Decoder Ring for New Tax Forms

I recommend looking at your completed return and pay special attention to particular lines to help with future tax planning. This year I will also add the “tax decoder ring” to show where this information was found on past returns. Hopefully when done using, you will be more excited than Ralphie was in “A Christmas Story” with his message. Spoiler alert! This message is S-A-V-E-M-O-R-E-T-A-X-E-S.
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Dividend Payers in an IRA? Not Always.

Some experts recommend holding dividend paying stocks in a Traditional IRA rather than a taxable account. The ability to defer paying taxes on a high stream of income of which you have no control on the timing is the main reason cited. As a general statement, I disagree without looking at the investor's tax situation.
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iPhone May Be Under Tree, But I Bond May Belong In Reserve Toolbox

iPhone, iPad… and I Bonds?  No, not Apple bonds; rather the inflation-linked savings bonds from US Treasury.  You may be familiar with treasury bills, bonds, or EE bonds from Treasury Direct, but inflation-linked bonds – called I Bonds – are also offered.  The real coupon rate has been very low, often 0%, over the past 10 years but the latest bond has a real coupon of 0.50%, the highest since November 2008.  Adding CPI inflation to this 0.50% makes for attractive, safe security.

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Medicare Premiums for 2019 – Small Increase Except for Highest Earners

The 2019 Medicare Part B premiums have been set. There is a small increase of 1.1% or $1.50/month for the standard premium up to $135.50/month.  Those with a higher income that are impacted by income related adjustments (IRMAA) have the same % increase but will see a slightly higher dollar increase.  The one major change is a new income tier for the highest earners.  Those retirees making more than $500,000 individual / $750,000 joint are subject to a new IRMAA tier and will see a $31.80/month increase.  But for the majority, you will actually see most of that 2.8% COLA adjustment hitting y

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2019 Social Security Inflation Adjustments: 2.8% for Benefits; 3.5% for Max Wage Limit

Last month I posted the 2019 Social Security inflation adjustment estimate of 2.8% based on 2 of the 3 months' CPI data available at that time.  This morning the final CPI-W data point was released and the final inflation adjustment for benefits is 2.8%, the highest since 2012. Unlike last year when most of the increase went to pay for catch-up Medicare premiums for many (due to hold-harmless clause), most of this increase will actually be seen in the net benefit hitting bank accounts.  The 2019 base Medicare premiums will be announced later this fall.  For the average SS benefit of $1,413/

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2019 ESTIMATED Social Security Inflation Adjustment: 2.8%

The fall season brings us changing leaves, harvest, football - and the inflation adjustment for Social Security benefits and maximum salary subject to Social Security payroll taxes.  The final CPI-W data point will be released October 11th but with 2 of the 3 data points known, an early estimate can be calculated.  Retirees will be happy to learn the approximate increase for benefits will be around 2.8%, the highest since 2012. Unlike last year when most of the increase went to pay for catch-up Medicare premiums for many (due to the hold-harmless clause), this increase will actually be seen

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Back to School Special – Higher Student Loan Rates!

It is hard to believe but soon there will be “back to school specials”. One critical supply many college students need is student loans. This year's fashion includes a higher interest rate.  Like most products linked to interest rates, the rate is up from the previous year.  The rate charged depends on the type of loan but for most students using the Federal Direct Loan program, the rate will be 5.05% for undergraduates and 6.60% for graduate students, which is 0.60% higher than last year.  Students and parents using the PLUS program will pay 7.60%.  This blog post will provide a brief over

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7.65% of paycheck goes to Trust Funds. How are they doing?

Every year the Social Security and Medicare Trustees released a report updating the financial health of the Trust Funds.  These programs provide a very important financial base for retirees.  The primary source of funding is the payroll tax (FICA) of 7.65% (double if self-employed).  Additional individual savings and pensions (if any) augment these social insurance benefits to make up one’s standard of living during retirement.

So how are these base social insurance programs doing financially?  Not so well.  Let’s take a deeper look.

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