Mark Your Calendars With These Dates to Stay Compliant!

by Guest on August 15, 2013

Deborah Sweeney

Forming an LLC or incorporating your business is an excellent idea when it comes to protecting and legitimizing your company, but it does require that you jump through a few more regulatory hoops. Different states have different laws and regulations, but for the most part every state has deadlines in place that you need to remember. You’ve spent a lot of time and money forming your business and choosing the right business entity, so it would be an absolute shame to fall out of compliance all because you forgot about a deadline. So after your business formation is finished, break out those calendars and mark them with these important dates.

Energy Audit: Worth the $100?

by Lynn B. Johnson on July 18, 2013

Energy AuditMy husband and I bought a 1950s-era home last year and sank quite a bit of money into updating it. Even though our contractor and my husband have added rolls and rolls worth of insulation to our home, our utility bills have been higher than reasonable: particularly our gas bill in the winter (for heating) and our electric bill in the summer (for air conditioning).

We’ve gone through parts of our home squirting “Great Stuff” insulating foam sealant into the visible cracks but what more could we do? At our wits end to determine just where the heat/AC was leaking from our attic and sunroom, we contacted our electric utility supplier for a home energy audit.

Selling a Domain Name with

by Lynn B. Johnson on July 2, 2013

Selling DomainsWhile we would never recommend domain-name speculation as a no-risk avenue toward untold profitability, it has been known to happen. Last week, I sold a domain name I’d had for 15 years to an interested buyer.  He didn’t know me, and I didn’t know him, so we needed to find a way to keep our own interests protected through the process.

I’d sold a domain name a few years ago, and used to facilitate that process. It worked very well, so I recommended to last week’s buyer that we use that service. He agreed.

Roth IRA vs. 529 College Savings Plans: Who Wins?

by Lynn B. Johnson on June 20, 2013

College Financial AidIn the best-timed article of the year, we covered 529 College Savings plans on 5/29. During that assignment, the Wallet Blog editor asked how a 529 plan stacked up against that other popular savings vehicle for higher education: the Roth IRA. I contacted Timothy Parros, CCPS, HECA, NACAC of Parros Financial Group & Parros College Planning in Ann Arbor, MI, to get the scoop.

Beating the FAFSA

Small Claims Court: How to Win Against Deadbeat Clients

by Lynn B. Johnson on May 22, 2013

Small Claims CourtMany people —including yours truly— work as consultants on a contract basis. Typically, this is a straightforward business arrangement. Consultant does the work, client pays as dictated by the signed contract.

But some clients aren’t always so forthcoming, which means it might be time for a visit to small claims court. The filing fee ($15-$150) depends upon your state and the amount you’re claiming in damages. Likewise, the dollar-amount limits for claims range between $2,500 and $25,000 depending upon the state in which you work and reside. Nevertheless, the process is typically the same.

Check That Charity Before Opening Your Checkbook

by Lynn B. Johnson on April 25, 2013

Americans like to help. In fact, total charitable contributions by individuals, corporations, and foundations was an estimated $298.42 billion in 2011, up 4% from 2010, according to a report from the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Unfortunately, there are people who try to profit from tragedy. In 2009, the FTC launched the “Operation False Charity” initiative in conjunction with Attorney General offices and law-enforcement departments nationwide in order to crack down on “fraudulent telemarketers claiming to help police, firefighters, and veterans.” If you feel that you have been defrauded, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

Break Out of Your Grocery Rut (and Save in the Process!)

by Lynn B. Johnson on April 18, 2013

Supermarket SavingsSome people shop at the same store at the same time on the same day, week in and week out. If this sounds like you, you’re missing out on some great bargains. Here are some ways to break out of your grocery rut and save money on your food budget.

Couponing? Nope.

Springtime… when a consumer’s fancy turns to thoughts of Yard Sales!

by Lynn B. Johnson on April 3, 2013

yard saleHappy April, everyone! It may be 37 degrees where I live, but the sky is blue, the snow is gone, and I’m itching for yard-sale season to begin. I’ve hosted and attended a number of these consumer extravaganzas over the years… here are some tips for hosting as well as attending a yard sale that I’ve amassed along the way.

Hosting a Yard Sale

“For Me, For You, For Later”: Financial Foundations from Elmo and Friends

by Lynn B. Johnson on March 27, 2013

In an era when the 400 richest Americans account for the same amount of collective wealth as 62% of the nation’s entire population combined and the United States is the fourth most wealth-unequal country in the world, something is grievously wrong with the way income is earned, saved, and distributed. Fortunately, someone has come to the rescue of our next generation, encouraging them to “spend, save, and share” the money they earn. Who is this economic powerhouse preaching to our kids?

Elmo, of course.

