Control Your Personal Finances

To find money to take a position to your future, you might want to make it possible for your outgoing expenses are lower than the source of revenue that you are receiving. You should develop an excess that you can have free to take a position. More »

Car Credit Finance Explained

When you’re looking for car credit finance, you might find it confusing. The terms and prerequisites that include loans are crammed with jargon that isn’t at all times explained clearly and APR could possibly be misleading when you don’t know what you may be looking at More »


The 46.3% Marginal Bracket

Despite the new tax rate reductions of the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, the top marginal tax bracket for many retirees is a whopping 46.3%. Why? Because Social Security benefits are subject to income tax. Those affected are Social Security recipients who have the good fortune (misfortune?) to be subject to both the 25% income tax bracket and the 85% inclusion rate for Social Security benefits.

Here’s how it works. First, you must understand how Social Security benefits are taxed. The income tax formula begins with the calculation of combined income. For all practical purposes, combined income equals adjusted gross income (not including Social Security), plus municipal income, plus one half of the taxpayer’s Social Security benefit.

So far, so good. If a married couples income is under $32,000 ($25,000 for a single taxpayer), Social Security benefits are not taxable. If combined income is between $32,000 and $44,000 (or $25,000 and $34,000 for a single person), the taxable amount of Social Security equals the lesser of one half of Social Security benefits or one half of the difference between combined income and $32,000 ($25,000 if single). Up until now, its not too complicated.

Here’s where the real fun begins. If the taxpayers’ combined income is over $44,000 ($34,000 if single), the taxable amount of Social Security equals: the lesser of (1) 85% of the benefit, or (2) the sum of 85% of combined income over $44,000 ($34,000 if single) plus the lesser of $6,000 ($4,500 if single) or the amount of Social Security taxable under the old rules. Nobody ever said new tax laws created tax simplification.

Here’s how we come up with that 46.3% bracket. In order to illustrate an increase in the marginal tax, you have to compute taxable income. Taxable income, as we all know, is net of allowable deductions and exemptions. The standard deduction (that many retired people claim), personal exemptions and the tax brackets are all adjusted annually for inflation.

Assume Hank is over 65, files single, utilizes the standard deduction, and has total 2006 adjusted gross income (exclusive of Social Security benefits) of $39,000 and receives $21,900 in Social Security benefits. That makes his income $49,950 (39,000 + (21,900 x .5)). He exceeds the threshold, so taxable Social Security equals the lesser of (1) $18,615 (85% of $21,900), or (2) the sum of $13,558 (($49,950 – $34,000) x 85%) and $4,500. Since $18,058 is less than $18,615 the taxable amount of his Social Security benefits equals $18,058.

That makes his final adjusted gross income $57,058 ($39,000 plus $18,058). After he takes his 2006 standard deduction of $6,400 ($5,150 + $1,250 for age 65 or over) and a personal exemption of $3,300, his taxable income is $47,358. That puts him in the 25% marginal tax bracket. If Hank’s income goes up by $10 of taxable income he will pay $2.50 in taxes on that $10 plus $2.13 in tax on the additional $8.50 of Social Security benefits that will become taxable. Combine $2.50 and $2.13 and you get $4.63 or a 46.5% tax on a $10 swing in taxable income. Bingo…a 46.3% marginal bracket.

Check with your financial planner or tax advisor about how changes in your investments and income can affect your overall tax picture.

Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fees

In the last few years, many credit card companies have begun charging foreign fees for purchases made with credit cards outside of the United States. Many customers have become frustrated, wondering why the banks and credit card companies would charge such fees. While it is easy to say that these companies just want more money, the situation is much more complex than this.

Many of the fees associated with credit cards are charged in order to pay for the costs involved with a variety of different transactions. It is important to remember that there are generally more risks involved with making credit card transactions in foreign countries. When you make purchases with your credit in a foreign country, there are likely to be problems with currency exchange, fraud, or charge backs. Because the costs involved with these things can be high, banks have decided to transfer the cost to the consumers.

Most foreign transaction fees are about 3% of the transaction, and this includes any foreign taxes or other fees you may have to pay. It is likely that these fees are permanent, and banks will continue to charge them as long as they are able to pay for the cost of making credit card purchases in foreign countries. Despite this, there are a number of things cardholders can do to avoid these fees. One thing travelers can do to avoid these fees is to use prepaid debit cards. Because they are not true credit cards, prepaid debit cards can help you avoid the foreign transaction fees.

However, you may find that many hotels, restaurants, and other establishments may not accept them. If you plan on using a prepaid debit card, it would be helpful to contact these places ahead of time to make sure your card is accepted. There are also a few credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees. Before you get a credit card, call the company to find out if they charge these fees. In the past, Discover and American Express didn’t charge these fees, but they are not as well known as Visa or MasterCard, and may not be accepted at some foreign establishments.

Another thing you should consider is travelers checks. They are widely accepted in most countries, and you can avoid the fees that are charged for credit cards. Though traveling will always be a bit more expensive, you can avoid certain fees if you do your homework.

Private Venture Capital for Small Business Startups

The idea of starting your very own business can be exciting, but the cost of getting it started can prevent you from being able to follow your dream. Too many new businesses fail and therefore traditional lenders are very careful who they give money to. Even if you approach them with a quality business plan, expertise in the necessary areas of operating it, and a commitment to make the business work they could turn you away.

As a result of these types of frustrations many people turn to private venture capital in order to start their own business. For a small business you may not need a large amount of money to get it off the ground. A private venture capital investor may decide you definitely have what it takes to offer a successful business and they will work out a deal with you.

