Chicago Sun-Times Latest news from the Chicago Sun-Times Online en-us (Editor) Newspapers Chicago Sun-Times 84 34 30 Copyright 2014 <![CDATA[ Three tasks for three days ]]> Lead story image

You're facing three lazy days ahead -- the gap time between Christmas and New Year's Eve when most businesses slow to a crawl, and the leftovers are growing stale. What a perfect time to accomplish a few things that are best done now -- at the end of the year. Here are three tasks for three days: Year-end organizing In April you'll be running around trying to find all your tax-related papers and receipts. Instead, do it now. You don't need a fancy system. Just take some large baggies and a shoebox if you don't want to buy one of … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:15:03 -0600 <![CDATA[ For taxpayers, health tab may not end ]]> Lead story image

The new health-care legislation that passed the Senate on Christmas Eve is known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. A different version of health-care reform passed the House last month. There will most likely be a "conference committee" of both chambers named to work out a compromise. But if the Democrats in the House can muster enough votes, they could simply agree on the Senate version -- thereby ensuring quick action to enact the legislation before the president's State of the Union address Jan. 20. The price we pay Any legislation that passes is bound to be costly … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:15:03 -0600 <![CDATA[ State seals Bright Start deal ]]> Lead story image

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan have finally signed off on a $77.25 million settlement for losses in the state's Bright Start 529 college savings plan. Families with money in the affected Core Plus bond fund in the period between Jan. 1, 2008, and Jan. 25, 2009, will recoup a substantial portion --but not all -- of their losses from OppenheimerFunds, Inc. Giannoulias called the settlement gratifying, noting that Illinois led the way in investigating and confronting Oppenheimer, which managed plans for five other states. "This landmark settlement holds Oppenheimer accountable for its actions," he said, … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:15:03 -0600 <![CDATA[ It's that time of year to give to charities ]]> Lead story image

It's the holiday season, with only a few more days to shop. In spite of the recession, the latest Gallup poll estimates that consumer spending will rise 1 percent this year, to an average of $743 a person. Nearly 3 in 10 will spend $1,000 or more. And that's likely to include you -- if you've read this far into a money column on a business page. STOP. Have you given enough this year? What's enough? Sorry, there's no financial formula for that answer. But you'll certainly know it in your heart. So as you rush around today, scrambling for … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:15:03 -0600 <![CDATA[ Get ahead of the tax man ]]> Lead story image

The last weeks in December provide an even better opportunity than early April to re-organize your financial life -- if you can -- to save money on your tax bill next spring. One thing is sure: Income taxes are going up in the future. Some changes may not hit until 2011, after the year-end expiration of the Bush tax cut plan. Others will take place during the year, as Congress trades favors to extend some of those previous cuts. The likely places to look are the estate tax and the tax on dividends. But if Washington keeps spending -- on … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:15:03 -0600 <![CDATA[ Return of Bright Start savings looking better ]]> Lead story image

One of the remaining obstacles to settling the losses and distributing restitution to Illinois Bright Start investors was removed late last week. The state of Oregon, one of six states that had college savings plan funds invested in the supposedly conservative Oppenheimer Core Bond fund, dropped its lawsuit against the fund management company and agreed to settle for a $20 million payment. Now that all six states have agreed to participate in a settlement, it is hoped that the process of actually moving the money can proceed. Last summer, Illinois officials confirmed that they had reached agreement with Oppenheimer Funds … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:15:03 -0600 <![CDATA[ HOLD THE REINS ON HOLIDAY SPENDING ]]> Lead story image

The holiday season is approaching, and I know I'll spend more than I planned. How can I maintain control this year? A. The holiday shopping frenzy is a classic example of "mind over money." For sure, you know what you can and can't afford to spend this holiday season. But just as surely as a meal of turkey and stuffing leads to a nap on the couch, those big red signs with the word "SALE" can turn your self-discipline into desire. There is nothing I can write that will work if you aren't aware of this process. Retailers count on … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:15:03 -0600 <![CDATA[ Time seniors must decide on Medicare ]]>

