Making the Most of Your Money NOW

Quinn’s guide to personal finance covers the usual terrain: budgeting, consumer debt, mortgages, college funds and investments. However, not every financial writer is blessed with Quinn’s charm-a blend of Pollyanna and Mary Poppins with a snappy wit thrown in-and her sensible approach to streamlining one’s financial life make this a stellar entry in the genre.
—Publisher’s Weekly

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Here are the latest stories about people like you and me, going about their own business, and endangered by guns. Sometimes the “responsible” gun owners among us accidentally shoot themselves, sparing their neighbors. Sometimes they shoot others. The more that guns are accepted socially, the carriers, the more accidents, and the more deaths during arguments. Here are some situations that almost any of us could have been in:

1. In Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., nine people were wounded in a restaurant. An off-duty corrections officer was carrying a loaded Glock in his pocket. When he reached for his money and his valet parking ticket, the pistol fired, ricocheting off the table and injuring diners. A 75-year-old woman was taken to the hospital with bullet fragments in her buttocks. The restaurant, by the way, is called the Shooters Waterfront Café. http://bit.ly/1r5iCJv

2. In  Dallas, Tex. a man shooting at targets in his back yard missed. The bullet flashed through a neighbor’s window, hitting a 9-year-old in the head. She was taken to the hospital in critical condition. Twice before, another neighbor had called the police about hearing gunshots in the shooter’s yard. http://bit.ly/1gHj3VL

3. In West Bend, Wis., a man was handling a rifle in the first floor of a building. It discharged, sending a bullet through the ceiling and wounding his upstairs neighbor in the stomach. Luckily, the neighbor will be OK.  http://bit.ly/NwG3iz

4. In Orlando, FL, a man giving — yes — a gun safety demonstration accidently discharged the pistol and shot a 12-year-old seated in a passing car. Startled by the discharge, … more

When the stock market is good, you’re supposed to take some money off the table. A semi-retired friend of mine did just that and got the tax shock of his life.

His smart investment move not only brought down the AMT on his head (that’s the alternative minimum tax that prevents people with above-average incomes from using tax shelters to wipe out their taxable incomes). He also ran into the new Net Investment Income Tax (3.8 percent) and new Medicare tax (0.9 percent) on joint incomes over $250,000, passed to help fund the Affordable Care Act.

My friend is normally not anywhere close to that rich. He chose to take some big capital gains that could have been deferred. The same tax shock probably hit people who were adjusting their investment allocations to prepare for retirement — selling stocks and buying bonds.

I never complain about the gift of high capital gains or nailing your profits while they’re there. You’d lose them if the market plunged and might not regain them for a while. Just be aware that the capital gains tax isn’t the only tax you’ll pay, if you take a really big slug of profits all at once.  If you stay just below the income limits for the new taxes, you’ll save yourself not only money but grief.

 

No one is safe from people who pack guns, even if they’re neighbors and friends. You never know where a bullet might be coming from.

1. A Kentucky state Representative Leslie Combs discharged her pistol in her office while trying to unload it. Luckily, the rep who was talking with her dodged the bullet. Combs shrugged it off. “I am a gun owner…. It happens,” she said. That’s truth popping out. Gun owners expect accidents. The rest of us are expected to stay out of the way. If you get shot by accident, well, that’s life. http://bit.ly/1difrwq

2. In Florida, state law lets you use firearms in your yard, as long as you don’t behave “negligently or recklessly.” But what can possibly be “non-reckless” use of a firearm in a neighborhood where yards are small and homes are packed together?  A Central Florida man standing in his own backyard was shot through the chest and killed, by a bullet let loose from a shooting range in a nearby yard. The story said that police are investigating.

“Police are investigating??’ Investigating what? Is there any way that a guy having target practice, a few yards down, and kills a neighbor, can run free? Is it a defense against manslaughter to say that, unfortunately, you’re a “bad shot?” http://bit.ly/1itQj7C

3. In West Virginia, a man shot and killed two brothers who were visiting their newly purchased property next door. The shooter claimed that the brothers had trespassed on his property. Whatever happened to shouting “Get off my land?” if you think that people stepped over the line.  I guess that’s for wusses, not gun owners. And by the way, the brothers weren’t trespassing…. more

We all know  that the older we get, the more of our money should be kept safe. To achieve that, we gradually lower the percentage of savings we hold in stocks and increase our commitment to bonds. That’s classic, standard investment advice.

But I’m starting to think that’s wrong.  Quality bonds and certificates of deposit aren’t paying much these days. The nore we depend on interest-rate investments, the more likely it is that we might run out of money in our older age. It might be safer to gradually hold more money in stocks, rather than less, after we retired.

When I first heard that idea, I said, “Nuts. High risk.” But new research by Michael Kitces, director of research for the Pinnacle Advisory Group in Columbus, Md., changed my mind. It turns out to be a low-risk approach that could make your retirement savings last longer and, potentially, leave more for heirs. I’m now looking at retirement investing in a whole new way. … more

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The Number by Lee Eisenberg

THE book to read, when you’re puzzling over how much to save for retirement.

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Jane Bryant Quinn is a nationally known commentator on personal finance, with books and columns read and trusted by millions.
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