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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money
Karen Chan

Tax Uncertainty? Tax Diversification to the Rescue

Diversification is the first rule of investing. You knew that, right? But have you thought about tax diversification? Yep. Smart investing isn't just what you own, it's where you own it and how it gets taxed when you take it out. From a tax standpoint, you have three different types of accounts: Regular (taxable) accounts, like your checking and savings accounts and accounts with...

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What to do with your 401(k)? Consider costs, investments, and services

The decision of whether to leave money in your old employer's retirement plan, or to move it to your new employer plan or an IRA, doesn't always have an obvious answer. Last week , we looked at factors concerning your age and when you want to have access to your money – or be required to begin distributions. Today, we'll talk about comparing costs, investmen...

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What to do with your 401(k)? Think about when you want your money.

You retired. Or changed jobs – maybe several times. So did I. And at many of those jobs, we had a 401(k) or some other type of retirement plan. If your account held less than $5000, you may have been forced to make a quick decision about what to do with the money. Otherwise, you probably did what many of us do so well: procrastinate . Maybe now is a...

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Stress Test Your Financial Plans

When I faced a major life decision two years ago, looking at my financial situation was a big factor in the decision. I estimated what my future expenses would be, and compared those against my expected income. I did a net worth statement , which forced me to total up my assets and liabilities. I even guesstimate...

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The Frugal Gardener

I love growing perennials in my small suburban lot. But I'm very cost-conscious about it. I've sometimes thought about giving my garden a name, but The CheapSkate's Garden doesn't sound too appealing. However, I thought that readers of this blog might enjoy hearing about some of the things I've done to cut costs in my garden. Edging: One garden chore I don't enjoy is ed...

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About those savings bonds…

I am one of the 55 million Americans who own savings bonds. Almost all of those bonds are the old-fashioned paper ones, like mine. And my guess is that most of us do the same thing with our savings bonds: put them away and forget about them. That's okay for a while, but any financial asset needs to be reviewed periodically. I did that last week, and here are the things I thought about....

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April 15

Losing a Loved One: 1099s and Interest on Savings Bonds

It's been a year since Kathy Sweedler and I started our series of posts about losing someone close to us. For my final post on this subject, I guess it's appropriate that taxes get the last word. My father died toward the end of January of last y...

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Get Ready to Learn: Money Smart Week 2014 Is Coming!

Money Smart Week is coming, April 5 to 12, 2014. It's the best time of year to learn anything you want about managing your finances. Why is it the best time? It's all free. There will likely workshops near you . Over 1025 programs will take place...

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Health Savings Accounts: Ten Things to Do and Not Do

My husband is contributing to a Health Savings Account (HSA), so of course I wanted to learn all the in's and out's of this relatively new animal. If this is new to you, check out the benefits and who qualifies in last month's post . If you take a few moments to learn the rules, you can reap significant benefits for y...

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savings in jar

Health Savings Accounts: What's Not to Love?

If you like avoiding taxes, you'll want to learn about Health Saving Accounts. Odds are, someone in your family has a high deductible health plan (HDHP). That makes them eligible to have a health savings account, commonly called an HSA. High deductible health plans have become more common as employers look for ways to reduce the cost of health insurance. And many of the bronze level pla...

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Save Time by Automating Your Finances

I don't want to spend any more time than necessary managing my own finances. So I recently spent some time thinking about how I could simplify things. I like the idea of automating tasks. Once they're set up, they require little or no attention. Best of all, these tasks now get done at the right time instead of waiting for me to get around to them. I bet you're already doing some of the...

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Solutions for Investment Procrastination, Part 3

Target date retirement funds are the third tool that might help you get things done where investing is concerned. Like index mutual funds and automatic rebalancing that I wrote about previously, this is a tool that might simplify your investment decisions...

