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Tax Preparation Checklist

Before filing your taxes this April 15th there are some simple things you need to have with you. We have made the below list to help you out. Feel free to print out a copy of the below and check off the information as you put it together so you are set to do your taxes when the time comes. We also recommend putting this checklist on the outside of a folder which can contain all of the documents as you find them. Then when you are done with taxes for the year you can store the full file in your filing cabinet to have it for next year and for the next couple of years in case you ever audited.

Personal Information

  • Social Security numbers and dates of birth for you, your spouse, your dependents
  • Copies of last year’s tax return for you and your spouse (helpful, but not required)
  • Bank account number and routing number, if depositing your refund directly into your account (You can find this on your check book or by logging into your online bank account)

Information about your income

  • W-2 forms for you and your spouse
  • 1099-C forms for cancellation of debt
  • 1099-G forms for unemployment income, or state or local tax refunds
  • 1099-MISC forms for you and your spouse (for any independent contractor work)
  • 1099-R, Form 8606 for payments/distributions from IRAs or retirement plans
  • 1099-S forms for income from sale of a property
  • 1099-INT, -DIV, -B, or K-1s for investment or interest income
  • SSA-1099 for Social Security benefits received

Adjustments to your income

  • Form 1098-E for student loan interest paid (or loan statements for student loans)
  • Form 1098-T for tuition paid (or receipts/canceled checks for tuition paid for post-high school)
  • Records of IRA contributions made during the year
  • Records of moving expenses
  • For teachers: Canceled checks or receipts for expenses paid for classroom supplies, etc.

Taxes you’ve paid

  • State and local income taxes paid

These are some of the most common forms and documents you will need to complete your taxes. You should have received copies of most of these by February 1st since employers and other institutions are required to mail them out by then. If you think you are missing a document be sure to contact that party before filing your taxes since you don’t want to risk being audited.

Investing in Stocks Can Be Tricky

There is a bright future that awaits you in stock investing. Most people would love to invest in stocks because the return on investment is huge. But the question is, do you still have plans to invest in stocks even after your retirement? Stock markets unlike real property, continues to increase. But when investing in stocks, it is important to remember that they fluctuate and sometimes, investors are at a losing end if they happen to buy shares when the dollar becomes weak or a company loses assets or value. Some are unlucky and buy into the market at the wrong time and end up losing thousands, if not millions of dollars investing, others however can make healthy profits with the right moves.

investing in stocks

The best thing that you can do when you are getting older is to limit investing in stocks because any major losses may make retirement a difficult time for you. The market trend, inflation rate and the price of gold can affect the overall condition of the stock market. If you are new to stocks, you should be aware that you have to endure a lot of stress while you are investing. A financial adviser can help you on how to invest your money. Investing in the stock market is almost similar to gambling only the difference is you did not bet your money. Instead you let your financial adviser provide you with advance and manage investments for you.

There are many stocks and assets that are used in the stock market that play a pivotal role in your investment. Gold and physical assets like oil are used in investing because these are fairly stable and continue to rise over time. The lure of investing is tempting; just imagine you are promised by your financial adviser to invest your money with a promise of 30 to 40 percent revenue back. Because of the tempting offers for stock investing, there are some fraudulent companies who promise you good future in the stocks. These fraudulent firms generally disguise themselves as a call center, calls expatriates working in multinational companies to set an appointment for a call from the financial adviser who will do business with them within 2 to 3 business days.

The financial adviser will call the expat within three days and would tell the victim to invest his money through shares of stocks, gold, or annuity. Whatever has transpired during the cold calling, the victim ends up penniless. This is not to discourage potential stock investors but the bottom line is never trust your money to a person whom you have not even seen in person, or a non-reputable trading platform. It is very important to do your homework when selecting an investment professional or trading platform. If you do care about your hard-earned money and retirement money, think twice before investing in stocks. Stock investing can be your good option to save for retirement but you have to choose the right people to act on your behalf and be sure they have your best interests in mind.

Should I Sign Up for a Roth 401k Plan or a Regular Traditional 401k Plan?

Many Americans are happily anticipating the day when they can retire from work, and spend more time with the family by relaxing and taking more vacations. It is vital for a person to plan their retirement as early as possible so they can have enough money put away to save. It is critical that the money saved can last that individual for the rest of their years without that person worrying about entering back into the job market at an advanced age.

A question that many individuals have to weigh and ponder is whether to select the option of a Roth 401K plan for retirement or go with choosing the traditional 401 K plan. There are some unique differences between the Roth 401K plan and the traditional 401K plan. A person has to take the necessary time to review and compare both of the plans, to see what will be the long term benefits for them, as they approach and select one of the specific plans as a retirement option.

