Personal Finance Tips Delivered Weekly
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December 25, 2009
Low inflation leaves tax deductions mostly unchanged
When it comes to inflation, 2009 was a good news/bad news kind of year – with a few mixed messages thrown in for good measure.
December 18, 2009
Avoiding deceptive 'opt-out' online scams
Proverbs survive because of their universality. Take the adage, “One bad apple spoils the barrel.” It teaches us that good people (or good businesses) can be tainted by association with those whose actions are perceived as unscrupulous, even if they themselves don’t employ the same deceitful tactics.
December 11, 2009
New program eases student loan repayments
For many professions, the price of admission is higher education. Unfortunately, college degree costs have skyrocketed, so people often to enter the workforce saddled with massive student loans and monthly loan payments that strain their starting salaries.
December 4, 2009
Financial resolutions you can live with
At this time of year, many people pause to reflect on what they’d like to change about their lives going forward – lose a few pounds, take a class, spend more time with the kids. Often, these goals revolve around personal finances.
November 27, 2009
Rebuilding after bankruptcy
No one takes the decision to declare bankruptcy lightly. Besides being an expensive, time-consuming and awkward process, bankruptcy can have serious and long-lasting impacts on your credit score, which in turn may affect your ability to borrow money, rent an apartment or even get a job.
November 20, 2009
New twist on reverse mortgages
Reverse mortgages have become an increasingly popular way for seniors to keep pace with rising expenses. Typically, people borrow against their home equity and continue to live in the home with no monthly mortgage payment until they move out permanently, sell the property or die.
November 13, 2009
Make charitable contributions carefully
Getting the most bang for your buck is a badge of honor these days, whether you're car shopping, choosing a college or just comparing loaves of bread. One area where you really don't want to misspend your hard-earned dollars is charitable donations.
November 6, 2009
Be realistic about holiday expenses
When I was a kid, Christmas club savings accounts were quite common. Like their close cousin, the layaway plan, these accounts encouraged people to start saving far in advance for expenses they knew were coming.
October 30, 2009
Don't leave valuable tax breaks on the table
In the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle, try to carve out a few moments for some year-end financial housekeeping. You may be able to save enough money using available tax breaks to pay for all your holiday needs – and more.
October 23, 2009
Choosing the right Medicare drug plan
Prescription drug costs can take a double toll on retirees, who often live on fixed incomes and are also likely to need more – and more costly – medications as they get older. That's why the government created Medicare Part D, a voluntary program that subsidizes prescription drugs for Medicare recipients.
October 16, 2009
Chose employee benefits carefully
Many employers will soon be offering open enrollment for next year's employee benefit coverage. Wading through all that paperwork is a sure-fire cure for insomnia, but considering how much is at stake, you may want to pour another cup of coffee and dive in.
October 9, 2009
Act now on expiring 2009 tax breaks
In the depths of the recession the government passed the 2009 economic stimulus bill and tweaked the federal tax code to help boost consumer spending and assist people who were losing their jobs, homes and benefits. Now, several of those tax breaks, rebates and other incentives are due to expire at year's end.
October 2, 2009
Teaching financial literacy, one goal at a time
Suppose your teenager came to you needing help answering homework questions on finance – would you be able to answer correctly or know where to find help? Consider questions like these.
September 25, 2009
Talking with kids about the recession
The past year has been rough financially for many folks. You probably know people who have lost their jobs, seen their retirement savings evaporate or experienced home foreclosure – you may even be in a tough spot yourself.
September 18, 2009
Share with others while you're still around
You've probably already thought about how you'd like to share your assets with relatives, friends and favorite charities when you're gone, whether it's money you've saved, your home, or family heirlooms you want to pass along to the next generation.
September 11, 2009
A financial basics refresher
Until you get in the habit, putting aside savings is never easy. But the sooner you start, the sooner you'll start seeing results. As you'll see below, when it comes to savings, time is your best friend.
September 4, 2009
Be cautious posting personal information online
I have friends who swear by online social and professional networks like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn. Where else can you reconnect with long-lost former classmates, post vacation photos for friends around the world, share your resume with potential employers and perhaps even find love – all, without leaving your couch?
August 28, 2009
'Saving' is the new 'spending'
One small silver lining from the recent economic downturn is that people have begun saving again. For decades personal savings rates hovered around 10 percent of after-tax income, but beginning in the late 1980s, rates steadily declined.
August 21, 2009
Don't procrastinate: Make estate decisions now
People naturally procrastinate when faced with difficult decisions. Take planning for your own demise: Only 40 percent of people recently polled by Visa Inc. have an up-to-date will.
