Showing posts from January, 2012

Tax Deductions: Enjoy Them While You Can

By Andrea Coombes

Two-thirds of U.S. taxpayers claim the standard deduction, but if ever there was a time to make the most of valuable tax deductions and credits, it might be now, before it’s too late.

Given the general tenor in Washington these days, there’s no telling which tax breaks will survive and which will disappear.

Already some tax perks are gone. Remember Schedule L? On that now-defunct form, taxpayers could claim above-the-line deductions (that is, no itemizing necessary) for certain disaster losses, sales taxes paid for the purchase of a new car, and a limited amount of property taxes. Those benefits are not available on your 2011 return.

And the tax credit for homeowners who make energy-efficient improvements? That’s worth just $500 in 2011, down from $1,500 in previous years — and it’s a lifetime total so if you claimed it before, there’s a good chance you’ve wrung that tax break dry. Tax mines that could blow up your return

“Over the last couple of years we’ve lost a few cr…

9 Things You Should Know About Your Credit Card Receipt

By Melody Warnick

You may know them as those annoying scraps of paper that litter your purse or flutter from your wallet at inopportune moments, but receipts for credit card transactions are actually worth paying attention to.

Here's what you probably didn't know about them, but should:

Receipts are more secure than you think ... Unless a merchant made a big mistake, you won't see your whole credit card number on a receipt. That's because the federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act -- an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act that took effect in 2006 -- legislated that for better financial security, only the last four or five digits of your card number can appear. That's why you see something like XXX-XXXX-1234 instead. Your card expiration date can't show either.

... but receipts aren't totally thief-proof. Your truncated card number isn't enough to steal, but those digits "should still be treated as sensitive, confidential information,…

The eurozone: still reasons to be fearful; The widespread adoption of fiscal austerity will keep hobbling the region

Vikram Khanna

(SINGAPORE) In town last week was Klaus Regling, CEO of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), which is the eurozone's main bailout fund for troubled sovereign debtors.

Part of his mission, it appeared, was to reassure the growing tribe of eurosceptics that the eurozone was well in control of its crisis, which is the stuff of headlines these days.

Candid and straightforward, he made a strong case for the durability of the eurozone and left no questions unanswered. But for all that, it was still a less than fully convincing effort.

Mr Regling, whom The Economist magazine has dubbed the eurozone's 'Chief Bailout Officer', arrived at a slightly awkward moment; on Jan 16, ratings agency Standard and Poor's (S&P) had downgraded the EFSF (from AAA to AA+), after having three days earlier cut the ratings of nine eurozone sovereigns (including France, Italy and Austria).

He pointed out that the cut in the EFSF's ratings (which came from only …

Global financial system in danger zone: IMF; It wants to prevent panic deleveraging of assets by banks

Anthony Rowley; In Tokyo

THE global financial system has moved 'deeply into the danger zone', the IMF warned in a report published last night while calling for the establishment of some kind of 'gatekeeper' mechanism to prevent panic deleveraging of assets by banks in Europe and elsewhere as they seek to shore up capital ratios.

This warning in the IMF's latest Global Financial Stability Report came as the Washington-based financial institution also slashed its growth forecast for the global economy in 2012, following the example set last week by the World Bank.

'Financial conditions have deteriorated, growth prospects have dimmed and downside risks have escalated,' the IMF said in a World Economic Outlook Update, adding that 'the global economy is threatened by intensifying strains in the euro area and fragilities elsewhere'.

In a third report called the Fiscal Monitor Update, also published last night, the IMF further warned that national fiscal pol…

How to Shape Up Your Finances in 12 Months

By Lisa Bertagnoli

All 12 months of a fresh new year means 12 opportunities to get your credit shaped up and your budgeting under control. Here, experts offer one seasonally relevant idea for each month of 2012 to do exactly that.

January: Request your free credit reports.

Why January for this exercise, a favorite among financial advisors? “You want to get financially fit,” says Denise Winston, owner of Money Start Here, a Bakersfield, Calif.-based financial advice firm. Federal law entitles consumers to a free copy of their credit report from each of the three bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) each year. To get these reports, visit, the website set up by the three bureaus. Pull all three; each contains different information, Winston says. Review them for accuracy and take steps to fix incorrect information. Letting mistakes slide can cost: Missing an error, and having to settle for a higher interest rate, cost Winston and her husband $15,000 …

What the Top 1% of Earners Majored In

We got an interesting question from an academic adviser at a Texas university: could we tell what the top 1 percent of earners majored in? The writer, sly dog, was probably trying to make a point, because he wrote from a biology department, and it turns out that biology majors make up nearly 7 percent of college graduates who live in households in the top 1 percent. According to the Census Bureau's 2010 American Community Survey, the majors that give you the best chance of reaching the 1 percent are pre-med, economics, biochemistry, zoology and, yes, biology, in that order. Below is a chart showing the majors most likely to get into the 1 percent (excluding majors held by fewer than 50,000 people in 2010 census data). The third column shows the percentage of degree holders with that major who make it into the 1 percent. The fourth column shows the percent of the 1 percent (among college grads) that hold that major. In other words, more than one in 10 people with a pre-med…

6 Careers to Watch in 2012

For many people, the new year sparks fresh interest in finding a new job. Some are just looking to switch workplaces, but others are hoping to start or change careers. So where are the jobs?

