Personal Finance


Record ATM Fees Could Be Impacting Checking Balances

Automated Teller Machines (ATM) fees have hit a record high according to’s latest survey of large banks and thrifts. The fees are leaving many balances short despite rising interest rates.The key findings of the semi-annual survey, which compares checking accounts and ATM fees offered by large banks and thrifts in the 25 largest markets with a sampling of checking accounts available at online banks, include:The fee for using the “wrong” ATM – one owned by a bank other than the bank issuing the ATM card – hit an all-time record high.

IRS Announces 2006 Standard Mileage Rates

Last Friday, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued the optional standard mileage rate to be used with the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.Beginning January 1, 2006, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car, van, pickup or panel truck will be:44.5 cents per mile for business miles driven18 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations, other than activities related to Hurricane Katrina reliefThe new rate for
Practice Management

Why Every Business Needs a Cafeteria…Plan, That Is

They’ve been called one of the most under-used employee benefits for small businesses. Not only do they allow employees to set aside a portion of their pre-tax salary for qualifying insurance premiums, medical expenses and even child-care expenses, they also reduce employer payroll tax liability by eliminating matching FICA taxes of 7.65 percent and, depending on the state the business is operating in, possibly also workers compensation. What are they?

High Deductible Health Care Plans Off to Slow Start with Small Businesses

Health care plans with high deductibles that can offer Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) grew only 2 percent among small businesses this year, according to a survey by Mercer Health and Benefits consultants reported on by USA Today. The high deductible plans are more popular among employers of more than 20,000, 22 percent of whom will offer some form of the plan this year.

New Blue-branded Healthcare Debit Card Introduced

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) has teamed up with Visa USA in an agreement to offer co-branded debit cards to members of participating Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.

A New Look For And At Gift Cards

Gift cards are a popular option to gift buying. Trying to dispel the generic look and feel associated with gift cards, merchants are dressing them up for the season. Gift cards are available picturing Christmas trees, birthday gifts and wedding scenes, to name just a few. Some gift cards can even be personalized with a message!Merchants are also getting creative with packaging. Coffee retailer Starbucks, always a popular standby, has replaced the familiar paper sleeve with a festive red felt pouch giving their card less of a “last minute” look.

Tip Time: Giving to Those Who Do For Us

Cash is the best way to say “Happy Holidays” to those whose job it is to make others lives easier, experts and recipients told CNN.“You tip the people who perform services for you year-round, who are there for you when you need them and whom you have a valuable relationship with,” Peter Post, director of the Emily Post Institute and author of Essential Manners for Couples told CNN.In addition to the cash, Hilka Klinckerg, founder of Etiquette International, suggests including a short note of thanks and giving the tip in person whenever possible, CNN reports.

Senate Pension Reform Bill Approved

The Senate passed a bill aimed to strengthen U.S. company pension plans although warned that President Bush intends to veto the legislation. The White House labeled the bill inadequate according to the New York Times. The House may reconcile two bills that were approved by separate committees next month.In a prepared statement, Bill Thomas, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee said, “Pensions obviously are a critical component of retirement security for millions of Americans, providing an important source of income for retirees.

State Surpluses May Lead To Tax Cuts

The U.S Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that state and local revenues are up 7.2 percent in the first three quarters of 2005. With state personal and corporate tax collections peaking, the question is what to do with their revenue surpluses in 2006. Strong revenue growth has New Mexico realizing a $1 billion surplus, Florida a $3 billion, and even California seeing a $3.4 billion surplus according to USA Today. States taxing energy production and real estate construction have seen windfalls also. “Every month we’re surprised by the good news and say it has to slow down.

Mark Your Calendar: 2nd Annual Insurance Industry Summit

A spirited debate on state versus federal regulation of the insurance industry, along with the emerging life settlement business will highlight the Second Annual Industry Summit and Breakfast being held December 5, 2005, at the Union League Club of Chicago, Illinois.

