Archive for TAXES

A huge interest rate hike has arrested a run on the Argentine peso

By The Economist online…

THE message to markets could not have been clearer. On the morning of May 4th, following a run on the peso, Argentina’s central bank raised interest rates by 6.75 percentage points, its third hike in a week. The interest rate now stands at 40%, up from 27.25% on April 27th.

Across town Nicolás Dujovne, the treasury minister, told reporters that Argentina’s budget deficit, which was 3.9% in 2017, would be brought down to 2.7% this year, rather than the previously stated target of 3.2%. After the announcements the peso strengthened by nearly 5% against the dollar.

The combined measures slammed the brakes on what was looking like the start of an escalating crisis. Argentina’s peso had fallen by a fifth against the dollar since the beginning of the year, making it the worst-performing emerging-market currency. But the measures also harm the prospects of growth—and of Mauricio Macri, the president.

The problems began in January, following the central bank’s decision on December 28th to loosen its inflation target for 2018 from 12% to 15%. The decision was taken at the behest of the government, which was concerned about the impact of high interest rates on economic growth. The bank then eased rates by 0.75 percentage points, causing expectations of inflation to rise. Investors began to question the bank’s independence, and its commitment to reducing inflation.

Their jitters intensified after 10-year US treasury yields rose above 3 per cent in late April. That prompted investors to withdraw money from emerging markets and other risky assets. Argentina was first in line. On top of inflation that has run at 25% over the past 12 months, investors were spooked by the country’s large foreign debt pile and a current-account deficit of 5% of GDP.

Read more here: A huge interest rate hike has arrested a run on the Argentine peso…read more

Category: Business and finance, Approved, Business and finance, Finance and economics

Not there yet Janet Yellen: System is safer now, though ‘all-too-familiar’ risks remain

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, looking back a decade after the onset of the financial crisis, said Friday the financial system is safer now than it was then though some adjustments to regulations may be needed.

The central bank chief spoke at the Fed’s annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Though the speech is closely watched in financial markets, Yellen offered no clues about the future of monetary policy, instead focusing on the history of the crisis and what regulators have done in response. She warned that future crises are inevitable but said the housing meltdown taught valuable lessons.

“The events of the crisis demanded action, needed reforms were implemented, and these reforms have made the system safer,” she said in prepared remarks.

Yellen rejected arguments that regulation had stifled banking activity, insisting that higher capital requirements actually promoted loan growth.

Her review came less than six months before her term ends in February. President Donald Trump has been circumspect about whether he will reappoint her, and Yellen has refused to speculate about her future.

 

Fed watchers had been looking for some level of reflection from Yellenabout the Fed’s response to the crisis, and that was the focus of the speech. She cited the need for the bailout programs put into place in response to a liquidity crush on Wall Street and touted the effectiveness of the new regulations, such as the Dodd-Frank reforms.

However, she said the Fed is continually reviewing the moves to see what’s working and what might be holding back the system.

“A broader set of changes to the new financial regulatory framework may deserve consideration. Such changes include adjustments that may simplify regulations applying to small and medium-sized banks and enhance resolution planning,” she said.

“More broadly, we continue to monitor economic conditions, and to review and conduct research, to better understand the effect of regulatory reforms and possible implications for regulation.”

For instance, she said the Volcker Rule, which limits banks’ ability to trade for their own benefit, may need some “simplifying.” She also said regulations should be examined to make sure they aren’t disproportionately harming community and regional banks.

She cautioned against wholesale changes, particularly when it comes to risk-taking in the financial markets.

“Any adjustments to the regulatory framework should be modest and preserve the increase in resilience at large dealers and banks associated with the reforms put in place in recent years,” she said.

Yellen also was expected to address the current climate and the potential for dangers ahead like the real estate bubble that precipitated the crisis.

Fed officials have expressed varying levels of worry about the continuing climb of risk assets like stocks.

Indeed, Yellen cited the likelihood of “the all-too-familiar risks of excessive optimism, leverage and maturity transformation re-emerging in new ways that require policy responses.” read more

3 steps to an excellent credit score

 

An excellent credit score can unlock low interest rates on mortgages, auto loans and credit cards. In many states, a good score is also the key to lower auto insurance premiums. Although there are hundreds of credit scores out there, FICO remains the industry standard and isn’t shy about telling people how to improve their scores. If you want to have an excellent score, you should follow these three steps.

Always Pay On Time

The single most important part of your credit score is making payments on time. Even a single missed payment that becomes thirty days late could take 90 points or more from your credit score. Banks use credit scores to predict whether or not you will make payments on time in the future. It should not be surprising that the most important part of a score is how often you have made payments on time in the past.

