Personal Finance | AccountingWEB

Personal Finance

A&A

Health Care Spending Races Ahead of Income Increases

Spending on health care rose by 8.2 percent last year, outpacing spending increases in other areas and outstripping average growth in income, a new study says.The spending increase was slower than in past years - it peaked at 11.3 percent in 2001, for example - but it outpaced gross domestic product, which increased by 5.6 percent, Forbes.com reported. In the most recent 12-month period, prices for health care rose by 4.3 percent, compared with 2.8 percent for prices overall, according to the U.S.
Education & Careers

Texas Passes Financial Literacy Law

How many teens know the value of a dollar? How many can balance a checkbook or understand a budget? On June 17, 2005, Texas joined the seven, now eight, states, where the answer to these questions better be: most of them.“Since American teens spend billions of dollars each year, it’s imperative that they learn smart spending and saving habits early in their lives,” Ed Polansky, Chairman of the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants (TSCPA) said in testimony supporting HB 492.
Tax

Homeowners Should Know Tax Implications

Homeowners enjoy generally favorable tax treatment when they sell their principal residence, thanks to a 1997 tax code change that eliminates taxes on capital gains.But experts say that not everyone wins under the law, and it pays to be savvy about all the tax implications associated with buying and selling. Now that some economists are warning of a possible cooling in housing prices, it's as important as ever to be aware of what the laws mean to you. First, some statistics.

Overheated Housing Market Shutting Out First-Timers

The hot housing market has its good, bad and downright ugly sides, as super-high prices force first-time buyers into creative financing arrangements that could easily bust their budgets if the economy worsens.To get into the housing market, some buyers are relying on loans that allow tiny down payments or interest-only and adjustable-rate mortgages, which have the advantage of low monthly payments early on.
Technology

Avoiding Errors in Excel Spreadsheets

We trust our spreadsheets until they let us down. Then, we faithfully check all the values and formulas to find the error which is easier (or harder) to discover depending on the complexity of the spreadsheet, the importance of the information it contains, or how much time we don’t have to troubleshoot the problem. Undiscovered mistakes lurk in every spreadsheet. Cautionary tales about misadventures with Excel spreadsheets abound. Whether we find our errors using a computer-assisted audit tool or we check a spreadsheet line for line, we seek perfection.

Increase in Consumer Debt is Far Less Than Expected

While consumer spending has been a major driver of the U.S. economic recovery, the increase in borrowing in April was far lower than Wall Street analysts had expected.Borrowing for auto loans and other types of nonrevolving debt increased, but at the slowest rate since last November, the Federal Reserve reported on Tuesday. Nonrevolving credit rose $1.7 billion in April versus a $7.4 billion rise in March, Reuters reported.Consumer credit rose just $1.26 billion in April, rather than the $7 billion increase that was predicted by many analysts.

Colleges Caught when Donors Touched by Scandal

Recently, the Associated Press reported that 47 American colleges and universities have endowments exceeding $1 billion. How much of those endowments, and of the many donations made to less financially well off schools have a whiff of scandal to them. After all, some of the high-flying CEOs and much sought after alumni donors of only a few years ago find themselves embroiled, accused and even convicted of financial misdeeds today.Schools across the country are finding themselves tied to the recent string of corporate scandals like Enron, Tyco, WorldCom and others.

Data on 3.9 Million Citigroup Customers Lost

Computer tapes containing the personal information of 3.9 million Citigroup, Inc. customers have been lost en route to a credit-reporting bureau. United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) was transporting the tapes at the time of the loss.Forbes is reporting that Citigroup has begun notifying customers of CitiFinancial, including customers with closed accounts at CitiFinancial Retail, that the lost tapes contained their names, Social Security numbers, account numbers and payment history.

