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11 Good Paying Jobs – No College Degree Required

November 9th, 2015 by admin No comments »

Many people feel that a college degree today has about the same value that a high school diploma did 20 years ago.  But let’s face it, college is not for everyone.  And a college degree doesn’t guarantee a high paying job after graduation.  When you add a pile of student debt on top of a young college grad, it makes the situation much worse.  Many families wonder if pursuing a college degree is NOT the best route for one or more of their children.  The average cost for in-state, public school, tuition and fees today is about $9,139.  Private school is about 3 times that.  With room and board, you’re looking at around $$16,000 – 20,000 per year for the average public school.  This can mean that many kids come out of school with a load of student loans to pay off.  Student loan interest rates are not that great either.  This is why for some, college is not their first choice.  Here are a few careers that offer some great alternatives.

#1.  Real Estate Broker

Becoming a real estate agent requires that you obtain a license; however, a high school diploma is sufficient for applicants. It is not uncommon for estate brokers to work long hours, weekends, and odd hours of the day and sometimes go for a long time without earning any income.

The salary bracket of real estate agents is between $30,144 and $180,434. There was a surge in the number of real estate agents during the estate and house flipping boom, this made competition stiffer in that profession. You can however still get a job as an estate agent with the right attitude and dedication.

 

#2.  Air Traffic Controller

To get into the air traffic controller career, you will be required to take lots of tests, medical exams, learning classes and background examinations.

The salary of air traffic controllers is as high as $158,966 on the average. An air traffic controller’s job is not an easy one because it requires laser focus to ensure the safety of thousands of air passengers each day.

 

 

#3.  Small Business Owner

Being a business owner has a number of advantages like, working flexible hours, writing off some of your expenses (tax deductions for small business owners), your own dress code and more.

Even though it’s great to be a business owner, it takes the right plan, plus hard work and dedication for the new business to start generating a profit. With a combination of time invested in the business, a good product or service plus effort and energy, you can be rewarded with a very good income for your venture. There is no specific range of salary for small business owners but you can bet that many are in the six figures.

#4.  Fire Chief

The average fire-fighter has a minimum of a high school diploma and they can eventually rise to the top rank of a fire chief if they stay with their battalion long enough.

The career of a fire chief even though fulfilling can often associated with a lot of risks and less time to spend with their loved ones. The range of salary is $42,096 to as high as $119,250.

 

#5.  Construction Manager

You stand a chance of rising to the post of a construction manager when you stay with a firm for a long period of time. Managers can be called upon at any time of the day in the case of an emergency or delay in work delivery.

It is common for a construction company first to promote one of their own to construction manager because of the fact that the person would have a rich base of the core policies and values of the company. Construction manager’s salary can be between $41,562 and $130,845, with an average salary of $92,700.

#6.  Plumber

The job of a plumber is a very lucrative one and yet it doesn’t require a college degree. They get training from apprenticeships and technical schools. Plumbers get paid very well as their job is always in high demand.

A typical example, recently my mum paid $120 to a plumber for job that did not take more than 5 minutes, fixing a problem with the kitchen sink. Their salary can be as much as $103,731 and even more based on level of training and specialization.

#7.  Network/IT Manager

There is a need for computers and related equipment to be functioning optimally and so many organizations pay a premium salary to top and experienced IT professionals. Anyone that wishes to become an IT pro must have a hunger to constantly learn because of the dynamic nature of technology.

The job and pay of IT and network managers are guaranteed, they have good benefits and retirement accounts. IT manager’s salary is between $53,477 and $125,101.

#8.  Hotel Executive Chef

Making over $100,000 yearly is achievable by well-known executive chefs. It is not uncommon for them to spend long hours away from their loved ones while working on their job, this can be very stressful. But for a person that enjoys cooking, it can be quite worthwhile for them.

 

#9.  Radiation Therapist

For radiation therapists a four year degree is not necessary but they have to complete a two-year associate degree or possess a certificate in radiation therapy. Radiation therapists make use of radiation for treating cancer patients; they are paid based on their area of specialization. Radiation therapist’s salaries are as much as $116,000 per annum.

#10.  Court Reporter

If you have the ability to transcribe up to 150-200 words a minute and also possess a flawless ability to record details can get you a well-paying job in a court room.

To qualify for a court room reporter job; you will have to take transcription classes and pass background check tests. Based on their area of location, a court room reporter can earn as high as $29,995 to $104,000.

