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December 2011

November 2011

This is always my favorite part of the annual Year-end Money Moves series: the look at moves to make by Dec. 31 to help improve your retirement outlook. Yes, I love my job. But I hate working. So I want to do all I can now so that I can quit writing for money and start writing more for me (and the hubby and my mother, who'll always read my scribblings!). The guiding principle of reaching a retirement that you want is save, save and save some more now. And Uncle Sam does his part to get you to do... Read more →

Santa IRS' sack is stuffed with thousands of tax refunds totaling $153 million

Forget Santa Claus. This year more than 99,123 taxpayers want a visit from Santa IRS. This federal gift giver has tax refund checks totaling $153.3 million for some deserving individuals. The average tax refund check is $1,547. That certainly could buy a lot of holiday cheer! But unlike jolly old St. Nick who finds his way to homes worldwide each December, Santa IRS needs some help. The refund checks in the IRS holiday sack were returned by the Postal Service because they were undeliverable. Annual problem, usual mistakes: This is an annual problem for Santa IRS. He's not as famous... Read more →

It's been a challenging year for investors. In today's second installment of the 2011 edition of Year-end Money Moves, we look at some actions that you should consider before the end of the year. They also could help take some of the unnecessary year-round thrills out of investing. As noted in first segment of this year's series, many investment moves also have tax considerations. But don't let the tax components be the major determinant of your investment moves. Do what's best for you and your portfolio, both now and throughout the year, based on your personal financial situation and your... Read more →

Payroll tax cut for 2012 battle begins with firing of millionaires' tax volley

The great 2012 Election Year War continues this week with an upcoming new battle. On the heels of the recently completed but undecided Super Committee Skirmish of 2011 we have the Payroll Tax Cut of 2012 Confrontation. There had been some hope that the ill-fated Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction would be able to include a continuation of the current payroll tax holiday for workers into its plan. Since that didn't happen, the 2 percentage point reduction in the amount of Social Security taxes that come out of workers' paychecks now is being fought separately. Obama and most Democrats... Read more →

I know, I know. I've been fixating on year-end tax moves of late. But this is, after all, a tax blog. And 2011 is almost over. So please indulge me as I hit the tax high notes one more time to kick off the annual Year-end Money Moves series, now in its fifth year. As is tradition, I'm beginning with eveyone's favorite topic, taxes! Then the next four days of this week will offer year-end tips on investment, retirement and charitable giving moves, finishing up on Friday with some general financial housekeeping details. As all y'all already know from your... Read more →

Got your fingers flexed? Shopping sites bookmarked? Credit card ready? Go! It's Cyber Monday. In 2010, money spent on the Monday following Thanksgiving was 16 percent higher than the previous years, according to eCreditDaily. That came to $1.03 billion, the first one-day spending total ever to exceed the billion dollar mark. And that was 69 percent greater than Cyber Monday 2006, says eCreditDaily. In fact, since e-commerce activity tracking began in 2001, Cyber Monday 2010 ranked as the heaviest online spending day of the year. Most expect this year's figures, even with a still sluggish economy, to be even better.... Read more →

State leaders are among those worrying about the effect of automatic budget cuts that are scheduled to kick in following the inability of the super committee to come up with a deficit reduction deal. When (if?) the $1.2 trillion in budget cuts equally divided between defense and domestic programs go into effect, some state and local economies could also take hits. How much will states suffer? sifted through U.S. Census data and found that Uncle Sam spent $480.4 billion on procurement in 2010. And that's this week's By the Numbers figure. I could have just as easily chosen $279.3... Read more →

It was a short Thanksgiving week, but I managed to squeeze in a couple of posts last week at my other tax blog. If you converted a traditional IRS to a Roth in 2010, then you have to start paying taxes on half of the converted amount with you 2011 tax year filing. Be sure you've taken into account those Roth taxes or you could face a shortfall when you fill out your 1040 next spring. But we taxpayers aren't the only ones with year-end tax to-do lists. Since Congress wasn't able to piggyback a lot of bills onto a... Read more →

One of the few things that rivals the Internal Revenue Service when it comes to making people angry is the college football ranking system. A key component of the methodology that determines who gets to play for the national title is the Harris Interactive College Football Poll. The poll accounts for a third of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) standings. So just who votes in this poll? There are 115 people on the Harris Poll panel. Most of them are former players, coaches, university administrators and members of the news media. But you don't have to be associated with sports... Read more →

Time to make some year-end tax moves

Had your fill of turkey? Enough already with family bonding? Take a break and check out some tax moves you can make by Dec. 31 to help cut your 2011 tax bill. It's this week's Weekly Tax Tip and yes, it's a couple of days late because of Thanksgiving preparations. But there's still plenty of time to sell stocks that have lost value so you can offset any capital gains. If you have more losses than gains, you can use up to $3,000 of your losses to reduce your ordinary income. Gifts to your favorite charity can be deducted on... Read more →

