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  • IRS Audit Red Flags Retirees Should Watch Out For
    on October 19, 2021 at 4:00 am

    Only about 1 percent of Americans are audited in a given year, and most of those are weighted toward people with high incomes. Still, its something you dont want to take a chance on. Retired taxpayers should be aware of some red flags that could lead to an IRS audit. And were talking about more than a few math errors, which may draw an IRS inquiry on their own, but are unlikely to result in a complete exam of their tax returns. Here are some red flags worth knowing: Not Reporting ll Taxable IncomeThis is an error that the IRS computers will easily find because they get copies of all the 1099s and W-2s that show what you were paid. They also get 1099-R form copies reporting payouts from retirement plans, 401(k)s and IRAs, as well as 1099-SSA forms reporting Social Security benefits. So failing to report taxable income from wages, dividends, pensions, IRA distributions, Social Security benefits and other income sources is a red flag by itself because the government already has those documents from the reporting agencies and will check if they match your tax return. High IncomeThe more income you have, the higher the chance that youll be audited. Its a fact of how the IRS works. Audits on taxpayers earning $200,000 or more are almost 3 percent of returns, and for those earning $1 million or more, it doubles to about 6 percent. Theres nothing wrong with being audited if youre accurately reporting your income and earn $1 million or more per year. But if there are mistakes on your return, expect the IRS to seek to get them fixed. Large DeductionsIf your tax deductions or charitable deductions are higher than the average, theres a higher chance youll be audited. If you have the proper documentation for your deduction, then claim it. Retirees may have given more to charity than others, so if you make noncash donations over $500, be sure to file Form 8283, or you could be shooting up a red flare to the IRS. Not Taking Minimum DistributionsThere are laws for the required annual minimum distributions from retirement plans, and not taking them as a retiree is a red flag the IRS will likely see. You generally have to start taking withdrawals by age 70-1/2, though Roth IRAs dont require withdrawals until after the owner has died. People who dont take out the proper amount can be hit with a 50 percent penalty of the shortfall. If you retire early and take payouts before age 59-1/2, be sure you qualify for an exception, or youll face a 10 percent penalty on the early distributions. One exception is using an IRA to pay your medical insurance premium after a job loss. Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • 4 Time Management Tips
    on October 19, 2021 at 4:00 am

    These days, we’ve all got busy schedules. From work to family and social commitments, it can be hard to fit in everything. Here’s where time management can help. Consider the following tips to tick more off your to-do list, daily. Time block. Time blocking is one of the No. 1 metrics of successful time management, and it can make larger tasks feel less overwhelming. Each night before bed, look at your next day’s to-dos and chunk off sections of time for each project, from cleaning the house to tackling paperwork. Unsure how much time? Aim for 1 – 3 hours to avoid mental exhaustion. Schedule the hard stuff first. To slay procrastination, schedule the things you’d prefer not to do, first. Getting the difficult or least-liked items done first will help you feel more productive. Reward yourself. Sprinkle in 15 – 30 reward breaks throughout the day, like walking with the dog, reading a chapter of a book or calling a friend. Be kind. Regardless of how diligently you planned to follow your daily schedule, sometimes things happen. A headache, family emergency or a task that proves more difficult than you expected. Even a terrible night’s sleep can throw off your flow. If this happens, be kind to yourself, pat yourself on the back for what you did manage to accomplish and promise to catch up tomorrow. Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • Make Moving Easy With These Simple Packing Tricks
    on October 18, 2021 at 4:00 am

    Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • What to Budget for as a New Parent
    on October 17, 2021 at 4:00 am