Getting Paid as a Caregiver Without Jeopardizing Medicaid Eligibility

by Lynn B. Johnson on March 20, 2013

medicaidThe most recent figures show that 48.9 million people in the U.S. have served as adult caregivers, with 86% of them providing for a relative in need. Not only do these people have to contend with the myriad difficult and thankless tasks associated with caregiving, but most also have to work outside jobs in order to pay the bills. In all, more than 70% of caregivers effectively work two jobs.

As you might expect, that burden ultimately proves unsustainable for many, as nearly one-third of working caregivers choose early retirement, take a leave of absence from their job, or give up working entirely. What’s more, two-thirds adjust their work hours or take time off in order to provide care.

The Paradox of Medicaid

by Lynn B. Johnson on February 28, 2013

medicaidMy mom has Parkinson’s disease. Twenty percent of people with Parkinson’s disease also get Parkinson’s dementia, and she has that, too. I cared for her for five years, the last two of which she lived with us so that I could provide the around-the-clock assistance she required. This past summer, when she forgot how to stand up, it was time to move her to a skilled-nursing facility.

I evaluated a few different places and chose one that was reasonably priced, cooked from scratch, didn’t smell, and took the best care of residents’ personal grooming requirements.  Mom had enough money to pay out of pocket for a few months, but it soon became necessary to apply for Medicaid. Mom has Medicare part A, B, and D: none of which covers long-term skilled nursing care.

MOOCs: Worth a look for free higher education

by Lynn B. Johnson on February 13, 2013

With the rising cost of higher education, my husband and I joke that we’re going to homeschool our children for college. With the advent and rise in popularity of Massive Open Online Courses —MOOCs— we might not have to.


Planning for and Protecting Your Child’s Financial Future

by Guest on January 11, 2013

college financial aidNo matter the age of your child, as a parent, you will want to set up different financial resources for each stage of life. Your child looks to you as their teacher – from learning how to talk at a young age, to opening their first bank account as they grow older. In addition to putting financial safeguards and assets in place early on, it is also important to directly teach your child about money and how to manage it. Follow these simple tips and be on your way to planning a solid financial future for your child

1.  The First 5 Years of Life – Investing in your child’s financial future early on is the best investment a parent can make. Consider opening a bank account for your child at this crucial stage in life. Setting up a savings account or even a college savings plan at this point allows for many years of growth. And, don’t forget to let your family members know – grandparents, aunts and uncles may want to invest in your child’s bank account or college plan. Additionally, if you have not already done so, this is an opportune time to ensure your family’s financial stability by getting life insurance quotes and purchasing a policy.

AIG Shareholders Give U.S. Taxpayers the Middle Finger (And Other Unbelievably True Stories from the Week in News)

by John Kiernan on January 9, 2013

AIG shareholder suitHold on – is this the news, a dream, or some sort of Oscar Wilde-type satire?  That’s along the lines of what I was thinking last night while watching Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett report a pair of stories seemingly straight out of The Twilight Zone or Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

I mean, could AIG actually be SUING the U.S. government (as well as you, me, and every other taxpayer by extension)?  Are U.S. politics really so flawed that rape is actually LEGAL in California if the victim is single and the perpetrator impersonates her boyfriend?

Impact The U.S. Economy By Embracing Virtual Business Models

by Guest on January 9, 2013

Recent History of Virtualization

The Internet enabled industries to go virtual at the end of the last century. IT and graphic design led the way, with education quickly expanding into the arena. Even industries where a virtual model didn’t seem practical are now embracing the freedom. Healthcare, financial services and product innovation have all begun to realize the benefits.

Give the Gift of Savings to Your Loved Ones This Holiday Season

by Guest on December 12, 2012

gift tax exemptionEvery year, we look for gifts that are “different,” that really show our loved ones how much we care. This is not always easy, especially since it seems that we are surrounded only by material gifts that will be forgotten or thrown away over time.

With these thoughts in mind  the GradSave team went in search of gifts that will not only hold their value, but that will actually help the ones you love save money. Here are our tops five picks:

The Best Mobile Apps for the Holidays

by Guest on December 5, 2012

There’s no escaping it: The holiday shopping season is officially upon us, which means it’s time to get serious about gift giving and holiday spending. The good news is that this year, with the wealth of mobile apps that make holiday shopping more convenient (and cheaper!) than ever, there’s no need to shell out a bunch of cash on presents you can’t afford.

Check out these four apps that will not only save you money during the holidays, but they’ll make holiday shopping more fun, too.

Are Banks Making You Sign Away Your Rights?

by John Kiernan on November 27, 2012

signing away rightsPrepare to be astonished:  Banks aren’t the most consumer-friendly businesses out there.  I know, I know, you’re flabbergasted, right?  After the excessive fees, bait-and-switch pricing, lawsuits, and sketchy customer service issues we’ve seen over the years, that news must come as an absolute shock.

