Monday, December 10, 2007

10 smart year-end tax moves

Bankrate.com lists 10 things you can do now to reduce your 2007 tax bill. Make it part of your holiday to-do list.

1. Get in the giving mood
2. Assess your assets
3. Let your home help you out
4. Eliminate energy excesses
5. Focus on fuel efficiency
6. Maximize medical expenses
7. Make more miscellaneous payments
8. Keep an eye on the 'kiddie tax'
9. Shop for your classroom
10. Ramp-up retirement contributions


Tax to-do list

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

30+ Stock Market Tools and Resources

Mashable.com has posted a nice list of online tools and resources for following or trading in the stock market.

 

Check it out here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Big Three offer best deals on 2007 models

It is one of the best times of the year to buy an automobile, and according to Bankrate.com's auto experts, the best deals are on domestic products.

Need a minivan? Chrysler is offering rebates of between $3,500 and $4,500 on its Town & Country vans.

Dodge is offering up to a $6,000 rebate on its Ram 1500 pickup.

Want a big, comfy -- if not exciting -- luxury sedan? Consider the $7,000 rebate on the Lincoln Town Car. If a Lincoln is a little too flashy, check out the Mercury Marquis sedan, which also carries a rebate of between $6,000 and $7,000.

Even the sporty Mustang is available with rebates from $1,500 and $3,000 on 2007 models.

More on car deals at bankrate.com

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mint.com is live

Mint.com, an online money management solution, is live and available to all users.  I am still not convinced that storing all my financial data online is the safest thing to do.  What do you think?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Interesting concept for bloggers...

Just joined Blogrush. Let's see what kind of results it brings.

Monday, August 27, 2007

8 ways to cut honeymoon costs

Bankrate.com lists 8 ways to have a memorable honeymoon that doesn't break the bank.

1. Book way ahead.

2. Wait until the last minute.

3. Postpone your honeymoon.

4. Ask for freebies and barter for services.

5. Scout deals out in advance.

6. Plan a destination wedding.

7. Consider a package or all-inclusive.

8. Cut back on the length of your trip.


8 ways to cut honeymoon costs

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

20 timeless money rules

Money magazine lists 20 timeless money rules to live by.  Some good solid advice in there for everyday thinking and managing your finances. 

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20 timeless money rules - Be humble (1) - Money Magazine

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iPhone Worth Every Penny (?)

Kiplinger Finance thinks so.  I on the other hand, am not convinced.  I am sitting on a $599 Apple gift card, wondering what to spend it on.  I am not sure if the Iphone is worth that much money, or whether I really need a Mac mini.  What to do, what to do...

Thoughts?

iPhone Worth Every Penny - Kiplinger.com

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Top 10 money drains

Bankrate.com lists the top 10 things you are probably spending money on, that you could quit and pocket the money. I don't know if I agree with them but anywho...

1. Coffee -- According to the National Coffee Association, the average price for brewed coffee is $1.38. There are roughly 260 weekdays per year, so buying one coffee every weekday morning costs almost $360 per year.

2. Cigarettes -- The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids reports that the average price for a pack of cigarettes in the United States is $4.54. Pack-a-day smokers fork out $1,660 a year. Weekend smoker? Buying a pack once a week adds up, too: $236.

3. Alcohol -- Drink prices vary based on the location. But assuming an average of $5 per beer including tip, buying two beers per day adds up to $3,650 per year. Figure twice that for two mixed drinks a day at the local bar. That's not chump change.

4. Bottled water from convenience stores -- A 20-ounce bottle of Aquafina bottled water costs about $1. One bottle of water per day costs $365 per year. It costs the environment plenty, too.

5. Manicures -- The Day Spa Magazine Price Survey of 2004 found that the average cost of a manicure is $20.53. A weekly manicure sets you back about $1,068 per year.

6. Car washes -- The average cost for a basic auto detailing package is $58, according to Costhelper.com. The tab for getting your car detailed every two months: $348 per year.

7. Weekday lunches out -- $9 will generally cover a decent lunch most work days. If you buy rather than pack a lunch five days a week for one year, you shell out about $2,350 a year.

8. Vending machines snacks -- The average vending machine snack costs $1. Buy a pack of cookies every afternoon at work and pay $260 per year.

9. Interest charges on credit card bills -- According to a survey released at the end of May 2007, the median amount of credit card debt carried by Americans is $6,600. Rate tables on Bankrate.com indicate that fixed interest rates on a standard card average 13.44 percent. Making the minimum payment each month, it will take 250 months (almost 21 years) to pay off the debt and cost $4,868 in interest. Ouch!

10. Unused memberships -- Costhelper.com reports that the monthly service fee at gyms averages between $35 and $40. At $40 per month, an unused gym membership runs $480 per year.

Money drains

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

15 ways to save money on gas

Some good tips on Bankrate.com for saving gas:

Gasoline prices across the nation topped out at an average of $3 a gallon as
April ended. That's the news from the Energy Information Agency, which tracks
fuel costs across the country. The last time most motorists saw prices over $3
at the pump was August 2006.
These gasoline prices send many of us into panicked flashbacks of the fuel crunches in the summer of 1980 and the mid-1970s. Thankfully, we learned a few good habits back then. Many Americans traded in their eight-cylinder gas-guzzlers for pipsqueak cars with small engines and better mileage.

Then came the boom of the late '90s, and, oh, how quickly we forgot. Though
most of us still pump our own gas, we've fallen into bad habits again. We've
embraced the gas-guzzling SUV and dawdle, idling, in drive-through lines.
But you can hold down the number of times you have to stand at the gas pump, aghast, watching the numbers spin. These 15 tips will help you cut fuel consumption:
Car maintenance
- Keep the tires inflated properly. This one is simple and a potential lifesaver. Underinflated tires waste fuel and wear out the tire tread. Also, check tires regularly for alignment and balance.
- A well-tuned engine burns less gas. Get regular tuneups and follow through with routine maintenance. The right parts and fresh oil keep your engine happy and less thirsty for gas.
- Get the junk out of the trunk. A weighed-down car uses more fuel. For every extra 250 pounds your engine hauls, the car loses about one mile per gallon in fuel economy. Carry only the basic emergency equipment and items you really need.
Gas shopping
- Buy the lowest grade (octane) of gasoline that is appropriate for your car. Check your owner's manual for this information. As long as your engine doesn't knock or ping, the fuel you're using is fine. You can save hundreds of dollars a year.
- Pay cash at stations that charge extra for credit cards.
- Don't top off the gas tank. Too much gas will just slosh or seep out. Why waste those extra pennies?
Driving
- Drive intelligently; don't make fast starts or sudden stops. You're just overexerting
your engine and burning extra fuel. Gradual acceleration also helps automatic
transmissions run better. Engine-revving wastes fuel, too.
- Lighten up on the accelerator. The faster you drive, the more gas you use. Speed limits have gone up around most of the nation, but you don't have to see your fuel
consumption go up drastically as well. For example, driving at 55 mph rather
than 65 mph can improve your fuel economy by two miles per gallon.
- Avoid long warm-ups. Even on cold winter mornings, your car doesn't need more than a minute to get ready to go. Anything more and you're just burning up that
expensive fuel.
- Combine errands into one trip and plan your stops for the most efficient route. You'll save yourself time and money.
- Do not rest your left foot on the brake. The slightest pressure could cause a drag that will demand additional gas use -- and wear out the brakes sooner.
Other good habits
- Tighten up that gas cap. Make sure it's on securely. Buy a new one if your current cap doesn't fit snugly. Gas easily evaporates from the tank if it has an escape.
- Buy a fuel-efficient car. When pricing cars, factor in long-term fuel costs. Keep in mind that sunroofs add to wind resistance, lowering the mileage per gallon.
- Be smart with the air conditioning. On the highway, closed windows decrease air resistance, so run the air conditioner. But in stop-and-go traffic, shutting off the air conditioning and opening the windows can lighten your fuel use. Air conditioning can lower your fuel economy by 10 percent to 20 percent.
- Remove snow tires in good weather. Deep tread and big tires use more fuel.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Bankrate's 2007 retirement guide

