Monday, December 07, 2009

IRS announces 2010 standard mileage rates

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2010, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

50 cents per mile for business miles driven
16.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

Monday, November 23, 2009

Motivation to learn about investments

I usually LOVE to learn new things. I also worry about my financial future. I used to study prospectuses of funds and read reviews to determine where to invest my retirement funds and other savings. Since the stock market fall of 2008, I don't feel inclined to do this anymore. I even have money sitting in money market funds waiting for me to move to theoretically more lucrative stock funds. I cant seem to trust the stock market right now.

I read this interesting blog post today about Robert Brokamp's thoughts. He answered the question regarding the biggest financial challenges of baby boomers.

The biggest challenge is summoning the motivation to learn about all this stuff. It can be boring, time-consuming and confusing. Who wants to spend free time learning about something named after a section in the IRS tax code? But an ounce of education is worth a portfolio of lower taxes, reduced fees, better investments and peace of mind. Sure, you could pay someone to do it for you, but you'll pay an awful lot for that help – and you have to know at least enough to determine if you're getting good help.

I think it might help me get motivated to go back to investment research. Maybe I wont invest yet, but maybe I'll start my research again.

What's motivating you? Are you jumping back into the market?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

2010 401(K) Conributions

The IRS announced 2010 pension plan and retirement plan contribution limits today. This limitation affects elective deferrals to Section 401(k) plans and to the Federal Government’s Thrift Savings Plan, among other plans.

Most limits were kept the same as 2009 due to minimal inflation. "This is because the cost-of-living index for the quarter ended September 30, 2009, is less than the cost-of-living index for the quarter ended September 30, 2008,"

2010 401 K contribution limits are as follows:
2010 401k Contribution Limit: $16,500
2010 Catch-Up Contribution Limit (if you are age 50 years old and older): $5,500

You are also subject to the limits imposed by your company’s 401k plan. Matching contributions, if any, provided by your employer do NOT effect these limits. Check with your employer to see if they have any contribution limits.

You can find 2009 Contribution Limits here.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Free Small Business Tax Calendar

You can pre-order Pub 1518, 2010 IRS Tax Calendar for Small Businesses and the Self-Employed, on or click here. If you order now, the Engish version of the 2010 Tax Calendar will be shipped on November 1st, and the Spanish version on December 1st. You can also print and download the calendar.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Los Angeles Earthquake

So, the Los Angeles area (LAX, Inglewood. Lennox) had an earthquake tonight (5.0 according to initial reports). According to the LA Times, some area residents felt it more than others. This time, I cant even claim to have felt it (usually I can feel them). But what amazes me is that my son told me about it after seeing it on Facebook. It was faster than the news. When I googled "Los Angeles earthquake" there was no results. Even had nothing. But Facebook (and I'm sure Twitter) had the news. Makes me want to be "connected" during a time of disaster.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

April 8th is National Start Walking Day

Have you been sitting in front of your computer too long? Get up and move! We are becoming a nation of stationary people

According to the American Heart Association, "When you move -- even just for 30 minutes combined each day -- you reduce your chance of heart disease." Wait --I can be still the rest of the day? I only have to move for 30 minutes?!!! Actually, they are trying to start a movement of getting people to walk. They even have a new social site where you can join a community of walkers. To pomote this and the benefits of moving, they have proclaimed April 8th as National Start Walking Day.

I actually have been walking for awhile. I use a site to map my walks called MayMyWalk. Its kind of cool because I can determine how many miles I've walked and keep a log. It even has an iphone application to go along with it. I havent got that app to work right yet., but I think it was because I tried it in an area with poor cell reception.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Tax Deductions

I just read a quick overview of "25 Unsung Tax Deductions " for small businesses. You might not know about them, or they might trigger your memory during this Tax preparation time.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Love is in the air -- Can't Buy Me Love

On February 14, people celebrate love and friendship by exchanging cards, flowers, and candy. The romance we associate with Valentine's Day may come from the medieval belief that birds select their mates on February 14th (love birds anyone?). In the Middle Ages, lovers recited verse or prose to one another in honor of the day.

Although the origins of Valentine's Day are hazy, ancient Romans commemorated the feast of Lupercalia, a spring festival, on the fifteenth of February. (Supposedly, The celebration featured a lottery in which young men would draw the names of teenage girls. The girl assigned to each young man in that manner would be his sexual companion during the remaining year). Christian gloss was added to the pagan holiday when the date moved to the fourteenth of February—the saint day associated with many early Christian martyrs named Valentine (who knew there were SEVERAL martyrs named "Valentine."

Whatever the history is, we've made Valentines Day become a BIG day. I believe that Valentines Day has become WAY too commercialized. I even hate the fact that at school valentines day exchanges, candy is often "expected." I quit giving in to that thought a few years ago.

Here are just a few money saving ideas to get the appreciation and love across (to your valentines of all ages). Actions and words can convey much more than expensive jewelry and fancy dinners.

1. Make a card. Find some mushy quote from someone famous. Search online. its not hard. Or write your true feelings.
2. Locate a public domain book on google book search. I read books on my iPhone. You could also check one out of your public library
3. Make cookies or cut some sandwiches into heart shapes
4. Bring the old-fashioned ice cream parlor to your own living room (ice cream and toppings).
5. Create a "secret message" that needs to be decoded
6. Coupon book of acts of kindness (but then you actually have to do this)
7. Tuck a love note into a jacket pocket, purse or lunch bag to be found. Do this more than once.
8. Put together a box of this person's favorite food
9. Go out JUST for dessert
10. Wander through libraries and bookstores and browse.
11. Read poetry together
12. Go for a walk
13. Play old fashioned board games.
14. Be creative -- remember, its really the thought that counts.