A Roth 401K plan will help an account grow tax free while a person is contributing to that account. It is only available to individuals who make up to $95,000 or married couples that make up to a combined $150,000 a year. The money contributions are not tax deductible, but a Roth happens to be a lot more flexible for individuals when it comes to withdrawing money early if it is needed before retirement. A Roth IRA will allow a person to leave money in its account and contribute to it for, however, long that a person sees it is fit for them to do so. A Roth does not have an age restriction of 70 ½ where a person is required to draw down their money at that age or they will begin to face late penalties by not withdrawing.

A traditional IRA is tax deductible in most cases. The withdraw period for a traditional IRA starts at the age of 59 ½ years and ends at the age of 70 ½. Taxes are paid on the amount that is withdrawn in that year for the individual. Any money that is withdrawn before 59 ½ years of age faces a 10 percent penalty in the amount that is withdrawn. A traditional Roth is available to anyone who wants to contribute to it. There are no financial restrictions to a person’s income with a traditional Roth.

Once a person decides, what option that they are going to select for their retirement, the only thing that needs to be done from now until that eventual day is to save money and let it build on a continuing basis. Those individuals that are disciplined about retirement who are able to think about their future are the one’s that will benefit and enjoy their lives as they get older. Those who show discipline in saving money will not regret the future once it arrives because they were able to look ahead and save money now, for retirement. Retirement is a beautiful and enjoyable thing, when a person has the money to do things in life that an individual feels is crucial to help in the enhancement of obtaining a happy and productive life.

Coupon Basics: Combining and Maximizing

The first two articles in the Coupon basics series explained the different types of coupons and offered a rundown of the different values that these coupons can have. With that basic knowledge, and these pro tips, you can start combining deals to make the most of your coupon savings.

Couponing

More coupons mean more savings, so the first way to get the most for your money is to get your hands on as many coupons as possible. Subscribe to multiple newspapers, ask friends and family to save their coupons for you and scour the Internet for printable coupons. Be sure to sign up for free store savings clubs, membership cards and email or mailing lists so you can have coupons delivered right to you. If you’re concerned about spam, set up a second email account just for email lists and check it before you shop.

Next, get organized. Keep your coupons in one place, in a way that makes the most sense to you. Whether it’s a binder, a file folder or a series of plastic snack bags, you need to know what you have, what they’re good for and when they expire. Consult your coupons when making your shopping list, and then stick to the list as your thread through the aisles. With an organized arsenal and a plan of attack, you’ll be making the most effective use of your coupons and your shopping trip.

The easiest way to maximize your coupon savings is to combine them with in-store sales. If you’ve got a “$1 off” coupon for a $4 product, you’re looking at getting that product for $3. If the store has that $4 product on sale for $3 tomorrow, you could wait and get that same $4 product for just $2. Be sure to check store flyers and compare prices at the stores in your area to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal with your manufacturer coupons.

Many stores offer a double or triple coupon promotion for manufacturer coupons. While some stores will double, or even triple, coupons on a regular basis, others only offer the deal on certain days or in certain business hours. Additionally, most stores will only multiply coupons up to a certain maximum value, and may limit the number of identical coupons you can double. Be sure to check with your local store before you start calculating your double and triple coupon savings, and make sure your coupon is not labeled “do not double.”

Before using a coupon for a specific product, always look at the comparable products nearby. If you’re using coupons to pay $7 for a brand name product, and the store brand product with identical ingredients is regularly $6 anyway, you’re better off skipping the coupons and just getting the cheaper product.

If you’ve ever examined the fine print before, you’ve probably seen these two common warnings: “Cannot be combined with other offers” and “one coupon per person, per order.” Don’t be discouraged! If you’re unafraid to bring a friend or get back at the end of the line, you can get around these restrictions and save even more.

The most important thing to remember about couponing is that “saving” and “needing” aren’t synonymous. Just because you’ve got a coupon for a product, doesn’t mean that you need to buy it. Spending money on a product you don’t need or won’t use is a waste, no matter how good the deal. Save the money for something you can’t get on sale to make all that clipping and coordinating worthwhile. Happy Couponing!

Steal My ID by Identity Guard

In a new mock commercial by Identity Guard, which is featured below, they showcase an imaginary product called StealMyID.com, which helps people get their identity stolen. The video then asks if losing your identity is something you really want to do.

