Better Off with Jill Schlesinger | Financial Planner & Expert
Host Jill Schlesinger tackles uncomfortable and even controversial money and investing issues, without the financial jargon, to get to the heart of what is important for anyone to know. Jill takes listener phone calls and interviews informative and entertaining guests each week to uncover surprising insights and provide actionable information so you can make the most of your money. This show..
The February jobs report was a mixed bag. Let’s get the bad news out of the way: the economy added only 20,000 positions, the smallest gain since September 2017. The number was much lower than last year’s average monthly amount of 223,000 and far below expectations for 190,000.
Some possible culprits include a statistical anomaly, exaggerated by seasonal oddities that are unlikely to persist; spooked employers, who sat on their hands as growth slowed in the beginning of the year amid the government shutdown; bad weather, which hurt construction and maybe just a weird one-off, much in the same way that the huge January number may have also been an outlier. In fact, if we take the first two months of the year, job creation averaged about 165,000, an amount that would be consistent with a slowing economy in Q1.
However, there was also good news. Average hourly earnings increased by 3.4 percent from a year ago, the best annual gain in almost a decade (April 2009). Additionally, the headline unemployment rate returned to 3.8 percent, which is where it was before the government shutdown.
Finally, the broad measure of unemployment (aka “U-6”, which includes unemployed; discouraged and marginally attached workers; and those who are working part-time, but seek full time) declined to 7.3 percent from 8.1 percent, its lowest point since December 2000. These numbers seem to indicate that the labor market may be slowing this year, but it is still relatively tight and healthy.
On the latest call of the week we're chatting with Russ, who wants to know if he's in a good position to retire early and what are some of the warning signs he should be looking for in case things don't go as planned. When you're thinking about early retirement you really want to make sure you have all your ducks in a row. A great call.
Itemized vs. Standard Deduction: Every taxpayer needs to determine whether it makes sense to claim one of these two deductions, both of which reduce the amount of income subject to tax. TCJA nearly doubled the Standard Deduction to $12,000 for Single and Married Filing Separately, $24,000 for Married Filing Jointly and $18,000 for Head of Household.
A couple of caveats on itemized deductions:
Your total deduction for state and local income, sales and property taxes is limited to a combined, total deduction of $10,000 ($5,000 if Married Filing Separate). Any state and local taxes you paid above this amount cannot be deducted.
The deduction for home mortgage and home equity interest was modified. It is now limited to interest you paid on a loan secured by your main home or second home that you used to buy, build, or substantially improve your main home or second home. So if you used a home equity loan or line of credit to pay off another debt, like a credit card or student loan, it would not be deductible.
There is a new dollar limit on total qualified residence loan balances. If your loan was originated or treated as originating on or before Dec. 15, 2017, you may deduct interest on up to $1,000,000 ($500,000 if you are married filing separately) in qualifying debt. If your loan originated after that date, you may only deduct interest on up to $750,000 ($375,000 if you are married filing separately) in qualifying debt.
Deduction for alimony is eliminated for agreements executed after December 31, 2018, or for any divorce or separation agreement executed on or before December 31, 2018, and modified after that date. In conjunction with this change, alimony and separate maintenance payments are no longer included in income based on these dates.
Claim Credits: Now that personal exemptions have been eliminated, credits are even more important.
The Child Tax Credit has increased to a maximum of $2,000 per qualifying child under the age of 17. Up to $1,400 of the credit can be refundable for each qualifying child as the additional child tax credit. In addition, the income threshold at which the child tax credit begins to phase out increased to $200,000, or $400,000 if married filing jointly.
There are two different education credits available: the American Opportunity Tax Credit (formerly Hope Credit), which is partially refundable, and the Lifetime Learning Credit. Both may apply to expenses you pay for yourself, your spouse and any dependents.Have a money question? Have a money question? Email me here.
Drowning in student loans can make life difficult when you're trying to make it in the real world. That's the situation with Linda from the Bay Area, who desperately wants to buy a house and start a family.
It was like reconnecting with a long-lost friend, which of course made for a very fun chat.
In his tiny, sleek, little book, Conniff Allende unveils the innovative strategies of Golden Age pirates, drawing parallels between the tactics and teachings of legends like Henry Morgan and Blackbeard with modern rebels, like Elon Musk, Malala, and Banksy.
Featuring takeaway sections and a guide to building your own pirate code 2.0, Be More Pirate will show you how to leave your mark on the 21st century.
1. Rebel — Draw strength by standing up to the status quo. 2. Rewrite — Bend, break, but most importantly, rewrite the rules. 3. Reorganize — Collaborate to achieve scale, rather than growth. 4. Redistribute — Fight for fairness, share power, and make an enemy of exploitation. 5. Retell — Weaponize your story, then tell the hell out of it.
