January 18, 2015 |
Middle-class parents of children with disabilities: There's a new low-cost, tax-advantaged way to save money on their behalf. Low cost is the key idea here. ABLE accounts serve a purpose similar to the special-needs trusts often set up to help disabled or special-needs children without disqualifying them from government benefits. ABLE accounts don't replace special-needs trusts. They are another option. In December, President Obama signed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE)
January 12, 2015 |
With the onset of the 2015 tax-filing season, here are cautionary tales of a man and a woman whom you don't want preparing your taxes. The Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service highlight some of the brightest red flags among fraudulent tax preparers. These two local folks were doozies. In 2013, "Archie" - full name, Adekunle Adetayo Adeolu - was sentenced to prison and $135,519 in restitution after filing false tax returns. He operated Adeolu & Okojie, a tax-service business in Philadelphia.
January 5, 2015 |
Stocks did pretty well in 2014, but what about 2015? Since nobody knows, many financial experts say it's smart for investors to "rebalance" a portfolio. Here's what that is all about. Bonds, stocks , or other investments that were sleeping dogs last year may jump to the head of the pack next. In managing an IRA, 401(k), or other accounts, it's good to be ready for changes. Do that by rebalancing. The Financial Industry Regulator Authority provides an overview at its site, FINRA.org. Since rebalancing is hard for many people to understand and do, providers such as mutual fund companies offer to do it for you, if you put your money into so-called lifecycle or target-date funds.
January 4, 2015 |
If you've ever wondered about unanticipated ways in which your charitable giving pays off, here's one to think about. We asked the Make-a-Wish Foundation about some of the folks who have been granted wishes while seriously ill. Did anyone notice a long-term impact on the illness, or on his or her outlook on life? It turns out that a report on adults who were granted wishes as children found that the experiences sustained them years after they were cured of their diseases, according to a survey conducted by TCC Group in Philadelphia for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
December 29, 2014 |
What's another name for student debt consolidator? A new low in scam artists . So here's how not to become a target of "debt relief" companies. Many 2014 college graduates are receiving their first loan bills. Student loans total $1.2 trillion nationally, and about seven million students have defaulted. You don't need to pay anyone to get help with, or to restructure, your federal student loans - period. (Private loans are another matter entirely). Do it yourself for free.
December 21, 2014 |
Perhaps you already gave money or charitable gifts in 2014 - or you plan to before year's end. Either way, here are helpful tips in setting up a vehicle for your gift and documenting your donation. First: Keep all paperwork and photos, or face the wrath of the Tax Man. Second: Do your homework on the charity of your choice. Third: Don't wait until the last day of the year. Your gift needs to be in the hands of your chosen charity by December 31 in order for you to reap the tax deduction; donating stocks and bonds, for instances, can take three days to settle.
December 15, 2014 |
I worked for years as a waitress - and thought I would sling hash until I crept into my grave. As a result, I'm a highly scrupulous tipper. My husband insists I'm cheap when we dine out and don't leave 20 percent, even for terrible service. Like the time when the hungover hipster forgot to put in our breakfast order. An hour and a half later, we got our eggs, and she got her next tattoo. Which leads us to holiday tipping, and what's appropriate. Here's a handy-dandy guide - culled from various etiquette authorities - about standard tips at the holidays and year-end 2014, for service folks from pet groomers to mail carriers to housecleaners.
December 7, 2014 |
Rubbing shoulders with superstar athletes can be thrilling for mere mortals like myself. (I ran junior-varsity cross-country as a high school senior. Not kidding.) But can professional athletes teach us management skills? Keep your expectations within reason. Increasingly, Philadelphia financial firms are corralling sports executives, professional athletes, and coaches to speak, with the idea that "behind-the-scrimmage line" backstories will uncover secrets to success. Maybe, maybe not. But it's an experience for which Philadelphians are paying big bucks.
November 30, 2014 |
There are savvy shoppers. Then there are holiday crazies - expert, rabid consumers who combine coupons, compare online vs. in-store bargains via smartphone, and put us all to shame. Edgar Dworsky, proprietor of nonprofit consumer advocate ConsumerWorld.org, is among the latter. Here's what he does before buying anything, most especially during this season of shopping insanity, along with tips from some other parties: Chart price history. Start by visiting sites like Shopping.com, Shop.pricespider.com, Pricegrabber.com, and TheFind.com, as well as Google Shopping, Amazon.com, and eBay.
November 23, 2014 |
Two childhood memories always stay with me. For several years, my mom asked that we "adopt" families - whom we never met - and supply a full-Monty Christmas, including wrapped gifts, clothes, toys, and a holiday meal. And in the weeks leading up to the holidays, my dad would read Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol to my sister and me. Sometimes, he fell asleep. I remember these as the greatest gifts they ever gave us. With hard-core, ugly-sweater-shopping season approaching in advance of Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, how do we avoid the urge to buy more stuff no one needs?