Bankrate.com has just published their 2007 retirement guide. Lots of cool tips you can use to reach your retirement goals.

2007 guide to retirement

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tax record keeping tips

Hopefully you have done your taxes already, and if you haven’t, stop reading blogs and go do them! Once you’re done, you should keep records of what you have filed. Bankrate.com lists some good tips on what you need to file and what you don’t.



There are limits
When it comes to tax-related documents, you should hang on to records that help you identify sources of income, keep track of expenses, determine the value of property, prepare tax returns or support claims made on those returns. However, common sense -- as well as storage space -- should be your guide. …


Use it or lose it
This means 1040 forms and any accompanying tax schedules, along with the documents supporting the return, such as W-2s, 1099 miscellaneous income statements and receipts or canceled checks verifying tax-deductible expenses. …


Housekeeping -- and selling -- records
For most taxpayers, the biggest asset -- and potential tax bill -- is a home.


While the tax rules for home sales have changed in recent years, meaning sale profits don't automatically face IRS charges, any paperwork relating to a residence should be kept for as long as the home is owned. …


Taking stock of investments
Fast on the heels of home sales as tax triggers (and record-keeping headaches) are stock transactions. …


Retirement record requirements
And then there are all those retirement savings plans, with all those different rules.


Contributions to traditional IRAs often are tax-deferred. But sometimes already-taxed money goes into these accounts, too. What happens to your taxes when you reach 59½ and start taking money out?


That depends in large part on your record keeping.


Business considerations
If you operate a small business, from a moonlighting job to a small operation with several employees, dealing with records becomes a bit more complex. But even then, it doesn't have to overwhelm you.


Pick a system, any system
Once you've identified critical records, the next step is to decide how to keep the data. Electronic bill paying can help keep track of your financial and tax life, but so can a plain old check register, as long as expenditures are entered faithfully.


It doesn't matter if it's a filing cabinet, cardboard boxes or a complex computer program. The key, says organizational expert Barbara Hemphill, is find your record keeping comfort level, pick a system and stick with it. …


Tax record keeping tips at Bankrate.com

Monday, April 16, 2007

10-point tax return checklist

Don’t send in your return until you have checked it for these 10 things from Bankrate.com




1. Use the peel-off label, even if it's wrong. About half of taxpayers still send in paper returns. If you're one of them, use the label. If anything on it is wrong, simply strike through the bad information and make corrections right on the label. If you don't have the label, write in the requested information clearly.


2. Be sure to enter your Social Security number in the box provided on the return. It is not there, the IRS won't process your return. If you and your spouse are filing a joint return, enter both tax ID numbers.


3. Check only one filing status. And make sure it's the status that gives you the most tax advantage.


4. Count all your allowable exemptions. Each dependent you claim on your return directly translates into an exemption, a specific dollar amount you can subtract from your adjusted gross income. The lower your income amount, the less there is for the IRS to tax. And be sure you include each listed person's correct Social Security number. Without it, the IRS could disallow an exemption -- and the $3,300 deduction that goes with it.


5. If you're filing a paper return, attach all of your W-2 wage statements, as well as any 1099 forms if they show you had tax withheld from those accounts. If you e-file, make sure you correctly entered the amounts from these forms. If you're e-filing, make sure you enter the information correctly in the computer software program. The IRS will be checking your payment statements it receives from your employers against what you enter on your 1040.


6. If you're filing a paper 1040 or 1040A and have used schedules with them, assemble them in the right order. Each attachment has a sequence number in its upper right-hand corner. Put them in that order and staple them to your return.


7. Do you owe tax? Make your check or money order payable to the United States Treasury, not the IRS. Also put on the check, your name, address, Social Security number, daytime phone number and note in the memo area that it's payment for 2006 Form 1040 (or 1040A or 1040EZ). Put your payment (along with the voucher from your tax package if you're a 1040 filer) in your return envelope, but don't staple it to the return itself. The IRS cashes your check before it examines your return. That means your check is removed and sent to one office for deposit, while your return goes to another for review. When a stapled check is pulled off, other attachments could come loose, too. Tracking them down will slow the processing of your return or force the IRS to come back to you for duplicates.


8. Sign and date the return. If you file a joint return, both spouses must sign, even if only one had income. Both signatures are required on paper forms and e-filed returns.


9. Provide a daytime phone number. It could speed the processing of your return if the IRS has questions. Joint filers can use the contact phone number for either spouse. If you paid a professional to do your return, make sure that person's contact info is complete. And you can now refer questions about your tax return to anyone you choose, tax pro or not. Simply fill out the third party designee line (name, tax ID number and phone number) to give the IRS permission to call that person for answers.


10. Use the envelope included with your tax package to mail your return. In the last few years, as the IRS has reorganized and consolidated its services, some of its return processing and service center locations have changed. If you aren't using a pre-addressed IRS envelope or label, make sure you are sending your return to the proper place. Use the IRS' locator map to double-check the centers' mailing addresses in your state.


10–point checklist via Bankrate.com

Thursday, April 12, 2007

10 quick ways to upgrade your home

Home improvement usually means a ton of money to be spent on upgrading various part of your home. According to Bankrate.com, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here is their list of the top 10 ways you can improve your home on the cheap.