At the risk of surprising you into cardiac arrest (or, you know, killing you with sarcasm), allow me to fill you in on some new research that adds another contentious chapter to the financial institution-consumer saga and will likely fuel distrust of big banks even further.  The Pew Charitable Trusts today released a study on the dispute resolution policies employed by the nation’s largest banks and credit unions, aptly titled “Banking on Arbitration:  Big Banks, Consumers, and Checking Account Dispute Resolution.”

What Do We Really Know About the Underground Market for Stolen Credit Card Info?

by John Kiernan on November 20, 2012

We’ve all seen the news reports about consumer credit card data being stolen as a result of a major retailer, card network, payment processor, gaming company, etc., having its network breached by hackers.  But unless you were directly affected, the details of the crimes and the scope of the damage were likely quickly forgotten.

For example, you may not recall that 94 million credit card accounts were exposed when hackers broke through the firewalls of TJX Companies, Inc. – the holding company for T.J. Maxx and Marshalls – in late 2006 or that 134 million more accounts were breached when Heartland Payment Systems’ records were compromised by spyware in 2008.  There are indeed countless examples, including more recently when, in 2011, an attack on the PlayStation Network unearthed 12 million unencrypted credit card numbers, along with 77 million accountholders’ full names, e-mails, and home addresses, costing Sony millions.

Cutting Your Costs Around the Home

by Guest on November 17, 2012

A dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to. With food and gas prices rising, instability in the job market, and national debt looming like a dark cloud, many Americans have been wracking their brains to make every dollar count.

Your own home is a great place to start. I’m not talking about making drastic changes or contemplating unusual alternatives for powering your home. Rather, just take a closer look at your home spending habits and it can go a long way toward cutting overall costs and bringing some peace of mind. If you dread opening your monthly bank statement, try implementing some of these easy steps to financial frugality.

Consumers are Being Scored on More than Just Their Credit

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on November 14, 2012

big brotherFor starters, let me just say that if you’re a bit of a conspiracy theorist or have been known to be paranoid, you might want to stop reading right now.  They’re watching you, after all.

Who are they, you ask?

Credit Repair – What You Need To Watch Out For

by Guest on November 5, 2012

Consumers are often looking for ways to repair and improve their credit scores, and many seek the assistance of a credit repair company to handle the process. As the number of consumers looking for help increases, so does the number of fraudulent companies looking to take advantage of vulnerable individuals. In order to make sure that you only deal with a trusted and reputable company please take the following into consideration:

Common Sense Due Diligence: Just because a company has a website does not automatically make them a legitimate business. Many of these companies offering credit repair help are not even real businesses. Do a simple “who is” check on their website domain. If they are a legitimate company it will notate that the company owns the domain, and provide full contact information for the business including a phone number, email address and business address. Make sure that the information presented matches the information on the website. If the domain search reveals that the domain is registered private and there is no information available it is a huge red flag that you are not dealing with a real company. If the company were operating legally then why would they hide their information? Do you think companies such as Best Buy or Target hide their website registration information? Of course not! Why wouldn’t a company want potential customers to be able to track them down, unless of course they were hiding something?

Americans Need New Financial Role Models

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on October 10, 2012


“The first time I got a check and I seen the chunk out of it … that’s when I found out about taxes, that’s when I found out about everything.”

Budgeting your Income: Which Bills to Pay First

by Guest on September 10, 2012

The average consumer receives multiple monthly bills to pay for services, utilities, credit accounts, and other purchases. Knowing which bills to pay first might be challenging, but it’s certainly good to learn how to prioritize them. Remember, some bills might be for services that you can do without while others could mean losing important things like healthcare coverage, a home, or your car.

In case of a financial emergency, paying the right bills can save you time and money. By learning how to prioritize, you’ll be better prepared for times when money is tight.

Upcoming Changes to Gift-Tax Exemption May Cost Your Children Millions

by John Kiernan on July 25, 2012

gift tax exemptionParents, if your children have unexpectedly started cleaning their rooms, adhering to curfews, and making you breakfast in bed, there’s good reason to be suspicious. Kids, start doing those things immediately and casually mention that you saw something on the Web about an upcoming change to the gift tax exemption. This holiday season could result in a lot more value changing hands than usual, which means we can expect a lot more sucking up in the coming months.

All kidding aside, New Year’s marks an important date for the way wealth in the United States is passed down from generation to generation. This is when the federal lifetime gift-tax exemption will revert back from the roughly $5 million threshold now in place thanks to the Tax Relief Act of 2010 to the standard $1 million. In other words, through December 31, 2012 you can give another individual (presumably a loved one) up to $5.12 million without it being taxed, but come New Year’s, amounts over $1 million may be taxed at rates upwards of 50%.

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