#11.  Pilot

Becoming an airline pilot could be what you need if you are looking for an exhilarating and fun filled job. Pilots can either choose to fly commercial flights or cargo and corporate flights. Pilot school can be as expensive as a college degree, depending on where you attend.  On the average a pilot earns around $110,000, however, a lot of pilots with a lot experience do earn even double that amount. The amount of salary earned is determined by factors such as: experience, ratings, type of license (sport pilot license vs commercial or airline transport).

A great way to get training for these and many other careers is through a local community college.  The average annual tuition and fees for a community college is around $2800.  This means they could get a two year associate degree for about $5,400.  Getting certified in many of these careers may take less than two years.  All community colleges offer a wide variety of technical training such as plumbing, electrical, HVAC, auto mechanics, IT/Network, etc.  Or, if your child or grandchild thinks they want to pursue a bachelors degree, but they’re just not sure which one, attending a community college for the first two years will save them (and you) a lot of money.

August Jobs Report Worse Than Expected

September 7th, 2012 by admin No comments »

One headline for the August jobs report today read, “US economy added 96,000 jobs in August and the unemployment rate fell to 8.1%”. Well that sounds pretty good, until you look deeper into the numbers to see what it really meant. Economists were expecting 125,000 new jobs in August which would have been much better. You see, in order for our employment rate to stay steady, our economy needs to be adding about 150,000 jobs per month due mostly to new people imigrating to our country. We were 54,000 jobs shy of that breakeven number. One might think that the unemployment rate should have increased since we didn’t meet the 125k job level. The reason the unemployment rate went down is because about 368,000 people who were previously looking for work decided to quit looking all together. That takes them out of the calculation for being unemployed. I’m not sure why they don’t count those people, but I guess the government assumes have retired and don’t need a job anymore. So the unemployment number went from 8.3% down to 8.1%, not really good news for anyone. Now our nations unemployment rate has been above 8% for 42 straight months. The jobs we did add in August were mostly jobs at restaurants and drinking places. Something tells me that those jobs probably don’t pay as much as most people would like to earn, but at least it’s a job. To pour some more salt in the wound, average hourly earnings for those employed in our country went down a little bit. And finally, the employment numbers for June and July were both revised to a lower number than had previously been reported. For the year 2012, we’ve been adding and average of 139,000 jobs per month, compared to 153,000 per month in 2011.

I guess the good news is that we are adding jobs right now instead of losing jobs.  And, we’ve been averaging 139,000 new jobs per month so far this year, which is not too far off our breakeven number.  Hopefully things will continue to go in a positive direction, and go a little quicker.  Our nation needs to get people back to work!

Obama’s Speech Last Night

September 9th, 2011 by admin No comments »

This was a great commentary on Obama’s speech last night from Mohamad El-Erian from PIMCO:

Judging from President Obama’s impactful speech last evening, the Administration has at long  last recognized the severity of America’s unemployment crisis and the need for a comprehensive policy response.

U.S. President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe
Biden and Speaker of the House John Boehner, addressed both houses of the U.S.
legislature to highlight his plan to create jobs for millions of out of work
Americans on September 8, 2011 in Washington, DC.

The program is a credible attempt to address structural obstacles that undermine economic growth and employment.  Its effectiveness, however, is hostage to two factors that will become clearer
over the next few days.

Let us start with the good news.

After a painful and, for many, inexplicable delay, the Administration is finally shifting from an ineffectual series of ad hoc measures to a comprehensive program that targets key impediments to job creation.

The emphasis is rightly on employment incentives, labor market reforms, infrastructure, and improving the
functioning of the mortgage market.  There are even efforts, albeit even more limited in nature, to bypass clogged credit pipes, alleviate pressures facing our schools, and reduce bureaucracy. And there is a token attempt to
provide more summer jobs for teenagers.

I suspect that many would agree with me that, having finally identified the key areas, the President should have
been much bolder upfront — proposing deeper, more ambitious and more detailed structural reforms.

Yet he deserves the benefit of the doubt as he did point to the possibility of reinforcing the program over
time.

Now, for the bad news.  The effectiveness of this program is far from guaranteed as two big — and critical issues — are outstanding.

