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By Andrea Woroch

Money is a top concern for most Americans these days and, with so much uncertainty still ahead, it's important to create financial security for yourself and your family as we enter into this new year.

Improving your finances may seem like a daunting process, but getting started is half the battle. Here are five money moves you can tackle now to get the momentum going.

1. Plug budget leaks.

Considering that 35% of Americans have less savings now than before the coronavirus took hold of our country, according to a recent survey from Bankrate.com, finding areas in your budget to rebuild savings should be a priority for the new year. Rebuilding an emergency fund may seem impossible now, but you may be surprised ho...

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MoneyTips

It may not make economic sense for you to replace appliances on a house you intend to sell, but for a higher-end home, it may make the difference. If you do replace appliances, stay generic but aesthetically pleasing. The homeowners are likely to replace it anyway, but they still need the initial positive impression to buy the home in the first place.It may not make economic sense for you to replace appliances on a house you intend to sell, but for a higher-end home, it may make the difference. If you do replace appliances, stay generic but aesthetically pleasing. The homeowners are likely to replace it anyway, but they still need the initial positive impression to buy the home in the first place.


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MoneyTips

    This is the first in a series of financial commentaries by our Editorial Roundtable. Check back to read alternative points of view expressed in this column.

James Cash Penney, who founded JC Penney in 1902, observed years later that, “Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.” This holds as true for the broader US economy as it does for individual companies. For it is the combination of market forces, government policies and macroeconomic trends that shapes our long-term economic outlook and near-term prospects for growth.

As we peer beyond the horizon to boldly — or foolishly— predict economic developments in 2014, let’s stay mindful of this synergistic process. For only by assessing the interplay of multiple factors can we hope to divine the future.

Here, then, are the key forces and trends MoneyTips predicts will combine to make 2014 a very positive year for the US eco...

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MoneyTips

Did you have a happy New Year? We certainly hope so. Now it's time to get back to regular routines and take care of January chores, including gathering your tax information.

The 2021 Tax Season Begins on January

The IRS has announced that the 2021 tax season has begin in January. The beginning of tax season means that the IRS will accept individual electronic returns and start processing traditional paper returns.

Soon, you and more than 150 million of your fellow Americans will be sifting through tax information and preparing returns — or have them prepared for you. In 2018, tax preparers filed nearly 79.5 million electronic returns. In 2020, the industry employed 258,802 tax practitioners in 128,770 businesses and created $11 billion in revenue. Expect tax preparers to be even busier in 2021 due to the tax laws in effect. <...

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  • Updated

MoneyTips

Tax preparers such as Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and Enrolled Agents are incredibly busy during tax season. Their time is precious, even more so in recent years with many of the changes introduced by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act currently in effect. That makes it even more important for you to prepare for your allotted tax preparation time.

Your tax professional needs the following four categories of information to prepare your taxes properly. Make sure to bring all the necessary forms and receipts and organize them so that they may be found quickly.

  • Identification and Basic Information – For any new relationships, you will need to supply identification for you, your spouse, and all dependents claimed. Social Security cards are preferred, but other government-issued ID is usually acceptable. Check with your preparer before you visit.

    Other basic information includes your address, your previous year's tax form, and any info...

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MoneyTips

Some people swipe credit cards haphazardly during the holidays and accrue debt with little thought to the aftermath. It is also common for folks to blow their year-end bonuses on big ticket items before ever receiving them. People get swept up in the emotions of the holidays without considering the financial ramifications.

In an effort to help curve these spending habits and assist folks in eliminating debt in 2016, MoneyTips took to Blab.im on December 18th for the latest installment in the MoneyTips Finance Friday discussions. Host Justin Simon was joined by sage financial experts Miranda Marquit and John Schneider of the Debt Free Guys. Watch the full replay below for all of their insights.


Miranda Marquit is the financial blogging...

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MoneyTips


Holiday Debt On the Increase

Are your credit cards still smoking from holiday overuse? Based on a recent MagnifyMoney survey, it wouldn't be surprising.

Consumers who financed their holiday spending averaged $1,381 in holiday spending debt – a six-year high and a sharp increase from 2019's $1,325. Increases in wages and consumer confidence are at least partly to blame. Did a personal increase in wages and confidence lead you into a mountain of holiday debt?

We've given previous tips on dealing with excessive holiday debt. You've got more debt – so we've got five more tips, for a total of 10.