    Expectant parents can plan ahead for a babys arrival by budgeting for the coming costs. Heres a list of what to budget for that goes beyond the basics of diapers and baby clothes. Taking Time OffIf youre employed, check if your employer offers maternity leave to allow you to continue getting a regular paycheck. If not, ask what their leave policy is and take steps to cover your income gap. You might be able to use sick days or vacation time. Some states have paternity leave laws requiring employers to provide paid leave to employees. California, for example, pays new parents 60 – 70 percent of their wages for up to six weeks. Set Up a BudgetAs part of the budgeting for all of the new things your baby will need, set up a household budget if you dont already have one. Whether or not youre getting paid paternity leave, start an emergency fund with the goal of having enough money in it to pay your bills for six months, in case you get laid off. It can also be used to fund unexpected costs of raising a child, such as babysitting and extra doctor visits. Extra Medical CostsCheck with your insurer to see how much it pays for giving birth. You may be surprised and find that the cost is low. Also, plan on many prenatal doctor visits and plenty of visits to your pediatrician during the childs first year. This can also be a good time to reevaluate your health insurance coverage. Switching to a low-deductible plan and starting a flexible spending account or health care savings account can be wise moves. Having a child is a qualifying event that allows you to change your health insurance plan through your employer, so take the time to review your options. Child Care CostsIf youre going back to work a few weeks or months after your child is born, find out how much child care will cost. It varies by how many children you have and where theyll stay. Having a nanny come to your home may be the most expensive option. The Economic Policy Institute has a drop-down menu on its website that details how much child care costs in each state. Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • How to Ease Into Minimalism
    on October 16, 2021 at 4:00 am

    Are you interested in the idea of minimalism, but unsure of where to start? Consider the following… Get your family on board. You’re fighting a losing battle if only one person in your household wants to minimize. Chat with your spouse, kids or roommate about why a minimalistic home space is important. Once everyone is on the same page, go room by room and itemize your belongings. After youve taken stock of everything in your home, start the purging process. Begin by ditching duplicates to get you on the right track. And, most importantly, aim for dual function furniture, like a kitchen island that opens into a dining room table. Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • How Federal Rate Increases Affect Credit Cards and Loans
    on October 15, 2021 at 4:00 am

    If youve ever noticed a rise in interest rates in the news or saw your credit card bill get a little higher, theres one federal agency that you can look to: the Federal Reserve Board. When the Fed raises interest rates, most borrowers with car and home loans wont see their rates change because theyve locked in rates. People getting new loans, however, will see the higher rates, as will credit card users. For a U.S. household with the average credit card debt of $10,995, a .25 percent hike in interest rates will make carrying a credit card balance a bit more expensive. Technically called the federal funds rate, the interest rate the Fed sets is the rate banks use to trade federal funds. It is almost exactly correlated with the prime rate, which is what credit card companies typically charge their largest, most credit-worthy corporate clients. From there, a change in the prime rate follows with credit card interest rate changes that consumers see. Credit card interest rates will usually increase during a day of increased federal funds rates, and usually by the same amount. Carrying a credit card balance, also known as revolving credit, is where credit card users will feel the pain of a Fed interest rate hike. An estimated 40 percent of credit card users carry a balance from month to month, and should see their costs climb immediately after a Fed rate hike. Most credit cards have variable interest rates. As banks see their borrowing costs rise, they raise rates on credit cards. If the Fed increases interest rates during the middle of a credit card billing cycle, for instance, customers may not see the increase until their next statement is due. But their rate may rise on new purchases immediately. Credit card minimum payments are typically set at 1 " 2 percent of the principal balance, plus any interest accrued during the billing period. Rising interest rates will increase the accrued interest and minimum due, though not dramatically. A .25 percent increase in interest rates causes the minimum amount due on a credit card to jump by $2 for every $10,000 of credit card debt. Thats not a lot of money, but two or three more Fed rate jumps in a year and it can add up. Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • How to Use a Fire Extinguisher
    on October 14, 2021 at 4:00 am