First, we have to wait until next week for the fiscal component of the program. Specifically, the cost of today’s announcements needs to be offset over the medium-term by credible reforms to both taxes and budgetary spending. Second, it is not clear whether this inherently centrist program will succeed in sufficiently bringing together a highly polarized congress.

Democrats and Republicans now have a choice. They can either coalesce around the President’s program, drawing comfort from individual elements that appeal to them; or they can hold out for more and, in the process, turn the pursuit of their personal best into an enemy of the public good.

A lot is at stake, especially for those that have been jobless for too long but also for American society as a whole. Let us hope that Washington is, collectively, able and willing to follow through. If it does, tonight’s speech could well mark the initiation of America’s economic Sputnik moment.

Social Security Update

August 23rd, 2011 by admin No comments »

This was a great article on Social Security that appeared on Marketwatch yesterday, I thought you would all enjoy.  As an LDS financial planner, I feel it’s important for my clients to know about changes to Social Security.  It will be a major source of income for many retirees, including LDS families.

As summer reads go, it might not prove to be as interesting as “A Dance with Dragons” or “ESPN: Those Guys Have All the Fun.” But for gurus and nerds (like me), it’s pretty darn close.

 Yes, retirement-focused (some might say retirement-obsessed) folks are spending their summer days and nights, and in some cases their vacations, combing through the just-released 2011 edition of “Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security” in search of whatever insights can be gleaned about the current state of retirement in America, and what, if any, items we can put on our collective to-do list.

And the latest edition, which answers the most frequently asked questions about the programs the Social Security Administration (SSA) administers, doesn’t disappoint. The book, among other things, highlights basic data for the Social Security (retirement, survivors and disability) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs.

Here’s what experts say you should do or consider given the facts and figures in the 2011 version of this “book,” which is published by the SSA.

Read the report, “Fast Facts and Figures About Social Security, 2011.”

Social Security is a major source of income for older Americans

It might not come as a surprise, but the first item of note is this: About one in every five Americans, or nearly 60 million people, receive some type of benefit or assistance from Social Security. And about 80% of those beneficiaries are age 62 or older. And for those beneficiaries, it’s an especially important source of income for older Americans.

Consider: In 2009, Social Security represented 38% of all income going to Americans aged 65 and older. That’s up eight percentage points from the 30% in 1962.

“Workers tend to dismiss Social Security as a major source of their retirement income,” said Andy Landis, author of Social Security: The Inside Story, 2011 Edition and the founder of Thinking Retirement. “The data say not so fast. Social Security represents the largest source of their income. Social Security provides more income than any of the other legs of the retirement stool — more than earnings, savings or pensions. Workers need to wake up to the reality that Social Security is vital for their retirement finances.”

Others, including Jason Fichtner, Ph.D., a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, are of the same opinion. He noted that 66% of all beneficiaries now rely on Social Security for 50% or more of their income in retirement, while 35% rely on benefits for 90% or more of their income.

For non-married beneficiaries, which includes widows and widowers, the numbers are even more staggering, Fichtner said. Some 73% rely on benefit payments for 50% or more of their income and 43% rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income. See the chart on page 7 of Fast Facts & Figures, which shows the percentage of aged units receiving Social Security benefits, by relative importance of benefits to total income relative importance of Social Security benefits. (In addition to that chart, Fichtner said he tends to focuses on three other charts when reading Fast Facts & Figures: Receipt of Income, 1962 and 2009; Shares of Aggregate Income, 1962 and 2009; and Relative Importance of Social Security, 2009.)

Not surprisingly, a spokesperson for AARP, the lobbying group for older Americans and which recently called on Congress to protect Social Security benefits, had these observations about Fast Facts & Figures: “The report shows that Social Security is the single greatest source of aggregate income for retirees, and represents a greater share of aggregate retirement income today than it did in 1962,” said Cristina Martin-Firvida, AARP director of Financial Security and Consumer Affairs.

By contrast, she said the share from earnings in 2009 is about the same as it was in 1962, and the share from asset income is lower (15% in 1962 and 11% in 2009). “Undoubtedly, an unpromising job market, depressed housing values, and an unstable equities market have all made retirement today less financially secure,” said Martin-Firvida. “This data underscores the critical importance of maintaining the earned, guaranteed and inflation-protected benefit that Social Security offers Americans in retirement.”

Earned income is a big source of income too

While Social Security represents a large percentage of total income for older Americans, earned income is an important source of income as well. In fact, at 29%, it represents the second largest source of total income for Americans aged 65 and older in 2009. The odd thing about earned income, however, is that the percent of total income that earnings represented in 2009 is about the same as it was in 1962.