6. Slice Your Budget Further

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  • Updated

MoneyTips

Santa was not so kind to your friends and relatives this year, so you felt the need to fill the gap. You overspent on holiday gifts, and now you are stuck with a significant amount of holiday debt. Gratitude from gift recipients is a great feeling, but gratitude is not going to pay off your MasterCard bill. If it's any comfort, you're not alone; according to one report, Americans racked up an average of $1,325 in debt last holiday season.

What do you do? Start with the classic bit of advice – "if you are in a hole, stop digging." Recognize that you overspent, and freeze your spending until you can take the following steps.

How to Reduce Holiday Debt

  1. Assess the Situation and Rebalance the Budget – Face up to your debt and total up the damage. Rebalance your budget to account for this new debt, and look for any budgeted spending that you can temporarily drop. You will need to eat out less often and delay other discretionary spendi...

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MoneyTips

You're determined to make 2021 the year you raise your credit score. Why not get off to a good start with these five New Year's resolutions to send your credit score in the right direction?

1. Resolve to Check Your Credit Report – All your efforts will go to waste if identity thieves have already ruined your credit by opening accounts in your name and racking up unpaid bills.

Check your credit report and look for any errors, rogue accounts, or fraudulent charges on your existing accounts. Address any problems as quickly as possible with the credit reporting agencies to limit the damage. Monitor your credit score regularly to gauge your progress and follow up with at least one more credit report check during the year. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes by 2 In 5 Believe Age Affects Credit Score

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MoneyTips

Charitable giving is one of the most popular (and fulfilling) ways to save on your taxes. Not only does it make you feel good to help others, but end-of-year charity donations can also help you save on your taxes — if you do it correctly. To help you with your giving efforts, the IRS offers several tips and reminders about charitable contributions.

  • Itemizing – If you decide to take a standard deduction instead of itemizing your tax deductions on a Form 1040, you will not be able to claim any charitable deductions. It may not be the best economic choice for you to itemize. Use Schedule A of Form 1040 to calculate your possible deductions and see if they add up to more than the standard deduction.

    Take note that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) almost doubled the standard deduction from tax year 2018 onwards. It does not affect charitable contributions but may make itemizing deductions less appealing now.

  • End-o...

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MoneyTips

What are your personal goals for 2021? How will your financial planning support you in achieving them? While you have your New Year's cap on, take this chance to make the personal financial resolutions that will get you closer to the life you want.

  1. Define your Objectives – The SMART model is an effective guide for defining objectives that are:
    • Specific - so that you know exactly what you are aiming for and how you are going to get there;

    • Measurable - enabling you to keep track of your progress and assess how closely you have really met your goal;

    • Achievable - so that you can take on the challenge with confidence and not become overwhelmed by a task that is too ambitious;

    • Relevant - it is easy to come up with an array of good, creative objectives in a free brainstorm, but all of them may not get you to your desired end g...

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MoneyTips

Did you get what you wanted for Christmas? We hope so, but you probably have at least one gift that you cannot use or do not want.

You can usually return unwanted gifts, but what can you do with a gift card that you will never use? We have a few suggestions for your consideration.

Ten Ideas for Gift Cards You Won't Use

  1. Sell/Trade It – The marketplace always has an answer. GiftCardGranny.com allows you to sell your unwanted gift card for cash or trade it for cards that you will use. Keep in mind that you will not receive full face value – the marketplace also requires their cut.

  2. Re-Gift It – Others may be happy to receive the card you do not want. Are you uncomfortable cashing in your Victoria's Secret gift card? Do you consider a Chuck E. Cheese gift card pointless since you have no kids? Consider giving these cards to those with kids and … secrets.

  3. Give It Away – ...

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MoneyTips

Many people are reconsidering their budget to prevent holiday overspending over the next few months. If you are one of these people, good for you – but why stop there? This is a great time to look further ahead and tackle your 2021 budget.

Lay out your calendar, spreadsheet, or whatever method you use and let’s get to work on next year's budget. Here are some helpful hints to consider as you dive in.

  1. Anticipate Changes – If you have any large changes that you can reasonably anticipate, like a college tuition bill or a new mortgage, incorporate it into your plans as early as possible – even if you do not know what the value will be. Waiting until you know the exact value may not leave you enough time to adjust other expenses.

    Don't forget to incorporate positive changes as well – for example, any anticipated raises or the effects of the new tax laws.

