March 22, 2018

How NOT to spend your income tax refund... IF you receive a refund

"Gambling, investing in cryptocurrency or backing a friend's new venture are among the worst possible ways to spend a tax refund, writes Geoff Williams" in US News and World Report.See;

The 5 Worst Ways You Can Spend Your Tax Refund 

 Much better options: pay down credit card debt, pay down other debts like car loans and student loans. Build up your emergency fund by buying I-bonds with your refund. If you've already received your refund, wait until May 1 (for higher rates) and buy I-bonds directly from the U.S Treasury. Check out:
Current  rates: 2.58% for bonds issued November 2017 – April 2018. Starting May 1 rates are likely to be higher because the Federal Reserve Board is raising interest rates as the economy recovers from the Great Recession.

Change in medical expense federal tax deduction for 2018

The threshold for claiming the medical-expense deduction is 7.5% of adjusted gross income for 2017 and 2018, potentially letting more people qualify.   Sarah O'Brien explains
  • A taxpayer with adjusted gross income of $50,000 would need a minimum of $3,750 in medical expenses to reach the temporary 7.5 percent threshold. That compares with $5,000 — $1,250 more — at a 10 percent floor, which will be in effect in 2019.
  • About 8.8 million taxpayers used the deduction in 2015, saving themselves an aggregate $86.9 billion.
  • Some qualifying expenses are more easily overlooked, including the cost of getting you and your dependents to doctor's appointments and the like.
BUT... and this is a BIG "BUT" due to the increase in the standard deduction, far fewer taxpapers will itemize their deductions.  For 2018 the standard deduction has nearly doubled for all taxpayers. The 2018 standard deduction for married couples filing jointly is $24,000, up from $12,700 in 2017. So, unless the total of all deductions exceeds $24,000, there is no benefit to itemizing. And even if your deductions exceed the SD, you only benefit from the amount in excess of the SD. And with lower tax rates of 10-12% for most taxpayers, the amount you save by itemizing is lower than in the past.
Read full article at:

Is your college student using federal student loans to finance spring break?

The Squared Away Blog reports:

New Use for College Loans: Spring Break!

"Yup, more than half of college students are using some of their student loan money to pay for spring break." See:
Even if college students are paying their own way (with earned income) for fancy week-long get-aways... should they be using funds in this way if they owe student loans? Something to talk about! (and who will come up with the bail money?)

March 21, 2018

Looking for savings options that pay more than 1/10th of 1%?

Check out Jean Chatzky's advice on where to find the best savings options today, "How to grow your savings and reach your short term goals faster," at:
"Although the average savings accounts are (as we noted) paying peanuts, the best are paying almost 20 times that much. You just have to search for them on a website like or"
High yield checking accounts pay even more than savings accounts because "they make their money on swipe fees. Right now, for example, Blue Credit Union is paying 4% on balances of up to $15,000. Keep close to that in the account for a year and you've netted $600."

Unauthorized charge for Amazon Prime?

I was surprised to find a charge for Amazon Prime membership on my credit card. I occasionally order from Amazon but never joined Prime. When I called my credit card company to dispute the charge I was told that this happens all the time to Amazon customers. The credit card rep told me to call 888-280-4331 and that it would be easy to get the charge removed. WOW! I didn't have to wait on hold or even have to speak to a person to get the charge removed. So, check your credit card bills EVERY month and keep this phone number handy in case this happens to you.

March 20, 2018

If your retirement funding plan is to keep working... reality check needed!

Think the solution to inadequate retirement savings is to keep working? That's what a lot of people thought until... poor health, layoff, age discrimination, or caregiving needs interfered. Fully 61% of retirees left the paid workforce before they planned... and not on their own terms. Even part-time work may be unrealistic; only 29% of retirees report having worked part-time.
Experiences of older workers reveal that planning to keep working to supplement inadequate retirement savings may be unrealistic so you better ramp up your investing (and cut your expenses) while still fully employed. Learn from the real life experiences of others and quit fooling yourself.
Michelle Singletary, writing for The Washington Post, revels statistics that challenge the plans
Learn from the statistics and experiences of other retirees at:

March 16, 2018

Time to update your income tax withholding

With the changes in federal income taxation resulting from the recently passed "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act," NOW is the time to update your withholding. With so many changes in federal income taxes, including an increased standard deduction, elimination of personal exemptions, increases in the child tax credit, limited or discontinued certain deductions, and changes in tax rates and brackets,now is the time to fine tune your withholding for 2018.
Check out:
The IRS also issued a new 2018 Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. 

How much do you know about Credit Scores?

How much do you really know about your credit score? How much is myth vs. fact? Take this 12-question quiz. It won’t take long—but the knowledge can go a long way toward improving your score.

February 23, 2018

Useful Reference & Planning Guides: 2018 Taxes, Long term care, Social Security, & Medicare

Manning & Napier produced four 2-page guides to the latest developments in federal income taxes,  long term care, Social Security, & medicare that are succinct and easy to understand. Check out: 
Tax Reference Guide

Our new tax guide has everything you need to know about tax reform, and changes to contribution limits and tax rates.
Social Security Guide
Social Security can be complicated. We break it down to the simple information you need.
Long-Term Care Guide
We offer key statistics, median costs around the country, and common funding options to help you plan for long-term care.
Medicare Guide
We provide 2018 rates, enrollment periods, planning considerations, and more.
Download and print:

January 31, 2018

Trump Administration cuts aid to students defrauded by for-profit colleges

Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is changing regulations on student protections with regard to for-profit schools. Now students defrauded by for-profit colleges will receive only partial loan forgiveness according to The Associated Press. Trump is rescinding the Obama administration’s practice of forgiving the debts of students deceived by the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges.
 “Critics accuse the department of protecting industry interests, but DeVos says the Obama-era rules were too broad and could be misused at taxpayers’ expense,” according to Associated Press writer Maria Danilova.
Source: “For-profit loan forgiveness program faces deep cuts,” published in The Salt Lake Tribune, January 31, 2018, p. A6.
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