How do you get your jams? Do you buy every song on iTunes? Are you a radio junkie? If you’re like most people embracing the convenience of the digital age, you probably use a music-streaming service to have all your tunes at your fingertips.

While the undisputed king of music-streaming apps is the Swedish-born Spotify, Apple Music is a fierce competitor with a rapidly growing subscriber base.

music headphones colorful visual

Here’s what you need to know about the two most popular music apps:


Spotify was the first service of its kind, and is still the most widely used music app on the market. The streaming service offers access to a 30+ million song database and claims to add another 20,000 daily. This extensive library includes the latest releases, live sessions and new singles that haven’t even hit the internet yet. The convenient “New Releases” tab on Spotify’s homepage grants users instant access to their favorite artists’ most recent songs and albums.

With 70+ million users and counting, the streaming service is clearly doing a fantastic job.

Best features:

Spotify excels at identifying and catering to users’ individual tastes.

The service offers playlists like Release Radar, New Music Friday and the ability for subscribers to create their own playlists with one quick touch.

Perhaps the best feature is their Discover Weekly playlist. Each Monday morning, Spotify delivers a two-hour playlist to each user. The list is based on the subscriber’s listening history and the favorites of those who listen to similar hits. It’s a great way to try out new artists and songs that fit your tastes.

Glaring glitches:

At $9.99 a month for Spotify Premium, the service isn’t cheap. Although, if you’re a college student, it’s just $4.99 a month. You can opt to use the complementary version only, but you might find it super annoying to have your favorite jamming sessions rudely interrupted by intrusive ads. Also, the free version offers very limited offline access and you can use up your data really quickly.

Apple Music

Like everything Apple does, Apple Music is trendy, hip and visually striking. The streaming service only went live in 2015 and already boasts upward of 30 million subscribers. With the backing of a stellar company like Apple, that number is sure to rise exponentially.

Best features:

Apple Music integrates fully with all Apple devices. This not only means you can tune in using any Apple device you own, but you can upload all the music you’ve already got on these devices directly to your Apple Music library. This is true whether it was ripped from a CD, purchased on iTunes or uploaded to iTunes Match. Spotify only allows you to upload your music files to a separate tab, so there’s no way to do a broad music search like users can with Apple Music.

The streaming service also touts a library of more than 40 million songs, giving it an automatic leg up on Spotify’s library of 30 million tunes.

Apple Music has a pricing plan similar to Spotify, but Apple offers significant discounts for students, family plans and for subscribers purchasing 12 months of service at a time. The app is pre-installed in most Apple devices, offering users a free trial and, ultimately, leading many to sign up for the paid version when the complementary period is up.

Glaring glitches:

When you first sign up to Apple Music, you’ll be asked to select your favorite songs and artists. The interface for this feature is a digital ball pit, with each ball representing an artist that you’ll tap to show your preference. While the feature is visually appealing, users complain that the graphics obstruct its functionality, especially on mobile devices where the balls quickly jam up the screen and make it difficult to use.

Thankfully, once the process is complete, Apple Music seamlessly curates playlists that match your personal taste.

How they stack up:
App Subscribers Price Library Curated Playlists
Spotify 70 million $9.99 a month 30+ million songs Yes
Apple Music 30 million $9.99/month or
40 million songs Yes
Your Turn: What’s your favorite music app….and why?


Website Review:

If you’re looking to learn about your credit score, is a great place to start. The site offers a free credit score, a helpful Credit Report Card and loads of articles featuring credit advice from many professionals. 

Despite looking too good to be true, is a reputable site run by professionals. There’s absolutely no cost to use the site’s features, and the business earns its profit by revenue generated from its products as well as commission earned through visitors using advertised businesses. 

It’s important to note, though, that the credit score the site will generate for you is not a FICO credit score. Since more than 90% of lenders consider your FICO score when determining whether to grant you a loan, this number won’t tell you if you’ll be eligible for a mortgage or a car loan. The score gives you is based on your Experian credit reports and is a reliable indicator of your general credit standing. However, you can easily access this information yourself through 

website review credit dot com

Aside from the credit score, you can also use the site to draw up a Credit Report Card, a unique product that tells you all you need to know about your credit status. The report will give you a snapshot of your payment history, including the timeliness of your payments and a score ranging from “very poor” to “excellent.”

You’ll also get an analysis of your existing debt, depicting your outstanding debt compared to your total credit limit. This clear look at your debt-to-limit ratio can clue you in on whether you’re in a good place, or if you need to start working on aggressively paying down your debt. Best of all, the report card is updated every 30 days to give you the most current reading of your credit. 