Every year seniors are faced with the tough task of making decisions about their Medicare coverage - both for their basic healthcare coverage and for the Part D prescription program. Now it's time to start the process again. Now through Dec. 31 is the "open enrollment" period that lets seniors once again choose the type of coverage that is least expensive, given their personal situation. Even seniors who are very happy with their current plans must go through this process. That's because the providers can change the coverage they offer for various services and drugs - and they can change … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:15:03 -0600 <![CDATA[ IMPORTING OIL, MONEY HURTS U.S. ]]> Lead story image

Q.What is your greatest concern for America's financial future? A. On a national basis, the two worries that rise to the top of my list (among many others) are the twin dangers of our growing dependence on imported oil and on imported money to fund government spending. Even worse, we import both from countries that are not our friends. Here's a quick look at the basics of each situation. Danger of our national debt Almost every year, the U.S. government spends far more than it takes in through tax revenues. In the fiscal year just ended, our government spent about … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:15:02 -0600 <![CDATA[ Hope for those trying to buy, keep a house ]]>

While mortgage foreclosures continue to rise along with the growing unemployment rate, there are a few small rays of hope for homeowners in trouble -- and those looking to buy a home. Tax credit expansion Last week, Congress approved the extension of the current $8,000 First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit. Instead of expiring Nov. 30, it will be available for purchase contracts signed by April 30 (with closings by June 30). The FTHB credit is still $8,000, but the income limits to qualify for the program have been increased to $125,000 for each borrower. Congress also added a tax credit opportunity … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:15:02 -0600 <![CDATA[ Battered investors tired of hearing recession over ]]> Lead story image

The American public is starting to get more than mildly annoyed at those who tell them the economy is bouncing back. For every economist or politician who tells you the recession is over, there are a dozen people who think we're in the midst of a depression. For every administration official who points to the success of the stimulus plan in creating jobs, there are many thousands of ordinary citizens in line at the unemployment office. For every market analyst who debates whether this is a tradeable correction in a bull market rally, there are hundreds of retirees wondering how … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:15:02 -0600 <![CDATA[ Quality retirement still within reach ]]> Lead story image

It was only five years ago that people were regaling me with their plans for "early retirement" at age 62, or 60, or even in their 50s! After all, back then, their 401(k) portfolio was soaring, and so was the market value of the family home. What a difference a recession and market crash have made on the national psychology! Now people are asking: "Will we ever be able to retire? The answer to that question triggered a new edition of my latest book, The NEW Savage Number. And the answer remains the same: Yes. You can and will retire … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:15:02 -0600 <![CDATA[ Don't go sour on global stocks ]]> Lead story image

Since stock markets around the world all "crashed" at the same time, what's the point of international investing? A. That's a question a lot of people are asking themselves these days. International investing always was seen as a way to "diversify" risk in an investment portfolio -- on the theory that if the stock market fell in the United States, markets in other counties would take up the slack. In hindsight, that theory seems not only wrong, but impossibly naive. But don't rule out the use of international investing to diversify your stock portfolio. Just drop the idea that global … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:15:02 -0600 <![CDATA[ Money woes should be the mother of invention ]]>

Is there any way out of America's financial woes? If you stand back and take an honest look at the growing debt and the promises we've made, the situation seems hopeless. Not only have we promised baby boomers their Social Security and Medicare benefits, we're now close to adding health care for all, and money to buy a new car. It's no wonder that foreigners who are helping fund our nearly $12 trillion national debt are thinking twice about lending us money. It appears that America has few choices when it comes to making good on its promises: Higher taxes. … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:15:02 -0600 <![CDATA[ Seniors, this is your tax moment ]]> Lead story image

If you're a senior fortunate enough not to need to withdraw money from your IRA, you get a special break this year. For this year only, those required withdrawals have been suspended. And even if you've already taken money out, you can return it to your IRA without penalty if you choose. Minimum required distributions from retirement accounts after age 70½ are one of the most difficult, annoying and nonsensical regulations that seniors must confront. The idea stems from the fact that the government let you grow your money tax-deferred in your retirement plan. And they want to make sure … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:15:02 -0600