1. Make your kitchen really cook.
The kitchen is still considered the heart of the home. For a few hundred dollars, you can replace the kitchen faucet set, add new cabinet door handles and update old lighting fixtures with brighter, more energy-efficient ones. If you've got a slightly larger budget, you can give the cabinets themselves a makeover. …


2. Give appliances a facelift.
If your kitchen appliances don't match try ordering new doors or face panels from the manufacturer. Many dishwasher panels are white on one side and black on the other. It can be as simple as removing a couple of screws, sliding the panel out and flipping it over. …


3. Buff up the bath.
Next to the kitchen, bathrooms are often the most important rooms to update. They, too, can be improved without a lot of cash. Simple things like a new toilet seat and a pedestal sink are pretty easy for homeowners to install, and they make a big difference. …


4. Paint.
New paint makes everything look clean and bright again. And don't forget the ceiling. Paint the trim a contrasting color. …


5. Step up your storage.
Old houses, particularly, are notorious for their lack of closet space. If you have cramped storage areas, add do-it-yourself wire and laminate closet systems to bedrooms, pantries and entry closets. …


6. Mind the mechanics.
Spending a few bucks on nitty-gritty stuff. "It's often very worthwhile to hire an electrician, plumber or handyman for a couple of hours to look over your electrical services, wrap or fix loose wires, fix any faulty outlets, and check for and fix any water leaks," Perry says. "Those details tell a buyer that someone has really taken care of the home and can really influence its price."


7. Look underfoot.
Carpeting is another detail that can quickly update a home and make it look cleaner. A professional carpet cleaning is an inexpensive investment, especially if your rugs are in good shape and are neutral colors….


8. Let there be light.
If you have boring recessed lights in your dining and living rooms, consider replacing one of the room's lights with an eye-catching chandelier. …


9. Reframe your entry.
It's the first thing you, and your guests, will see. Repaint of refinish that front door and if you have a basic steel front door that has gotten dented, consider replacing it with either another inexpensive steel door or a fiberglass, wood grain door for slightly higher cost. …


10. Consider curb appeal.
Although it sounds obvious, a nicely mowed lawn, a few well-placed shrubs and a swept walkway makes a great first impression. As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. What buyers see when they first drive by your home is tremendously important. …


10 cheap ways to upgrade your home

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

How much do you have saved?

According to a new survey, almost 50% of all workers in the US have less than $25,000 saved. That is not going to be enough for retirement, no matter what angle you look at it from. Here’s the scary part from the Money.com article about the survey:



Overall, 40 percent of respondents said they are not currently saving for retirement while 34 percent said they didn't have any retirement money saved whatsoever. A full 25 percent, meanwhile, said they had no savings at all - retirement or otherwise.


Have less than $25K in savings? Get in line

Thursday, April 5, 2007

One week left to do taxes

If you still haven’t completed your taxes, here’s a nice step-by-step guide to get them done before the deadline on Apr 17.



Day 1 Gather data.
Day 2 Reduce taxable income.
Day 3 Find your forms.
Day 4 Fill out your forms.
Day 5 Take a break.
Day 6 Check your work.
Day 7 Sign, seal and deliver.






Bankrate's 7-day tax-filing plan

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

9 Great Reasons to Own Funds

Mutual funds are the best way to diversify, buy stock in small and large firms, and also get the knowledge of the fund manager for a price.


    1. Cash in on big returns: Over time, stocks of big companies have made about 10% per year, on average, and stocks of smaller companies, about 13% a year. Compare that with the sub-5% return from a bank account or even short-term Treasury bills, and funds that invest in stocks and bonds blow away the competition. …

    2. Hire top-notch help: When you invest in a mutual fund, you hire professionals. These pros don't dabble in stock picking on evenings and weekends; they do it full-time. …

    3. Diversify for cheap: Managing a big portfolio of individual stocks and bonds is expensive, and trading costs can quickly eat up your profits. By comparison, funds are cheap. …

    4. Spread your wealth: Dividing your money among different types of investments is called asset allocation. Studies have shown that investing in different types of assets is even more important to your wealth than the specific investments you own. …

    5. Start small: Don't have a lot of cash to start your nest egg? Several fund families, including Ariel Funds and T. Rowe Price, let you begin investing in their funds for only 50 bucks a month, if you contribute monthly. …

    6. Expand your horizons: With mutual funds, you can venture outside your realm of expertise to make money. …

    7. Ease yourself in: A technique known as "dollar-cost averaging" means that you invest small amounts periodically -- say, once a month or once a quarter -- instead of investing a lump sum. …

    8. Make a quick getaway: When you need your money, you can sell mutual fund shares for free any day the market is open. …

    9. Delegate your portfolio: Even a good fund portfolio needs to be tweaked from time to time. If you don't want to bother, target retirement funds will do the tweaking for you. …

Read complete article at Kiplinger.com: 9 Great Reasons to Own Funds

Monday, April 2, 2007

Six Key Principles of Saving for Retirement

A nice article by Ben Stein, yes, that Ben Stein, on the basic principles of saving for retirement. He keeps it simple, maybe too simple for some people. Everyone has their own unique situation to deal with while trying to save for a comfortable retirement. So take this with a grain of salt, and tweak to your own situation.



The Six Principles


1. How much you save.


2. How long you give your savings to compound.


3. How you allocate your assets.


4. How much your investment returns annually.


5. How low you keep your fees and costs.


6. How closely you keep an eye on taxes.

Six Key Principles of Saving for Retirement

Write off taxes you paid

You can deduct property taxes you paid in 2006 on your 2006 tax return, if you itemize. You can also deduct state income taxes or sales taxes, whichever will give you more money back.


You can find tables estimating the sales taxes paid by people in your state on http://www.irs.gov/. If you are looking for recommendations on what software to use, check out this post: Tax software reviews.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

25 Rules to Grow Rich By

Money.com lists 25 basic things you should and shouldn’t do, if you want to be ‘rich’. How many of these are you following?





    1. For return on investment, the best home renovation is to upgrade an old bathroom. Kitchens come in second.

    2. It's worth refinancing your mortgage when you can cut your interest rate by at least one point.

    3. Spend no more than 2 1/2 times your income on a home. For a down payment, it's best to come up with at least 20%.

    4. Your total housing payments should not exceed 28% of your gross income. Total debt payments should come in under 36%.

    5. Never hire a roofer, driveway paver or chimney sweep who is going door to door.

    6. All else being equal, the best place to invest is a 401(k). Once you've earned the full company match, max out a Roth IRA. Still have money to invest? Put more in your 401(k) or a traditional IRA.

    7. To figure out what percentage of your money should be in stocks, subtract your age from 120.

    8. Invest no more than 10% of your portfolio in your company stock - or any single company's stock, for that matter.

    9. The most you should pay in annual fees for a mutual fund is 1% for a large-company stock fund, 1.3% for any other type of stock fund and 0.6% for a U.S. bond fund.

    10. Aim to build a retirement nest egg that is 25 times the annual investment income you need.

    11. If you don't understand how an investment works, don't buy it.

    12. If you're not saving 10% of your salary, you aren't saving enough.

    13. Keep three months' worth of living expenses in a bank savings account or a high-yield money-market fund for emergencies. If you have kids or rely on one income, make it six months'.

    14. Aim to accumulate enough money to pay for a third of your kids' college costs. You can borrow the rest or use some of your income to help out when your child is in college.

    15. You need enough life insurance to replace at least five years of your salary – as much as 10 years if you have several young children or significant debts.