The most helpful part of the site, though, may be the wealth of articles you’ll find on everything credit-related. You can read up on the way your score is calculated, research ways to boost your score and find out about common credit pitfalls and mistakes. 

Don’t be fooled into thinking the free credit score that’s offered on can only be found on their website. But if you’re looking for a creative look at your general credit standing, as well as loads of articles packed with helpful credit advice, you’ll find to be an excellent resource. 

Your Turn: Are you on top of your credit score? Or do you coast along and only take action when you’re looking to take out a big loan?

A Gift That Will Last

QandA generic

Q: My granddaughter’s birthday is coming up, and I don’t want to buy her another Bratz doll. Besides the fact that she has them all (I think), I want to give her a gift that will last, something she’ll have for the future. Is there a financial gift (Stocks? Bonds?) that will teach her about money while showing her how much I care?

A: A grandchild’s birthday is a special time, and what better way to show her you care than investing in her future? Depending on how old she is, there are various things you might do.

There is always the old fashioned idea of a piggy bank, though they’re not so old fashioned anymore. Piggy banks come in all shapes and colors and animals, sometimes with special sections to organize the money by coin type. If your granddaughter is younger, it’s a great way to teach her about saving. Provide a blank wish list she can keep near the piggy bank so she’ll know what she’s saving toward. You can sit down together and discuss what she wants (besides Bratz dolls) and start her off with some cash.

If you want to invest in something bigger, you might consider opening a share savings certificate or savings account in her name at True North. Both are insured, so they’re basically risk free. The interest rate on certificates is usually higher.

Certificates are different from savings accounts since they have a specific, fixed term that you choose, and usually, a fixed interest rate. A good time to purchase one is when the interest rate is high. They usually require a minimum deposit, and there are penalties for withdrawing money before maturity.

Whatever you choose to do, you’ll be making an investment in her future and teaching her skills she probably won’t learn in school. What could be more meaningful?

The Dos And Don’ts Of Credit Repair

If you’ve recently been rejected from a credit application of any kind, you may be looking at a poor credit score for any number of reasons. You might have been late with your credit card payments, have an outstanding judgment against you or have even been frauded or victimized by identity theft.

Whatever the cause of the fall in your score, you’re probably looking for ways to get it back on track. Tread carefully! There are lots of dishonest opportunists looking to make a quick buck off your pressing need. Don’t become the next victim of a credit repair scam. In fact, there’s nothing a credit repair company can do for you that you can’t do yourself.
credit score puzzle pieces
This probably has you wondering how to untangle the legitimate steps you should be taking now from the pointless and costly actions. Look no further! Our handy guide of credit repair dos and don’ts will help get you on the road to improving your credit score.
Do: Determine your actual credit score
If a recent credit application of yours has been denied, don’t take it at face value – find out why it happened. The three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – are each required to provide you with a complimentary copy of your credit report once a year, upon request. To order yours, visit, or call 1-877-322-8228.
If you’ve already requested a report from each of the agencies in the last 12 months, you can still get one free of charge; you are entitled to a free report whenever a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance or employment. To qualify, just request a report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action.
Do: Review your report and dispute any errors
Once you receive your report, review it for inaccuracies. If you spot any fraudulent purchases or erroneous information, you’ll need to dispute them in writing. In your letter, identify every item you are disputing and the reasoning behind your claim. Include copies of documents that support your stance and ask that the errors be removed or corrected. It’s best to send your letter by certified mail so you can ensure the credit reporting company actually received it if that is necessary. Also, keep a personal copy of your letter and all supporting documents for your own records.
You’ll also need to dispute the charge with your actual creditor, taking the same steps you did above.
Don’t: Expect any quick fixes
Anxious as you may be to improve your score, know that there is no “quick fix” for creditworthiness. Enhancing your score takes time, lots of hard work and creating and sticking to a realistic debt repayment plan.
If your credit score is poor, you may be bombarded with promotional material from credit repair companies that promise to increase your score by 100 points in less than a month. If you think these claims sound too good to be true, you’re absolutely right. There are some legitimate credit repair companies out there, but as mentioned, there’s nothing they can do for you that you can’t do on your own – and without paying their hefty fee.
Do: Take steps toward fixing your credit
If you’ve determined that your credit report is accurate, you’ll want to take a careful look at the habits that may be leading to your unfavorable score.
Are you timely with your credit card payments? If you’re consistently late, consider setting up an automatic bill-pay system so you never forget to make a payment. Are you making headway on your debt? If you’re paying your bills on time but your debt is not going anywhere, it’s time to rethink your spending habits. Don’t shop with credit cards; use only debit or cash. Look for ways to trim your expenses, like couponing wherever possible, planning dinner menus around sale items, and finding cost-free ways to relax instead of blowing money at a restaurant or on retail therapy.
Are your monthly bills unmanageable? If you can’t make it through the month and still meet all of your minimum payments, your debt may need an overhaul. Consider debt consolidation, in which your debt is transferred to one low-interest account, or a balance transfer to a card that has an interest-free period. Be aware, though, that lots of open credit is not considered favorable by creditors; close as many accounts as you open – but leave your oldest one open as it shows a longer period of credibility.
Also, no card is interest-free forever. When the introductory period ends, you may be hit with higher than usual interest rates. Alternatively, you can contact your creditors and work out a more reasonable payment plan.
If these options don’t sound feasible, try finding ways to increase your income instead, using all extra cash exclusively for paying down your debt.
Don’t: Expect to see any changes immediately
Don’t fret if you’ve made strides toward fixing your credit and haven’t yet seen an increase in your score. Creditors will only report to the credit reporting agencies on a periodic basis, usually once a month. It may take upward of 30 days or more for your account to be updated and your score to improve.
Do: Ask us for help
Here at True North, we’re all about helping you manage your finances. If you’re in financial trouble of any kind, we can help! Stop by today to ask about our credit counseling services and assistance with creating and sticking to a budget. We even offer debt consolidation loans, providing you with the opportunity to transfer your debt to one low-interest loan, making the prospect of paying down your debt a lot more manageable.
Your Turn: Have you drastically improved your credit score? What was your secret weapon? Share your success and best tips with us in the comments!

