Finances Feed

For the last few months, the standing joke in our house has been that the first words the hubby and I say to each other every morning is, "Can we retire today?" Beach? Mountain cabin? A cruise? Traveling across Europe? What's your retirement dream? Start planning now to achieve it. OK. Maybe we don't ask that question first thing in the morning, but that's mainly because the hubby is not a morning person. But we have been paying closer attention to our retirement stash, as well as checking on what we can one day expect from Social Security. Calculating retirement... Read more →

This is truly an October surprise. The persistent partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill has been broken, at least when it comes to the country's key financial needs. The House and President Obama announced yesterday, Oct. 27, that they had agreed on the country's overall budgets for the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years and extend the debt ceiling deadline to March 15, 2017. Outgoing House Speaker John Boehner, joined by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), announced the two-year budget deal he and the Obama Administration hammered out. Click image to view the video. "This is a good deal. It's a solid... Read more →

Greece, despite another bailout from Eurozone lenders, is still struggling to get its economy together. Now it faces another internal threat: bartering. The New York Times reports that as the Mediterranean country "grapples with a continued downturn, bartering is gaining traction at the margins of the economy" because money is just not readily available. Liz Alderman writes: "Graphic artists are exchanging designs for olive oil. Accountants swap advice for office supplies. In the agricultural heartland and on the Greek islands, informal bartering, which has historically helped communities survive, has intensified as more people exchange fruits, vegetables, other crops, equipment, clothing... Read more →

It's almost time for school to start. For college students, or their parents, that means it's also almost time to start emptying out bank accounts. OK, maybe you don't have to liquidate all your assets to go to college nowadays, but it is expensive. Tuition is, of course, a major outlay. And most folks now pay for their continuing education by taking out loans. A lot of loans. New York Federal Reserve figures show that student debt hit $1.2 trillion in the first quarter of 2015. School-related money is owed by about 43 million Americans. That's why the ever-escalating cost... Read more →

Look out. Some hitchhiking private tax debt collectors could stall the Highway Trust Fund, which already is running on fumes. Claudette Colbert shows Clark Gable how to catch a ride in the classic film It Happened One Night. Their characters were much more welcome hitchhikers than are private collectors of tax debt who are hitching a ride on the Senate bill to pay for the Highway Trust Fund by July 31. Photo/movie trailer screenshot courtesy Wikipedia. The Senate late Wednesday, July 22, finally restarted its transportation funding effort thanks to a 62-36 vote that will let debate on the actual... Read more →

Most folks are bargain hunters, but women face some definite obstacles in getting the best price on many common consumer goods. For years, studies have consistently shown that women pay more than men for items like shampoo, deodorant, razors and shaving gel. The only thing that's changed is just how much more we pay, as inflation ups the prices every year. NBC correspondent Jeff Rossen's May 28 report for the Today Show details the price differentials between men's and women's personal hygiene products. This so-called pink tax now stands at around $1,400 a year more that female shoppers pay for... Read more →

This second Friday the 13th of 2015 is pretty scary for folks with money in the stock market. With just about an hour left in the trading day, the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P 500 are all down. Sure, the drops are just fractional. And reasoned, dedicated investors know that markets fluctuate, sometimes wildly. If you have a good long-term investment plan and are patient, you should come out OK. Still, if like the hubby and me you're hoping to return sooner rather than later, you probably double clutch a bit whenever the market goes down even a little. But, as... Read more →

Next week should be fun. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says that unless Congress increases the federal debt ceiling, the country will hit its borrowing limit on Monday, March 16. That deadline day is this week's By the Numbers figure. Lew, in a letter to Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, points out, just in case any lawmakers are unclear, that increasing the debt limit does not authorize new spending commitments. "It simply allows the government to pay for expenditures Congress has already approved, thereby protecting the full faith and credit of the United States," writes Lew. Time... Read more →

The U.S. economy finally appears to be on an upward track. That's good news for the millions of folks who took serious financial hits during the persistent recession that began in 2008. Things were so bad back then that even the Internal Revenue Service decided to lend a helping hand. In 2009, the IRS showed its more compassionate side to taxpayers facing financial challenges, which included having difficulty paying their tax-due balances. The IRS committed to being more flexible in working with taxpayers having trouble paying Uncle Sam because of factors related to the weak economy. Thus began the Fresh... Read more →

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew was on the hot seat today, spending three full hours being grilled by Ways and Means Committee members about the Administration's fiscal year 2016 budget. As is the case in most Capitol Hill hearings, members were more interested in making their own political statements than in asking questions and getting answers. That's why some of the budget time was spent on the upcoming Supreme Court decision on premium tax credit help for folks who bought health insurance on the federal exchange. But we did get some actual budget talk, too. Tea Party troubles reviewed: One... Read more →

