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Tax Shelter

Richard Connor

Rick is a semi-retired aerospace engineer with a keen interest in finance. He retired from Lockheed Martin Space Systems after a 38-year career designing satellites. Rick is a lifelong Philadelphian with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Villanova University. He completed the Certified Financial Planner® and Retirement Income Certified Professional® programs at the American College of Financial Services. Rick and his wife Vicky have two sons and three grandsons. They recently retired to the Jersey Shore. Rick is an amateur winemaker and enjoys a wide variety of other interests, including chasing grandkids, sports, travel and reading. He's written more than 100 articles and blog posts for HumbleDollar.

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Tax Shelter

Richard Connor  |  Jun 13, 2022

MY WIFE AND I RECENTLY took advantage of one of the most valuable tax breaks for the typical American family. The tax code provides a generous exemption on the profit from the sale of a primary home. Although this is widely known, it also—based on my conversations with a variety of people—seems to be widely misunderstood.
The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 made a major change to the taxation of home sales. Prior to this,

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Paid to Wait

Richard Connor  |  Jun 6, 2022

ARE YOU IN YOUR 60s and worried about rising consumer prices? It’s worth understanding how inflation affects Social Security benefits—especially its impact on those who postpone claiming their monthly check.
Social Security benefits jumped 5.9% in 2022, thanks to the annual cost-of-living adjustment. This inflation increase was based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ CPI-W. This was the largest adjustment since 1982, and it affected nearly 64 million retirees. The increase took effect in January.

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Benefits of Work

Richard Connor  |  May 30, 2022

SOCIAL SECURITY’S complexity never fails to surprise. While many retirees have some sense for what factors determine the size of their Social Security check, few appreciate just how involved the benefits calculation can be.
For example, have you ever wondered what the Social Security Administration does if you continue working after starting benefits? It’s not a simple answer. There are two distinct treatments depending on whether you start benefits before or after you reach your full Social Security retirement age,

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That Losing Feeling

Richard Connor  |  May 22, 2022

LOSS AVERSION IS ONE of the most powerful behavioral-finance phenomena. It’s often defined as “losses loom larger than gains.” It’s been said that the psychological pain from a loss is about twice as powerful as the pleasure from an equivalent gain.
Boy, am I feeling that right now. This year’s market losses have many of us concerned. But this year is different for my wife and me. This is our first year with no consistent earned income.

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Ten Points of Pain

Richard Connor  |  May 18, 2022

I JUST COMPLETED my fourth year preparing tax returns as part of the federal government’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. I’ve seen first-hand how confusing our tax code can be for many taxpayers. Here are the 10 areas of confusion I’ve encountered most often:
1. Income. Anyone looking through a tax return will see multiple definitions of income. There’s total income, adjusted gross income (AGI), modified adjusted gross income, provisional income and taxable income.

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Best Senior Discount

Richard Connor  |  May 15, 2022

FIVE YEARS AGO, there was a big increase in the price of the “America the Beautiful: National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass.” For a one-time fee, the pass gives people age 62 and older free lifetime access to many of America’s most popular vacation and day-trip spots.
How big was the increase? In 2017, the price of the senior pass went from $10 to $80. I tipped off some older relatives about the looming price increase,

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Five Years Later

Richard Connor  |  May 13, 2022

MARCH 31 MARKED the fifth anniversary of my retirement from fulltime work. Back then, I didn’t think I was retiring and I’m still not sure I really have retired. Instead, over the past five years, I’ve described myself as semi-retired. But a recent HumbleDollar article provided a better description of my situation: I’m in a “phased retirement.”
How have things gone, what have I learned and what would I have done differently?

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The Long Goodbye

Richard Connor  |  Apr 25, 2022

RETIREMENT COMES with many risks, but the scariest I’ve witnessed is dementia. It’s estimated that more than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and they account for just 60% to 80% of all dementia cases.
Other types include vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson’s disease dementia and Lewy body dementia. Drug side effects, brain injury, depression and alcoholism can create dementia symptoms, too. The symptoms may get better when those conditions are treated.
Whatever the cause,

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Life on the Margins

Richard Connor  |  Apr 18, 2022

THIS IS MY FOURTH year serving in AARP Foundation’s TaxAide program. I prepare federal and state tax returns three days a week for a mixture of retirees and lower-income citizens.
Each week, I see clients who are baffled by the complexity of our tax code. Many have been paying hundreds of dollars to commercial preparers because they’re afraid of making a mistake.
And no wonder. The federal tax code has myriad twists and turns that can confound the average taxpayer.

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Coming Out Different

Richard Connor  |  Apr 15, 2022

I LEARNED SOMETHING new while preparing a tax return recently for a widowed senior citizen. I volunteer for AARP Foundation’s TaxAide program. A widow in her mid-70s had received her 2021 required minimum distribution (RMD) from her IRA—and it consisted entirely of Exxon Mobil stock.
Her account’s custodian, instead of selling the stock and distributing cash, gave her the actual shares. This had never happened to her before, and she hadn’t requested it. Why did the custodian do it?

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What Gold Watch?

Richard Connor  |  Apr 11, 2022

RECENT NEWS ARTICLES have noted the sharp increase in early retirements, many triggered by the pandemic. Just over 50% of Americans age 55 and older are now retired, a two percentage point increase from 2019, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.
I have several friends and colleagues who are bucking that trend and instead delaying their retirement. They’re financially set but concerned about the transition from fulltime work to “doing nothing.” Yet some of these same workers are also struggling with changes in their companies and industries.

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Fair Enough

Richard Connor  |  Apr 10, 2022

IT’S OFTEN SAID THAT beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The same could be said of fairness in taxation.
A recent article by Kelly Phillips Erb addresses this contentious topic. Erb, who tweets as @TaxGirl, is the team lead for insights and commentary at Bloomberg Tax and Accounting. Her article was titled, “Did you pay your ‘fair share’ of federal income tax this year?”
The piece discusses the history and current state of U.S.

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Drip, Drip, Drip

Richard Connor  |  Apr 3, 2022

MY BROTHER AND I recently reminisced about the investment club we helped found in the late 1980s. The club’s benefits were threefold: financial education, the pooling of money and camaraderie.
Our club was composed of family and friends. We met monthly. When we started, investing was largely a manual process. There were few discount brokers and even they charged relatively high fees. You bought and sold with a phone call, and mailed checks for payment.

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Who’s on First?

Richard Connor  |  Mar 29, 2022

IS IT JUST ME OR HAS dealing with health insurance companies become more confusing and frustrating? Trying to figure out who to speak to feels like that classic Abbott and Costello comedy routine, “Who’s on first?”
My wife retired last July. For the previous four years, we’d used her employer-provided medical benefits and now we needed to shop for coverage. Under my old employer’s pension plan, pension-eligible employees like me—who retired prior to beginning Medicare—were eligible to sign up for one of the company’s medical plans.

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A Taxing Move

Richard Connor  |  Mar 24, 2022

I HATE LOOKING AT life through the lens of taxation. But at this time of year, it’s hard to avoid.
I’ve been doing my own taxes for more than four decades. But this year represents a new milestone in my tax return preparation career. We moved from Pennsylvania to New Jersey at the end of March 2021, so I’ve had to prepare 2021 tax returns for both states. Although I’d researched New Jersey’s tax code and made an estimate of what the differences would cost,

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