Energy Saving Tips – What To Look For When Buying New Appliances

Ecologists are always searching for ways to save our environment. Focusing on energy-efficient appliances is one aspect of this endeavor.

In fact, 30% of the charges on your electric statement stem from your appliances. That’s why the government and many appliance manufacturers are replacing standard devices with new energy-saving models.

2 servicemens for appliances

Is one of your appliances on the blink? Before running out to purchase a new model, consider if it’s worth contacting a technician to fix your machine. Since prices for electrical appliances have decreased over the years, it might be worthwhile to buy a new model. Besides, the costs of a new part for your old apparatus and the technician’s visit can be high.

Also, remember that the new energy-efficient appliances will save you money on a monthly basis.

What Does Energy-Efficient Mean?

In simple terms, this means the process that is used to make the appliance function is using less energy.

Now that you decided to go with a modern, energy-efficient refrigerator, how can you be sure you’re getting the best product at the most cost-effective price?

Here are some tips to guide you in your search:

  1. Determine the total cost. The first thing to consider is the operating cost.  This amount, along with the actual purchase price, should give you the real cost of the appliance.
  1. Check the energy rating. There are several reliable rating services that provide information about appliance energy consumption. The federal government uses the Energy Star Standard sticker to inform consumers of the operating cost and the annual energy consumption of each appliance.  
  1. Select the right size appliance. Running a large machine – even the most energy-efficient one – uses more electricity than a compact one.
  1. Look for economy choices. Many dishwashers and washing machines offer a variety of different cycles. If you find one with an economy cycle, you’ll save money when you only need to wash a small load of clothes or dishes.
  1. Stay Simple. When it comes to choosing a refrigerator, go easy on the add-ons. Top-to-bottom fridge/freezer models are more energy efficient than side-by-sides. Features like water dispensers, ice-makers and auto-defrost use lots of extra electricity. This holds true for self-cleaning ovens, too.
  1. Contact your utility supplier for the latest ways to save on utility charges. With today’s smart devices, appliances can be programed to use less energy at certain times of the day.
  1. Check out your home. Hire a home assessor to identify ways you can save on your overall energy and water costs.  
  1. Comparison shop. Never buy the first model you see. Household appliances are  not cheap, and to find the most energy-efficient one at the best price, you’ll need to comparison shop. Don’t pay for the name in a specific model; compare the details of each machine.

Your Turn: Do you own an energy-efficient appliance? How much has this purchase trimmed from your monthly electricity bill?

Beware Of Business Scams

How much would you pay for the opportunity to work from home and earn six figures in less than 90 days?

That’s exactly what the Digital Altitude company promised: They said you’d just pay for training and coaching, and then you’d be shown how to pull in the big bucks with almost no effort. Thousands of people jumped at the chance and signed up for the courses.

