Danger, Will Robinson ...
and everyone else
Calling all Carnivalistas

Here's something Jack Bauer can't fix in 24 hours

24_digital_logo_1 Jack Bauer is the man to call when the country is just 24 hours away from annihilation by ultimate bad guys (or gals; to my mind, no one has matched Nina Myers' first season of evil conniving).

But Jack is definitely not the man to call for financial advice.

As I watched Kiefer Sutherland pick up his first Emmy award on Sunday night for bringing Jack's round-the-clock derring-do to life, the financial wonk in me started thinking about how Jack gets by the other 8,736 hours a year.

It's not a pretty picture.

Let's start with his retirement savings. Between his years in the Army (special forces), LAPD (SWAT), the Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) and Department of Defense (DoD), Jack undoubtedly has had some pretty good retirement plans. But he left CTU after his wife died at the end of Day 1. Did he get full credit for his past service when he subsequently rejoined the unit?

What about other company retirement possibilities? If any of his previous employers offered defined contribution plans (you and I in civilian real life know them mostly as 401(k) accounts) as well as old-style pensions, I hope Jack socked away money there and then rolled it over when he changed jobs.

Things got a bit murkier for his retirement funds when Jack "died" at the end of Day 4 to avoid arrest by Chinese officials because he valiantly took the heat for a subordinate's screw-up during a raid on that country's LA consulate. What happened to the money? In the wake of his wife's death, did Jack change the beneficiary designation so that the account went to daughter Kim?

Jack_and_kim Technically, it was the correct financial move. But for Jack's sake, I hope he didn't. I'm sure Kim, one of television's most self-absorbed -- "It's all about me and my issues, Daddy! The fate of America be damned! Talk to me about my personal problems NOW!" -- and least capable characters ever created, immediately blew all the money.

What about Social Security? if Jack had contributed anything to this account, what happened to it? My guess, he'll have to spend many, many 24-hour blocks explaining to the Social Security Administration that he isn't really dead (like this guy in Vermont and this Missouri woman).

And did he pay into Social Security while on the job in Bakersfield as Frank Flynn after faux-Jack was buried? How is that money reconciled with what was in the now-resurrected Jack's Social Security account?

Counting on, or out, coverages: Then there's all matter of insurance issues.

It's a safe bet that Jack had a life insurance policy through his employers since they all asked him to do such dangerous things. He sure as heck wouldn't have been able to get coverage, or at least an affordable policy, on his own. The question comes up again: Did Kim get/spend that money, too?

Once he "died," Jack's probably primo employer-provided medical coverage disappeared, too. He couldn't take advantage of COBRA, so did he, as Frank, do without?

Even if he had new insurance under his new identity, if Jack had any lingering health issues from previous CTU injuries, he might have faced some pre-existing condition coverage exclusions since it was Jack, not Frank, who was protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

As for getting individual health care coverage, forget it. Every insurance company's application asks about drug use and abuse, meaning that the nasty little heroin habit Jack picked up in Day 3 while undercover in Mexico to infiltrate the Salazar crime family would disqualify him. And you know straight-arrow Jack would be honest about the drug problem in filling out the paperwork.

Jack_bauer_1 One of the most overlooked types of insurance is disability, and I can't think of anyone, real or fictional, who needs this type of coverage more. For most of us, the best option is a workplace-provided policy. Given what's likely to happen to Jack when Day 6 starts January and he deals with torture in a Chinese prison, he's really going to need this coverage.

And I'm not even going to get into the issue of taxes. It's going to take a lot of meetings with IRS representatives to reconcile any federal taxes he paid as alter ego Frank with his prior life as Jack Bauer. Plus, there's also the amount due California collectors.

Whew! It's a good thing Jack isn't a mere mortal, because he's going to need every bit of his almost superhuman abilities, determination and patience to get his financial life straightened out.

Then we'll ask him which really was the worst day of his life!

Casting note: Let me be clear about my unkind references to Kim Bauer. I'm talking about the fictional character, not actress Elisha Cuthbert, who happens to have an Austin connection. Her latest movie, "The Quiet," is the first film from the University of Texas Film Institute and Austin's Burnt Orange Productions LLC.

Emmy_mini_full Emmy swag bag taxes: As expected, the IRS' crackdown on goodies given out to celebrities at the Emmy awards (and other ceremonies) was a major topic of discussion by the celebrities attending Sunday's event. TaxProf has compiled links to mentions of this new tax liability. You also can read more about the IRS' position, successfully applied toward similar Oscar giveaways, in this earlier blog posting, IRS makes call on booty.

Day 6 hopes and dreams: Be sure to take the poll in the upper left corner of Don't Mess With Taxes' main page and sound off on what you want to see (or not see) when "24" returns to prime time early next year.

"24" images courtesy of Fox.


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