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Showing posts with label America. Show all posts
Showing posts with label America. Show all posts

2017/03/30

Money Mistakes

8 money mistakes the middle class keeps making


About half of Americans lived in middle-income households in 2014, according to Pew Research.
This demographic includes families with incomes two-thirds to double the U.S. median household income – or those earning between $42,000 and $125,000 (with cost-of-living adjustments for expensive metropolitan areas).
America’s middle class includes teachers, firefighters, and plumbers, but also engineers, construction managers, and chefs — workers from all over the economy. The middle class provides and consumes the bulk of services that keep society afloat, driving economic growth and investment with each purchase they make.
But when it comes to money, the American middle class faces a range of unique challenges. Wages have stagnated for nearly everyone but the highest earners since 1979, and rising inflation-adjusted costs of essentials like housing and healthcare have put a squeeze on the average budget. Most middle-class families don’t have nearly enough saved to pay for college or to retire at age 65.
But, are all of our money woes the result of economic issues? Not quite. Just like every other group of earners in America, we don’t always make the smartest decisions with our money. If middle-class Americans hope to build a financially viable future, it’s up to us to make the best decisions we can, no matter what’s happening with the economy at large. Here are eight money mistakes the middle class needs to stop making to turn things around:

1. Racking up too much debt

According to a recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, 65% of credit card users carry a balance. In other words, most Americans are okay carrying credit card debt from month to month and paying interest on it – some out of sheer necessity, but some by choice.
For middle-class Americans trying to get ahead financially, this can be a costly mistake. Remember, the average credit card interest rate is now over 15%!
“One of the quickest hacks to put more money in your pocket and take control of your finances is to set your credit card bills to be automatically paid in full each month,” says San Diego Financial Planner Taylor Schulte. With this one strategy, you’ll save money on every purchase by avoiding interest charges.
And really, consumers at all income levels are better off if they avoid debt like the plague. You don’t derive a single benefit from carrying credit card debt – only added costs, debt, and stress.

2. Not having an emergency fund

Nearly half (46%) of us would struggle to cover a $400 emergency, according to a 2016 Federal Reserve report on the financial well-being of Americans. The figure is skewed by the fact that 81% of people making $100,000 or more said they could easily cover the cost, while only 34% of those making $40,000 or less could.
Still, our lack of emergency savings is a problem. When you don’t have the cash to cover emergencies — which will inevitably occur — it’s far easier to let your finances spin out of control or get caught in a cycle of debt.
Many financial advisors suggest keeping an emergency fund stocked with three to six months’ worth of expenses, but nearly any amount you can stash away will help. With some cash stored “out of sight and out of mind,” you’ll have a buffer should you face surprise medical bills, home or car repair costs, or other expenses you couldn’t predict.

3. Not giving your retirement a raise when you get one

Retiring on time requires patience and persistence, along with the fortitude to invest steadily for up to 40 years. But if you hope to grow your nest egg, it’s important to boost your retirement contributions as your income grows. If you don’t, it can take a lot longer to build up enough cash to retire, says Seattle-based financial advisor Josh Brein.
“Consider giving your emergency fund or your retirement savings a raise at the same time you get a raise, equal to the increase in wages you’re now earning,” notes Brein. If you save $500 per month and get a 4% raise, for example, you should boost your retirement contributions proportionately.
If you’re saving in a work-sponsored 401(k) plan, it’s easy to set this up so it’s automatic. By saving a percentage of your income every year (instead of a specified dollar amount), your retirement contributions will increase automatically as your earnings grow.

4. Relying entirely on a 401(k) plan

The convenience of investing in your work-sponsored 401(k) plan can’t be understated, but using only one account for retirement may not be enough. Not only could you come up short by the time you reach retirement, but there are notable disadvantages that come with investing only in tax-advantaged accounts.
“If you only invest in a pre-tax 401(k) account, you could potentially be creating a future tax headache for yourself,” says Christopher Hammond, financial advisor and founder of Retirement Planning Made Easy. “At age 70 ½, under most circumstances you must take distributions from your qualified money — that is, traditional IRA’s and 401(k)’s. This may inadvertently lead you to pay more taxes later.”
One way around this is to invest enough in your 401(k) to get your employer match, then put the rest into a Roth IRA. This way, you’ll have access to some tax-free money in retirement and (hopefully) reduce your future tax burden.

5. Not taking advantage of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

If you have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), you may be able to use a health savings account (HSA). While the rules governing these accounts are up in the air due to proposed changes to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the way they operate should stay the same.
“HSA plans allow you to save on a tax-free basis and then pay for your current or future medical expenses,” says financial advisor Gary Dahlquist of Clarity Retirement Advisers.
In 2017, the government will let you stash away up to $3,400 for an individual or $6,750 per family if you have a high deductible health insurance plan. These deposits are deducted from your income on your tax returns, lowering the amount you owe in the process. This money grows tax-free until you need it.
“Another great thing about these plans is they can be used to pay for expenses not covered by traditional health insurance,” says Dahlquist. “Chiropractor visits, dental or vision care, including eyeglasses and contact lenses, are examples of acceptable expenses covered by the HSA.”
If you’re not using a HSA, says the advisor, you’re realistically giving up a 25% discount on your medical expenses (if you’re in the 25% tax bracket).

