Archive for December, 2009

15 Year-End Financial To-Do’s

posted by Dr. James G. Hood
Tuesday, December 29, 2009

by Kelly Campbell
Source: Yahoo


The year is coming to an end, and with any conclusion comes a last-minute checklist. This is your final financial to-do list of 2010. With only a few days to complete these items, do not waste time getting started.

1. Fund your IRA or Roth IRA. For 2010, investors can add up to $5,000. If you’re over age 50, add an additional $1,000.

2. Maximize 401(k) contributions. For 2010, savers can add up to $16,500 to their company’s 401(k) plan. If you’re over 50, add an additional $5,500.

3. Rebalance investments. Rebalancing is selling part of what has done well and buying what has not done so well, thus selling high and buying low.

4. Review portfolio quality. Look at the rankings of the investments in your portfolio and keep the quality high. Don’t hold onto any low-quality investments.

5. Review the tax impact of your portfolio for the year. Now is the time to make any changes to offset portfolio taxes. This needs to be done in 2010 to impact your tax bill in 2011.

6. Review your financial plan. Make sure you are hitting your goals by looking at your results compared with your financial plan. If you don’t have one, complete a financial plan prior to year end.

7. Contribute to your child’s or grandchild’s 529 plan. You may be able to get a 2010 deduction from state taxes.

8. Convert your IRA to a Roth IRA. You’ll be able to pay the taxes over two tax years, 2011 and 2012.

9. Take out your minimum required distribution. If you’re over 70 1/2, you must take your MRD in this tax year. If you don’t, the penalty is 50 percent.

10. Get married. If you are planning on getting married without the hoopla, do it now to receive tax benefits.

11. Review your credit record. Check to see if you have any blemishes on your credit record. You are eligible for one free credit report a year.

12. Make an extra mortgage payment. One extra payment a year can reduce your 30-year mortgage by seven years.

13. Pay your state taxes this year. If you do, you may be able to get a deduction.

14. Calculate your net worth. Each year it is a good idea to see the value of all your assets and review your annual progress.

15. Develop your 2011 budget. Building a budget can be the best way to meet your financial goals. Putting it down on paper is the first step.

None of these items are difficult and some may not even pertain to your situation, but these friendly reminders can prove to not only put you on the right track, but keep you there.

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Eco-friendly gift wrap ideas

posted by Dr. James G. Hood
Tuesday, December 22, 2009

By MarthaStewart.com
Source: Yahoo!Green

Why buy fancy wrapping paper when it will only end up crumpled in the recycling bin? Every year, Americans spend billions on ribbons, paper, and bows, only to see them ripped up and tossed away.

These creative, eco-friendly gift wrap ideas make use of materials already lying around your home — maps, shopping bags, even kids’ artwork. Did we mention they don’t cost a cent?

(Photo: Martha Stewart)

Biodegradable stuffing

Biodegradable stuffing cushions small, fragile items just as well as plastic bubble wrap or Styrofoam peanuts, a recycler’s worst nightmare.

(Photo: Martha Stewart)

Potato-chip bag gift wrap

Give a new life to empty potato-chip bags by dressing up your gifts in them. Cut open a potato-chip bag along its seam to reveal the shiny white or silver inside of the bag. Flatten the bag, wash it with soap and water, and air dry. Then wrap your present and adorn it with ribbons and homemade cards.

Clockwise from top left, we used: vintage scarf, burlap rice bag, wool scarf with a knitting needle, tea towel with rickrack, scrap from a vintage kimono. (Photo: Martha Stewart)Clockwise from top left, we used: vintage scarf, burlap rice bag, wool scarf with a knitting needle, tea towel with rickrack, scrap from a vintage kimono.

Cloth gift wrap

In Japan, the art of wrapping gifts in cloth is called furoshiki, and it’s brilliantly eco-friendly. Use scarves or towels (which become second gifts) or fabric scraps leftover from other projects. Secure open ends with a button, safety pin, or knot.

(Photo: Martha Stewart)

Stamped shopping-bag gift wrap

Have shopping bags around the house? Repurpose them into festive gift wrap. Cut an open paper shopping bag along one fold and scissor out the bottom of the bag. Wrap your gift in the paper. Dip one end of a wine cork into ink or a dark fruit juice and begin stamping patterns.

Clockwise from top left we used: Vintage wallpaper, Chinese newspaper topped with colored paper, recycled map, grocery bag with Japanese beads. (Photo: Martha Stewart)Clockwise from top left we used: Vintage wallpaper, Chinese newspaper topped with colored paper, recycled map, grocery bag with Japanese beads.

Vintage and repurposed paper gift wrap

Easy to find and work with, vintage and repurposed papers add pop to presents. Layer several colors and textures, or add vintage beads for a finished look.

(Photo: Martha Stewart)

Kids’ artwork gift wrap

Children’s drawings make for inexpensive and delightful homemade gift wrap, especially for family members. Have kids doodle on Kraft paper, calendar pages, shopping bags, magazine pages, and phone book pages.

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