The Piggy-bank Is Back!

The Piggy-bank Is Back!

Finance
“Mom, how much should I save?” my daughter asked, hoping to start out on her first real job the right way. Savings was also on the mind of a woman I met recently at a networking event. She mentioned that she put away her small bills on weekdays and larger bills over the weekend, and before she knew it, she had saved a surprisingly large sum, which she took to the bank. Good for her. So here are a few tips and rules of thumb that will answer my daughter’s question. Start with a Budget:  If you never seem to have extra cash to put away, start by analyzing your expenses for a month. Allocate what you spend into two pockets: “needs” and “wants.”  “Needs” are expenses that are necessary…
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The Tax Man Cometh (Again)

The Tax Man Cometh (Again)

Finance
April 15, Tax Day, is coming up fast. So before you grab that cup of coffee and a green eyeshade to get ready to do some serious number crunching, here are a few tips that might help. Get Organized Whether you are a do-it-yourself tax preparer or use a tax professional, you will need to get some documents together before you sit down to fill out the forms. Organizing documents by category will make it easier to input information and reduce the time (and fees) you will pay a preparer. Here is a quick checklist. More comprehensive lists are available from tax service providers or finance websites. Personal data: social security numbers and dates of birth for you, your spouse, and dependents. Income: W-2s for wages; 1099s for retirement, dividend,…
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What is Bitcoin?

What is Bitcoin?

Finance, Technology
If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ve no doubt heard the term “Bitcoin” thrown around fairly often. So what exactly is it? Simply put, Bitcoin is a digital currency that exists solely in cyberspace. It was created in 2009 by mathematician Satoshi Nakomoto, a man so elusive and enigmatic that many doubt his very existence. Bitcoin is traded, generated, and stored on a peer-to-peer network using virtual wallets for each user. The rate and overall number of Bitcoins generated is limited, making it free from the perils of inflation that plague traditional official currencies. Bitcoin has been gaining in popularity, circulation, and media coverage of late, and while the number of businesses willing to accept it is growing, many people remain skeptical of its value and stability. In his…
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Have You Ditched Your Resolve? Stick to it!

Have You Ditched Your Resolve? Stick to it!

Finance
We are all aware that the resolutions we so earnestly make for the New Year are likely to be broken in two weeks.  In fact, there is a movement to crown January 17th “Ditch Your Resolution Day.” So why even talk about resolutions at all?  It is because, to quote Socrates: “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Resolutions, at the very least, cause us to reflect on our past year and evaluate ways to improve ourselves over the next twelve months.  The exercise of examining our past is worth it, even if our odds of keeping to resolutions are only 8%. So, as this is a financial column, here is one resolution to consider for 2014:  Lower your debt.  Easier said than done.  So here are some helpful tips.…
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Pay Down or Invest?

Pay Down or Invest?

Finance
I got a rare phone call from my son, who normally communicates by texting: “Hey Mom, I have some extra cash, should I pay down my student loans or invest in my Roth IRA?”  With the stock market generating double digit returns recently, the answer is not a slam dunk.  So here is a systematic approach to get the answer that is right for you. Make sure you indeed have extra cash: Do you have enough to make the minimum payments on all your debts?  What about a rainy-day fund stashed away for emergencies?  This fund should be kept in a savings account that can be accessed easily when you need it. Analyze you debts:  Organize your debts by interest rate, so you can evaluate how much you will need…
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Reverse Thinking

Reverse Thinking

Finance
The good news is that housing prices are on the rise, with the Detroit area showing some of the highest recovery rates (albeit from really low levels) in the nation.  The rise in home values has increased interest in reverse mortgages, which can be a boon to some and a curse to others. What Is a Reverse Mortgage? As the name suggests, a reverse mortgage loan has the lender making mortgage payments to you based on the equity in your home. You do not have to pay back the loan and accumulated interest until you stop living there. “Great idea,” you say, “where do I sign?”  Well, there are some caveats: you must be the homeowner, at least 62 years old, and have sufficient equity in your home to justify…
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