Finances Feed

While most investors have been closely following the recent gyrations of the stock market, fans of cryptocurrency also have been on their own frenzied financial journey. One bitcoin, as of this morning, was worth almost $8,433. I'd be happy with that value, but that's less than half what the cryptocurrency was worth in mid-December. On Dec. 16, 2017, the digital currency topped out at more $19,000. The cryptocurrency can be spent like real money — don't email me bitcoin et al fans; it will always be just one step above Monopoly money to me — but many tax collectors worldwide... Read more →


I don't like roller coasters. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, not Space Mountain, is my Disney World speed. Plus, as an investor, I get enough virtual and financial whiplash from following my portfolio. This week especially. From watching CNBC the last two days I've learned: The Dow is having its worst month in almost eight years. The market's fall of 1,179 points on Monday, Feb. 5, was the Dow's biggest drop ever. The 4.6 percent fall to close at just over 24,300 yesterday was, on a percentage basis, the biggest one-day drop for the blue-chip average since August 2011. We are... Read more →


And so it begins. Uncle Sam is out of money, forcing closure today of many federal operations. How long will this latest government shutdown last? Based on prior shutdowns, it could be just today, or this could drag out for weeks. UPDATE, Feb. 9, 2018: The federal government closed briefly again on Feb. 9, but only for a few hours. A two-year budget agreement means we'll be able finish out the filing of our 2017 returns, either by the April deadline or the extended due date in October, without further interruption. In addition, this latest 5½-hour overnight closure ended with... Read more →


Merry Christmas Eve! I hope you have all your presents at least in hand, if not wrapped and under the tree. And I hope they didn't set you back as much as the gifts given by the true love in the classic "12 Days of Christmas" tune. The least expensive of the 12 gifts in the classic Christmas carol was the eight milking maids. Maybe that's because, like farm manager Courtney Biggs at Chapel's Country Creamery in Easton, Maryland, they use modern milking methods. (U.S. Department of Agriculture photo by Bob Nichols via Flickr CC) The annual PNC Christmas Price... Read more →


Back in mid-October, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that the wage base, that's the amount of each worker's earnings that are subject to the Social Security portion of payroll withholding, would increase to $128,700. This week, the SSA revised that number downward. The new amount of income from which Social Security taxes will be withheld is $128,400. The SSA says it made the adjustment after getting corrected W-2s later in October that weren't figured into the original 2018 wage base announcement. "Approximately 500,000 corrections for W-2s from 2016 resulted in changes for three items based on the national average... Read more →


It's an exciting day in political and financial circles, what with the unsealing of the first indictments in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into possible Russian involvement in and influence of the 2016 presidential election. Tax geeks also are basking in part of the buzz since the official charges include some tax matters. Among the things that Paul J. Manafort Jr., former manager of Donald J. Trump's campaign, is accused of, per the indictment, is hiding his "overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States, without paying taxes on that income." Manafort also is alleged to used... Read more →


UPDATE, Oct. 13, 2017: Public and Congressional pressure, which included Sen. Sherrod Brown's (D-Ohio) letter to the Treasury Department urging it to review and potentially bar Equifax from consideration in any new or renewed government contracts, has paid off for opponents of the credit reporting bureau deal. The IRS announced, per an Oct. 12 report by Politico, that it has temporarily suspended the $7.25 million, no-bid contract it awarded to Equifax to verify the identities of taxpayers when they create accounts on the tax agency's website. Driver's license data was among the personal info that identity thieves obtained in the... Read more →


Everyone knows the Monopoly Man, even if we don't know his name. His classy duds, compete with top hat, and bushy mustache make him immediately recognizable. For many of us, he and his board game were our introduction to high finance. Now, however, he's branched out. He made a real-life appearance this week at a Congressional hearing. Equifax visual protest: OK, it was someone dressed up like Rich Uncle Pennybags, which is the Monopoly Man's name. And the impersonator stole the show from former Equifax CEO Richard Smith, who continued to make the Washington, D.C, rounds to take heat for... Read more →


Who's in the middle class will determine in large part whether that group of Americans gets Republican-promised middle class tax relief. One of the big debates about any tax reform is whether or how much it will benefit the middle class. That was a question in today's #TaxBuzzChat about the recently released Republican framework for tax reform. First, however, we need to decide what is and who is part of the United States middle class. There are several ways to define the middle class. Some say it is based on income. Other define it by lifestyle. Still others say middle... Read more →


Former Equifax CEO Richard Smith is grilled Oct. 3 about the credit company's security breach by members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. (Click image to watch full hearing on YouTube) Human error, specifically one human's error, is why 145 million of us are worrying about what crooks will do with the data that was stolen earlier this year in a data breach of Equifax. Richard Smith, the credit reporting bureau's former CEO, in testimony before House Energy and Commerce Committee today blamed the initial failure to patch a known security risk on a specific individual. He did not... Read more →