    16. When you buy insurance, choose the highest deductible you can afford. It's the easiest way to lower your premium.

    17. The best credit card is a no-fee rewards card that you pay in full every month. But if you carry a balance, high-interest rates will wipe out the benefits.

    18. The best way to improve your credit score is to pay bills on time and to borrow no more than 30% of your available credit.

    19. Anyone who calls or e-mails you asking for your Social Security number or information about your bank or credit card account is a scam artist.

    20. The best way to save money on a car is to buy a late-model used car and drive it until it's junk. A car loses 30% of its value in the first year.

    21. Lease a new car or truck only if you plan to replace it within two or three years.

    22. Resist the urge to buy the latest computer or other gadget as soon as it comes out. Wait three months and the price will be lower.

    23. Buy airline tickets early because the cheapest fares are snapped up first. Most seats go on sale 11 months in advance.

    24. Don't redeem frequent flier miles unless you can get more than a dollar's worth of air fare or other stuff for every 100 miles you spend.

    25. When you shop for electronics, don't pay for an extended warranty. One exception: It's a laptop and the warranty is from the manufacturer.


25 Rules to Grow Rich By

Saturday, March 31, 2007

How to beat that traffic ticket

It has been a while since I got a traffic ticket, I have to admit that I did have a lot of fun with my 1999 Mustang GT, and it got me into some trouble with speeding tickets. Wish I had read this article back then.



If you've ever been ticketed for speeding or running a red light, you already know that the fine you pay may only be the beginning of your cost.


If it's your second offense, that mistake may very well drain a whopping $700 out of your pocket over the next three years. That's because, on average, a driver's insurance premiums can increase by 25 percent after a second violation.


Most traffic courts rely on the fact that nine out of 10 drivers will just pay their tickets and move on. Established to expedite cases quickly and efficiently, traffic courts serve as vital sources of revenue for many counties.



Read on at Bankrate.com


How to beat that traffic ticket

Friday, March 30, 2007

Are you underpaid? 5 ways to get more value out of your job

I get that feeling everyday at work… that everyone is making more money than me. Do you get that feeling? Well, there is something you can do about it. Payscale.com has a nice article giving advice on how to get more money for doing what you do for a living.




    1. Do your homework. This includes researching the current market value for the position and carrying that knowledge with you into the talks. …

    2. Know your needs and wants. "You have a range in mind of what you'd really like. Otherwise, if you are out in left field-you are never going to be successful. …

    3. Learn a methodology for handling the questions, "What are you looking for?" and "What kind of salary do you want?" According to DeCarlo, the bottom line is, "I'm negotiable." If it's too soon to talk about money, she encourages applicants to change the discussion topic to job requirements or expectations. …

    4. Know your options and ask, ask, ask. Be familiar with possible perks and benefits, and ways to increase your salary; brainstorming and making lists can be useful here. …

    5. Always negotiate in person. "You can't read an expression, show a presentation, or have convincing reasons quite as well on the phone as you can when you engage them [employers] face-to-face…

How to Negotiate Salary: 5 Expert Tips

Thursday, March 29, 2007

10 ways to guard against cybercriminals

Identity theft is probably the biggest fear in the world of personal finance these days. Criminals using your information to rack up thousands of dollars in credit card expenses. That’s a scary scary thought. (Shudder)


Bankrate.com has a list of 10 ways you can protect your information when you are online. Follow these, and you should be in a better shape to fend off any theft.



1. Regard all unsolicited calls, e-mails and instant messages as potential scams.
2. Don't follow links in suspicious e-mails.
3. Make sure you have Internet security software.
4. Run updates.
5. Scan your computer daily.
6. Block instant messages from anyone not on your buddy list.
7. Don't download software from a Web 2.0 site.
8. Scan files with your anti-virus software.
9. Don't rely on toolbars.
10. Two is not better than one.


Read more details on the 10 ways to guard against cybercriminals.

Most bills still getting paid on time.

CNN’s Money.com is reporting that even though Americans are missing payments on their home loans, they are still managing to pay their credit card bills on time, which means that the pressures of the housing market are not having as big as an effect as people might think.



NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Americans are missing more payments on home equity loans, but credit card delinquencies are holding steady, suggesting that housing pressures have yet to make it tougher for people in general to pay their bills.


In its quarterly study of U.S. consumer borrowing, the American Bankers Association said late payments on home equity loans rose to 1.92 percent from 1.79 percent in the third quarter, and were the highest since the first quarter of 2006. Late payments on some auto loans have hit a 5-1/2-year high.



The rate of credit card delinquencies edged down to 4.56 percent from the third quarter's 4.57 percent. That rate was the highest since the spring of 2005.


"We're certainly concerned to see the rise in home equity loan (delinquencies)," ABA Chief Economist James Chessen said in an interview. "The increase raises a caution flag, but the rate had been lower in 2006 than in the prior three years."


The ABA surveys more than 300 banks nationwide. It considers payments late if they are 30 or more days past due.



Read the full story after the jump


Most bills still getting paid on time.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Which mortgage is right for you?

Everyone has their own lifestyle and different priorities, based on what stage of life you are in. A lot of these factors go into making the decision on your choice of mortgage. Bankrate.com gives you 8 different situations and which mortgage goes with which.


    1. Buying for the long haul: Loan to consider: 30-year fixed rate

    2. Refinancing (15-20 years before retiring): Loan to consider: 15- or 20-year fixed or adjustable rate mortgage (ARM)

    3. Recent graduate with strong potential for increased earnings: Loan to consider: One-year ARM

    4. Self-employed: Loan to consider: No- or low-documentation loan

    5. Planning to live in home 4 or 5 years: Loan to consider: A 5/25 hybrid loan

    6. Job with good income, but not consistent month to month: Loan to consider: Option ARM

    7. Job relocation for a short run (with good income and savings): Loan to consider: Interest-only mortgage

    8. Active duty military or veteran: Loan to consider: VA loan

More on why these are the right choices after the jump.



Which mortgage is right for you? via Bankrate.com

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

6 Free Personal Finance Software Programs

Consumerist seems to be on a personal finance roll. They just listed a list of 6 free personal finance software programs that are worth checking out.

Free
Money Manager Ex (Windows and Linux)
MS Office templates (MS Office Suite or Open Office)
GnuCash (GNU/Linux, *BSD, Solaris and Mac OSX)
Pear Budget (all platforms)
Buddi (all)


Pay
Quicken ($30, PC)
MS Money ($49.99, PC)


6 Free Personal Finance Software Programs at Consumerist.com

9 Times Travel Insurance Isn't A Ripoff

Consumerist.com has a nice post about Travel insurance, which most of us never bother to invest in. They list 9 situations, as talked about on NBC’s Daily Show where it actually helps to have travel insurance.



