a tax attorney. Last summer, this wonderful, kind person offered to handle our tax situation for free. Obviously we said yes. I immediately began the process of sorting two years of receipts and constructing monthly and yearly spreadsheets of expenditures and income. It took a few days of nonstop work, but I powered through and we turned everything over to the lawyer. Then we waited. I can’t speak to the process in any meaningful way because Josh has handled all of this on his own. There were phone calls and office visits and paperwork to sign. Eventually, all of our back taxes were filed sometime in late 2013, and 2013’s taxes were filed in March of this year.
However, there was a problem. Someone at the attorney’s office incorrectly transcribed Tiny’s social security number, and Josh didn’t catch the error. The IRS caught it, though! About 6 weeks ago, we started getting letters from them about our taxes from some of the years we filed late or amended, but one year was notably missing. We got the answer as to why two weeks ago. Another letter arrived requiring more information about the initial error which has us mis-claiming a dependent with the wrong social security number. So, Josh had to turn that paperwork over to the attorney’s office. They’re working on whatever it is they have to do to fix this, and then Josh will go in to sign the paperwork on Monday, hopefully after proof-reading it. I don’t understand why the initial amendments to the late filings didn’t clear this whole mess up for both years we filed late, but it didn’t.
Remember how I said Josh isn’t working? Yeah. We’re broke. Remember how I said that we lost money the last year we were in business? Well, we didn’t do so hot the year before that, either. Despite some not insignificant penalties and fees for filing late, and despite owing small amounts of money to Missouri and St. Louis City, we are supposed to get refunds that combine to be several thousand dollars. This money wouldn’t be enough to dig us out of our hole entirely, but it would make this mess so much easier to clean up once Josh has a job. So far, we’ve been waiting basically an extra month for it because someone incorrectly transcribed one digit in Tiny’s social security number. Until a couple weeks ago, we were checking the mailbox everyday for this lifeboat to arrive and rescue us. All we got was cast further out to sea.
We’re waiting on a monolithic telecom company to decide Josh’s employment fate. We’re waiting on the lawyer’s office to fix this mess - again! - so we can wait - again! - for the IRS to send a check for the two years that we waited to file taxes for. Our landlord is waiting another month, maybe two, to evict us. I’m waiting for Josh to stop being the weird person he’s been the last couple years, and Josh is waiting for me to magically like him again. Tiny isn’t waiting for anything and is chugging right along to her approaching third birthday.
There is no clear moral to any of this, and no neat bow to tie off this boring story. But I know that if I wait around a little longer, it can’t be like this forever.