To make sure you never run the risk of missing a payment, sign up for automatic payments with your creditors. By automating your monthly payments, you can ensure that you avoid a big, unexpected hit to your score.

In addition, be particularly careful with your medical bills. If you don’t pay your doctor or hospital bill on time, it could quickly end up with a collection agency and on your credit report. Even a small medical bill can have a big negative impact on your score.

Keep Your Credit Card Balances Low

The second most important part of your credit score is the total amount of debt that you have. FICO tends to treat some debt as good debt, and other debt as bad debt. Mortgages, auto loans and student loans are considered good debt. Credit card debt is considered bad debt. In particular, you can lose a ton of points if you max out your credit cards.

FICO uses a measure called “utilization” to determine how risky you are. You calculate utilization by dividing your current statement balances on all of your credit cards by your credit limits. If you have $10,000 of credit limits and a $1,000 balance, your utilization would be 10%.

In general, people with the best credit scores have a utilization ratio of 10% of lower. To keep your utilization low, you should pay down credit card balances and avoid closing old credit card accounts. If you close an unused credit card, you will be reducing your credit limit and increasing your utilization.

Feed Your Score With “Good” Activity Every Month

Do you remember your days in elementary school, when you would get a “gold star” for a job well done? Your goal with your credit score is to accumulate as many “gold stars” as possible. And that means using a credit card each month responsibly. Ideally, you will use less than 10% of your available credit with transactions each month. You will then pay your statement balance on time and in full every month. By doing that, you are showing that you …read more

Read more here: 3 steps to an excellent credit score

Category: bonds, cloud, computers, data, dell, earnings, earnings season, healthcare, nasdaq, nyse, oil prices, stock market, stocks, utilities, wall street, csx, nj, jnj, tast, intc, jpm, fast, gs, bac, ge, lly, wfc, c, unh, emc, tri

Do you know how a tax refund can boost your credit score

By Robert Berger

Filed under: ,

During tax season, conversations about how to use that always-anticipated tax return pop up all over the internet. Many who get a refund use it on vacations and other big ticket items. And while this isn’t always a bad idea, it may not be the wisest choice you can make for your tax refund.

One option is to use your refund with an eye toward increasing your credit score. A good score can save thousands of dollars in interest on a new mortgage or enable a homeowner to refinance to a lower rate. A high FICO score also helps consumers qualify for cash back, travel, and other rewards credit cards. It can even lower your car insurance premiums.

Whatever your financial goals, here are some tips on using your tax refund to increase your credit score:

1. Catch up on late payments

Your payment history is the single most significant factor in determine your score. Payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO score, according to the good folks at FICO. This means that a single late payment can have a disproportionately large effect on your credit score. It also means that the best way to maintain good credit is to make your payments on time, every month.

If you’re behind on any of your debt payments, use a portion of your tax refund to catch up as soon as possible. While it will take time for that late payment to fall off of your credit record, the sooner you catch back up, the more quickly you can boost your score.

2. Pay down maxed out credit cards

The next most important piece of your credit score is the amount you owe. This makes up about 30% of your overall FICO score. This section looks primarily at your debt-to-credit ratio, or how big a balance you’re carrying compared with your overall credit limits on credit cards and other revolving loans.

So your next most efficient tax refund move is to pay down credit card and revolving loan debt. The starting point is tackle cards that are maxed out. The credit scoring formula views a maxed out card as a sign a consumer is at the end of their rope. Paying this debt down can have a positive effect on a consumer’s FICO score.

3. Pay down other revolving debt

If you aren’t maxed out on a card, or if you’ve dealt with it already, consider paying down the rest of your revolving debt. This may include not only credit cards, but also lines of credit such as a HELOC. As a general rule, the lower your credit utilization the better. While FICO doesn’t publish explicitly guidelines on what makes the ideal credit utilization, Tom Quinn of FICO has suggested that 10% or less is ideal.

You may be surprised at how quickly paying down revolving debt can boost your credit score. And this strategy comes with another advantage: lower payments. Since your revolving debts likely carry the …read more

Read more here: Do you know how a tax refund can boost your credit score

Category: credit cards, credit sc, FICO score, fnance, money, pay off debt, tax refund, taxes