1. Your flight is cancelled.
2. Your bags are lost and your medication is in it. You need to have an emergency prescription filled.
3. Your passport and wallet are stolen, and you need emergency cash and a replacement passport.
4. You're involved in an accident and adequate medical treatment is not available. You need medical evacuation.
5. You need to cancel your trip due to illness.
6. Your cruise line, airline or tour operator goes bankrupt. You need your non-refundable expenses covered and to get to your destination.
7. You have a medical emergency in a foreign country.
8. A terrorist incident occurs in the city where you're planning to visit and you want to cancel your trip.
9. A hurricane forces you to evacuate your resort, hotel or cruise.


9 Times Travel Insurance Isn't A Ripoff

Monday, March 26, 2007

Protect your 'valuables'

I had been meaning to do this for a long time, but I finally did it this past weekend. I bought a fireproof and waterproof safe. It was ironic too, because on The Simpsons last night, Marge is inspired to purchase a fireproof safe to protect the family’s most precious valuables, but an accident causes the safe itself to explode and destroy its contents.


When it comes to fire-related issues, the most important issue is personal safety, but other ‘valuables’ need to be protected from fire as well. These may include, but are not limited to birth and death certificates, diplomas, jewellery, and even items with sentimental value such as photographs, backup CDs or DVDs of family vacations.


After shopping around some sites and doing some research, I settled on the Sentry®Safe Water-resistant Fire-Safe® Security Safe, model # OA3810. It is a little bit bigger than I had initially intended, but I figure it will allow me to keep some of the valuables I listed in the sentimental category. A few of it’s safety features are as follows:



  • ETL Verified for 2-hour fire protection of CDs, DVDs, USB Drives and Memory Sticks up to 1850°F

  • Water-resistant

  • UL Classified 2-hour proven fire protection with impact

  • UL Classified 30 ft. Drop Test

This is definitely something everyone should invest in, to protect your valuables in the unfortunate event of a flood or fire.

Roth IRA rules

It is still not too late to get the tax savings associated with retirement accounts. As long as you open an IRA or a Roth IRA before the tax-filing deadline, you can claim that on this year’s return. If you are going for the Roth IRA option, there are certain rules to keep in mind before opening your account or contributing more money to it. Bankrate has the goods, once again.



Contribution limits
In general, Roth contributions are the same as traditional IRAs. Last year, you were able to contribute up to $4,000. The maximum annual contribution stays at that amount this year. …


Income
Speaking of income, you must earn money to open any IRA. That means your only income can't be from unearned sources, such as investments. You must get paid wages, a salary, tips, professional fees or bonuses. … But if you make too much money, you're not eligible to open a Roth or to contribute to the account you opened when you were earning less. …


Age
There is no age limit for Roth accounts. Whereas traditional IRA contributions are barred for individuals older than 70½, you can be any age and still contribute to a Roth IRA.



Roth IRA rules

10 new tax laws you need to know

Lawmakers were busy in 2006, so be sure to check out these tax code changes. They might save you some money, if you haven't filed your taxes already. Bankrate.com lists 10 new laws that might affect what you receive back from the IRS.

    1. Telephone tax credit
      One of the most welcome tax changes comes not from Congress but from the Internal Revenue Service, which decided last year to stop collecting the 3 percent federal telephone excise tax. …


    2. Multiple direct deposit option
      If the phone rebate bumps up your refund amount, the IRS is making it easier for you to save instead of spend that money. You can now have your tax refund divided and directly deposited into up to three accounts. …


    3. Energy-saving home improvements
      If you replaced your home's drafty windows last year with new, energy-efficient panes, make sure you file the long Form 1040, along with Form 5695, to get the corresponding tax credit. That's just one way to take advantage of the energy-efficient home improvement provisions included in the energy bill that took effect Jan. 1, 2006. …


    4. Alternative fuel auto credit
      Did your environmental concerns extend to the road? Then you might be able to drive away with substantial tax savings. …


    5. Tougher donation rules
      Tax breaks for charitable gifts provide rewards for both donors and their favorite nonprofit groups. In 2006, however, lawmakers decided some taxpayers had been pushing the goodwill envelope a bit too far. So beginning on Aug. 18, any donated clothing or household goods must be in good or better condition. …


    6. Older philanthropist options
      Some charitable giving, however, got easier thanks to tax-law changes. Now if you're 70½ or older, you can transfer money directly from an IRA to a charitable organization.


    7. Kiddie tax tightened
      In order to save for their child's college costs, some parents open accounts in the child's name. …


    8. Foreign income adjustments
      U.S. workers with jobs abroad will likely find they're now paying a higher tax price for their globe-trotting careers because of changes to the foreign earned income exclusion rules. …


    9. Rolling over retirement money
      However, if you're planning to someday retire abroad instead of work there now, some law changes can help you build up your post-career nest egg. To encourage workers to take their company retirement plans when they leave a job, the new Pension Protection Act of 2006 will soon allow departing employees to transfer that money directly into a Roth IRA. …


    10. Old deductions are new again
      Three popular tax breaks technically died at the end of 2005: deductions for state sales taxes, educators' classroom expenses and college tuition and fees. They were resurrected at the very end of the 2006 congressional session and are back in force through 2007, just as they were previously. …


10 new tax laws you need to know at Bankrate.com

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Spring-Clean Your 401(k)

Are you one of those people who set their 401(k) on auto-pilot and forget about it? When was the last time you checked up on your investments or changed your fund selections? Fool.com has the steps you need to take to get your 401(k) in order.


Contributions. If you've been hoping to nudge up your 401(k)
contributions a little bit, why not start now? After paying off your holiday
bills, you may have a little more breathing room left in your paycheck.


Investments. While you're looking at your 401(k), review
your investment choices. If you've had some losing investments, you might not
have noticed them before. Now's the time to look. …


Rebalancing. If you're a young worker bee, you may be
stuffing all of your savings into stocks with nary a care in the world. Some
people may prefer splitting their contributions between stocks and bonds.
Whatever your plan, now's the time to make sure that plan is still in place.



Spring-Clean Your 401(k) via Fool.com


The week's top Personal Finance stories

In case you missed them, here are Marketwatch’s top news stories from the week of March 19–23.


Top stories from Marketwatch.

Friday, March 23, 2007

10 Reasons You Aren't a millionaire

I am guessing that if you are reading this post, you are not rich. Most people think they are not rich because they don’t make enough money, but in reality, it is our habits and how you treat money.


Thestreet.com’s Jeffrey Strain lists out 10 reasons that hold people back in their quest to becoming financially independent.


1. You Care What Your Neighbors Think: If you're competing
against them and their material possessions, you're wasting your hard-earned
money on toys to impress them instead of building your wealth.


2. You Aren't Patient: Until the era of credit cards, it was
difficult to spend more than you had. …


3. You Have Bad Habits: Whether it's smoking, drinking,
gambling or some other bad habit, the habit is using up a lot of money that
could go toward building wealth. …


4. You Have No Goals: It's difficult to build wealth if you
haven't taken the time to know what you want. …


5. You Haven't Prepared: Bad things happen to the best of
people from time to time, and if you haven't prepared for such a thing to happen
to you through insurance, any wealth that you might have built can be gone in an
instant.