 

Steal My ID by Identity Guard
 

In the video it also mentions how all it takes is a name, and a social security number, to get access to some ones personal finances and in essence the ability to destroy their credit score. This brings up a good point in how important credit monitoring is, and how you should go over a credit card statement line by line to make sure that no one is using your account. Also it is important that your credit score is not harmed which can cause you to not get a loan for a new home, or even for a car payment. If you follow the video to the site www.stealmyid.com the site is also done up in a fake infomercialish way that while comical also further illustrates how important it is to not just give away your credit card information online. The site then leads you to http://www.identityguard.com which further discusses the problem with online identity theft as well as a launchpad for the purchase of their product line.

We are big fans of infogramics, especially when they teach a lessons and the Identity Guard site was full them, one of our favorites was this one, which has been reproduced below:

All in all a funny yet still informing commercial for a great product that actually works, so if you want to find out more watch the above video and check out StealMyID.com.

Smart Online Shopping, Part 2: Saving

If you’ve done any online shopping, you’ve probably noticed that the original item price rarely matched the checkout price. Check out these tips for saving between “add to cart” and “submit order.”

When you’re choosing items for your cart, pay attention to items that are specially marked and know what the website’s various symbols mean. Certain items may be marked as eligible for free or discounted shipping, or you may be able to save by ordering multiple items of a certain brand, line or style. If you don’t know what symbols to look for or you don’t notice the symbols at all, you may be missing out on savings without even realizing it.

You should also pay attention to the header and the sidebars throughout the website, as they often advertise upcoming sales. Online stores run sales and promotions as often as physical stores, if not more often, but the ads for these sales aren’t always delivered to your doorstep or played during commercial breaks. Unless you’re ordering on a strict deadline, simply waiting a few extra days for the start of an upcoming promotion could save you 10% or more on your order.

But the savings don’t stop once you’ve finished filling your cart and clicked “proceed to checkout.” There are still opportunities to save as you work your way toward submitting your order.

You can earn big savings if you’re not afraid to wait for your order. Vendors and delivery services know that last minute shoppers will opt for more expensive overnight shipping so don’t fall victim to the procrastination price hike. Choose standard shipping options rather than rush options, choose ground over air, and rely on the USPS instead of FedEx or UPS when doing so will save you cash.

If you’re lucky enough to be ordering from a company that has both an online shop and physical stores, you may be able to select an even cheaper shipping option: ship to store. Some stores allow you to send your order to the nearest physical store for a cheaper price, or for free, as long as you come to pick it up yourself. If there’s a store near you and you don’t mind a short drive, you could save big.

Now for the golden egg of online shopping tips: Always – I repeat, ALWAYS – search for a promo code. To do this, simply open a new tab in your browser and navigate to Google. Type in the name of the company or website, and the words “coupon code,” “promo code” or “savings code.” You will be given a list of websites containing various alphanumeric codes that you can enter at checkout for big savings. It’s free, it’s easy and it works almost every single time.

The most common coupon codes are for free shipping, and 5%, 10% or 15% off your order. Sometimes, the codes come with a stipulation that you spend a certain amount, or have purchased a certain brand of items. It doesn’t hurt to try entering the codes, either. If the code is expired, faulty or doesn’t apply to your order, the website will let you know and you can usually just try a different code. Keep trying until something works.

The only catch is that most websites will only let you use one code per order, so be sure to calculate the savings if there are multiple codes to choose from. While “10% Off” may be tempting, that “free shipping” code may work out to a larger savings in the long run. Or, if you’re just a few dollars off of being eligible for that “$5 off $50” code, maybe you can add on that extra item you were debating without feeling guilty.

If you time your purchases carefully, shop the sales, and aren’t afraid to try a few promo codes before you checkout, you can save big online with minimal effort.

Another way to save, if you’re not in a rush is to abandon your shopping cart. Many retailers respond by offering you a coupon, or a targeted online ad to try to get you to return to the store.

Check out the first article in this series at “Smart Online Shopping, Part 1: Security” for tips on a safe online shopping experience!

The Office, in Real Life

Paper is one of the most basic and essential features of an office. As mundane as it may be-(and they don’t call it a “plain” sheet of paper for nothing)-paper has had a resurgence in funny, thanks first to the hit show The Office. A new series of commercials from Domtar Paper (which has striking resemblance to Dunder Mifflin) exhibit exactly what would happen in a world where paper was strictly mediated.

Domtar Paper Logo

We actually found these episodes from Domtar to be more relevant than anything recently on The Office. These episodes all focus on what would happen if paper rationing was implemented into an office, with extreme chaos and hilarity ensuing.



We found a lot of truth in what these shorts show. All important documents from I9’s to W2’s are still signed and made on paper. As well nothing beats that feeling of high lighting notes on paper, or the simplicity of running off a dozens copies of your latest proposal. Paper it seems is still king when it comes to the office, and those who constantly try to say otherwise should take note.