But those numbers don’t tell the whole story. According to Fichtner, the percentage of ‘aged units’ (basically those age 65 or over) that report receiving ‘earnings’ was only 26% in 2009, down from 36% in 1962 — while the percentage of people 65 or over receiving Social Security has rapidly increased to 87% in 2009 from 69% in 1962. “What this tells you is that Social Security benefits are now a universal income source for those Americans age 65 and over,” he said. “And, it’s a very important source of income to keep people out of poverty.”

Not all that big a benefit

While Social Security represents a large percent of income for older Americans, the actual amount of the benefit seems somewhat small, according to Alicia Munnell, the director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. The average Social Security benefit amount for new awards in 2010 was $1,193 per month, or $14,316 per year according to Fast Facts & Figures.

According Janet Barr, the chairperson of the American Academy of Actuaries Social Security Committee, Americans preparing for retirement should take the time to learn how their Social Security benefit could be affected by the decision of when to retire.

By delaying retirement, the Social Security benefit amount goes up due to additional earnings and years of service, Barr said. It also increases because an early retirement reduction is not applied (5% or 6.66% per year before Normal Retirement Age or what some call Full Retirement Age or FRA).

In cases when retirement is delayed beyond the Normal Retirement Age, a delayed retirement credit also increases the benefit amount (8% per year after Normal Retirement Age), she said.

“Waiting a few years to retire could provide a 25% increase in benefit, which would boost a $1,200 per month benefit to $1,500 per month,” said Barr.

No increase in OASI filings

The economy is down and the unemployment rate is still high. But the number of people applying for Social Security is flat, according to Landis’ read of Facts & Figures.

“One thing that surprised me is that the number of OASI (The Old Age Survivors Insurance, meaning retirees and survivors) claims were the same in 2009 and 2010 (4.7 million in both year),” said, Landis. “I would have thought with all the unemployed, more people would be filing for retirement. Not so. The data show that retirement-age workers are hanging onto their jobs rather than retiring and filing for Social Security — perhaps a fair measure of financial readiness for retirement, or lack thereof.”

Disability claims and SSI public assistance claims are up

On the contrary, Landis noted that disability claims are up, as are SSI public assistance claims. And to some, including John Laitner, the director of the University of Michigan Retirement Research Center, that spells trouble.

The Old Age Survivors Insurance (OASI) fund, from which retirement benefits are paid, continues to grow modestly, Laitner said. The OASI fund is expected to grow from $2.4 trillion in 2010 to an estimated $2.5 trillion in 2011. (See page 3 of Facts & Figures.) But the Disability Insurance (DI) trust fund is shrinking, and has reached a very low level. The DI fund is expected to fall from $180 billion in 2010 to an estimated $154 billion in 2011.

What’s more, disability awards have grown faster since 1970 than those for retirees, Laitner said. The annual number of awards to disabled retired workers rose from 1.3 million in 1970 to 2.6 million in 2010, while for disabled workers it increased from 350,000 in 1970 to 1 million in 2010. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the average age of retired beneficiaries has risen slightly since 1960, but the average age of disabled beneficiaries has fallen.

According to Facts & Figures: “The average age of disabled-worker beneficiaries in current-payment status has declined substantially since 1960, when DI benefits first became available to persons younger than age 50. In that year, the average age of a disabled worker was 57.2 years. The rapid drop in average age in the following years reflects a growing number of awards to workers under 50. By 1995, the average age had fallen to a low of 49.8, and by 2010, it had risen to 52.8. By contrast, the average age of retired workers has changed little over time, rising from 72.4 in 1960 to 73.7 in 2010.” (See page 17.)

Said Laitner: “In my opinion, long-run concerns about the financial solvency of both OASI and DI are warranted, but between the two, DI seems to raise the most immediate alarm.”

Elderly households not slipping behind

After correcting for inflation, both married couples and singles in 2009 have roughly double the income of those aged 65 and older in 1962. According to Facts & Figures, the median income of a married couple aged 65 or older was $43,114 in 2010, up 111% from $20,424 in 1962.

By contrast, wage growth has lagged in past decades, said Laitner. According to the Economic Report of the President for 2011, average wage and salary income for 25-65 year old college graduates rose, after correcting for inflation, 60% from about $50,000 in 1963 to about $80,000 in 2009. And that high school graduate wage and salary income showed almost no gain for the same period.