The Transformation of Microphilanthropy and Microfinancing

Microphilathropy and microfinancing are ideas with similar social missions: allowing people to uplift themselves. The Dalai Lama has said that wealth should be viewed as an ability to give. More directed social and personal impacts are the goal. Both initiatives will require the development of more efficient ways of distribution and communication to reach more people. Microfinancing involves making business loans to people that are too poor to qualify for normal-sized loans. Traditional banks have ignored microfinancing loan amounts of $500 or less.
Community News

Toward A Financially Fit Ohio

Last Thursday, the Ohio Society of CPAs launched a campaign to help Ohioans make better and more informed decisions about their personal finances.“Ohioan today face a growing list of personal financial challenges,” Janice L.

Consumers Demanding Convenience of Online Bill Payments

The main criteria for choosing a bank used to be its proximity to home. Now customers are looking carefully at the quality of a bank's online bill-paying service before they choose.“Paying bills online is in the mainstream, and for the first time online banking and bill pay has moved into the top three factors considered by consumers when choosing a bank," said Matt Lewis, executive vice president and general manager of CheckFree's Electronic Commerce Division.

Retail Sales Dip in October, But Less Than Expected

If it weren't for fewer car purchases and high gas prices, retail sales for October would have been strong, a new government report shows.Analysts had predicted retail sales would fall 0.7 percent last month, but sales actually fell only 0.1 percent from the month before, Reuters reported. Car sales fell sharply by 3.6 percent in October, so if those figures were excluded, retail sales would have risen 0.9 percent.

New Medicare Drug Benefit Open for Enrollment Today

Seniors can begin enrolling in the new Medicare prescription drug plan starting today, but many are finding the wealth of options confusing.Selecting the best plan may be difficult, but President Bush touted it in his weekly radio address as “the greatest advance in health care for seniors and Americans with disabilities since the creation of Medicare 40 years ago.”Some of the country's 40 million Medicare beneficiaries have felt stymied by the system in the past.

Conversation Starters: Tips for Talking About Estate Planning

Parents in their 70’s are more comfortable discussing estate planning than their Baby Boomer kids, according to research recently released as part of the “Family Conversations” series from The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc.. The research also shows that parents and children need some help discussing estate planning issues.“Older adults tell us they really do want to discuss topics such as estate planning, medical care and final arrangements with their children,” Maureen Mohyde, director of The Hartford’s corporate gerontology group said in a prepared statement.

Consumer Confidence Seems to Recover

A recently released poll shows that consumer confidence took a rebound in November according to the Associated Press. The RBC CASH Index showed an upward trend starting in September at 61.5 to October at 66.8 to November’s poll numbers at 81, almost a 20-point increase in two months. The RBS CASH (Consumer Attitudes and Spending by Household) Index started at 100 in January 2002 according to a prepared statement. The monthly results are obtained in phone interviews with 1,000 individuals located across the United States.

Automatic Extensions Available to Most in 2006

Earlier this month, the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced new regulations developed to streamline and simplify the procedures for taxpayers requesting automatic six-month tax-filing extensions. Beginning January 1, 2006 and effective for the 2005 returns filed in 2006, individuals will be able to use a single form (Form 4868) to get an automatic six-month extension rather than the current two-step process.“Some taxpayers need a full six months for extensions as the law provides.

MasterCard’s Debt Know How Program

Credit card companies often play a significant role in people’s debt problems. If MasterCard has its way, however, it is going to be a significantly positive role. In order to achieve this role, they must not only overcome popular perceptions but also the 32 percent of Americans who feel they are doing the “best possible job” when it comes to managing debt.Fortunately, 30 percent of respondents indicate having more information about debt management would help them reduce debt faster and more efficiently.

Welcome to Money Management U!

How much time do employees at your firm spend dealing with, or just worrying about, their personal finances? According to a recent Texas Poll, nearly 30 percent of Texas employees spend six or more work hours a week on personal finance.


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