It's International Podcast Day! Why are you reading (although thank you for stopping by)? You should be listening. That's why on this day celebrating the internet's audio offerings, this Shout Out Saturday goes to seven of my favorite financial podcasts. 1. Money Girl Laura Adams is the Money Girl of the title, offering her self-described "quick and dirty tips for a richer life." This one caught my ear because Adams' typically short and sweet 'casts often include comments about my favorite financial subject, taxes. Even better, her tips typically are pretty actionable, so as soon as you're through listening, you... Read more →


UPDATE, Oct. 26, 2017: Uh-oh, it looks like the prez has changed his mind, at least somewhat, regarding his tough "NO change" to 401(k)s stance (see Oct. 23 update below). On Oct. 25, Donald J. Trump reiterated his support for the workplace retirement accounts, but added that changes to the tax-deferred defined contribution plans are still on the table "and maybe we'll use it as negotiating." The prez's comments came after he also got some push-back from Congressional tax writers, including House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas). UPDATE, Oct. 23, 2017: 45th president apparently is a big... Read more →


Bitcoin continues to confound financial and tax officials worldwide. BTC China, the country's first and largest digital currency exchange, announced Thursday, Sept. 14, that would stop trading by the end of the month. One reason apparently is the Chinese government ban instituted days earlier of fund-raising for new digital currencies. Although China embraced Bitcoin trading, the virtual currency's growth has increasingly worried the nation's regulators. One of the concerns was tax evasion. "Because it is traded anonymously and peer to peer, Bitcoin makes it easy for money laundering and tax evasion," Sheng Songcheng, an adviser to the People's Bank of... Read more →


Life is a carousel, at least for a while, for this youngster and her grandmother. Once play time is over, financially secure grandparents have some tax-favored ways they can help ftheir grandchildren. (Photo by Rob Bixby via Flickr Creative Commons) Happy Grandparents Day! If your pop-pop and mam-maw (insert your own personal and/or regional affectionate nicknames here) are still around, take some time to tell them how much you love and appreciate them. Most of the time, younger — and that's definitely a relative term — folk think of grandparents as ancient. In many cases, elderly grandparents (and parents) do... Read more →


Identity thieves got access to personal information on 143 million Americans by hacking into credit reporting bureau Equifax's data base in late July. If you have credit, you're screwed. Thanks Equifax. Equifax is one of three major companies that tracks the credit worthiness of American consumers. The other two are Experian and TransUnion. These repositories of how we pay, or don't, our bills are where lenders, landlords and even potential employers go for information before making decisions that affect our lives. Equifax also is where criminals went for all our personal data they need to steal our financial identities and... Read more →


Meg White via Giphy It's the first weekend of August and my life is bucking the "take the month off" trend. I've got work to do this Saturday. Plus, the hubby would like me to spend some time with him. But I don't want to short-change you, my loyal readers of the ol' blog, so I'm initiating a new feature I'm calling Shout Out Saturday or, depending on the weekend day I take off, Shout Out Sunday. Regardless of which weekend day it runs, the idea will be the same. Instead of me composing a new post, some weekends I'll... Read more →


With every story or study on retirement savings, I hope the news will be better. It usually isn’t. Overall, most of us aren’t saving enough — or any! — for our retirement. And things aren’t likely to get better. In fact, Uncle Sam is shutting down a program created just three years ago to encourage lower-income earners to save for retirement. The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced on Friday, July 28, that it soon will wind down the myRA program. Broadening retirement savings: The name is short for “my retirement account” and was a play on IRA in an... Read more →


UPDATE, Sept. 18: The House of Representatives continues to make progress in efforts to end civil asset forfeitures. On Sept. 12, the chamber passed via voice vote an amendment to an appropriations bill that would bar bonuses for a section of Department of Justice (DOJ) employees until they rule on 255 civil cases referred to them by the Internal Revenue Service. This follows the Sept. 5 House passage, also by voice vote, of H.R. 1843, the Restraining Excessive Seizure of Property through the Exploitation of Civil Asset Forfeiture Tools, or RESPECT, Act. The legislation, discussed below, would impose new restrictions... Read more →


The cost of college continues to simmer as an educational policy and legal issue, particularly when it comes to student loans. Democratic attorneys general from 18 states and the District of Columbia on July 6 filed a lawsuit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her department to stop her from changing rules that erased the federal student loan debt of those who were cheated by colleges that acted fraudulently. Consumer groups also have joined the litigation list. The Obama Administration finalized the so-called borrower defense rules last October. They were scheduled to take effect on July 1. DeVos, however, froze... Read more →


The Financial Choice Act is a third of the way to becoming law. Want to take a guess as to what it might do? It obviously deals with money. But it's about giving more choices to financial institutions, not to consumers. The Financial Choice Act essentially seeks to roll back much of the Dodd-Frank Act, one of President Barack Obama's signature accomplishments. The current law, enacted in 2010 and whose full, official Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act moniker comes from its former U.S. Senate champions Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Barney Frank of Massachusetts, was created to... Read more →