August 14, 2009
Protect your health during tough times
In this challenging economy, many people have curbed discretionary expenses like vacations, entertainment and shopping excursions. Unfortunately, many folks – even those with medical insurance – are also cutting back on healthcare services they can no longer afford, including preventive care, check-ups and medications for chronic conditions.
August 7, 2009
Back-to-school bargain hunting
As back-to-school shopping veterans, my wife and I have learned our share of money-saving tricks – plus methods to lessen meltdowns and frayed nerves that come with the territory. If you are new to this parental rite of passage or simply looking for a few new strategies, read on.
July 31, 2009
Know your rights with debt collectors
Like many folks, I recently had an awkward encounter with a debt collector. Someone had stolen my credit card number and used it to charge a hotel stay. Thanks to my card's zero liability policy the charges were quickly reversed and I didn't have to pay anything. But unbeknownst to me, the thief had booked an additional reservation, so my cancelled card was later charged a no-show fee.
July 24, 2009
When the stock market and housing prices were soaring not so long ago, many baby boomers figured they could retire early and live comfortably on their profits. Today that situation has reversed: Many folks are now postponing their retirement or even being forced to reenter the workforce, either to supplement diminished savings or because they underestimated how expensive retirement would be.
July 17, 2009
Give yourself a financial tune-up
As we move through one of the most financially tumultuous years in many decades, some economists feel the worst may be over. But today's continuing high unemployment rates, troubled housing market and tight credit conditions leave many people feeling anxious about the future.
July 10, 2009
Avoiding rental car surprises
Many folks plan summer vacations that involve a lot of driving. For those sticking close to home, gas and maintenance are usually the biggest car-related expenses. But if you're planning to rent a car at your destination, many other factors can influence the overall impact on your travel budget.
July 3, 2009
Protecting your money
"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." How many times have you heard that expression? Even in favorable economic times, otherwise cautious people can be duped by get-rich-quick schemes or investments that promise unrealistic returns. But when times get hard, folks increasingly fall for these scams in their quest to make ends meet.
June 26, 2009
Boomerang kids? Get ready for boomerang parents
Boomerang kids. You've probably read articles about them or may even have one yourself. That's where parents reopen their formerly empty nests to adult children who are trying to pay off student loans or bills, save for a down payment or regroup after losing their job.
June 19, 2009
Read contracts carefully before signing
When people hear the word "contract," some start daydreaming about signing a multimillion dollar deal with the NFL while others recall how their knees shook the day they signed that first car loan. If you think about it, though, many of our day-to-day decisions involve contracts.
June 12, 2009
50 ways to love your money
There's no getting around it: Baby boomers are officially middle-aged. Millions of Americans born in 1959 will turn 50 this year; and many boomers born right after World War II have already begun receiving Social Security benefits.
June 5, 2009
Stimulus plan provides energy efficiency tax credits
One way the government hopes its 2009 economic stimulus plan will help jumpstart the economy is by investing billions of dollars in industries that support energy efficiency – everything from electric car battery technology to wind turbines to modernizing the country's power grid.
May 29, 2009
Financial advice for new fathers
People often say mothers have the hardest job in the world – and I wouldn't dispute that. But being a father might be the second hardest job in the world. And becoming a dad for the first time is a challenge for all men.
May 22, 2009
Hard times embolden identity thieves
Unfortunately, as people become increasingly desperate during tough economic times, crime rates rise. What's worse - those being targeted are often in dire financial straits themselves.
May 15, 2009
Don't skip vacation; just watch the costs
One of the first things many people trim from their budget during economic downturns is vacation. That's unfortunate because stressful times are when we most need to recharge our batteries. Taking on additional debt to finance a vacation is itself stressful, however.
May 8, 2009
New credit scoring formula rolls out
In the old days, if you paid cash for everything and carried no debt, you were considered a great prospect for a mortgage or car loan. Fast forward a few decades and the rules have changed considerably.
May 1, 2009
Stimulus bill helps pay for college
Financing college is becoming a little easier, thanks to the 2009 economic stimulus bill. For 2009 and 2010 – perhaps longer, pending Congressional approval – several education assistance programs are being expanded by hundreds of millions of dollars.
