Do the Math and Save Money

by Michael on Apr 16, 2014 · 4 comments

Photo of a Student Doing Math on a Chalkboard

Well, those sneaky marketers are at it again…

As you may recall, we recently bought a new car. Included amongst the many bells and whistles was a Sirius/XM satellite radio system.

To entice us to use their service, the system was pre-activated with a free, three month trial subscription. Thankfully, it didn’t auto-renew, but Sirius/XM has certainly been working to convert us into paying customers.

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Remember when I first wrote about getting the runaround from Simmons customer service on a Beautyrest warranty claim? Well, at long last, that’s been settled, and we ultimately wound up with a new mattress. But not without a fight.

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In her book “The Myths of Happiness,” Sonja Lyubomirsky argues (among other things) that renters are happier than homeowners. Why? Because homeowners “derive more pain from ownership of their homes, and spend more time on housework and less time interacting with their friends and neighbors.”

Another interesting point: two-thirds of the benefits of a raise are gone within a year. Why? Because spending tends to increase in lockstep with your earnings. As such, your “needs” increase, and you might also start associating with those in a higher income bracket. Keeping up with the Joneses…

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In case you missed it, security researchers recently uncovered a major bug (known as “Heartbleed”) in a security protocol that protects much of the encrypted traffic on the Internet. And yes, if you do just about anything online, you’re affected.

In short, secure Internet services typically protect their traffic using a protocol called SSL/TLS. This includes certain websites, e-mail providers, chat services, etc. You’ll know this is happening on the web when you look at the address bar of your browser and see https:// (note the addition of the ‘s’) at the beginning of the url.

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Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard (No Annual Fee)

Awhile back, I told you that Barclaycard had started offering free FICO credit scores to holders of their Arrival World MasterCard. If you have this card, you can see your credit score whenever you want via their online interface.

Not only that, but new customers could (and still can) get a $444 signup bonus by signing up for the card, which also offers 2x cash back rewards. The downside of this card is that there’s an $89 annual fee, though it’s waived for the first year.

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IRS Logo

As a followup to my recent post about IRA rollover rule changes, I wanted to share another bit of news from the IRS…

In Notice 2014-21, the IRS has declared that Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are to be treated as property for federal tax purposes. This means that such currencies are subject to capital gains taxes.

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I’m not sure what you’re doing this week, but we’re kicking back at the beach. The weather hasn’t great, but I’d rather be dipping my toes in the ocean between rain storms than sitting at home.

And… Wow. As I was writing that passage, it just hit me. Our oldest is a sophomore in high school. That means we only have two more Spring Breaks before he’s off to college and who knows what after that.

Like I said. Wow. We better enjoy this while we can… :-)

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Image of Percentages on Falling Dice

Do you know your income tax bracket? I know ours. For 2013, we were in the 25% federal tax bracket. But what does that really mean?

For background, since I’m married and we file jointly, that means our taxable income fell somewhere in the $72,501-$146,400 range.

If you want to narrow things down a but further, our income fell north of the so-called Social Security wage base, or the income ceiling on which FICA-OASDI taxes are levied. That’s $113,700 for 2013.

This comes after having reduced our taxable income by deferring a substantial chunk via multiple retirement plans, as well as holding tax-exempt bonds on the taxable side of our portfolio, etc. But that 25% tax bracket only tells part of the story.

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