6. You Try to Make a Quick Buck: For the vast majority of
us, wealth doesn't come instantly. You may believe that people winning the
lottery are a dime a dozen, but the truth is you're far more likely to get
struck by lightning than win the lottery. …


7. You Rely on Others to Take Care of Your Money: You
believe that others have more knowledge about money matters, and you rely
exclusively on their judgment when deciding where you should invest your money.


8. You Invest in Things You Don't Understand: Your hear that
Bob has made a lot of money doing it, and you want to get in on the gravy train.
If Bob really did make money, he did so because he understood how the investment
worked. …


9. You're Financially Afraid: You are so scared of risk that
you keep all your money in a savings account that is actually losing money when
inflation is put into the equation, yet you refuse to move it to a place where
higher rates of return are possible because you're afraid that you will lose
money.


10. You Ignore Your Finances: You take the attitude that if
you make enough, the finances will take care of themselves. If you currently
have debt, it will somehow resolve itself in the future. Unfortunately, it takes
planning to become wealthy. It doesn't magically happen to the vast majority of
people.



More at TheStreet.com.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Top colleges get more affordable

There’s some good news for future students, or parents of future students. The most prestigious colleges in the country are making changes to their financial aid programs so the students have to pay less.



Tuition, room and board jump significantly every year. But changes to financial aid policies at many selective colleges and universities are boosting lower- and middle-income students' odds of getting a better deal.
A study notes a rise in binge drinking among college students. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen reports.


In addition, there could be a ripple effect. Colleges want to win good students and don't want the competition luring away potential candidates with sweetened aid packages. "There's a certain arms-race mentality, or a fear that there's that mentality," said Karin Fischer, who covers low-income students' access to college for the Chronicle of Higher Education.


CNNMONEY.com story.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Stick it to your bank

Have a bank account? Of course you do. Pay crazy fees for no discernible reason? Check! Thestreet.com’s Jennifer Openshaw tells you how to stick it to your bank.



Fees, fees and more fees.
Ten bucks a month for checking. Fifteen to print checks.
Twenty for a cashier's check. Thirty-five if you "blow it" and overdraw your account -- all assessed repeatedly through the day if more checks come through.


And then they have the audacity to charge you $2 for using someone else's ATM.


Fed up? Sure.




Vote with your feet. This one's simple: leave.


Let them know you exist. Moving is one option. Threatening to move is quite another.


Become a better customer. What? Stick it to your bank by becoming a better customer? Hmm, is that logical?



Stick it to your bank.

20 steps to get the best deal on a home in 2007

Are you looking to buy a new home this year? It is an exciting time, but also stressful because of the enormity of the purchase. You are pretty much agreeing to be in debt for a long time. If done right, it can be a great experience and you end up in a house which will be your home for a long time to enjoy.


Bankrate.com has a great step-by-step guide to make sure your personal finances are in order and that it is a smooth process for you and your family.




    1. Know your score. Pull your credit report and purchase your credit scores….

    2. Get preapproved for a mortgage. Preapproved, not pre-qualified. Pre-qualified simply means you're good for the loan -- if your income, debts, credit and other factors are exactly as you stated and can be documented. …

    3. Determine your dollar limit. Decide how much you want to pay, not just how much you can pay…

    4. Make a list, check it twice. Another way to narrow your search in a market with many choices is to really zero in on the individual features of your future home. Which items do you really need? Which do you merely want? Which don't matter? And what would be a deal-breaker?…

    5. Do your homework. If there are communities you like, do the in-depth research now….

    6. Hire a buyer's agent. A good real estate agent can help you focus your search and avoid the pricing pitfalls. …

    7. Don't trash the house. It's become almost routine to point out all the things you don't like about a house to shake the seller's confidence and try and bring down the price. This can be a crucial mistake.

    8. Study comparables. Do this before making a first offer. When you look at the comps (which should be within six months and ideally within three months), what's the relationship between the list price and the sales price? …

    9. Stay current. Keep up with the market while you're shopping.

    10. Determine the real value of the property. Buyers sometimes focus on how large an offer it will take to "get" the home, and lose site of what it's actually worth….

    11. Research the sellers. Are they motivated? Do they have to move by a certain date? …

    12. Look at the real numbers. Was it for sale by owner? Have the sellers used other agents? And how long has it really been on the market?

    13. Leave room for a second offer. Many sellers will assume that if you knock $20,000 off the price the first time around, you're looking for a counter-offer that will reduce the asking price by $10,000,…

    14. Have a backup plan. Don't set your mind on one house and say it's that or nothing. …

    15. Put all extras in your first offer. Negotiations are more elastic in the beginning, when the buyer and seller are most likely to want to reach an agreement…

    16. Don't let them play mind games. "If you make a good offer, within the realm of reasonable, and the seller rejects it outright, move on…

    17. Surrender where you can. You're going to be dealing with the seller throughout the process, so on points where it really doesn't matter, giving ground can be smart…

    18. Call your insurance agent. How will the neighborhoods you're shopping affect your home and auto premiums? …

    19. Call the power company. Look at your current power bill to see just how much juice you're using each month. …

    20. Educate yourself.

20 steps to get the best deal on a home in 2007

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

10 financial aid mistakes and how to avoid them

Looking for financial aid to pay for college tuition? Bankrate.com lists the 10 most common mistakes and how you can avoid them. A good read for anyone planning on scoring some extra free money.



1. Not applying at all
It sounds like a mistake that's too obvious to make, but students collectively miss out on millions in both federal and private aid each year because they don't apply.


2. Applying early
Though knocking the college application process out of the way before your peers seems like a good strategy, it may not be for your wallet.


3. Planning too late
"The No. 1 mistake students make is not financially planning at all," says Jeffrey Wallin, associate director for financial analysis at the University of Vermont.


4. Overlooking private scholarships and grants
Federal and campus-based programs are your two best shots at receiving a financial aid check, but they're not the only places you can find college dough.


5. Forgetting the family
Students lucky enough to have relatives and family friends who want to contribute to their higher education bills should be aware that financial gifts from outside the family can impact their financial aid eligibility.


6. Paying for free dough
The good news is that there's tons of free loot out there. The better news is that finding it shouldn't cost you a dime.


7. Believing all loans are made equal
When it comes to student loans, the big name isn't always the best name.


8. Earning too much
Sound impossible? Guess again. The federal government expects dependent students to contribute a significant portion of their income toward their higher education.


9. Neglecting your aid officer
Though aid officers can't radically alter a school's financial aid packaging policies, they can help adjust your award package if you have special financial circumstances.


10. Ignoring alternative aid
If both the federal government and your future college leave you high and dry in the financial aid department, investigate alternative sources of funding, such as tuition reimbursement programs through work, loan forgiveness programs and educational reward opportunities offered through Americorps, the Peace Corps and Teach for America.


