Congress Extends a Few Tax Breaks for You

So Congress wasn’t totally Scrooge-like this holiday season, as members tossed a few tax breaks to the rest of us. They passed legislation to extend a number of tax breaks that expired at the end of last year. If they hadn’t, you wouldn’t be able to take various deductions and credits when filing your 2014 tax return. >> Discussion: How do you make the most of your money? Among the key tax breaks for individuals: IRA charitable deduction. Those 70½ and older …

Will There Be a Santa Claus Market Rally?

Since 1950, December has proven to be the best month for the stock market. According to MoneyChimp.com, the S&P 500 has turned in an average gain for December of 1.62 percent, outpacing any other month. So far this December, Santa has left nothing but coal in the stock market’s stocking, with the S&P 500 losing more than 65 points, or about 3.77 percent, through Dec. 15. Not exactly anyone’s idea of a rally. >> 5 Bad Investment Moves No need …

Those Pension Cuts and What You Need to Know

Congress recently carved a hole in a 40-year-old pension law that has prevented employers from cutting benefits earned by those already retired. This change applies to people covered under multiemployer plans that are in critical financial shape. Here’s what you need to know: What is a multiemployer plan? This is a pension covering workers and retirees from more than one employer in the same or related industries, such as trucking or construction. (Most of them were established under collective bargaining between …

Making Social Security Work for Women

Social Security is gender neutral, meaning men and women earning the same amount in their careers should receive the same size benefit. In reality, a woman’s benefit on average is lower than a man’s — $1,103 vs. $1,417 in 2012 — because her work and personal experiences are rarely the same. Women tend to earn less — an average of 78 cents for every $1 a man makes. They are more likely to be in low-paying jobs without pensions and to …

3 Lessons from a Stock Market ‘Freak Out’

Just about two months ago, on Oct. 15, the headlines read “Market Freak Out” as the Dow Jones Industrial Average “plunged.” Headlines warned “Why the selling is just getting started.” Fear had returned to the market. My editor asked me to chime in and I posted “Why the Stock Market Plunge Is Not World’s End.” As it happened, not only did the world survive, the stock market quickly recovered. Now is the perfect time to review three investment lessons that …

Your Bond Income Could Be an Illusion

One of the saddest messages I am most often required to deliver to new clients is that their bond income is merely an illusion, and a tricky one at that. In fact, in most cases, their actual income is a tiny fraction of the amount shown in their brokerage statement. If you own individual bonds (not bond funds), this is probably happening to you as well — and costing you dearly. And this can occur indefinitely without your ever noticing. To better understand this, …