April 24, 2009
Senior prom sticker shock
Forget college – just paying for your kid's senior year in high school can break the bank if you haven't planned carefully. While it's always a challenge to deny your kids enjoyable experiences, today's tough economy is forcing many families to make difficult decisions regarding these once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
April 17, 2009
Consider hidden costs before buying a new car
These are interesting times for potential car buyers. Because so many people have become wary of the faltering economy and are avoiding auto showrooms, nervous car manufacturers have been slashing prices, issuing rebates and offering extremely competitive financing terms – at least to people with sound credit – to lure in business.
April 10, 2009
For Mother's Day, help mom get organized
With Mother's Day just around the corner, wouldn't you like to show your appreciation in a way that's more meaningful than buying your mom a box of chocolates or a bunch of flowers?
April 3, 2009
Global economy gets personal
By simply flapping its wings, a butterfly in the Amazon rainforest can set off an atmospheric chain reaction that will eventually trigger a tornado in Texas – or so says a popular, if highly implausible, explanation for how small actions can cause ripple effects far outside their domain.
March 27, 2009
New tax breaks for retirees in 2009
It's no news flash that people who invest in the stock market saw their account values drop significantly in the last six months. For those already retired or fast approaching, the impact was especially painful, since it will be much more difficult for their investments to recover value in time to fund their retirement.
March 20, 2009
What the government's stimulus bill means to you
The 2009 economic stimulus bill President Barak Obama signed into law on February 17, 2009, is a whopper, not only in cost ($787 billion) and length (1,070 pages), but also in terms of the vast number of spending and tax-relief programs it touches – everything from multi-billion dollar infrastructure investments to business tax cuts to small increases in unemployment benefits.
March 13, 2009
Insurance coverage you shouldn't do without
Some people looking to reduce expenses drop or trim their insurance coverage, gambling that they won't become sick, have a car accident or suffer a fire or other catastrophe. Unless you've got unlimited savings, however, forgoing adequate insurance could place you just one unexpected event away from financial disaster.
March 6, 2009
Financial survival strategies during a layoff
If you've ever been laid off from a job, you know how paralyzing it can be to worry about what to do next. Because you may not find a new position right away – especially in this economy – here are several steps you should take immediately to protect yourself financially:
February 27, 2009
Use your tax refund wisely
More and more Americans are filing, and paying, their taxes electronically. The IRS projects the number of individual tax returns filed electronically in 2009 to exceed last year's record of nearly 90 million taxpayers.
February 20, 2009
Money-saving tips for seniors
Thanks to the rocky economy, most people's retirement savings have taken a beating in the past year. In fact, many folks have been forced to postpone retirement because of their shrinking nest eggs. And, those who've already retired no doubt have noticed that their money doesn't go as far because of increases in housing, food, utilities, prescription drugs and virtually everything else.
February 13, 2009
Avoid costly penalties for late tax filing
Be forewarned: Income tax season is upon us. Procrastination is probably never a good thing, but when it comes to the IRS, it can be downright expensive. To help keep you on track, I've compiled a few suggestions that can save you last-minute grief – and money.
February 6, 2009
Military families targets of predatory lending
You've got to hand it to our military personnel: Not only are they often put in harm's way, but they must contend with a host of issues that would be tough under the best of circumstances, including low pay scales and frequent moves to new assignments that trigger relocation costs.
January 30, 2009
Use children's allowance to teach valuable money skills
When it comes to children's allowances, many parents struggle with which approach to take. Some link allowances to completion of chores; others feel they shouldn't be tied to completing tasks, but rather, be an opportunity for kids to begin to learn money-management skills that will serve them later in life.
January 23, 2009
Save money using energy-efficiency tax credits
One of the few bright spots in the current financial crisis is that the government has reinstated federal tax credits for a variety of energy-efficient home improvements you make in 2009. They also extended deadlines for solar energy systems and fuel cell tax credits until 2016 and established new credits for small wind-energy systems and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
January 16, 2009
Help your parents stay on track financially
In many families, personal financial details aren't always shared freely, especially between generations. But if you're not familiar with your parents' financial situation, you may be doing them – and yourself – a disservice.
January 9, 2009
Tight credit environment calls for careful oversight
As anyone who's applied for a new loan lately knows, if you don't have a gold-plated credit history, you may have a tough time borrowing. And even many 24-karat consumers are being turned down. Lenders have responded to their own difficulty accessing credit – as well as increasing customer defaults – by tightening lending standards.
January 2, 2009
A financial Super Bowl
As it does every year, Super Bowl mania is sweeping the nation. In a recent survey of Visa Inc. cardholders, more than 60 percent said they would be inviting family and friends over to watch the game, spending an average of about $170 on refreshments. How do your plans and budget stack up?
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