“We all wish that economic growth could be faster,” said Laitner. “Nevertheless, the data offers some reassurance that elderly households are not slipping behind younger households in a difficult period.”

More than a retirement program

Another often overlooked fact about Social Security is that it’s much more than a retirement program, said Munnell. “Some 31% of benefits go to those under 62,” she said.

Here’s the breakdown according to Fast Fact & Figures: There are more than 54 million beneficiaries in current-payment status. And 64% of those beneficiaries were retired workers and 15% were disabled workers. The remaining 21% were survivors or the spouses and children of retired or disabled workers.

Room to raise the maximum annual wage base

Experts often recommend a combination of increasing taxes and lowering benefits as a way to save Social Security from going bankrupt. And one of the ways to increase taxes has to do with maximum annual wage base subject to Social Security tax. For 2011, the wage base subject to Social Security tax is $106,800, which is the same as what it was in 2009 and 2010.

Given his read of Facts & Figures, Landis figures Uncle Sam has some leeway to raise the maximum wage base. “One issue being discussed today is the growing wealth gap between the top quintile and all other quintiles,” said Landis. “The Social Security taxable earnings ceiling — $106,800 this year — sheds some light here: It has not kept pace with higher incomes. Currently about 84% of all earnings are taxable for Social Security, trending steadily downward from 89% in 1990. That leaves some ‘headroom’ to raise the earnings ceiling to capture more earnings, strengthening Social Security’s solvency.”

The payroll tax gift

One other item of note about Fast Facts & Figures is this: The publication reports that the Social Security payroll tax is normally 6.2% for OASI and DI combined. A special provision has lowered this to 4.2% for 2011. Said Munnell: “The employee payroll tax is 2 percentage points lower than employer (for 2011). Does everybody know they’re getting a tax cut?”

In other words, keep on working. “Actuaries and other retirement experts suggest that those close to retirement might want to continue to work in 2011 to take advantage of the lower tax rate,” said Barr. “Their Social Security benefit amount will not be impacted by the lower tax rate since general revenue reimburses Social Security for the lower tax rate.”

Longer life expectancy

Social Security actuarial studies show that Americans are living longer after reaching age 65 than they have in the past. “Because of this, actuaries have said that we need to either save more for retirement or work longer than we have in the past,” said Barr, who also noted that the American Academy of Actuaries often points to the traditional model of a three-legged stool for a secure retirement — Social Security, employer-sponsored plans and personal savings. “All three elements need to work together to support a longer life expectancy,” she said. “Retirees should not rely on only one leg of the stool to support their entire retirement. As you said, this means they may need to consider working longer or saving more.”

Increasing the Retirement Age

April 13th, 2011 by admin No comments »

Most governments are already planning on increasing the retirement age.   America is heading for 67, Britain for 68.  It’s a painful truth that many of us will be chained to our desks longer than we ever expected.  With people living longer, and poor investment returns, we may have to put aside the cruise brochures and golf clubs for a few more years.  Many governments are dealing with this problem by announcing  increases in the official retirement age in an attempt to hold down the costs of state pensions.  Unfortunately, even the boldest plans look inadequate.

Since 1971 the life expectancy of the average 65-year-old in the U.S. has improved 4 to 5 years.  By 2050, forecasts suggest, they will add another three years on top of that.  Until now, people have converted all that extra lifetime into leisure time.

Trying, but not hard enough

Living longer and retiring early may not be a problem if there were an increasing supply of workers.  But declining fertility rates imply that by 2050 there will only be 2.6 American workers supporting each pensioner.  There won’t be enough young workers to keep the already troubled system going.  Economic growth is a function of the size of the workforce, the amount of capital employed and the rise in productivity.  If the workforce shrinks, as domography shows it will, all the growth will have to come from capital investment and productivity improvements.  In Japan, where the working population is already getting smaller, economic growth has been miniscule, despite a good productivity record.  To counteract a shrinking workforce, retirement age will need to be raised.

There are some advantages??