With their investment, however, it is different than just a loan that you would get from the bank. You will need to repay the loan amount with interest. The investor also will own shares in your business and they will receive a portion of your profits. In most instances this amount is approximately 2% of your profits.

You will need to crunch numbers and see if you really feel that you will be able to make a good profit from your business even after giving the investor their percentage. Once you have paid off the loan in full to them you wont have to pay it any longer. Keep in mind that it can take several years for a new business to have enough profits to pay extra on their loans.

Before you proceed with a private venture capital investment you need to make sure you are dedicated to owning your own small business. It isnt as glamorous as some people think it is. You get to be your own boss but you also get to deal with all of the headaches that come along with it. You will have to work hard and work smart in order to be successful. If your only reason for opening the small business is to make money then you wont enjoy it.

Private venture capital isnt right for every type of business so you need to carefully evaluate what your needs are and what they can offer you. Take your time to find a reputable private venture capital investor. Some of them prey on innocent people that want to desperately own a business. Others are looking for quality business ideas that they can invest in. They offer a chance for you to be successful and they also make a profit at the same time.

You should be able to schedule a free consultation with a private venture capital investor to discuss the issues. You want to be able to communicate your goals as well as your financial needs to them. A good private investor will work to match your needs with something they can offer. If you feel like you are being taken advantage of in the deal you will want to walk away from it.

Term Life Insurance – Save Money the Smart Way

Term life insurance is the easiest type of life insurance to understand. To put it simply, the insured person pays a minimal premium per thousand dollars of coverage on an annual, semi annual, quarterly or monthly basis. If he or she dies within the term of the policy, the life insurance company will pay the beneficiary the face value of the policy.

Distinctive Features of Term Life Insurance

To better understand some of the distinctive features of term life insurance consider the following points:

First, term life insurance is “pure insurance” because when you purchase a term insurance policy you are only buying a “death benefit”. Unlike with other types of “permanent insurance” such as whole life, universal life, and variable universal life, there is no additional cash value built up with this kind of policy. Term insurance only gives you a specific death benefit.

Second, the coverage is for a defined period of time (the “term”) such as 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, and so on. Once the policy is in force, it only remains in force until the end of the term — assuming you pay the premiums, of course.

Third, most term insurance policies are renewable at the end of the term. With what is known as “Level Term Life Insurance”, the death benefit remains the same throughout the term of the policy, but since the insured person is getting older, the premium will gradually increase. As time goes by the cost of a level term insurance policy may become greater than you are willing to pay for a simple death benefit. An alternative is the “Decreasing Term Life Insurance” policy in which the premium remains the same, but the death benefit goes down as time goes by.

Fourth, most term policies can be converted to permanent policies within a specific number of years. If you decide it is important to retain the insurance coverage, converting may be something you should plan for. You can anticipate the accelerating cost of term insurance premiums and convert your policy before the premiums become prohibitively high. It is true that in the short term the premium will usually be higher than if you stayed with the term policy. But over the long term this difference will decrease because of the rapid acceleration of the term insurance premium as you get older. A permanent policy also accumulates cash value which increases the total death benefit paid to your beneficiary.

Popular Uses of Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance is most appropriate whenever you want to protect your beneficiaries from a sudden financial burden as the result of your death. Here are some of the most common uses of term life insurance.

Personal Costs Due to Death – When a spouse or family member dies there will be immediate costs. Many people purchase a relatively small term life insurance policy to cover these costs.

Mortgage Insurance – Banks and financial institutions often insist that mortgage holders retain a term life insurance policy sufficient to pay out their mortgage. Such policies make the bank the beneficiary of the policy. If the mortgage holder should happen to die before the mortgage is paid off, the insurance policy will pay it out. This is also a great benefit to a spouse whose earning power will likely be decreased due to the death of his or her partner.

Business Partner Insurance – Term insurance is also used by business people to cover outstanding loans with their bank, or to purchase a deceased partner’s shares on death, if they had an agreement to do so. Most partnerships have an agreement of this sort, and the policy premiums are paid by the business.

Key Person Insurance – When a company loses key individuals due to death, this can often result in hardship to the company. Key person insurance is purchased by the company for any individual it deems to be “key”. The company itself is made the beneficiary of the policy. So when a “key” person dies, the company receives a cash injection to handle the problems associated with replacing that person.

Getting a Term Life Insurance Quote

Here are some things to look for when getting a quote for term life insurance:

1. The cheapest rate today will not be the cheapest rate tomorrow. For instance, the cheapest premium today will likely be for a Yearly Renewable Term policy. This policy is renewed every year at which time your premium is also adjusted upwards. This is fine if you intend to convert to a longer term solution (permanent insurance) in a year or two, or if you have a very short term requirement for insurance. But if you think you will need this insurance for a longer period, you would be better to commit to something like a Ten Year Term Policy. This locks your premium and death benefit in for ten years. Your rates will not increase until you renew.

2. Compare coverage and premium projections for different policies. Think about the long term and get the coverage that saves you money in the long run.

3. Make sure you completely understand the conversion options built into the different policies you are considering. Most policies will let you convert part or all of your term insurance into permanent insurance within a specific period of time, and without the need of a medical examination.

4. For some situations you should consider options such as Decreasing Term Life Insurance in which the death benefit decreases as time goes by. This makes sense if the policy is being used to cover a mortgage or business loan.

Term life insurance is not the answer to all life insurance requirements, but it should be part of a sound plan for every person’s financial future.