Color of Money: Trying to claim deceitful deductions could get you put in the doghouse

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- Given how much we spend on our family dog Simba, he’s like a dependent. Thank goodness he doesn’t have to go to college, although we did put him through training school.

All the food, grooming and veterinary expenses add up. As a country, we spend about $63 billion on our pets, according to the American Pet Products ...Read more

Color of Money: I spent my childhood on Medicaid, and Trump’s plan to roll it back is disastrous

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- When my siblings and I went to live with my grandmother, we were a sickly bunch.

There were five of us. My older sister was 8. I was 4. The sister under me was 3, and my twin brothers were 1.

We were all undernourished.

My brother Mitchell had seizures almost every night. He would lose consciousness and thrash about so much that...Read more

Color of Money: How to tell if your tax preparer is a crook

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- You want to save money on the cost of preparing your taxes, so you use a guy your friend recommends. The tax preparer has a reputation for getting people big refunds.

You’re excited because you’ve got some bills you need to pay off and you’ve been promising yourself and your family that this is the year you’ll take a five-...Read more

Color of Money: This is how the rich think

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- The architect of investment giant Berkshire Hathaway thinks too much diversification is nuts.

Say what?

That’s actually what I said to myself after first reading that Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s longtime business partner and the vice chairman of Berkshire, isn’t a fan of spreading out your portfolio.

Experts have long...Read more

Color of Money: Five things that increase your risk of being audited by the IRS

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- The odds are in your favor that you won’t get audited by the IRS, but don’t get cocky and cheat. The agency has tools at its disposal to catch errors and outright tax scofflaws.

Audits were down almost 16 percent in 2016 compared to the previous year. Just over 1 million individual income tax returns received the extra ...Read more

Color of Money: The alarming consequences of co-signing your child’s student loans

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- Your children want to go to college, and you’ll do whatever it takes to get them the education you believe is a prerequisite for prosperity.

But how far would you go to help fund their education?

Would you risk your retirement? Or your good credit name?

By May 1, high school seniors nationwide will have to decide where they ...Read more

Color of Money: Calculate how much you expect to have in retirement

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- There is great concern that a lot of people aren’t saving enough for retirement.

But equally troubling is the fact that many people don’t have a target amount in mind. They are blindly throwing money into a retirement account. It’s not until they are ready to retire and they finally run the numbers that they realize they don...Read more

Color of Money: A broad alliance is deservedly coming to our consumer watchdog’s defense

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- In a pre-emptive move, Democrats, consumer groups and civil rights leaders have been mobilizing to defend the head of the federal consumer watchdog agency should President Trump try to fire him.

From its very inception, Republicans have been critical of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created under the 2010 ...Read more

Color of Money: With your adult children, know the difference between enabling and helping

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- I spend a lot of time coaching people about money management. Without a doubt, the saddest sessions -- the ones that draw the most tears -- are when people are fighting with family about finances.

The combat can get particularly nasty when it involves siblings, who seem to know just the right insults to hurt deeply.

And can I be ...Read more

Color of Money: How to manage your finances amid an unpredictable administration

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- President Trump’s unpredictability, policy plans and political stumbles are scaring some investors.

Perhaps this question from a reader sums up the level of concern I’m hearing: “My husband and I are federal retirees with pensions, Social Security and savings. We live a comfortable, simple life with no debt. I am deeply ...Read more

Color of Money: Should a retirement adviser have to put your interests first? Read up.

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- I was involved in an interesting exchange on Facebook recently.

Some of my followers were debating the merits of the Department of Labor’s “fiduciary rule,” which is slated to take effect on April 10 -- although the Trump administration has signaled that it may look to delay the implementation. It became clear to me that ...Read more

Color of Money: Even if you’re dying to get your tax refund, don’t pay for an advance

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- I was mad about the hit television series “Mad Men.” So I hope Jon Hamm, the lead actor in the drama, doesn’t take this the wrong way.

I’m not a fan of his shilling to get people to get a tax refund-related loan. Hamm stars in a series of commercials for H&R Block. They want your business. OK, fine. The ads are cute ...Read more

Color of Money: Stop basing your financial decisions on ‘alternative facts’

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- A friend recently joked to me about how people sometimes resort to “alternative facts” when it comes to their money.

And it’s true. They tell themselves falsehoods, such as: “I’m not really responsible for a loan if I co-sign.” Or: “I can afford this new car loan because I’m going to cut my spending.”

In case ...Read more

Color of Money: Our children need to see -- for real -- how much money it takes to live

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- Given what’s going on in the world of politics, and the whipsaw trading in the stock market, maybe you could use some laughs.

I know I could.

Recently, I taught a budgeting session for some Girl Scouts in the nation’s capital. I’ve shared with readers before the funny and enlightening outcomes of such sessions and would ...Read more

Color of Money: Reducing your financial clutter is a lifelong challenge

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- The Dow Jones industrial average hit an epic, historic, noteworthy 20,000, and you know what?

Your financial life is still a mess.

The Great Recession left a lot of investors apprehensive about investing in the stock market. So, I can understand the media’s focus on a financial benchmark that once seemed elusive. Yet reaching ...Read more

Color of Money: How (and when) to clear out your financial paperwork -- and find a place to sit

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- The other day, I sat on the couch in my home office and read a book.

A few weeks ago, I couldn’t find a place to sit because every inch was covered in piles of papers, computer accessories and books. Now I look around my office and I feel relaxed.

With the clutter cleared, I’m using the space better. I’m more productive ...Read more

Color of Money: Got too much paper in your home? It’s time to lighten your load.

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- We are still a paper nation.

Despite technological advances, we continue to use a lot of paper. And a lot of it is stuffed in closets, file cabinets and shopping bags. And, for some of us, stacked on our floors.

Since Jan. 8, I’ve been encouraging people to participate in my #NoDebtNoMess Color of Money Challenge. It started ...Read more

Color of Money: If you’re deep in a credit mess, don’t be afraid to clear the clutter

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- In communicating the message that credit matters, we have made some people scared about making certain moves that are actually in their best interest.

Many people are too far in debt, and that has to change. That’s why I started this year off with a challenge. I want people to declutter both their homes and their finances. So I�...Read more

Color of Money: Get rid of the clutter from both your real house and your financial house

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- If you are tired of the clutter in your life, it’s time to do something about it.

From now until the end of January, I’m encouraging people to clean both their real house and their financial house. It’s the 2017 #NoDebtNoMess Color of Money Challenge. I’ve made a video to explain the challenge, at

...Read more

Color of Money: It’s time to assess the mess

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- This is it. This is the year you will get your house in order. You will clear away the clutter. You will get rid of debt. Your home and your finances will get the special attention they need.

And I’ll help you along the way. This is the first week of the 21-day #NoDebtNoMess Color of Money Challenge. In a previous column, I laid...Read more

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