Black Friday: Savings myth, name origin and no tax holidays in 2011

If you were up in the wee morning hours to nab some ever earlier Black Friday bargains, Oren Etzioni has some bad news for you. The University of Washington professor says that the best deals on electronics, the products that are among the biggest sellers on the crazy shopping Friday after Thanksgiving, actually show up in early December. If you didn't buy a home sound system or new HD 3-D television, then mark your calendar for your next shopping excursion in a couple of weeks. Of course, for many Black Friday is about the experience as much as it is... Read more →

Our house smells wonderful. The hubby's pumpkin pie is baking. I get the oven next to cook the turkey and my grandmother's dressing. Of course, all this Turkey Day cooking is scheduled around football. Happy Thanksgiving America! Photo by DNY59 via iStock The timer is going off. It's my turn in the kitchen, so I'm taking the rest of today off to cook and then eat. Here's wishing you and your families a great holiday. And go Cowboys! Thanksgiving, food and tax tidbits: If you're not a football fan or your team isn't playing or you need a break from... Read more →

Americans are spreading the blame around for the super committee's failure to reach a deficit reduction solution, according to a recent poll. That finding is a fitting closure to the Super Committee Countdown series on this day that it was hoped a plan would be finalized. Instead, both sides are as spinning as fast as they can to convince voters that it was the other party's fault that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction was unable to come to an agreement. Good luck with that. An Ipsos-Reuters poll conducted after it became clear that the bipartisan super committee was... Read more →

Are you heading to the airport this Thanksgiving holiday? If you're like many passengers, you've probably crammed your travel needs into a couple of bags to carry onto the plane with you instead of checking them. Photo by sjlocke via iStock The main motivation for keeping your stuff close used to be fear of the airline losing your suitcases. Now people over stuff everything into a couple of carry-on bags because they don't want to pay to check their luggage. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, has a legislative solution to the carry-on bags problem, which she says not only... Read more →

Wow! The failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction did accomplish one amazing thing. It got New Gingrich, former GOP Speaker of the House and current front runner for the Republican presidential nomination, and Democrat Barney Frank, the unabashedly liberal Representative from Massachusetts, to agree that the super committee's inability to agree on a plan could be a good thing. Gingrich, who already had made it clear he didn't like the super committee, calls its collapse good for America. Frank is a bit narrower in his assessment, characterizing the panel's failure as good news for Democrats. Still, I... Read more →

My television 2 cents on the super committee failure

I spoke last night with the NBC affiliate in West Palm Beach about the super committee's inability to complete its assigned deficit reduction task. I'm not a big fan of myself on camera. And I'm recovering from a cold I caught last week while I was taking a vacation in South Florida. Yeah, that's my story for my nasally voice and I'm sticking to it! But the NBC reporter asked Bankrate for comment, and my buddies there passed him along to me, so I cowboyed up and went on air via Skype. And yes, I did do my best Ron... Read more →

Finger-pointing, and not always the index digit, is standard operating procedure in Washington, D.C. And the blame game is in high gear this Monday as the deficit reduction super committee is poised to announce -- after the stock market closes, as if the financial world hadn't already factored in this expected result -- that it couldn't reach an agreement. House Speaker John Boehner issued a memo this morning saying that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction "was unable to reach agreement because President Obama and Washington Democrats insisted on dramatic tax hikes on American job creators, which would make... Read more →

What's more popular than the U.S. Congress? Just about everything. A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted in October found that Americans have had it with their federal legislators, giving them a paltry 9 percent approval rating. That sad percentage assessment of Congress is this week's By the Numbers figure. Sen. Michael Bennet, however, took the survey data one step further and discovered just how much we loathe our lawmakers. According to the freshman Democrat from Colorado, Congress' 9 percent approval rating bests only Americans' lack of regard in 2008 for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. It ties the Capitol Hill... Read more →

It seems that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction doesn't want to wait to make Thanksgiving plans. The super committee reportedly has reconciled itself to failure and is expected to announce, possibly tomorrow, that it can't reach a debt deal. I totally understand the thinking. No need to wait until the Nov. 23 deadline if a deficit deal can't be reached. These turkeys should just go ahead and get a head start on the Turkey Day holiday. "I'm going to be waiting all day," Washington Sen. Patty Murray, Democratic co-chair of the committee said during an appearance on CNN's... Read more →

Last week the hubby and I took a vacation. Actually, what we did was tack some personal time onto a business trip I made to That meant a couple of things. It was time to re-read my items on tax break possibilities when combining business and personal travel. It also meant that I only posted one item last week at my other tax blog. Yes, I get the irony of doing less blogging for Bankrate while I was physically in the company's South Florida office. But I was doing other work-related stuff, like greeting old work friends and making... Read more →