This post is sponsored by Domtar Paper

Where to Find the Cheapest Cap and Gown?

When graduating from high school or college, one of the most commonly missed expenses is the cap and gown. Without one, you as a student would stick out like a sore thumb in the crowd of grads, and mom and dad wouldn’t be that happy with you in pictures. So it’s best to go ahead and be sure to have one on hand. But watch out, because a cap and gown can set you back around $100; if you shop around you can save a bundle.

cheapest cap and gown

With that said, there are many places to find a cap and gown cheaply these days.

Here are some options:

Buy Online: Try searching online for your school’s specific cap and gown (ie. “Boston University Cap and Gown”). This will give you the top result for your school and often the best place to buy it online.

Some of the best places to check out online are:

http://academicregalia.herffjones.com/index.cfm

http://www.gradgowns.com/

http://www.graduationsource.com/

http://www.willsieco.com/

Each of these offers some advantage, so try finding the one that has your school listed and or the correct color combination. Then select the one with the lowest price that can guarantee delivery in time for graduation.

From a Friend: Ask around! Often older friends who have already graduated will be happy to pawn off their old cap and gown on you. Be sure that the size fits all right. For girls, this isn’t as big of a problem, but for boys a gown made for a 6ft 4in person will look terrible on a boy who is only 5ft 11in.

From a Prior Student: Check with people outside of your friend zone who may still have their gown around and would be happy to let you borrow it.

From a Mobile Popup Store: Keep your eyes out for mobile cap and gown stores. These will start to appear on campus as graduation nears, and they sell the same outfit as your school’s brick and mortar bookstore, but they are often a lot cheaper. Depending on your situation, this is often the best place to pick up your outfit.

From Your School’s Bookstore: The last and most common option is simply to order it from your university bookstore. This allows you to easily pick it up so you know its on time. Also when ordering, they often measure you to guarantee it’s a good fit. However, be sure to order early to lock in discounts. Also, watch out for the often gimmicky bundles they try to sell you on, such as including “free printed graduation invitations” or offering that you pay more for other value adds. It’s often not worth it.

Lastly, be sure the cap and gown match your school’s appropriate colors. If possible, even call and check with online retailers to see that it matches. At my school, my college within my university had different colored tassels depending on your major. If you were part of any special groups or associations you also had to buy more tassels, so be sure to find ones that match so you aren’t the odd student out come graduation day.

Untitled Jersey City Project

Each day, consumers are exposed to hundreds of advertisements. Whether it is online, in the newspaper, before a movie, or during commercial breaks for their favorite show; advertisements are everywhere. Yet, advertisements have become so repetitive and boring, that many consumers are investing in DVRs, just to avoid them. While many advertisements get skipped or go unnoticed, one thing that has caught the eye of many during commercial breaks is Untitled Jersey City Project.

Untitled Jersey City Project is a breath of fresh air to the stale format of television. Taking place during commercial breaks, Untitled Jersey City Project episodes are only around two minutes in length, leaving the viewer wanting more. Taking place in the gritty, urban environment of Jersey City, this series is something that all filmmakers should strive to make.

While much isn’t clear after the airing of eight episodes, due to a unique take on how the story is told, the episodes have received a great reaction on their YouTube channel. Many fans have praised how the story is told, and how they have never even seen anything like this before. Some viewers have even gone as far as asking to, “Please be involved in the making of the series, somehow.”

Another reason many may enjoy Untitled Jersey City Project so much is because it does such a tremendous job of making the product appear to be so high budget. From the camera work, to the acting, to the directing; everything has a feel of a big budget film compacted into a two minute time span. There is something lucrative about it, making it nearly impossible to take your attention away from. The often fast paced action lures the viewer in and keeps them until the very last frame of the episode.

One of the best moments of Untitled Jersey City Project, however, is the featuring of Audi cars throughout the episodes. The cars are shown racing through the streets of Jersey City, looking downright amazing. Their sleekness and power are featured in the very first episode, rushing to a crime scene. When the car arrives to the destination, it is prominently featured in a shot, looking flawless. The Audi cars steal the show at points, making them come across as one of the show’s main stars, and many of the viewers are happy to be along for the ride.

Untitled Jersey City Project is a great way to make quick, accessible, entertaining television. These episodes are a breath of fresh air to the repetitive format that has plagued television for far too long. Untitled Jersey City Project’s originality is something that will not soon be forgotten. More filmmakers could take notes from Untitled Jersey City Project, because they are doing nearly everything right.

And enjoy a first look at episode one of the series below.