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MoneyTips

1. Recent research from the RAND Corporation estimates that the lack of sleep among workers costs the U.S. economy up to $411 billion per year (2.28% of GDP), due to individuals' lower productivity levels, higher mortality risk, and poorer health and wellbeing.

2. Americans spend roughly $14 billion on mattresses every year. For that kind of cash, you're allowed to rip off the tag!

3. In 2015, Americans spent roughly $41 billion on sleeping aids and remedies.

4. Over 2,800 sleep "labs" or clinics were active in the U.S. in 2015, earning roughly $7.1 billion in annual revenue, including more than $460 million spent by patients as out-of-pocket expenses.

5. Luxury pet beds are big business with entries from Martha Stewart and Swarovski. Fido may sleep better on a Swarovski Couture Bed, but the $10,400 price tag may keep you up at night!


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MoneyTips

Can you avoid a New Year's Day hangover? We're not referring to the traditional hangover that comes from too much alcohol, but the financial hangover that comes from too many charges on your credit card.

Of course, you can avoid a New Year's credit hangover – especially with some help. Consider these eleven ways to keep holiday purchases under control.

1. Set a Holiday Budget – Review your overall budget, and then decide how much you can afford to spend for holiday gifts given your other expenses (including end-of-year expenses like property taxes and annual subscriptions). Don't let gift expectations drive your budget – let your budget set gift choices.

2. Make a Gift List – Divide up your gift budget among all your recipients and find gifts that fit within the desired budget. Start early, so you have time to look for the best pri...

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MoneyTips


By Sean Harper, CEO and Co-Founder of Kin Insurance

The holidays may be the most wonderful time of the year, but they are also a time of increased risk. Consider the extra visitors alone. Every person who walks through your door brings with them the chance of an accident, another opportunity for injuries on your property or damage to their belongings.

While disaster-proofing your house might not be high on your priority list amid all the holiday chaos, there are a few simple (and fast) things you can do to prevent accidents and injuries.

Here are eight steps to prepare you and your loved ones for a happy, safe season.

In the Kitchen

The holidays would be incomplete without a delicious feast and all the trimmings. Whether you're cooking for just a few folks or hosting a party, consider these details:

1. Check food ingr...

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MoneyTips

The holiday season is full of plans and activities that make December incredibly hectic. If you are the average American, tax considerations and financial adjustments are pretty low on your holiday to-do list. However, you are not the average American — you enjoy saving money, are diligent in seeking ways to save, and excellent at following through with your plans. We can help by offering these potential money-saving tips to take to save on this year's taxes.

  1. Make Maximum Retirement Contributions – If you can afford to do so, max out your contributions to tax-deferred savings plans. For the 2020 tax year, maximum annual Individual Retirement Account (IRA) contributions are $6,000 with an additional $1,000 allowed as a "catch-up" contribution for taxpayers who are at least fifty years old. 401(k) plan annual elective deferral limits are $19,500 with an extra $6,500 catch-up...

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  • Updated

MoneyTips

Does your Christmas season usually lead to the January blues due to excessive holiday spending? It doesn't have to be that way. With a combination of planning and willpower, you can enjoy a festive holiday without starting the New Year in a big financial hole. Consider these nine ways to celebrate while staying fiscally responsible.

1. Limit Gift Spending – Start by establishing a shopping list and a budget for all of your items. Track special holiday online offers. Consider using price comparison apps and websites. Take advantage of any coupons. Large families can save by drawing names for a gift exchange instead of trying to buy multiple smaller gifts for every family member. If you want more credit, check out our list of credit card offers.

2. Reject Impulse Buying – Retailers expect you to impulse buy...

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MoneyTips

For many people, the end of the year represents a hectic time, and the last thing anyone wants to do is add to an already full plate. However, building the following financial moves into your fourth-quarter routine can really pay off over the long run and give you greater peace of mind for the coming year.

1. Get A Head Start On Organizing Your Financial Records

This could involve downloading your online account statements and gathering all your personal income records into one place. I like to stash stubs, receipts for any tax-deductible payments, and IRS forms I receive during the year in a separate folder. Then, when tax time comes, I do not have to go searching for all this information. If I have a refund coming, I want to file early so I can use the money. December is also a great time to get a general idea of your income taxes. Maybe you can make an extra deductible contribution, such as into your

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