Unfortunately, Digital Altitude never made good on their promise. Instead, they systematically defrauded victims out of more than $14 million, providing little more than some training videos, several PDF documents and alleged coaching sessions – most of which were simply ploys to get people to fork over even more money.

According to an FTC report made public earlier this month, most people made little or no money through this job-training series. Victims were not paid until they recruited new members, and few earned enough to even cover the various fees they had to pay to take the courses – and certainly nowhere near the six-figure mark!

While the Digital Altitude scam was particularly nefarious, business-opportunity scams are nothing new. They have been part of the FTC’s list of the 10 most common scams for years.

Learn to spot these scams so that you don’t become the next victim.

scam alert signs

How it works

Most business scams will reach out to their target audience through ads and videos posted on websites and social media platforms. Look out for the following:

  • Outrageous claims: “You will receive a special guide that will show you how you can earn six figures online in the next 90 days.” This hardly sounds plausible, but too many people get swept up in the generated hoopla and lose their senses.
  • Deceptive, misleading testimonials: The marketing tactics will likely include videos of members spending their days hiking, traveling and tanning at the beach while their accounts swell with little effort on their part.Almost anyone would drool over a lifestyle like that – and that’s exactly what the scammers are counting on. It’s up to you to see through their bluff and recognize that it’s all an elaborate sham.
  • High-pressure upselling: “If you don’t pay X dollars to move up to the next membership tier, you’re leaving $80,000 on the table!”
  • Free trial periods that aren’t: Sure, the ad might boast that the first two weeks of training are free. But did you read the fine print? That’s where they tell you you’ll first need to pay for the next three months of membership and that, once you sign up, you’ll only have two days to cancel.

Verifying a legitimate business

There’s no reason to believe that every online business opportunity is bogus.

Here’s how to sift out the authentic organizations, and sniff out the scams:

  • Ask for information: The FTC has a Franchise Rule in place to protect consumers against scams that prey on budding entrepreneurs like yourself. Anyone selling a business opportunity at the price of $500 or more must provide all prospective buyers with certain information, including the number of previous purchasers who achieved the claimed results and the names, addresses and phone numbers of the last 10 buyers. Don’t settle for wishy-washy answers. Ask for the actual details before purchasing any business opportunity.
  • Check the Better Business Bureau (BBB): The BBB exists for reasons like this. Visit to verify a business’s legitimacy. You’ll find reviews on more than 5 million American businesses on the site.
  • Verify alleged associations: The scammers might make a stab at looking authentic by claiming to be associated with a well-known company. Don’t take their word at face value. Instead, call their “business partner” directly to check if their claim holds any water.

Red flags

Beware of the following when investigating a business opportunity:

  • An earnings claim that does not include the number and percentage of people who actually achieved this claim.
  • Work hours and obligations that sound too minimal to be realistic. Remember: there is no such thing as easy money.
  • A company asking for upfront payment to fund training, or for the employment opportunity. Most legitimate jobs will not ask you to pay for the opportunity to work for them.

If you’ve been targeted

If you think you’ve been victimized by a business scam, be sure to take appropriate action to help stop the scammers in their tracks.

  1. File a complaint with the FTC: You can file your complaint online at, or give the agency a call at (877) FTC-HELP (877-382-4357).
  2. Notify your state attorney general
  3. Call your county or state consumer protection agency: You can find this number listed in the phone book, under county and state government.
  4. Alert the Better Business Bureau: It’s best to alert your local BBB branch as well as the branch in the location where your scammer is based.

By arming yourself with knowledge and doing your part to alert the authorities about these scams, you can help protect yourself and others from these money-hungry criminals.

Your Turn: Have you – or do you know someone who has – fallen for a business scam?  

How To Use The Money Envelope System

If you’re like many of us, you’ve been trying to stick to a budget for a while, but by the time each month is over, you’ve busted your budget – again.

Because of this recurring pattern, you’re probably wondering if there’s a better way. Fortunately, the answer is yes!

The money envelope system has been around for years, and it’s an incredibly motivating and powerful way to keep spending in check.

True North is proud to bring you this handy guide to understanding and implementing the money envelope system in your household.

Note: If you already have a workable monthly budget, you can skip to step 2.

cash in envelopes

1. Determine your monthly income and expenses

For the next few months, track all of your expenses. Hold onto every receipt or record each purchase you make, being sure to indicate which category of expense it falls under. Hold onto every pay stub, too. When a three-month period has passed, you’ll sit down to figure out exactly how much discretionary income you’re left with each month. This will not include fixed amounts, like insurance premiums, mortgage payments, savings and investments.