GAO: Underfunded Corporate Pensions 'Severe and Widespread'

Massive failures of defined-benefit pension plans, shortfalls in pensions for state employees and the debts plaguing the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. are sparking worries about the security of retirement benefits.Troubled United Airlines recently received court approval to dump four pension plans, with a shortfall of $9.8 billion, onto the PBGC. The PBGC, a government-sponsored insurance agency of sorts, is funded by premiums paid by companies, and it is now facing a $23.3 billion deficit of its own.
A&A

Income, Saving, & Confidence All Play Role in Economic Growth

April saw personal incomes increase at the fastest pace this year. The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis announced on Friday, May 27, that personal incomes increased $69.1 billion or 0.7 percent and disposable personal income (DPI) increased $45.7 billion or 0.5 percent. Disposable personal income is the amount of income remaining after taxes are paid.Personal consumption expenditures (PCE), often called consumer spending, increased $53.6 billion or 0.6 percent which was less than the 0.8 percent rise expected by economists surveyed by MarketWatch.

AICPA Praises Congress for Introducing Privacy Protection Act of 2005

On May 17, Rep Mark Kennedy (R-MN) and Collin Peterson introduced the Privacy Act of 2005, H. R. 2387. This legislation would amend the privacy provision applicable to CPAs in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLB) passed in 1999.“The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is pleased Congress has taken this important step to support legislation that would exempt CPAs from a redundant requirement,” said Barry Melancon, CPA, President and CEO of the AICPA.
Education & Careers

College Students Reaching for Credit Cards Less Often

Undergraduates are keeping smaller balances on their credit cards – at $2,169 – than at any time since 1998, according to a new study by student loan originator Nellie Mae.Nellie Mae's study analyzed credit card behavior of Nellie Mae student loan applicants over the last year, following up on three previous studies done in 1998, 2000 and 2001.

Flexible Spending Accounts: More Time to Spend

The U.S. Treasury announced last week that millions of workers who use flexible spending accounts (FSAs) to set aside pre-tax dollars for health-care expenses will have until two and one-half months to spend the set-aside funds. Previous rules required that funds deposited in an FSA be spent by the end of the plan year. Any unspent funds were lost.The use it or lose it rule isn’t changing but savers are being given an additional 2½ months in which to spend it. If the plan year ends with the calendar year, spending can now continue until March 15.
Education & Careers

The Grad Gift That Saves Them Thousands of Dollars

The U.S. Department of Education recently announced that student borrowers, even those who are still in school or the grace period immediately after graduation, may consolidate existing government-backed students loans and lock in the low interest rates currently available.
A&A

Impending Bankruptcy Changes Push Up Filings

A major overhaul of the bankruptcy law is prompting more people to file for protection now to avoid going through a more difficult and expensive procedure in the fall.Bankruptcy filings in March jumped nearly 60 percent from February, according to Cardweb.com, which tracks the credit and debit card industries. Attorneys who specialize in bankruptcy law say the increase is directly related to the new law, which takes effect Oct.

Slow Growth for US Economy in 1st Quarter

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the broadest measure of the overall health of the American economy, grew at an annual rate of 3.1 percent during the first quarter of 2005, down from 3.8 percent the previous quarter, according to the Commerce Department. The “pot hole” was blamed on reduced spending by consumers and businesses, probably compensating for higher energy prices.

The Fed's Gramlich Says New Law May Not Fix Predatory Lending

Legislation that would create a federal standard to curtail predatory mortgage lending may not result in system that is more friendly to consumers, says Federal Reserve Governor Edward Gramlich.The House is considering two bills that would create federal rules to clamp down on predatory lending practices on mortgages and home equity lines of credit.
Tax

Too Many Tax Breaks? Commission Says: Yes!

President Bush’s Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform has concluded that Americans have too many deductions and tax credits available to them.

Mint to Produce 24-Karat Gold Coin

With demand for gold coins on the rise globally, the U.S. Mint announced plans this week to begin offering a new 24-karat gold bullion coin early next year, the Associated Press reported.The Mint currently offers a 22-karat American Eagle gold bullion coin, which contains 91.67 percent gold and the rest is made up of other alloys. To achieve the 24-karat tag, the new coin must contain 99.99 percent gold, the AP reported.The new coin will be the Mint's first 24-karat gold coin and is being made in response to investors demand for the purer gold coin.
Tax

REITs Offer Tax Advantages

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) have lost some of the luster lately. Fear of larger tax bills and rising interest rates, have discouraged many investors from adding REITs to their personal financial plans. New research from the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (Nareit) and published in the Wall Street Journal (April 19, 2005, Eastern edition) indicates the tax burden may be lower than previously thought.By law, REITs have to pass a large portion of the income they generate directly to investors.

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