Working longer does have three advantages (if you want to look at it that way).  1.  The employee gets more years of wages and can save more money.  2.  The government receives more in taxes and pays out less in benefits.  3.  The economy grows faster as more people work longer.  Yet many people worry that if workers stay longer, there won’t be enough jobs to go around.  Others have concerns that older workers aren’t as productive as younger workers.  But in a knowledge based job, this isn’t as big of an issue.  Older workers have more experience and, by and large, better personal skills.  Even so, pay will need to reflect productivity.  Traditional pay based on job seniority and time on the job will likely need to change.

Pension problems

In the private sector, the pension problem is being dealt with.  Rarely are new employees ever offered a pension anymore.  But in the public sector, pensions are still a common benefit for most.  The deficits in our public pension system here in America amount to $3 trillion.  Legal and constitutional constraints prevent the government from changing what has already been promised.  But as this problem worsens, politicians are going to have to do something to change laws and constitutions.

I would welcome your comments on possible solutions to this increasing the retirement age issue.

What is the Difference between a Stockbroker and a Registered Investment Advisor?

April 12th, 2011 by admin No comments »

Many people wonder, “What is the difference between a stockbroker and a registered investment advisor?” In the financial world today, there are basically two types of advice available to investors, brokerage accounts and advisory accounts. Unfortunately, most investors don’t know the difference between these two kinds of advice. In fact, most aren’t aware that there is a difference.

In a recent survey:

58% of investors believed both stockbrokers and Independent Registered Investment Advisors have a responsibility to act in their best interest.
63% believed that stockbrokers and Independent Registered Investment Advisors were both required to disclose all conflicts of interest before providing financial advice.
Some of the key differences between Investment Advisors and Stockbrokers

Investment advisors have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of their clients at all times. Brokerage firms generally are not fiduciaries to their customers adn therefore do not make decisions that are soley in their customers’ best interest.
Investment advisors provide their clients with a Form ADV that describes exactly how the investment advisor does business and obtains the client’s consent to any conflicts of interest that do exist in the investment advisor’s business.  Brokerage firms are not required to provide customers with any comparable type of disclosure.
Investment advisors cannot trade with their clients as principal expect in extremely limited circumstances.  Brokerage firms often earn significant undisclosed profits by trading as principal with their customers.
Investment advisors charge clients a fee negotiated in advance adn cannot earn any other profits from their clients without the clients’ prior consent. Most investment advisors are paid an asset-based fee, so their interests are aligned with their clients. Brokerage firms’ revenues may increase even if the customer’s assets shrink.

Investment advisors manage money in the best interests of their clients. They do not engage in other business activities like investment banking or underwriting, which brokerage firms do. These other businesses may cause a brokerage firm’s interest or attention to focus on other areas of the firm outside of their retail brokerage business and customers.

A Higher Standard

Independent Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) are held to a higher standard than stockbrokers when it comes to putting investors’ interests first and doing the right thing for their clients. Independent RIAs have a fiduciary duty to their clients which means they must:

  • Act in the best interest of thier client
  • Identify and monitor illiquid securities
  • Observe procedures regarding the allocation of investment opportunities: including new issues and aggregate orders
  • Monitor for best execution of trades
  • Have policies regarding affiliated broker-dealers and maintenance of brokerage accounts
  • Disclose conflicts of interest
  • Have policies on use of brokerage commissions for the use of research
  • Have policies regarding directed brokerage, including step-out trades and payment for order flow
  • Adopt and adminster a code of ethics

Stockbrokers are held to suitability obligations on the part of their broker-dealer:

  • Reasonable Basis Suitability – the broker-dealer must believe that the recommended security is suitable for any investor
  • Customer-Specific Suitability – the broker-dealer must believe that its recommendation is suitable for that particular investor.

Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting

March 5th, 2011 by admin No comments »

7 Tax Deductions Anyone Can Take

December 13th, 2010 by admin No comments »

With tax season just around the corner, and Congress still fighting over the Bush tax cut extensions, all of us are thinking about what tax deductions might still be available to us. Well here’s 6 tax deductions anyone can take (as far as we know for now). So if you have spent money on any of these things this year, or plan to before year end, make sure you save your receipts so you can get the deduction!

1. Charitable donations

Making charitable donations has always been a great tax write-off for most folks. Giving cash of course is always a qualified charitable donation. But giving non-cash items to charity is also deductible. When you donate items to places like Goodwill, get a receipt for your donation and record what you gave, and the approximate value of each item. You’ll need to list out each item you gave with it’s value. If you’re ever deducting more than $500 of non-cash donations, you’ll need to have this type of inventory available in your records. Some people like to take digital photos of items donated as an extra protection just in case the IRS ever tries to question it. Also, if you volunteer your time for a charitable organization you can deduct mileage that you drive to, from and during your service hours. Keep track of those miles and you can write off 14 cents per mile for charitable miles driven.