It's a dual Groundhog Day this year. There's the traditional meteorological news, which, by the way, is bad. Punxsutawney Phil says we're looking at more winter. An apparently sleepy Punxsutawney Phil prepares to make his weather prediction. The final word: Phil saw his shadow, so we're in for six more weeks of winter. Full story and video at Weather Underground. This year, we also get the federal fiscal replay on official Groundhog Day. This is the one where the president issues his annual budget and the members of the opposing political party declare it dead on arrival. Political process replay:... Read more →

Pope Francis has been in the news recently. There was, of course, his annual Christmas mass and Christmas Day address to the tens of thousands gathered in St Peter's Square. As is so often the case with this pontiff, he focused on Dec. 25 on the struggles of those with in dire straits -- abused children, refugees, hostages and others suffering from violence worldwide. Just a few days earlier, in his Christmas greeting to the Curia, he accused the group of cardinals, bishops and priests who make up the church administration of suffering from spiritual Alzheimer's, forgetting what drew them... Read more →

The stock market has been on a crazy run in 2014. When its wild swings up and down ultimately shake out, many folks will find that their portfolios are going to worth much more. Some folks took their gains earlier in the year. Others are cashing in those positive holdings as part of their year-end tax planning. Either way, they'll face taxes on their investment profits. Granted, the tax rate for long-term capital gains generally is lower than a taxpayer's ordinary income tax rate: 20 percent for higher earners (those in the top tax bracket), 15 percent for most middle-class... Read more →

Back in 2008 when the housing bubble burst and the financial crisis began, homeowners were literally walking away from their residences. Predatory lenders lured unqualified buyers with subprime mortgages that backfired horrendously for financial institutions and homeowners alike. Those who managed to stay in their homes were deep underwater on the mortgage loan amount. It seemed for the last five or so years that the American homeownership dream, while not dead, was on life support. The patient, however, appears to be making a recovery. Housing markets are picking up in some parts of the country. A recent survey by housing... Read more →

The hubby and I performed our annual holiday ritual today. We bought some toys for Austin area kids who might otherwise find no presents under their Christmas trees on Dec. 25. Our December contributions are to the Blue Santa program, which partners with several local businesses to raise money and collect the toy donations. We always drop ours off at our neighborhood Chuy's restaurant. That way we get to eat Tex-Mex as a reward for our good deed. Presents price tag: We noticed that the goodies jammed in our shopping cart were a bit more expensive than last year's batch.... Read more →

He who controls the purse strings makes the rules. Although this popular quote uses "he" in the general, universal sense to make a money point, the pronoun is the operative word in most domestic violence cases. Not to get all wild-eyed feminist, but as the recent spousal abuse cases in the National Football League have underscored, women generally are the victims when relationships take a physical turn for the worse. No money, continued abuse: In addition to physical violence, abused spouses and partners also often face financial abuse. The spouse or partner who makes the most money uses that resource... Read more →

Uncle Sam already has decided that richer individuals should pay more taxes. Now wealthy individuals are getting some second looks from state lawmakers as they struggle to come up with ways to pay for popular projects at that governmental level. In New Jersey, which is facing an estimated $2.7 billion revenue gap, the idea of a millionaire's tax is being revived by Democratic lawmakers. That possibility has gone beyond talk in Illinois. Prairie State legislators have decided to let voters decide. To a point. Before adjourning its spring session last week, the Illinois General Assembly sent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn... Read more →

A professional golfer, billionaire investor and Las Vegas gambler walk into ... trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Though the set-up is familiar, it's no joke. It's the latest in Uncle Sam's continuing effort to stem insider trading, the buying or selling of securities based on information not available to the public. This case, however, goes beyond the usual Wall Street figures. It involves some very high-profile and publicly recognizable people in, according to the Wall Street Journal, a "major insider-trading probe involving finance, gambling and sports." The targets of the SEC and Federal Bureau of Investigation probe, first... Read more →

Sad that Kimye's wedding is over? Me neither. But I am surprised that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West didn't milk their nuptials for even more attention. Yes, given all the pop culture magazines that line my grocery's checkout stands and the tabloid style television shows that fill too many hours, that would have been very possible. Now all we've got is the countdown of whether these vows last longer than Kim's last tying of the knot. At least celebrity romance addicts won't be left wanting for long. They now can focus on the upcoming "I do's" between George Clooney and... Read more →

Congressional gridlock generally is a problem, not just for folks on Capitol Hill, but also for all of us who are impacted by legislative inaction. Take the tax extenders. By delaying action on this collection of 50-plus tax breaks, all of us who depend on any of these expired provisions are in limbo as to what tax-planning moves to make. But there is a very thin silver lining in the delay. It means there's more time to fight a bad provision in the bill, the requirement that the Internal Revenue Service once again use private debt collectors, or PDCs, to... Read more →