Wednesday, March 28, 2007

ID Theft is Scary to the Retired

I realize that as we age, changes in the mind and body can result in the reduction of courage and the enhancement of some fears. But I have to tell you that after a recent conversation with a fellow retired person, the two of us had nearly scare ourselves silly!

He had gotten an email from his brother about how messed up his son's (Paul's nephew) life had become since his identity had been stolen. Apparently someone had gotten enough of the nephew's personal information to successfully complete a pre-approved credit card application retrieved from the dumpster at his complex. The nephew currently believes it was someone working in tandem with a person who gained access to his personnel file at a former employer.

We got to speculating about various ways we had run across recently that illustrated how people leave themselves open to identity theft. At our Credit Union ATM there are routinely withdrawal receipts on the floor. At gas pumps, people leave their receipt in or around the pump. It would seem that the annoying reminder beep would help but many older and retired persons do not hear sounds in that range. In our retirement community they still deliver to the mailbox on your house and a number of homes have an unlocked decorative mailbox 20 ft from the curb. A retired acquaintance left her sunroof open in a hospital parking lot and someone just reached in and took the garage door opener and car registration that were clipped to the visor. With the address on the registration and the opener, her house was robbed of not only identity rich materials but valuable jewelry before she got home from the hospital. When crows tore open a neighbors garbage bags, some of what ended up in the street included checks for balance transfer and cash advances from one of her credit cards. Until a couple of years ago, I used to sort my mail at the garbage can and throw those kinds of offers in the can unopened!

By the time we finished our walk we felt like there was a bogey man behind every tree and we had both taken a pledge to religiously use our shredder! Do you have an identity theft experience or a good tip on how to protect us from identity theft? Leave us a comment to share.

Take care of yourself and your identity.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


For those of you who have not discovered that Amazon has much more to offer for sale than just books, I would like to direct you to our new Amazon Store where we have listed some items that might be just what you need or what you want. Please check it out and give us some feedback on what items you might like to see offered there.
The site is

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


I know, I know------no one wants to be reminded that tax time is fast approaching; but there are some issues with retirement funding that we need to remember. Below are 5 tax mistakes we should remember to avoid.

For many investors, and even some tax professionals, sorting through the complex IRS rules on investment taxes can be a nightmare. Pitfalls abound, and the penalties for even simple mistakes can be severe. As April 15 rolls around, keep the following five common tax mistakes in mind – and help keep a little more money in your own pocket.

1. Failing To Offset Gains: Normally when you sell an investment for a profit, you owe a tax on the gain. One way to lower that tax burden is to also sell some of your losing investments. You can then use those losses to offset your gains. Say you own two stocks. You have a gain of $1,000 on the first stock, and a loss of $1,000 on the second. If you sell your winning stock, you will owe tax on the $1,000 gain. But if you sell both stocks, your $1,000 gain will be offset by your $1,000 loss. That's good news from a tax standpoint, since it means you don't have to pay any taxes on either position. Sounds like a good plan, right? Well, it is, but be aware it can get a bit complicated. Under what is commonly called the "wash sale rule," if you repurchase the losing stock within 30 days of selling it, you can't deduct your loss. In fact, not only are you precluded from repurchasing the same stock, you are precluded from purchasing stock that is "substantially identical" to it – a vague phrase that is a constant source of confusion to investors and tax professionals alike. Finally, the IRS mandates that you must match long-term and short-term gains and losses against each other first.

2. Miscalculating The Basis Of Mutual Funds: Calculating gains or losses from the sale of an individual stock is fairly straightforward. Your basis is simply the price you paid for the shares (including commissions), and the gain or loss is the difference between your basis and the net proceeds from the sale. However, it gets much more complicated when dealing with mutual funds. When calculating your basis after selling a mutual fund, it's easy to forget to factor in the dividends and capital gains distributions you reinvested in the fund. The IRS considers these distributions as taxable earnings in the year they are made. As a result, you have already paid taxes on them. By failing to add these distributions to your basis, you will end up reporting a larger gain than you received from the sale, and ultimately paying more in taxes than necessary. There is no easy solution to this problem, other than keeping good records and being diligent in organizing your dividend and distribution information. The extra paperwork may be a headache, but it could mean extra cash in your wallet at tax time.

3. Failing To Use Tax-managed Funds: Most investors hold their mutual funds for the long term. That's why they're often surprised when they get hit with a tax bill for short term gains realized by their funds. These gains result from sales of stock held by a fund for less than a year, and are passed on to shareholders to report on their own returns -- even if they never sold their mutual fund shares. Recently more mutual funds have been focusing on effective tax-management. These funds try to not only buy shares in good companies, but also minimize the tax burden on shareholders by holding those shares for extended periods of time. By investing in funds geared towards "tax-managed" returns, you can increase your net gains and save yourself some tax-related headaches. To be worthwhile, though, a tax-efficient fund must have both ingredients: good investment performance and low taxable distributions to shareholders.

4. Missing Deadlines: Keogh plans, traditional IRAs, and Roth IRAs are great ways to stretch your investing dollars and provide for your future retirement. Sadly, millions of investors let these gems slip through their fingers by failing to make contributions before the applicable IRS deadlines. For Keogh plans, the deadline is December 31. For traditional and Roth IRAs you have until April 15 to make contributions. Mark these dates in your calendar and make those deposits on time.

5. Putting Investments In The Wrong Accounts: Most investors have two types of investment accounts: tax-advantaged, such as an IRA or 401(k), and traditional. What many people don't realize is that holding the right type of assets in each account can save thousands of dollars each year in unnecessary taxes. In general, investments that produce lots of taxable income or short-term capital gains should be held in tax advantaged accounts, while investments that pay dividends or produce long-term capital gains should be held in traditional accounts.