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Solutions for Investment Procrastination, Part 2

Last month , I promised to introduce you to three services or investment products that can help you get the job done and stop procrastinating when it comes to investing. Using index mutual fund s as a way to simplify investment selection was the topic of la...

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Solutions for Investment Procrastination, Part 1

I would rather do lots of things than pick a mutual fund to invest in. Re-balancing my account isn't high on my list of fun things to do, either. My guess is that most people don't like these tasks any more than I do. So what happens? We procrastinate: these things are on my To-Do list, but I never seem to get around to them...

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Death and Taxes

Probably everyone has heard the saying, Nothing is certain but death and taxes. Based on my experience since the death of my father, I would say that income taxes are even more certain (or at least more persistent) than death. Why? Because income tax liabilities (and the responsibility to file) continue even after death. It just becomes someone else's responsibility. When my father pass...

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Inheriting an IRA When You Lose a Loved One

If there was one thing that I thought I understood thoroughly about managing someone's affairs after death, it was IRAs. I've taught about the rules for taking distributions – including taking distributions as a beneficiary – for years. But I was surprised by a couple of things about father's IR...

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Bills, Surprises, and Quick Decisions when You Lose a Loved One

When our father, died, I think my sister and I both felt like we were wading through a sea of details. Individually, most of them weren't a big deal. But the volume and speed with which they had to be handled made it stressful. Depending on the situation of your loved one, these things might be different for you. But perhaps reading about our experience will help you think about the things you...

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Tuition and Fees Deduction Keeps Going, and Going, and Going . . . at least until the end of 2013

This deduction has driven me crazy over the years. When the Higher Education Expense Deduction (aka Tuition and Fees Deduction) was introduced in 2002, it was supposed to be temporary and expire at the end of 2005. It has now been extended a total of 4 times, two of which were retroactive after it had already expired. The deduction is now scheduled to expire at the end of 2013. Who knows what w...

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Save on Income Taxes if You're Paying for College, or Saving for It

Tax Breaks for Higher Education website revised for 2013. Paying for college is one of the biggest financial commitments a parent or child makes in his lifetime. University of Illinois Extension's webpage, Tax Breaks for Higher Education , explains the tax breaks that can help ease the financial burden of saving for...

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Loved One's Documents Go Missing and Others Materialize

Settling the affairs of a loved one involves a lot of forms and documents. With so many papers, I suppose it's inevitable that some things go missing. But some surprising ones may also turn up. When my sister and I (Karen Chan is our guest blogger today) made Daddy's funeral arrangements, we were asked if he was a veteran. And yes, h...

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Losing a Loved One

In the past few months, both of us – Kathy and Karen – have lost a close relative. We have been experiencing firsthand some of the challenges that, up until now, we have only heard and read about. We decided to share some of those experiences with you here on our blog. Neither of us is an attorney or an authority on estate planning, and these posts will NOT give any kind...

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A Quick Financial Checklist

How are you doing financially? No, I'm not asking how you think you're doing, or how you feel about your financial situation. I'm asking about cold, hard facts: How are you doing? Let's talk about some ways to get a handle on this. Answer these questions to get a quick sense of whether you're in financial quicksand, or on more sold ground. 1 .Are you behind on any bil...

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Tax News for College Expenses and Student Loans

Many of you are familiar with Karen Chan from her posts to this blog. Karen retired in July but we're happy to bring her expertise back with this post about the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 -- and what it means for those with college expenses and/or student loans! Glad to have you back, Karen....

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Retirement: A Personal Decision

As many of you know, I have been writing and teaching about retirement planning for years. It's familiar territory for me. But it was a very different animal when I recently wrestled with my personal decision about whether now was the time for me to retire from the University. I'm going to spoil the suspense and tell you the ending up front: I am retiring from University of Illinois Ext...

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What to Expect When You Check Your Credit History by Phone

Last month, I obtained my credit report from two of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies online and wrote about that experience in my May 18 post . Today, I requested the third one by phone so that I could compare that with the onlin...

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