7 Quick Tips for Tax Season

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1. Organize your paperwork. Review your prior year tax return to help you think about what you could be missing. Also consider what has changed this year compared to last year. Online access to your various accounts may expedite the process of collecting all your documents. Usually you will get an email when forms are ready rather than waiting for them to come in the mail. 2. Consider taking advantage of free filing. If your tax situation is fairly simple you may be able to take advantage of free filing websites. Depending on what website you use they have limits on how high your adjusted gross income can be to file for free. To see a full list of websites and limitations check out this page on the IRS website: https://apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile/jsp/index.jsp?ck 3. Call your CPA or tax preparer early. Due to high demand for their services during tax times CPAs and other tax preparers can have very...

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Do you need more than a retirement Calculator?

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Interactive retirement calculators are popping up all over as a means to simplify the questions of “Can I retire?” and “Am I saving enough to retire?” 401k providers are even adding sections to their routine reports to estimate the monthly income the future retiree can expect to receive from the portfolio. These tools are fast and simple, however, they might not be the only analysis needed to ensure you are on the right track. All retirement projections or calculators revolve around several assumptions used to generate the results. Therefore taking time to research the information and talk to a professional about your inputs are a necessary step. For example, take the question, “How many years will I actually be retired?” Put more bluntly this question asks, ”When will I die?” It is very easy to pick the age you want to live to rather than what might be realistic based on averages,...

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Three must-have personal finance apps

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Apps are designed to make our lives easier and more functional. But it is hard to find the best apps among the thousands of those available for download. Here are my top three picks for best free personal finance apps. Credit Karma Credit Karma is an easy way to obtain your credit score and, just like the commercial says, it’s really free! The app relies on advertisements from credit cards and personal loans for revenue.  The advertisements are based on algorithms to show you ads they think would be interesting to you based on your situation. Credit Karma isn’t the only free way to get a peek at how lenders view your creditworthiness. The Federal Trade Commission allows you to receive one free copy of your credit report once per year from each of the 3 credit reporting agencies. However, this report is only a copy of your report, it does not...

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Lackluster Financial Education Standards in U.S. High Schools

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How did you learn to balance a checkbook or invest in your 401k? Did you have a formal education on the subject? Did you seek a professional? Or did you just figure it out? The type of financial education you receive as a U.S. high school student depends largely on what state you are in. We have requirements ranging from personal finance as a mandate - for all students - to states that don’t include it in their education standards. Teachers today are pushed to their limits. As a result, increasing access to personal finance education is not a top priority. It is expected that parents pick up where the schools leave off. However, many parents are ill-equipped to continue their children's financial education. They may lack confidence in their knowledge, or it may not seem critical to teach them at all. Many are unable to teach their children because their...

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Not All Banks are Created Equal

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Let’s face it; consumers are growing tired of low interest rates on their checking and savings accounts. Bankrate.com recently estimated the national average annual percentage yield (APY) on money market accounts to be .11%. That’s just over one-tenth of one percent! Millennials might not realize that banks paid rates in the double digits in the 1980’s. Baby boomers are often left feeling nostalgic for the good ol’ days of high returns for low risk savings. Consumers who Google “high interest rates savings accounts” are inundated with a listing of banks they’ve probably never heard of before. Who are these banks and how do you know you can trust them? Today, banks yielding the highest rates are often online banks – with no brick or mortar buildings or ATMs. These banks often provide streamlined electronic tools like web chat and responsive phone service centers to make up for their lack of physical locations near...

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Investors Get Lost Searching for Pokemon Returns

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Pokemon Go has been downloaded by millions in the U.S. and every day the number of users continues to rise as it is released across the globe. For those that don’t know, the hit app sends you on a quest for “Pokemon” in your neighborhood, down streets you always knew existed but never had a reason to walk down, searching for elusive fictional creatures.  The app has been criticized for distracting its users and potentially putting them in harm’s way, but it has also been praised as revolutionary and innovative, bringing gaming to a new level of reality. The excitement and lure of the game were almost as hard to ignore as what happened to Nintendo’s stock price since the game’s release. The struggling tech company saw an unprecedented increase that hit a 52 week high on Monday July 18th; shares more than doubled to $38.25 from a 52 week low...

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