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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money
Karen Chan
Graphic for stress test decisions v2

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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Posted by Karen Chan at 10:25AM on 7/3/2014
Categories: Karen Chan Budgeting How to Choose/Purchase a ... Retirement Planning

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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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Posted by Karen Chan at 3:54PM on 6/19/2014
Categories: Karen Chan Reduce Spending Budgeting

savings bond

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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Posted by Karen Chan at 4:26PM on 5/16/2014
Categories: Karen Chan Investing Saving Money

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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Posted by Karen Chan at 3:03PM on 3/20/2014
Categories: Karen Chan Estate Planning Income Taxes

MSW ORG A 2014

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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Posted by Karen Chan at 2:58PM on 3/12/2014
Categories: Karen Chan Events

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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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Posted by Karen Chan at 8:27PM on 2/19/2014
Categories: Karen Chan Investing Paying for College Estate Planning Health Care Income Taxes Insurance

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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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Posted by Karen Chan at 2:06PM on 1/20/2014
Categories: Karen Chan Paying for College Saving Money Health Care Income Taxes Insurance

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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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Posted by Karen Chan at 11:51AM on 12/20/2013
Categories: Karen Chan Organizing Finances Banking Saving Money

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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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Posted by Karen Chan at 5:14AM on 11/21/2013
Categories: Karen Chan Investing Retirement Planning

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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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Posted by Karen Chan at 4:53PM on 10/16/2013
Categories: Karen Chan Investing Organizing Finances

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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Posted by Karen Chan at 8:56AM on 9/19/2013
Categories: Karen Chan Investing Organizing Finances

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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Posted by Karen Chan at 1:10PM on 8/17/2013
Categories: Karen Chan Estate Planning Income Taxes

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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Posted by Karen Chan at 1:11PM on 7/17/2013
Categories: Karen Chan Estate Planning Retirement Planning

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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Posted by Karen Chan at 10:44AM on 6/13/2013
Categories: Karen Chan Estate Planning

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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Posted by Karen Chan at 12:11PM on 5/17/2013
Categories: Karen Chan Paying for College Income Taxes

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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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Posted by Karen Chan at 11:57AM on 5/13/2013
Categories: Karen Chan Paying for College Income Taxes

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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Posted by Karen Chan at 12:08PM on 4/15/2013
Categories: Karen Chan Organizing Finances Estate Planning

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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Posted by Karen Chan at 10:17AM on 3/14/2013
Categories: Karen Chan Estate Planning

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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Posted by Karen Chan at 12:08PM on 3/5/2013
Categories: Karen Chan Organizing Finances Retirement Planning

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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Posted by Karen Chan at 2:18PM on 1/22/2013
Categories: Karen Chan Paying for College Income Taxes

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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Posted by Karen Chan at 12:45PM on 6/28/2012
Categories: Karen Chan Organizing Finances Retirement Planning

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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Posted by Karen Chan at 12:07PM on 6/22/2012
Categories: Karen Chan Credit Report

What to Expect When You Check Your Credit History Online

When the FACT Act gave us all the right to get a copy of our credit histories once each year from each of the credit reporting agencies, I was sure I would get mine every year. I've gotten lazy! I decided today was the day to correct that, and I thought I'd share some of my experiences with you. I had a few surprises about t...

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Posted by Karen Chan at 4:24PM on 5/18/2012
Categories: Karen Chan Credit and Debt Credit Report

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Money Smart Week 2012 Is Here

What : Money Smart Week is eight days during which programs and events on every financial topic imaginable are offered to help consumers learn how to manage their personal finances. The effort is led by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. When : April 21-28, 2012. Hundreds of free classes, seminars and activities promoting financial education will take...

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Posted by Karen Chan at 12:35PM on 4/19/2012
Categories: Karen Chan Events

Find Cash to Reach a Goal

"Everybody likes more cash," according to a current TV commercial. No surprise there. And most people get excited about a tax refund, even though it's their own money they're getting back. But it feels like "found money" – money that isn't part of our usual budget and isn't already earmarked for dull things like groceries or rent. It's a lump sum that we feel that we have complete control...

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Posted by Karen Chan at 1:08PM on 4/10/2012
Categories: Karen Chan Reduce Spending Saving Money Credit and Debt