2. Create a budget for every expense category

Now, divide your discretionary income into different categories. The categories you need and the amounts you’ll set aside for each will depend on your individual lifestyle and habits, but you’ll likely need categories for food, gas, entertainment, transportation and clothing costs.

Review the way you’ve been spending your money in the last few months for an idea of how much you’ll need to set aside for each category. If you see you’ve been overspending in a certain area, this is a great time to resolve to cut back.

3. Create your envelopes

This is where the money envelope system differs from a regular budget. Instead of having money set aside for each category in your head, or even scribbled on a paper somewhere, take one envelope for each expense category and mark it clearly. Now, put the exact amount of cash for this month in the envelope for each category.

Do this with every expense category, and voila! You’ve created your new budgeting system!

4. Stick to your budget

As in any budget, following through on a plan is the hardest part. With the envelope system though, it’s a whole lot easier.

Say you need to make a grocery run. You’ll peek inside your “groceries” envelope, take note of how much cash is inside, and figure out how much you can afford to spend. Take that amount of money to the store with you, and only use that cash. No cheating! There’s absolutely no card-swiping allowed and no sneaking money from another envelope to beef up a skimpy cash supply in another. You need to work with what you have.

Instead of walking out of the store with a dozen items in hand that weren’t on your list, you’ll be forced to stick to your budget. And, if you find yourself running low on grocery money one month, you’ll have to make do. You can take the pantry challenge and dream up a menu created around the ingredients you have on hand, or you can shop the sales and cook according to what’s cheapest this week.

Do whatever it takes – but no cheating!

5. Reward yourself!

If you find yourself with extra money in any category at the end of the month, it’s OK to celebrate. Dave Ramsey recommends rewarding yourself with a dinner out or an expensive drink. Alternatively, you can treat that money as “rollover cash” and use it to enjoy a roomier budget next month.

Tips and tricks

Here are some variations and different approaches to this ingenious system:

  • Use a small accordion file folder instead of individual envelopes. It’ll be easier to keep track of your envelopes when they’re all in one place, and it’s sturdier than paper envelopes.
  • Go cashless! Love the idea but hate the thought of only using cash? You can still use the envelope system with some minor adjustments. There are apps designed to create virtual envelopes for you to use, such as Mvelopes. You can also use a cost-free budgeting app that allows you to divide and track your spending into different categories, such as Mint, Quicken and Monefy.
  • Trim your fixed expenses. If you’re finding it difficult to stick to your self-created budget, try to cut back on your non-discretionary spending. Search for a cheaper auto insurance plan. Ditch your cable. Find ways to trim your electric bill and gas expenses. Use the money you save to add to the envelopes that never seem to have enough to get you through the month.
  • Create an emergency envelope. Set aside $20 or $50 to use in case another envelope runs out of money.

Congratulations! You’ve got the money envelope system down pat! Here’s hoping it helps you on your journey toward financial wellness.

Your Turn: Have you tried the money envelope system? Has it worked for you? Why, or why not?

What Were The Actual 2018 Tax Changes?

Q: There was so much talk about the proposed changes to the tax code. Now that the changes have finally been signed into law, I’m wondering which planned modifications actually became a reality. What were the exact changes made to the U.S. tax code this year?

A: Many of the changes signed into law with the official Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts were quite different from those planned. Remember, though, that none of these changes will take effect until April 2018 at the earliest.

2018 tax changes

Let’s take a look at exactly how the tax code will be different for 2018.

1.) Changes for the seven income brackets

The current administration initially planned on condensing the income bracket system into just three brackets. However, when the law was finally passed, the seven-bracket system remained in place, though income levels for each bracket were tweaked.

The old income levels for the seven brackets were as follows: 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35% and 39.6%. The new rates are now 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%.

2.) Removal of Obamacare penalties

While the administration was not successful in repealing the Affordable Healthcare Act, there will be no penalties for those who choose not to have adequate health coverage starting in the year 2019. For your 2017 and 2018 taxes, though, you will still need to provide proof of health coverage or be held liable for the penalty.

3.) Changes in standard deductions and personal exemptions

The personal exemption has been eliminated, while standard deductions have increased.
In 2017, the standard deduction for the single taxpayer was $6,350, in addition to one personal exemption of $4,050. For 2018, those deductions will be combined into one larger standard deduction of $12,000 for those filing separately, and $24,000 for joint filers.