More here.


Consumerist's 9-Step Beginner's Budget

The Consumerist web site shows you how to set up and track a budget in Excel. If you don't have Excel, try OpenOffice.

Are you a budget novice? Constantly overdrafting? Never have enough money to buy what you really want? Wish you could get your shit together? We've got a sexy
free Excel document to share with you.


Detailed steps here.

Are certified pre-owned cars worth the extra money?

In the market for a used automobile? If you answered yes, then you must have heard of certified pre-owned or CPO cars. These are cars that have undergone a thorough inspection, have some sort of an extended warranty attached to them, and may cost anywhere from a few hundred to a couple thousand more than the same car without a CPO badge. So the question naturally becomes, are they worth the extra money? The answer is, it depends. Bankrate.com tries to help you in making the decision whether you should spend the extra money or not.



Before you buy CPO ...

1. Read the fine print.
2. Get manufacturer's backing.
3. Compare CPO programs.
4. Research prices and dealers.
5. Negotiate.
6. Check the car inside and out.


Details here.

Monday, March 19, 2007

10 bad money habits to kick

We are all guilty of having one or more of these. I am still living without a budget, and have not investigated disability insurance. Which ones are you guilty of?


MSN money lists 10 habits that we should get rid of, to improve our financial situation.


  • Spending without a budget.
  • Carrying a balance on credit cards.
  • Ignoring interest rates.
  • Not investigating disability insurance.
  • Failing to see how little purchases add up.
  • Not matching employer's contribution to retirement.
  • Waiting until the last minute to fund IRA.
  • Paying everyone else, saving "what's left."
  • Not managing your investments.
  • Getting emotional about your investments.

Continue reading here.

Wanna raise your credit score?

You credit score. I am not sure if there is any other number that has a bigger effect on our lives. It can get you a 5% loan instead of 8%. It can make you eligible for that 2 year-no interest loan. Anything over 700 should be good enough for most loans.


Money.com has some tips on how you can bump it up and help yourself in the long run.


1: Pay off your debt: ‘…the best way to improve your credit score in the short term is to pay off the high balances on your credit card - that can raise your FICO score 60 to 70 points overnight, …’


2: Minimize your balances: …If you're within three months from applying for credit, make sure you don't charge a lot on your cards, or split the purchases between a few cards, so you keep the balances down. …


3: Hang onto older cards: ‘…the longer you've managed your credit wisely, the better your score…’



4: Don't sweat the little things: We've already told you what impacts your score. But here are some things that don't matter to your score at all. Your score won't be affected if you request your own credit record, or if you go for credit counseling.



More here.

Is a 'rewards card' right for you?

I have a Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express which I use for pretty much everything I buy, from a quick meal at McDonald’s to my recent cruise vacation in the Bahamas. I pay it off every month in full and rack up some hotel points to use towards my next vacation.


A rewards card is not for everyone though. Most of them have an associated yearly fee, which could be anywhere from $25 to $100.


The Christian Science Monitor has published an informative article on the subject.



What's your rewards pleasure? Cash back? Discounted airfare? Free earphones? Whatever your fancy, there's a credit card out there designed for you. But before jumping on the rewards bandwagon, ask yourself: Will getting the reward cost me more than it's worth? Which rewards make the most sense for me?


1. Do the math. Along with the temptation to buy more comes the risk of carrying a monthly balance and losing rewards to interest or – worse – late fees. …


2. Be realistic. Think twice about getting a rewards card if you're enticed by MasterCard's American Dream card (where you accumulate points to enter a monthly sweepstakes), or Visa's World Series of Poker card (which offers reward points toward such things as buy-ins to World Series of Poker events).


3. Beware hidden costs.


4. Shop around. If you decide rewards are right for you, you have thousands of cards from which to choose. …


5. Consider going the debit rewards route.


6. Take the "merchandise or cash back" test. If you're considering merchandise rewards cards, get the card's catalog, find a cash-back card with similar terms, and see if you can get a better deal with cash back, says Arnold. There's a good chance you can. …



More here.

Cut Your Taxes With Good Deeds

While doing my taxes with TurboTax, I was embarrassed to find out that the average charitable donations in my income bracket were a LOT higher than what I had donated in 2006. Right then I resolved to correct that in 2007. This article from Fool.com has some nice tips on how to make sure you are filing your deductions correctly.



The folks who oversee the Internal Revenue Service (yes, even the auditors get audited) recently discovered that roughly one-quarter of taxpayers who took a tax deduction for donating valuable stuff to charity didn't substantiate their gifts.


Turning junk into money
First, know that you can get a pretty good tax perk for donating your unwanted belongings to a qualified charity. If you're wondering whether your charity is qualified, check the IRS web site. …


Things to watch out for
Here's one wrinkle in these rules. If you're donating something that's not in good condition, but it has a value of $500 or more and you get a qualified appraisal, you may still qualify for a tax deduction. …


Not too much of a good thing
Just so you know, there are some limits to the generosity of these laws, but they're too high for most people to worry about. Technically, you can only deduct donations that amount to less than either 50% or 30% of your adjusted gross income. …



More here.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

6 steps to credit card serenity

USA is a country that is swimming in credit card debt. A quick Google search shows that the average US household debt is around $10,000. I was buried under a five figure credit card debt until a few years ago as well. For those of you who are trying to cope with it and working towards a place where you are debt-free, Bankrate.com has some tips on how to get there.


1. Know where you stand – …make a list of exactly how much you owe and
what rate of interest you're paying on each card. Then list your cards in order
of highest rate to lowest.
2. Pay highest-interest cards first – …
These cards are the ones that are costing you the most over the long run so you
need to make every effort to pay more than the minimum payment each month on
these bills first.
3. Get a better deal – Call the toll-free
number for your highest rate cards and ask the customer service representative
if she can give you a better deal.
4. Consider using a different card –
Hang on to all those zero percent and other low-interest credit card offers
you've been getting in the mail. Done well, transferring your high interest
balance to one of these cards can save you an enormous amount in interest and
put you on a solid track to paying down debt.
5. Beef up your credit score –
If you make all your payments on time over the next six months and aggressively
pay down your biggest balances first, you could improve your score as much as 50
points
6. Avoid penalties and fees – Interest rate hikes and hefty monthly
fees can ruin even the best-laid pay-back plans. Avoid: Late payment penalties.
Penalties for late payments on any card. Credit Limit Fees



More here.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

5 responsible, smart and boring ways to spend your tax refund

The average tax refund this year is $2500. That's enough for a nice tropical vacation for 2, a cruise in the Bahamas, or a nice big plasma TV. Those are all fun ways to spend your tax refund check. But if you want to be responsible and don't intend to spend it, money.com has some suggestions on what to do with it.


1. Fund your IRA
2. Fund a 529
3. Open a CD
4. Add to your emergency fund
5. Reduce your credit card debt


More here.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Going on spring break? Don't break the bank!