    Fire extinguishers can save lives and property, but many people might not know how or when to use the protection devices, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. To help ensure youre better prepared for a fire emergency, the agency offers the following tips: Choosing the Right Fire ExtinguisherThere are five primary types of fire extinguishers, each designed to put out different kinds of fires: Class A. For use with ordinary materials like cloth, wood and paper. Often found in homes and businesses. Class B. For use with combustible and flammable liquids like grease, gasoline, oil and oil-based paints. Often found in homes and businesses. Class C. For use with electrical equipment like appliances, tools or other equipment thats plugged in. Often found in homes and businesses. Class D. For use with flammable metals. Often found in factories. Class K. For use with vegetable oils, animal oils and fats in cooking appliances. Often found in commercial kitchens. For the home, choose a multipurpose fire extinguisher that covers Class A through Class C for fighting all three types of common house fires. Most home improvement stores carry multipurpose A-B-C models. In addition to fire extinguishers, every household should have working fire alarms and a fire escape plan. When to Use a Fire ExtinguisherFire extinguishers are designed for small, confined fires, not large ones that are growing. Before using an extinguisher, make sure the fire is contained in a single object, such as a pan or wastebasket. Alert others in the building that theres a fire, and have someone call the fire department. Before proceeding, make sure you are physically able to handle the fire extinguisher, safe from the fires toxic smoke and have a clear escape route. To operate a fire extinguisher, remember the acronym PASS: Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and release the locking mechanism. Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire. Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly. Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side. If youre unsure about whether its safe to use a fire extinguisher"and for all other fire situations"alert others, leave the building, and call 911 from a mobile or neighbors phone. Safety should be the top priority, and its essential to follow your instincts and know when to get out. As such, its not recommended that children use fire extinguishers. The Importance of MaintenanceTo ensure fire extinguishers are ready in case of an emergency, make sure to regularly check them for the following: Easy access in an emergency. Be sure nothing is blocking or limiting your ability to reach the extinguisher. The recommended pressure level. Many extinguishers have gauges that show when pressure is too high or too low. Working parts. Make sure the can, hoses and nozzles arent damaged, dented or rusted. Remove any dust, oil or grease that might be on the outside of the extinguisher. Guidelines and instructions. Some extinguishers need to be shaken monthly, while others need to be pressure tested every few years. If you would like fire extinguisher training or have any questions, contact your local fire department. Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • A Guide to Mastering Mid-Century Modern Design
    on October 13, 2021 at 4:00 am

    Heres everything you need to know about Mid-Century Modern design. Combining modern materials with traditional craftsmanship, mid-century modern architecture was uniquely designed to cater to the lifestyle of suburban families in America. Exhibiting flat or low-pitched roofs and sweeping, horizontal lines, mid-century modern houses benefit from an abundance of natural light. In addition to lots of glass, popular materials include wood, stone and brick. Its quite common to see bright colors infused through furniture or accent walls. Furnishings with geometric patterns and sculptural lines are key to mid-century modern interiors. Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • 5 Signs It's Time for a New Mattress
    on October 12, 2021 at 4:00 am

    A good nights rest helps you have a good day, not to mention stay healthy and alert. But if your mattress no longer gives you the proper comfort and support, it could mess with the many benefits of quality sleep. Is it time for you to buy a new mattress? To help you decide, Consumer Reports offers these five signs that your mattress might be shot and worth replacing: 1. Its a little lumpy. Lumps or deep indentations can happen over time, no matter which materials a mattress is made of. It may also sag, causing you to roll to the center. 2. The foam is failing. Spilling water on certain types of foam may cause damage to the adhesive between the layers, causing them to shift. The foam may also just degrade over time. 3. Youre waking up sore. A worn-out mattress might no longer support your spines natural curve, causing stress to other parts of your body as you sleep. If youre suddenly waking up with unexplained soreness, your mattress might no longer be giving you the support you need. 4. You can feel the foundation. Sleeping in the same spot every night can compress the layers so much over time that you can begin to feel the bed slats or whatever else the mattress is placed on. 5. The springs are poking you. Ouch! If youve moved your mattress often or sat in the same spot for extended periods of time (such as when watching TV in bed), youve probably pushed its innards out of alignment and a spring mightve been pushed out of place. If your mattress is still in good shape, Consumer Reports also offers a few simple tips to help it stay that way. For example, you should rotate and/or flip your mattress at least twice a year to prevent long-term pressure in certain spots from denting or otherwise damaging those areas. Check the manufacturers instructions to learn when and how to perform this duty properly for the type of mattress you own. Another way to help preserve your mattress is to avoid unnecessary stress caused by, say, sitting at the edge to put your shoes on or bouncing in and out of bed. The gentler you are with your mattress, the longer itll likely last. Sweet dreams! Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • How Smart Technology Can Improve Your Home
    on October 11, 2021 at 4:00 am

    Published with permission from RISMedia.