Whatever your ambitions, ideas and challenges, Be More Pirate will help change the way you live, think, and work today, and tomorrow. So what are you waiting for? Join the rebellion.
You guys always hear me talking about how it's crucial to have an adequate emergency reserve for those unforeseen things that just seem to pop up. But where should it be kept? Is it okay to invest it? That's the discussion with Andrew from Atlanta on the latest episode.
What follows is from Blair’s blog, The Belle Curve, and it explains why exactly there was so much reaction:
Some criticized the use of the term broker, which applies only to registered representatives of brokerage firms, commissioned sales agents. Those of us who work for independent RIA firms are advisers who adhere to a fiduciary standard. That is a different and equally important topic for an NYT op-ed. Maybe they will let me write it. Bottom line, the investing public uses the words broker/advisor/adviser interchangeably. They do not know the difference, and the article met them where they are.
Other criticism revolved around the use of research on investment performance to justify the argument. In my mind, the research was not central to the thesis there should be more women advisors. Barber and Odean found that among individual investors, women outperformed men because the traded less often and incurred less trading costs. That information is fascinating and led to additional work on the affect of overconfidence on investment performance. It is not the sole basis of my argument, merely additional ammunition.
Less than 20% of financial advisors are women, a statistic that has not changed in the 15 years I have been here. It’s about time for more.
The latest bonus episode calls for a bit a shameless self-promotion :)
If you agonize about money, you're not alone. Almost seven out of 10 Americans said finances are a "significant" source of stress in a recent survey. My very first book, “The Dumb Things Smart People Do with Their Money,” may provide some solutions. I joined CBS This Morning to discuss some of the ways people can right their financial wrongs. Here's the clip.
It’s February, time for a bonus episode on how to talk to your special someone(s) about money. That “s” is intentional, because we need to expand our financial conversations from our partner/spouse to all of our loved ones: the romantic ones, the kids and the parents.
To help us navigate the process, we're joined by Benjamin Seaman, an active member of the New York City therapeutic clinical community. We touched on a variety of topics, including:
Talking to a spouse/partner:
You know that stress about money causes a lot of relationship issues. The conflicts usually occur because each of you arrived into adulthood with a different relationship with money. When I conducted research for my book, The Dumb Things Smart People Do with Their Money, I found that your family of origin shapes these feelings and habits, for the good and the bad. Keep that in mind as you talk to your partner about money and know that he or she may come from a dissimilar circumstance and also may be hardwired differently about finances.
According to Seaman, before you start any dialogue about money, “you need to check yourself. Ask whether this conversation will bring you together or not.” If you are using it as an excuse to launch an interrogation, stop in your tracks because that is not going to serve anyone well.
Talking to kids:
In my book, I noted, “How you behave around money with your kids matters,” because you run the risk of saddling your kids with your own money issues.” And the conversations have to start early, because according to research from Cambridge University, money habits start to form by age 7. To help educate your kids, be careful to strike a balance between educating them so they can take responsibility for money but not overdoing it and conveying too much of a focus on money.
Talking to aging parents:
This is a tough one, because it requires that you balance being a responsible adult child without prying. Ideally, this is an ongoing conversation that begins when your folks are considering retirement and while they are still healthy. Seaman suggests breaking the ice by saying something like, “This is such a hard topic and it really scares me, which is why I have avoided it. But I want to make sure we are on the same page when it comes to your wishes.”
Digital minimalists are all around us. They're the calm, happy people who can hold long conversations without furtive glances at their phones. They can get lost in a good book, a woodworking project, or a leisurely morning run. They can have fun with friends and family without the obsessive urge to document the experience. They stay informed about the news of the day, but don't feel overwhelmed by it. They don't experience "fear of missing out" because they already know which activities provide them meaning and satisfaction.
Now, Newport gives us a name for this quiet movement, and makes a persuasive case for its urgency in our tech-saturated world. Common sense tips, like turning off notifications, or occasional rituals like observing a digital sabbath, don't go far enough in helping us take back control of our technological lives, and attempts to unplug completely are complicated by the demands of family, friends and work. What we need instead is a thoughtful method to decide what tools to use, for what purposes, and under what conditions.
Drawing on a diverse array of real-life examples, from Amish farmers to harried parents to Silicon Valley programmers, Newport identifies the common practices of digital minimalists and the ideas that underpin them. He shows how digital minimalists are rethinking their relationship to social media, rediscovering the pleasures of the offline world, and reconnecting with their inner selves through regular periods of solitude.
Technology is intrinsically neither good nor bad. The key is using it to support your goals and values, rather than letting it use you. This book shows the way.