7 Habits of Highly Frugal People

By Dr Penny Pincher…

Frugal people who pay off their debt and achieve financial independence don’t succeed by accident. They establish habits that allow them to consistently reach their goals over the long haul.
During the past few years as a personal finance blogger and author, I have noticed that the most successful frugal people tend to follow a common set of habits. These same habits remind me of the traits that Stephen Covey detailed in his popular 1989 book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. For this article, I kept the original seven habits, but updated them for achieving financial independence today.
What are the seven habits that allow some people to excel at being frugal?
1. Be Proactive
Frugal people are proactive about their money, taking action to monitor and control spending and maximize income. They find ways to spend less and reduce expenses – even if it requires effort and creative thinking. They direct most of the money they save from reduced expenses into savings and investments for long term goals.
Although the first thing that comes to mind with frugality is saving money, many frugal people maximize income through side hustles or by generating passive income in addition to controlling their spending. An extra dollar saved or an extra dollar earned both contribute favorably to the bottom line.
Frugal people know how much money they have coming in and how much is going out, often with great precision. This is accomplished by creating and following a budget and proactively monitoring spending. They focus on what they can control within their budget to achieve financial success.
2. Begin With the End in Mind
Why do frugal people work so hard to control spending and keep track of their money? Are they simply not interested in buying things? On the contrary, most frugal people are striving to reach financial independence so that they can travel or launch a second career or to have plenty of money to buy the things that matter to them. Frugal people are willing to worry about money now so they don’t need to worry about it later.
Surprisingly, many frugal people care more about their time than their money. Saving money buys financial independence, which buys time to do whatever you want. Frugal people want freedom to use their time as they wish and not be locked into working at a job until they reach old age.
Frugal people begin with the end in mind. The end they want to achieve is financial independence. With that end in mind, they make a plan to reach the goal and follow it every day. The sacrifices along the way are worth reaching the goal.
3. Put First Things First
What is the first thing you pay every month? Do you pay your mortgage first? Perhaps you pay your utility bill or car payment first. Frugal people pay something else first – themselves.
Paying yourself first means that you invest in your retirement fund or other savings accounts first, then you …read more

Read more here: 7 Habits of Highly Frugal People

Category: budgeting, frugal, money, personal finance, saving

Ask These 4 Questions Before You Refinance Your Student Loans

By Nick Clements

Filed under:

Americans now have more than $1.2 trillion of student loan debt.

To help people deal with their debt burden, credit unions, banks and Silicon Valley startups have introduced loans that can be used to refinance existing student loan debt. Companies life SoFi advertise that borrowers save an average $18,936 when they refinance their debt. And SoFi isn’t the only company to offer low interest rates. Interest rates start as low as 2.13% (variable) and 3.25% (fixed).

But before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you ask yourself these four questions.

1. Do you have federal or private student loans?

If you have federal student loans, you are probably eligible for income-driven repayment options from the federal government. With an income-driven plan, the federal government will review your tax return and will cap the monthly payment to a fixed percentage of your discretionary income. Depending upon the plan, your monthly payment could be capped to between ten and twenty percent of your discretionary income. You would continue to make payments for up to 25 years, depending upon which plan you use. At the end of the repayment period, any remaining loan balance is forgiven.

Just remember that you have to renew your enrollment every year. If your income increases, so does your payment. And if debt is forgiven, you will owe taxes on the amount that is forgiven. If your income is low enough, your payment could be as low as $0 per month.

Your interest rate on your federal loans will likely be much higher than the interest rate being made available by companies that refinance the debt. You should think of the higher interest rate as an insurance premium. If you have a high level of confidence in your ability to repay your student loans quickly, and you have an emergency fund in case of job loss, you might not need to worry about income-driven plans. Just think long and hard before making a decision.

2. Do you have a good credit history and verifiable income?

If you want to refinance your student loan debt, you need to have an excellent credit history. Only people with an excellent credit history and good income can qualify. Lenders will look at your credit report and will want to see a history of on-time payments, especially with your existing student loans. In addition, most lenders will perform an analysis of your cash flow and will want to verify your income. Most lenders are targeting “HENRYs,” which are “high earners, not rich yet.” If that describes you, refinancing your debt could make a lot of sense. But if you are struggling to make your payments or have a bad credit history, you would likely be rejected.

3. Do you want a fixed or variable rate?

Variable interest rates are much lower than fixed interest rates. For example, earnest, a Silicon Valley startup, charges variable rates between 2.13% – 5.41% and fixed rates between 3.50% – 7.05%. If you can pay off your debt …read more

Read more here: Ask These 4 Questions Before You Refinance Your Student Loans

Category: bonds, cloud, computers, data, dell, earnings, earnings season, healthcare, nasdaq, nyse, oil prices, stock market, stocks, utilities, wall street, csx, nj, jnj, tast, intc, jpm, fast, gs, bac, ge, lly, wfc, c, unh, emc, tri

Don’t Skip These 8 Tax Breaks for Students

By Damian Davila ..

Dear students, I’m sure that you have heard the news: Every single year the average student loan debt per borrower is increasing. For example, the average class of 2015 graduate with student loan debt will owe a little more than $35,000.

Still, there is a silver lining: College students and grads often qualify for significant tax breaks and deductions. To minimize your tax bill and increase your chances of a refund, here are eight tax deductions and breaks worth knowing about.