4.) Child tax credit

Deductions and credits for children under age 16 have doubled from $1,000 to $2,000. There is also a new tax credit for non-child dependents.

The Child and Dependent Care Credit, offering parents deductions for specific child care expenses, remains as-is.

5.) Estate tax exemption

Before the current changes, the 40% estate tax applied to the portion of an estate was valued at $5.6 million for the individual, and $11.2 million for a married couple. The new law will double these exemptions. Taxpayers filing as individuals will be granted an exemption of $11.2 million, while married couples will have a $22.4 million exemption.

6.) Education tax breaks

Original versions of the tax bill included plans for reducing or eliminating several education tax breaks, but none of these changes actually made it into the Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts.

The Lifetime Learning Credit and Student Loan Interest Deduction remain unchanged, and the exclusion for graduate school tuition waivers is also still in place.

However, the new tax bill has expanded the available use of funds in a 529 college savings plan to include other levels of education. You can now use money in those funds to pay for private school tuition or tutoring services for children in grades K-12.

7.) Deduction changes

There have been slight changes in the mortgage interest, charitable contributions, medical expense and State and Local Taxes (SALT) deductions.

The mortgage interest deduction was previously in place for any mortgage debt totaling up to $1 million. Under the new tax code, all mortgages taken after Dec. 15, 2017 and totaling up to $750,000, are qualified for this deduction. Also, the interest on a home equity loan can no longer be deducted.

The charitable contribution deduction has seen two minor changes. Taxpayers can now deduct as much as 60% of their income for charitable donations, up from the previous 50% limit. Also, donations made to universities in exchange for the privilege of purchasing tickets to athletic events can no longer be deducted as charitable expenses.

The cap for the medical expenses deduction has been cut from 10% of adjusted gross income (AGI) to 7.5% of AGI. Unlike nearly all other provisions in the bill, this change is retroactive to the 2017 tax year. Also, it will only apply through 2018.

The SALT deduction, which includes property and income tax, was originally slated for elimination, but was preserved with some changes. The total SALT deduction now cannot exceed $10,000.

8.) Corporate tax rate changes

The modified tax code lowers the corporate tax rate to a flat 21% on all profits. This simplifies taxes for most businesses while providing them with a significant cut as well.

9.) Disappearing deductions

Not every deduction survived the new tax law. Here are some that won’t be in effect for 2018 taxes:

  • Casualty and theft losses that were not caused by a federally declared disaster
  • Unreimbursed employee expenses
  • Tax preparation expenses
  • Miscellaneous deductions previously subject to the 2% AGI cap
  • Moving expenses
  • Reimbursement for employer-subsidized parking and transportation

10.) Repatriation of foreign assets

In an effort to bring some of the country’s largest companies’ profits back to American shores, the new tax law features a one-time repatriation rate of 15.5% on all cash and similar foreign-held assets, and 8% on non-liquid assets held overseas.

11.) Changes to the AMT exemption amount

The alternative minimum tax (AMT) exemption was permanently adjusted to account for inflation. These changes will be most dramatic in 2018 and are as follows:

  • For a single taxpayer or one filing as head of household, the AMT rate will increase from $54,300 to $70,300.
  • For a married couple filing jointly, the AMT rate will increase from $84,500 to $109,400.
  • For married couples filing separately, the AMT rate will increase from $42,250 to $54,700.

Your Turn: What do you think about the changes in the tax code? How would you do things differently? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Keeping Friends And Finances: How To Deal With Financially Challenging Friendships

Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” What’s left unsaid is that many times, it’s the friendship you can’t afford! In fact, some friends can be a serious drain on your savings.

Continue reading “Keeping Friends And Finances: How To Deal With Financially Challenging Friendships”

What Are YOU Doing With Your Tax Refund?

cash in mailbox tax refund

“Believe it or not, Lenore, we are getting a big refund from Uncle Sam this year,” Stan remarked.

“Great!” Lenore laughed. “Maybe we can finally make our dream vacation to Mexico come true.”

Before you start buying sombreros and suitcases, however, keep in mind that the wealthier among us are planning something smarter than spending an entire refund on vacations or cars.

Do not spend your tax refund on a purchase that will depreciate in value the moment you take it home. Instead, use your refund to pay off outstanding debts, to fund your IRA, or just put it in a savings account at the credit union and let it gain interest.

By thinking ahead, you can focus more on accumulating money than on accumulating “stuff.”

Your turn: What do you plan to do with your refund?