According to Tig Gilliam, CEO of staffing and recruiting firm Adecco Group North America, they aren't within the government, nor are they in construction. Key indicators of those sectors' slackened openings include post office closures in 2011 and a long-suffering housing market, says Gilliam. However, highly specialized professions, particularly in the healthcare, information technology, and finance industries, should provide a wide-range of employment opportunities. "These sectors have fared well throughout the recession and are poised for growth in the year ahead," Gilliam says. "Finance, mortgage-related, and accounting jobs will show growth based on low interest rates and homeowners opting to refinance."

The Labor Department's projections on the fastest-growing o…

Feng shui investing: year of the dragon

by Josh Noble

With the year of the rabbit drawing to a close, thoughts turn to the prospects for the year of the dragon. Dragons are said to be highly auspicious, provided their natural ferocity can be kept in check.

Should investors be scared? Or do the soaring wings of the mythical beast offer equity markets a flight into the stratosphere?

CLSA’s Philip Chow, shipping analyst and occasional feng shui master, offered up his findings after a look into the crystal ball using the ancient Chinese art of feng shui.

As a quick reminder, last year was tough. Few investors will miss the timidity of the rabbit – an easily frightened animal, who bolted underground at the very mention of the letters EFSF. The year was also burdened by elemental imbalance, with a dangerous excess of fire and metal. Chinese markets performed poorly.

But the dragon – the only mythical beast among the 12 zodiac signs – is made of sterner stuff. What’s more, 2012 in has no fire in its charts at all, and only a touch of m…
The beginning of a new year is usually a good time to reflect on the past in order to make certain resolutions about the coming one. In investing, future success can have little to do with what has worked well in the past. Trying to predict short-term market movements is also generally an investment strategy that can lead you to financial ruin. Keeping these perspectives in mind, below are five of the dumbest things you can do with your money in 2012. Trade Volatility
Lately, it has been en vogue to consider volatility its own asset class. Trading volatility has become possible through vehicles based off the Chicago Board Options Exchange Market Volatility Index, or VIX for short. A range of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have been created so that investors can make bets on the extent to which the market bounces up and down. There are even ETFs that let investors gain twice the exposure to market volatility, which can be used to make bets on both advances and declines in t…

22 Signs That We Are On The Verge Of A Devastating Global Recession (GMF, FXE, UUP, SHLD, XLF)

Michael Snyder: 2012 is shaping up to be a very tough year for the global economy. All over the world there are signs that economic activity is significantly slowing down. Many of these signs are detailed later on in this article. But most people don’t understand what is happening because they don’t put all of the pieces together. If you just look at one or two pieces of data, it may not seem that impressive. But when you examine all of the pieces of evidence that we are on the verge of a devastating global recession all at once, it paints a very frightening picture. Asia (NYSEARCA:GMF) is slowing down, Europe (NYSEARCA:FXE) is slowing down and there are lots of trouble signs for the U.S. economy (NYSEAWRCA:UUP). It has gotten to a point where the global debt crisis is almost ready to boil over, and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next. The last global recession was absolutely nightmarish, and we should all hope that we don’t see another one like that any time soo…

Here’s how having a beer or cappuccino could help you nab your next banking job

by Shree Ann Mathavan

You no doubt know the drill when it comes to formal interviews, but the line can get a little fuzzy when it comes to meeting prospective employers at a café or bar. With this in mind, we present a guide to coping with cappuccino meetings.

Although not exactly new to Asia, these sessions are growing in popularity, says Annie Yap, managing director, AYP Associates in Singapore. She cites a recent case of a candidate who was hired after three coffee meetings – even signing the appointment letter took place outside the office.

They are informal dialogues between you and the line manager. The entire team won’t be sizing you up at a coffee shop, so relax. The discussions are typically the purview of senior professionals (VP and above), especially in the front-office and private banking, says Yap.

Although the get-togethers are usually preliminary chats before the formal interview, Johannes Tan, senior consultant, financial services and banking, PSD in Shanghai, has see…

Investing For Success in 2012

By Sheraz Mian

Stocks were all over the place last year, but finished close to the starting point. Should we expect more of the same?

Or, as some doomsayers never tire of reminding us, should we get ready for that day-of-reckoning stemming from problems in Europe and fiscal imbalances in the U.S?

I don't buy into those scenarios. In fact, I firmly believe that we entered 2012 in much better shape than in the last several years. Don't let the endless harangues from doomsayers about Europe and China scare you away from the stock market.

I am not brushing the problems under the rug; Europe's debt problems and questions about China's growth are real and remain a concern. But there are reasons to believe that we will have a lot more clarity on these issues in the coming months than was the case last year.

I am not someone who always sees the glass half-full. My sunny outlook for 2012 has a sound fundamental basis, which I want to share with you here. Suffice it to say, I see a …