2. Child care credit

If you pay for child care while you work, you may be eligible to deduct up to $6000 for the care of 2 children. You need to keep good records of these expenses, and don’t pay with cash. It’s best to have cancelled checks to prove these expenses if you ever need to.

3. Relocation for work

If you had to move because of a new job, or with your current employer, you should be able to recover some of your moving expenses if you can pass a few “tests”. The first test is related to distance traveled. Your new job has to be at least 50 miles farther from your old home than your commute from your old home to your old job was. For example, if you used to drive a 25 mile commute to your old job, then your new home needs to be at least 75 miles away from your old home (25 mile commute plus 50 miles). If so, then your move qualified for this deduction. The second test is just proving that you have been employed after your move. You have to have been employed for at least 39 weeks out of the 12 months following your move, in the vicinity of your new home. You don’t have to keep the same job for that whole time, but you must be employed during that time. If you’re self employed, then you have to work for 78 weeks in the 24 months following your move.

4. Automobile tax credits

If you buy a hybrid gas-electric vehicle, or an alternative fuel vehicle before the end of 2010, you may qualify for this tax credit. The amount of the credit varies with the type of vehicle that you buy and how fuel efficient it is. The credit can range between $400 and $4000. Some of the credit can be phased out as dealers sell a certain amount of cars. So make sure you ask your dealer before you buy. Also, the vehicle needs to be purchased for personal or business use, you cannot intend to resell it.

5. Home energy efficiency improvements

If you’re going to spend money on home improvements, make sure you go with energy efficient options. You’ll be able to deduct up to 30% of the cost, up to $1500 for these improvements. This would include things like doors, windows, insulations, skylights, metal roofing, alsphalt roofing with cooling granules, water heaters, and heating & cooling systems. I know $1500 won’t go far with these types of expenses, but every bit helps!

6. Residential renewable energy tax credits

This is a tax break for money spent on renewable energy additions to your home. This would include things like solar energy systems (including hot water heaters and solar electric systems), geothermal heat pumps, small wind turbine systems, etc. This tax credit is also for 30% of the cost, but there is no upper limit on the amount. So if you spent $30,000 on these types of systems, you could deduct $10,000! That is pretty amazing.

7. Making work pay tax credit

This is a tax credit available to anyone who has a job, and 2010 is the last year it will be available. The credit is equal to 6.2% of an individual’s earned income up to a maximum amount of $400, or $800 for a married couple. This amount will be reduced by any economic tax recovery credit that you may have already received. It also starts to get phased out if you’re an individual making over $75,000 or a married couple making over $150,000. It’s not a lot, but it helps!

Don’t ever think that tax credits and write-offs are only for the rich. All you have to do is donate, go to work, or go green, and you can get some money back from Uncle Sam.

The true spirit of Christmas

December 10th, 2010 by admin No comments »

This is a great little video from the church to remind us all of the true meaning of Christmas.

Obama & GOP Compromise On Bush Tax Cut Extension

December 8th, 2010 by admin No comments »

This last Tuesday night, President Obama and the GOP reached a compromise on extending the Bush tax cuts for 2 more years. However, many Democratic congressmen emerged from the meeting angry and not so sure they could support it. They are wanting more sweeteners to make the deal less distasteful, but they have not been clear on what those might be. If the deal does not go through, most all Americans will start paying more in taxes come January 1st.

The Bush tax cut extensions would include many great benefits for both individual taxpayers and businesses alike. Some of the details include:

  • An extension of unemployment benefits for millions of jobless workers
  • Payroll tax reduction from 6.2% to 4.2%
  • Enhanced tuition tax credits for college tuition
  • Tax breaks for businesses that hire new workers
  • Top estate tax rate staying at 35% instead of going up to 55% as scheduled
  • Estate tax exemption staying at $5 million per person (this is one of the Democrats major points of contention since it only affects the “super wealthy” taxpayers)

Democratic staff members are estimating that at least half of their members are currently opposed to the deal. We will keep you posted as things progress and the final decisions are made. They better hurry up since they will be going on break for the holidays soon!