Money $mart Life has 10 tips to save money for those of you lucky enough to be going on spring break. Some real good stuff, #5 and #10 are my favorites.

1) Get a Hotel Referral
2) Know your Healthcare Coverage
3) Go the Speed Limit
4) Pack the Car
5) Pack the Room
6) Don’t get Stuck with the Bill
7) Check your Rearview Mirror
8) Avoid the Authorities
9) Bring a Cooler
10) Hit the Buffet


Details here.

Where to Find Hidden Savings on Your 1040

I know it is starting to feel like a Tax blog, but 'tis the season, so here goes. Kiplinger.com has some savings that you might miss on your tax return. Hope it helps some of you out.

Green credits.
Save your energy.
Good news for high-earners.
Higher
limits.
A tougher "kiddie" tax.
Go for an IRA.
More here.

13 basic tax lessons

You maybe done with your taxes for this year, but these are lessons you can use forever. When it comes to taxes, knowledge is money. e.g. If you didn't know about the telephone credit being given this year, you would miss out on the easiest 40 bucks you ever made. Here are 13 lessons to last you a lifetime from Bankrate.com.

1. Overwithholding is bad.
2. Underwithholding is bad.
3. Tips to differentiating your income.
4. Different dollars have different rates.
5. Itemizing isn't always necessary.
6. Credits are better than deductions.
7. Exclusions add up to tax savings.
8. Stealth taxes sneak in.
9. Deductibility has its boundaries.
10. Earned and unearned are taxed differently.
11. Extension to file means just that.
12. Audit pain can be reduced.
13. Simple can be costly.


More details here.

Another way to make more money

It is common knowledge, but it is always nice to see it in hard numbers. What am I talking about? The relationship between education and income. Does getting a better education really increase your income potential, or is it a marketing ploy by Devry? Here are some numbers from the census bureau that should help answer the question.




Not a Graduate: $17,299
Graduate, including GED: $26,933
Some College no degree: $30,627
Associate's degree: $36,645
Bachelor's degree: $52,671
Master's degree: $66,754
Professional degree: $112,902
Doctoral degree: $91,370



What stands out to me in those numbers is that a Doctoral degree actually gets you less than a professional degree. Hmm...

For more statistics, visit the Census Bureau's site here.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Why Your Home Is Not the Investment You Think It Is

A lot of people, including me, put most, if not all of their eggs in the house basket. Usually it is our biggest asset, and each month, we are investing more and more money in that asset. David Crook from the Wall Street Journal online has written a great article about why you should not bet your life's savings in your house. Here are some scary numbers from the article:


Food for thought:

• If you bought a house in Los Angeles in 1990, just as the real-estate market turned downward, you would have had to wait a decade for your home's value to return to what you paid.

• If you bought in Rochester, N.Y., in 1980, you would have seen only a mediocre 4% annual growth for the next 25 years.

• If you bought in Dallas in 1986, as the oil boom went bust, your home wouldn't have appreciated at all before 1998.


Not scared yet? Read on here.

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Are you getting a tax refund?

If you are getting a tax refund, or have already got one, how will you/did you spend it? I will probably end up putting it in savings or investing it.

What about you?

I know I have some readers. I would love to hear from you! :)

Tax Tip: Deduct your home office

Do you work from home? You might be able to deduct home office costs on your tax return, if you are self employed, and in some cases, even if you are an employee. As long as you meet the requirements, Bankrate.com lists out how you can claim home office expenses as deductions on your tax return.

A home-office deduction is generally easier for self-employed individuals to claim. But even then, the Internal Revenue Service has certain requirements a taxpayer must meet.

General requirements
First, your home-office area must be used regularly and exclusively for your business needs. You can't set up a computer in your den, sporadically type invoices and claim that room as your home office.

Secondly, the business part of your home must be either your principal place of business or where you meet or deal with patients, clients or customers in the normal course of your business. A separate, detached structure such as a garage or guesthouse that is used for business also may qualify as a home office.


More here.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

50 money saving ideas

Kiplinger magazine has an article in this month's issue with 50 money saving ideas. The ideas were submitted by readers of the magazine and the top 50 were printed. Some really good stuff in there.

My favorites:

Small Change

At the end of every week, I take all the money in my purse (change and bills) and put it in my savings account. On Monday, I start the week fresh. I save an average of $2,000 to $2,500 a year, sometimes more when I do the same with my husband's change. It pays for family emergencies and vacations.

Dump the Dorms

When our twins finished their first year of college, I took $10,000 from their college fund and bought a small three-bedroom house. The mortgage payments were less than the dorm or an apartment would have cost for the two of them. They had a third roommate who paid rent, and they saved money on food and laundry. We also had a free place to stay when we visited. When they graduated three years later, I sold the house on my own for $6,000 more than I paid for it. Altogether, I figure we saved about $15,000. -- Joe Marino, Dunlap, Ill.

Online Bargains

I have saved thousands of dollars a year by comparing prices and purchasing over the Internet. When my daughter wanted to buy a pot-bellied stove for her mountain home, the one in the store cost $2,295 -- plus tax, delivery and $400 for installation. When I searched for it on eBay, there it was, almost new, for $560 plus $180 air freight. Installation cost $200. Such a deal! -- Gay Burch, Las Vegas, Nev.

KIP TIP: Before you buy on the Internet, go to PriceGrabber.com, Pronto.com, Shopping.com or Shopzilla.com. Search for a product and you'll get a list of prices from various online retailers. To compare prices at local stores, try Shoplocal.com.


More here.

Grow your money, shrink your taxes

Are you putting money away in a 401(k) plan? What about an IRA? If you're not, you should be! Here are some great tips from money.com on how to make the most of these retirement plans and reduce your tax bill while you're at it.

1. Your 401(k): A top priority
2. Go for an IRA
3. MONEY's best savings strategy
4. Take your 401(k) with you
...



For more, click here.

12 common tax-filing mistakes you can avoid

Another one of my favorite websites, Bankrate.com, has a checklist of common mistakes people make on their tax returns, and how you can avoid them.

• Phone tax refund
• Extended deductions
• Direct deposit dangers
• Hybrid vehicle credits
• Charitable contributions
• Kiddie tax
• New interest
• Math miscalculations
• Social Security
• Ignoring IRS mail
• Signature required
• Make the deadline
For more details, click here.

10 steps to selling your home

Are you planning to sell your home in 2007. We all know that the real estate market is not what it was 2 or 3 years ago, so you will need to be prepared to wait a while before your house sells. It is a buyer's market and supply far exceeds demand for homes. Bankrate.com has some helpful tips on how to get your house sold in 2007.


10 steps to selling
1. Recognize every market is different.
2. Get your home inspected.
3. Shape up before marketing.
4. Devise a marketing plan.
5. Check into company relocation assistance.
6. Interview real estate agents.
7. Set a price.
8. Understand your price.
9. Get rid of the junk.
10. Stay on top of the market.
More here.

Read these!