IT’S FIVE WEEKS until the end of the year—which is five weeks during which you can do some valuable financial housekeeping. Here are seven recommendations:
1. Give tax efficiently. In the past, charitable contributions were a direct and easy way to lower your tax bill. But with the recent tax law changes, which include a big hike in the standard deduction and limits on some itemized deductions, this strategy doesn’t work as well.
THE STOCK MARKET is like a whiny child, demanding our attention. But how should we react to the recent slump in share prices? It all depends on where you stand, as I explain in HumbleDollar’s latest newsletter. The newsletter also includes brief descriptions—and links to—the dozen blogs we’ve published since the last newsletter.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter @ClementsMoney and on Facebook. His most recent articles include A Little Perspective,
THERE’S A RETAIL chain called The Container Store. As the name implies, it sells all types of containers, storage units and custom closets to help people organize their stuff, much of which they likely don’t need.
Let’s say you want a separate plastic box for each pair of shoes. You can have it. Did you know men own an average 12 pairs of shoes and women an average 27 pairs? Amazingly, 85% of women own shoes they purchased but have never worn.
SAY “1040” and most of us think of the income tax returns we file each year on April 15. But it’s only because of chance that we fill out 1040s, instead of 1039s or 1041s: That number was up next in the sequential numbering of forms developed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the predecessor of today’s IRS.
It all began on Jan. 5, 1914, when the Department of the Treasury unveiled the new Form 1040 for tax year 1913.
TODAY WAS PAINFUL. How painful? Think of the financial losses:
Homeowners who closed on their house sale might have lost as much as 6% of the proceeds to real-estate commissions.
Car buyers who picked up their new vehicle probably gave up more than 10% of the purchase price just by driving off the dealership lot.
Those who signed separation agreements with their soon-to-be-ex spouse likely surrendered 50%.
Investors who bought load funds might have been nicked for 5.75%.
IN AN EFFORT to understand each other’s financial background, my fiancée and I began holding a money date night. These finance-focused conversations started out slowly. But they’ve become our way to talk about money and our future together.
As a financial planner, I don’t want to dominate the financial side of our lives. I believe household finances should be managed together and not individually. We view this date night as an opportunity to learn about our individual feelings toward money and what our goals are.
DURING THE FIRST three weeks of house hunting, I looked at a dozen different properties. None met all the criteria I’d set for my “ideal” home, but a couple came close. My price point of $380,000 limited me to looking at smaller, starter-type homes. The competition for those houses was often fierce. On at least three occasions, a home I wanted to view would appear as a “new listing” one day and be marked as “pending sale” the next.
THE MUSICIAN PRINCE died in 2016 at age 57, leaving behind a legacy of musical genius. Unfortunately, he also left behind an ongoing legal and financial mess. The issue: For reasons no one understands, Prince neglected to prepare even the most basic estate plan, leaving potential heirs squabbling over his fortune.
Under the latest tax law, passed late last year, only those with more than $11.2 million in assets ($22.4 million for a married couple) are subject to federal estate taxes.
ALLAN ROTH likes to describe himself as argumentative—and, on that score, it’s hard to argue with him. But it’s also hard to argue with the points he makes, because he has this nasty habit of being right.
Roth is the author of How a Second Grader Beats Wall Street, a financial planner who charges by the hour, and a contributor of financial articles to AARP.org, Financial-Planning.com, NextAvenue.org and other sites. I caught up with him last month at the Bogleheads’ conference in Philadelphia.
WHAT’S IT LIKE to be married to a personal finance expert? Trust me, it isn’t easy—especially if you’re a fiercely independent but less-than-perfect manager of your own money.
Before I met Jonathan, I was a divorcee who hadn’t shared her financial life with anybody for a few years, but who had been bumbling along just fine on her own. When we started dating, we hardly ever spoke about money. The most he knew about my spending habits was that I was very good at justifying purchases,
“UNCLE” PHAN, my father’s closest friend and my godfather, committed suicide a few years ago. I regret not seeing him often enough when he was alive and not letting him know how much I appreciated his humor and generosity.
I also regret not knowing his financial and emotional situation.
Uncle Phan retired as a surgeon 20 years ago and took a lump sum distribution instead of a lifetime monthly pension. It should have been enough to last the rest of his life,
WHAT’S THE MOST important financial decision you’ll make in your life? Is it when to take Social Security? Choosing the right asset allocation for your investment portfolio? How about the decision to rent or buy a place to live?
I believe that, for many people, it’s who they choose to be their significant other. Together, you’ll decide how you spend your money and how much to set aside for retirement. There will be endless decisions dealing with money—and some will have a huge impact on your financial wellbeing.
I WAS RECENTLY looking at one of those “whatever happened to” top 10 lists. In this case, it was about a select group of celebrities and their money—or lack thereof. The point of the list: All of these people, who had made millions, were broke or worse. Several had filed for bankruptcy more than once. Others were deep in debt and most owed hundreds of thousands to the IRS. One former star, who once earned several million dollars a year,
RECENT WEEKS have been challenging for our country. We’ve seen horrific terrorist attacks. The midterm elections suggest the U.S. is deeply divided. While the economy has been doing well, the stock market has started to wobble. October, in fact, was the market’s worst month since 2011.
For all these reasons, folks have been asking me whether they should steer clear of the stock market for a while, until the dust settles. That sounds sensible—until you realize the difficult steps involved:
Step 1: Predict what’s going to happen and when.
IS SAVING MONEY a bad thing? You might conclude that is indeed the case, based on all the criticism that’s recently been directed at the Financial Independence/Retire Early movement, otherwise known as FIRE. I take a look at the controversy in HumbleDollar’s latest newsletter. The newsletter also includes brief descriptions—and links to—all the blogs that have appeared since the last newsletter.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter @ClementsMoney and on Facebook.