1. 529 Plans

If your parents or other donor started a 529 plan for you, you’re in luck. Also known as qualified tuition programs, 529 plans allow individuals to save for education expenses on a tax-deferred basis and allow a designated beneficiary (ideally, that’s you) to use those funds, including interest gains, for qualified expenses free of taxes or penalties.

But few people know that you can also start a 529 plan for yourself. Yes, if you anticipate returning to school for any reason, you can save for related expenses in your own 529 plan – at any age. The list of qualified education expenses goes beyond tuition and academic fees, including expenses for room and board, transportation, equipment, and accommodations for individuals with special needs, so adults can benefit, too. (See also: The 9 Best State 529 College Savings Plans)

2. Qualified IRA Distributions

Qualified distributions taken from a traditional IRA for use in qualified higher education expenses create no tax burden or penalty for you, assuming you only withdraw contributions, and not any earnings on the contributions. (Note: If your spouse, parent, or grandparent takes distributions from their own plans to fund your educational expenses, they would have to pay applicable income taxes on those funds, but don’t have to pay the early distribution penalty which applies if under age 59 1/2.)

3. American Opportunity Credit

Replacing the Hope Scholarship credit, the American Opportunity Credit allows you to cover up to $2,500 of undergraduate college costs, including:

  • 100% of your first $2,000 qualified education expenses; and
  • 25% of next $2,000 qualified education expenses.

Keep in mind that you can claim the American Opportunity tax credit on your own academic expenses or on those of your spouse and kids. This means that you can claim up to $2,500 per student living in your household. However, to be eligible for the full credit, your modified adjusted gross income must be $80,000 or less (those making more receive a reduced amount of the credit).

Another advantage of this tax credit is that 40% of it is refundable, meaning that the IRS will issue a refund for that amount even if you don’t owe any federal income tax.

4. Lifetime Learning Credit

The Lifetime Learning Credit allows you to deduct up to 20% of your first $10,000 in qualified education expenses, up to $2,000 per taxpayer.

Unlike the American Opportunity Credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit isn’t refundable. You can use it …read more

Read more here: Don’t Skip These 8 Tax Breaks for Students

Category: college, millennials, students, tax, tax breaks, taxes

4 Ways Money Can Buy Happiness

By U.S. News...

It’s the age-old question: Can money buy happiness?

Much of the time, our energy and focus is on work and career, which primarily is about the chase for the almighty dollar. Generally, people want more for basic needs, including a roof over their heads, food, clothing and maybe a car.

And we all want more of the fun things money can buy, including vacations, entertainment and the latest
high-tech toys.

It can be a valuable exercise to take a step back from the daily grind to examine what money means to you and how you spend it. “I think deep down, the brain equates money not so much with happiness as with security and survival. These are nonnegotiable values, primal motivators,” says Kenneth Reid, founder of DayTradingPsychology.com.

“Research shows that the greatest psychological stress occurs when one is unable to act in one’s own best interest,” Reid says. “But when we are able act in accordance with those primal imperatives, we feel a sense of deep satisfaction. Such acts can be as simple as clipping a coupon and saving 25 cents.”

Ultimately, the goal of money management is to provide discipline and a process for doing the things we must do that may not feel good at the time but are crucial to our future success, says Joshua Wilson, chief investment officer at WorthePoint Financial in Fort Worth, Texas. “Money shouldn’t be viewed as a score card, but as a ticket to different degrees of freedom. Some people require more to get to the degree of freedom that they need.”

Money can have paradoxical effects, Reid says. “We’ve all heard stories about how sudden wealth, such as lottery winnings, can be disruptive, even devastating, to a person or a family. A phrase comes to mind from complexity theory: ‘more is different.’ It means that scale brings unique challenges. Too much, too soon can be as bad as too little, too late.”

Behavioral economists have identified some ways money could increase levels of happiness.

Neil Krishnaswamy, a certified financial planner for Exencial Wealth Advisors in Plano, Texas, recommends the book “Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending” by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton. “This book provided me with great insights, particularly in how we think about our discretionary spending,” he says. “Once our essential, or nondiscretionary, expenses are met, how should we think about spending our discretionary dollars in ways that lead to real, lasting fulfillment? If we’re more conscious of how our spending is connected to our values and learn from some of the recent scientific research, we might just be able to use money in a way that really does buy happiness.”

Science shows that there are several ways we can spend money more effectively to increase life satisfaction.

Buy experiences. Dunn and Norton’s research reveals that satisfaction with experiential purchases increases over time, while satisfaction with material goods decreases over time. “I met an older …read more

Read more here: 4 Ways Money Can Buy Happiness

Category: happiness, Investing, Investing Insights, money, person finance, Savings

%d bloggers like this: