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December is too hectic a month to survive without a checklist. Here is a personal finance-themed year-end checklist: ☐ Spend down your flex spending account (FSA) if you have one with a balance. ☐ Donate old or rarely used clothing, toys or other items you have around the house. It will make room for holiday decorations and give you a tax deduction if you itemize and meet the IRS requirements. ☐ Check that you are on track with your retirementRead More

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I use Mint.com to track expenses. While it is not the only automated system available, it is one of the most widely used and the price is right (free). That being said, I have a bit of a love / hate relationship with the program. I don’t like being bombarded with advertisements and irrelevant recommendations, but it captures all of my monthly transactions across multiple accounts and provides clarity on our household spending versus our budget. Here is how IRead More

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October & November are open enrollment months for health benefits.  If you are employed at a company with benefits, this is the time to make any needed changes.  Typically, you cannot change your benefits during other months of the year unless you have a qualifying event such as a new baby or a change in marital status.  Review your most recent financial plan and see if there are any recommendations regarding your benefits.  You may need to obtain additional life insurance or start utilizing a flex spending account (FSA).Read More

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Stock markets are unpredictable.  Jason Zweig is a writer with the Wall Street Journal.  His article this month is worth reading.  He shares the story of a financial planner who has three new clients with large amounts of cash.  They sold their stock holdings during 2008 / 2009 and never got back into the market.  “Only this year, with stocks again near record highs, did they finally get tempted to buy again.”  In other words, they are chasing performance and wantRead More

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  As more and more clients are starting businesses, picking up side consulting gigs or selling crafts online, this post focuses on the tax differences between being an employee vs being self-employed. 1) You are in charge of tracking your income and expenses when you are self-employed. All income is taxable, absent a specific exclusion in the IRS code.  You don’t need to track your income when you are an employee because you receive a W-2 from your employer summarizing your taxable income. WhenRead More

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At a national financial planning conference this year, I heard a speaker who is a Medical Doctor turned Financial Planner. She has all new clients go to Livingto100.com and complete the online questionnaire with her. The questionnaire gauges probable life expectancy and enables the planner to estimate a possible end date (end of life) for the client’s financial plan. This is helpful not only for the retirement plan, but also to help clients understand the factors that insurance companies lookRead More

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