6. Delaying retirement savings

“A frequent middle-class mistake is to delay saving for retirement while focusing on other financial priorities first,” says financial advisor Alex Whitehouse.
For many of us, it’s far too easy to believe you’ll start saving for retirement after you pay off your student loans, buy a house, or fund your children’s college education. While these are all worthy goals, life happens, and it’s easy to put retirement savings on the back burner until it’s too late.
If you’re middle-income earner especially, you need time for your retirement funds to grow. Whitehouse recommends saving for retirement as early as possible to put the magic of compound interest on your side.
“A small amount saved consistently takes advantage of compound interest and can have a significant impact at retirement,” says Whitehouse. “Begin by saving 1% of your income and gradually increase it 1% every year for as long as possible, until at least reaching 10% to 15%.”

7. Forgetting to update beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and annuities

Do you really want to leave your life insurance proceeds to your ex-wife? How about gifting your 401(k) balance to your parents? This is the type of thing that happens when you don’t update beneficiary changes and you pass away.
“Marriage, divorce, or any changes in your family situation are reasons to revisit your beneficiary forms,” says financial advisor David Niggel of Key Wealth Partners in Lancaster, Pa. “The beneficiary designation form is a legally binding document and overrides your will. Therefore, whoever is named on the form will receive the asset over what your current will reads.”
Nigel says this may happen more often than people realize: No one thinks they’ll die young, yet it happens all the time. And when these documents aren’t updated, huge sums of money can wind up in the wrong hands.

8. Spending too much on depreciating assets

As of the last quarter of 2016, the average car payment was $506 per month and 68 months long! That represents a huge chunk of cash for Americans who are already struggling to save. But the worst part is that these payments are mostly “sunk costs.”
“The fact cars depreciate rapidly makes them a poor way to spend an extra $500 each month,” says financial advisor Benjamin Brandt of RetirementStartsToday.com.
Brandt notes that working with middle-class clients has given him a unique perspective on common money drains. “We’re enamored with the idea of impressing others with our vehicles, but that often means overspending by thousands of dollars each year,” says Brandt.
Most middle-class Americans would be better off driving older cars and investing their extra cash in a Roth IRA or their emergency fund, he adds.
Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of Zero Down Your Debt. Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at ClubThrifty.com.
Read the original article on The Simple Dollar. Copyright 2017. Follow The Simple Dollar on Twitter.

NASA Confirms: “Marijuana Contains “Alien DNA” From Outside Of Our Solar System”

NASA Confirms: “Marijuana Contains “Alien DNA” From Outside Of Our Solar System”

It’s big news, set to shock, amaze, and entertain the world.
But unfortunately, it’s got nothing to do with extraterrestrial stoners melding with Earth’s plants.
However, since you’re now reading, you’ll almost certainly be interested in this research that looked into the clicking and sharing behaviors of social media users reading content (or not) and then sharing it on social media.
We here at IFLS noticed long ago that many of our followers will happily like, share and offer an opinion on an article – all without ever reading it. We’re not the only ones to notice this. Last April, NPR shared an article on their Facebook page which asked “Why doesn’t America read anymore?”. The joke, of course, is that there was no article. They waited to see if their followers would weigh in with an opinion without clicking the link, and they weren’t disappointed.
We’ve been hoping for a chance to try it ourselves, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Yackler had some fun with the same article and managed to fool a bunch of people.
A group of computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute looked into a dataset of over 2.8 million online news articles that were shared via Twitter. The study found that up to 59 percent of links shared on Twitter have never actually been clicked by that person’s followers, suggesting that social media users are more into sharing content than actually clicking on and reading it.
“People are more willing to share an article than read it,” the study’s co-author Arnaud Legout said in a statement, Washington Post reports. “This is typical of modern information consumption. People form an opinion based on a summary, or a summary of summaries, without making the effort to go deeper.”
This study looks into the psychology behind what makes people want to share content. Research conducted by The New York Times Customer Insight Group looked into what motivates people to share information. Just under half of the people asked in the survey said they share information on social media to inform people and to “enrich” those around them. Conversely, they found 68 percent share to reinforce and project a certain image of themselves – in a sense, to “define” themselves.
In the words of one participant from the study: “I try to share only information that will reinforce the image I’d like to present: thoughtful, reasoned, kind, interested and passionate about certain things.”
It also raises the question of whether online media is just a massive “echo chamber”, where we all just like pages and viewpoints that reinforce our own beliefs and are not interested in information for the sake of information. Even the algorithms of social media sites mean that individuals or pages that you tend to click on, like, or share – which are most often the articles or viewpoints that you agree with – will more frequently turn up on your News Feed.
As a user of online media, you’re probably quite aware of this.
Take a look at any comment on social media pages, including those, of course, on the IFLScience Facebook page. It’s particularly noticeable on the more “emotive” and controversial of subjects; think climate change, GMOs, vaccinations, aliens, and a lot of our articles on marijuana, where the top comments often repeat or question something that is fairly explicitly in the article, but not the headline.
Just this week, our article about capuchins monkeys entering the stone age was met with many of the top comments on the Facebook post pointing out they’ve done this for hundreds of years, despite that being the first thing the article said if you read it. Although from our analytics it’s impossible to see which users did not click through to the article yet shared it, there is fairly often a slightly fine discrepancy between shares and page views which doesn’t quite add up, especially on those buzz subjects.
So, if you are one of the lucky few who managed to click and read this article, we congratulate you! Although we do apologize for the misleading headline. In the meanwhile, have fun sharing the article and seeing who manages to chair a discussion on marijuana genetics, without ever reading it.