So, what money saving tips do you have for Valentines day? How can we add some "romance" and fun without a lot of money?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thrifty Habits

Here's an old educational film, "Your Thrift Habits” about money management. Produced in 1948 by Coronet Instructional Films, it’s filled with great advice, and is fun to watch, too. It does remind me a bit of the Andy Griffith Show.

“Your Thrift Habits” highlights some important aspects of budgeting and thrift that are still valid today:

• “If you can do without extravagances, you can save regularly.” In the film, Jack’s budget-breakers are peach super-delights. Your budget-breaker might be Starbucks.
•“Buying cheap, unsatisfactory products is never thrifty.” If you buy TOO cheap of items, they just break and you end up spending the money again.
• Sometimes you’ll have to make choices. In the film Jack chooses to attend a football game instead of sticking to his budget for one week. He actively chose this course of action and accepts the consequences of delayed gratification of his goal. But he got back on track.

In the Film, Jack starts saving for a specific goal: a camera. I find it easier to save when I have a specific goal in mind. In my life now, its easy to want to save because our income is reduced. My vague goal has been save for retirement and kid's education. But why dont people save more when they arent under financial duress?

I think if I had been Jack, I would include a budget item for "Emergencies."

If you like this, you might also like my recent post "Purchase Useless Things."

NOTE: Thanks to the "Get Rich Slowly" blog for bringing this movie to my attention

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Mac!

I know, I am a day late. But I am usually a day late for most Birthday greetings. I just couldn't let this milestone go by without commenting. I am surrounded by Macintoshes in my life. I've been using Macs for so long I hate to admit that I remember days before Mac's. I remember programming simple accounting program in basic on Apples. Long live the Mac!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Purchase Useless Things?

Yesterday, I listened to an interview with Charles Handy on NPR's "Marketplace." Handy was very insightful. He was talking about how we got in to the economic mess we are in and how people spend a lot of money because they could spend it and thought they would always be in good times (positive speculation).

He quoted from Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations.
"A profitable speculation is presented as a public good because growth will stimulate demand and everywhere diffuse comfort and improvement. No patriot or man of feeling could therefore oppose it. But the nature of this growth, in opposition, for example, to older ideas such as cultivation, is that it is at once undirected and infinitely self-generating in the endless demand for all the useless things in the world."
Governments are trying to create stimulus packages to get consumers to spend again. They want us to purchase more "useless things," in other words.

Another quote from Handy made me think:
We may get back to a saner kind of world -- what Adam Smith called "cultivation" or "civilization" -- where we don't all sort of spend our life trying to make money, to buy things we don't really need to impress the neighbors, and so on. Where we actually do work -- not 60 hours a week, but 40 hours a week. Where we actually do take holidays. Where we actually get to know our kids again. Where it actually becomes smart to have a tiny car, to walk and bicycle and these sorts of things. And we may find we enjoy it actually just as much as the hectic pace that we've seen in recent years. I've often said that capitalism, particularly in America, is a very exhausting business. It tires people out.
In a very hectic, and troubled world, Mr. Handy made a lot of sense on a very basic level.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Get Organized NOW for taxes

The IRS announced the top 10 Tax Time Tips. The number one tip is
"Gather your records…now! It’s never too early to start getting together any documents or forms you’ll need when filing your taxes: receipts, canceled checks, and other documents that support an item of income or a deduction you’re taking on your return. Also, be on the lookout for W-2s and 1099s, coming soon from your employer."

Actually, you should have been getting documents together ALL year long. But if you didn't for 2008, there's still hope for 2009. I keep my records in an expanded file folder. I've tried various types. Here are 2 different ones:

These folders are great for receipts and records. I use one folder per year. I change most of the headings by putting labels over them, printed on the computer for the categories I use such as "Donations", "Utilities", or "Credit Card." I keep the folder handy in a drawer near where I pay my bills.

File space is smaller than the standard 8.5 by 11 inch papers, so most papers need to be folded to fit. Sometimes a larger type of expanded file my be needed.

Of course by mentioning these files, I'm probably helping out the storage industry as mentioned in this blog posting.

What do YOU do to help organize for taxes?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

2008 IRA Contribution and Deduction Limits

Its a new year and its always time to think about taxes. If you dont participate in other retirement plans (like a 401k plan), you may be eligible to contribute to an IRA.

According to the IRS:
If you are under 50 years of age at the end of 2008: The maximum contribution that you can make to a traditional or Roth IRA is the smaller of $5,000 or the amount of your taxable compensation for 2008. This limit can be split between a traditional and a Roth IRA but the combined limit is $5,000. This maximum contribution to a Roth IRA and the maximum deductible contribution to a traditional IRA may be reduced depending upon your modified adjusted gross income (AGI).

If you are 50 years of age or older before 2009: The maximum contribution that can be made to a traditional or Roth IRA is the smaller of $6,000 or the amount of your taxable compensation for 2008. This limit can be split between a traditional and a Roth IRA but the combined limit is $6,000. This maximum contribution to a Roth IRA and the maximum deductible contribution to a traditional IRA may be reduced depending upon your modified AGI.

You generally have until April 15 of the following year. Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements can answer most questions. I also like this link.

For 2009 401K contribution limits click here.