Leprosy Is Making A Comeback And Doctors Are Saying To Avoid One Animal At All Costs

Leprosy Is Making A Comeback And Doctors Are Saying To Avoid One Animal At All Costs

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This year, Florida has seen a surge in cases of leprosy. In a typical year, leprosy, also known as Hanson’s disease, appears in about 10 cases. However, so far, there have already been nine cases this year. Perhaps the most surprising thing is the animal that carries it. The harmless-seeming armadillo is the cause, and residents have been warned to avoid them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that the odds of getting leprosy from an armadillo are not very high, but Brad Dalton, the deputy press secretary for the Department of Health says that spending an extended amount of time with an armadillo could spread it. However, he has also cautioned that spending a great deal of time with any wild animal can be dangerous. Cases in which armadillos have been spotted in suburban neighborhoods have also been on the rise in Florida. Pet owners have been reassured that cats and dogs cannot catch leprosy from armadillos and so are safe.
Dalton says it is unclear how leprosy spreads, but most researchers believe it is by respiratory droplets. The transmission is rarely due to casual contact but instead happens when people share a household or have other types of close contact.

2017/02/21

According to science, this is the perfect and best road trip you can possibly take

According to science, this is the perfect and best road trip you can possibly take

Be honest with yourself: at some point, you’ve probably thought about going on a cross-country road trip. Whether it be driving across Canada, United Kingdom, United States, or wherever you’re from, it’s probably crossed your mind at some point.

Discovery News partnered with Randy Olson, a doctoral candidate at Michigan State University, to plan the perfect American road trip.

Get your friends and buddies together. This route takes you across the US and lets you stop at all landmarks in each and every state. Yes, all 48 continental ones.

With the help of a sophisticated algorithm, this road trip allows you to start in any state. Just hop on at the point that runs through your state and keep going until you’re back at your starting point!

perfect_road_trip_map_5

Here is the list of the landmarks you’d stop at in each state on this road trip:
1. Grand Canyon, AZ
2. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
3. Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID
4. Yellowstone National Park, WY
5. Pikes Peak, CO
6. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
7. The Alamo, TX
8. The Platt Historic District, OK
9. Toltec Mounds, AR
10. Elvis Presley’s Graceland, TN
11. Vicksburg National Military Park, MS
12. French Quarter, New Orleans, LA
13. USS Alabama, AL
14. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL
15. Okefenokee Swamp Park, GA
16. Fort Sumter National Monument, SC
17. Lost World Caverns, WV
18. Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, NC
19. Mount Vernon, VA
20. White House, Washington, DC
21. Colonial Annapolis Historic District, MD
22. New Castle Historic District, Delaware
23. Cape May Historic District, NJ
24. Liberty Bell, PA
25. Statue of Liberty, NY
26. The Mark Twain House & Museum, CT
27. The Breakers, RI
28. USS Constitution, MA
29. Acadia National Park, ME
30. Mount Washington Hotel, NH
31. Shelburne Farms, VT
32. Fox Theater, Detroit, MI
33. Spring Grove Cemetery, OH
34. Mammoth Cave National Park, KY
35. West Baden Springs Hotel, IN
36. Abraham Lincoln’s Home, IL
37. Gateway Arch, MO
38. C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, KS
39. Terrace Hill Governor’s Mansion, IA
40. Taliesin, WI
41. Fort Snelling, MN
42. Ashfall Fossil Bed, NE
43. Mount Rushmore, SD
44. Fort Union Trading Post, ND
45. Glacier National Park, MT
46. Hanford Site, WA
47. Columbia River Highway, OR
48. San Francisco Cable Cars, CA
49. San Andreas Fault, CA
50. Hoover Dam, NV
It’s pretty comprehensive, right?
Please SHARE this road trip with your friends. It’s never too late to go on the adventure of a lifetime.


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