9 Everyday Problems You Can Solve With Vaseline

Jars of Vaseline
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One day in 1859, a chemist named Robert Chesebrough visited Titusville, Pennsylvania. He noticed that oilfield workers were using something they called “rod wax” to dress minor skin wounds.

Rod wax was an oil-drilling byproduct. Chesebrough was intrigued enough to start refining the goop. When he introduced his finished product to the public, he called it “Wonder Jelly.” In 1872, it was named “Vaseline,” a word that the manufacturer says was derived from the German “wasser” for water and Greek “elaion” for oil.

Although other companies now manufacture the goop, some people still use the word “Vaseline” to refer to petroleum jelly, a mixture of natural waxes and mineral oils. Whatever you call it, you likely grew up with a jar in your home. And what a wonder this emollient continues to be: Consumers use it in dozens of ways both inside and outside the home.

Take a look at the following everyday problems and annoyances that you can solve with petroleum jelly, and you’ll never see it the same way again.

1. Water rings

A senior woman cleans wood furniture
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Have you noticed water rings left by a wet glass on a table or other wood surface? Rub some petroleum jelly into the stain in a circular motion. Sabrina Fierman, vice president of the luxury cleaning service New York’s Little Elves, tells Architectural Digest that you can leave the jelly on as long as overnight if the ring is stubborn.

Mayonnaise is another effective option for this problem that you likely have on hand, as we explain in “11 Secret Uses for Everyday Items That Save Money.”

2. Pesky squirrels

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Use petroleum jelly to keep squirrels away from bird feeders set on poles. Lather it on the pole, and the squirrels won’t be able to climb up the slippery surface.

WD-40 will also do the trick, as we report in “14 Uses for WD-40 That Save Money, Time or Headaches.”

3. Squeaky hinges

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Got noisy or stiff hinges on cabinets or doors? Petroleum jelly works just as well as WD-40 — but without the smell or the mess.

“The petroleum jelly works its way into the hinge and adheres well, so it won’t run off and make a mess like oil or other lubricants,” Family Handyman explains.

The publication offers step-by-step directions with photos. All that’s required besides the petroleum jelly is a hammer, a rag and a finish nail.

4. Blisters

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Apply a little bit of petroleum jelly on the parts of your skin that are prone to blisters, the American Academy of Dermatology advises.

This will help reduce the friction when skin rubs against skin or when skin rubs against clothing, thus helping to prevent blisters.

5. Short-lived fragrance

Woman putting on perfume
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Before you spray on perfume or cologne, rub a little petroleum jelly onto your pulse points or wherever you apply fragrance. It will make the scent last longer, says Dr. Travis Stork, an author and former host on the TV talk show “The Doctors.”

“It holds that fragrance to your skin more so than if you just spray it right on your skin,” Stork explains.

6. Sensitive pooch paws

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Before going for a walk in the snow, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suggests putting petroleum jelly on the tender pads of your dog’s feet.

“Massaging petroleum jelly or other paw protectants into paw pads before going outside can help protect from salt and chemical agents,” the nonprofit explains.

7. Rough, dry or chapped skin

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Got super-dry skin on your feet? Coat with petroleum jelly just before bedtime, then put on socks. It feels weird at first, but you get used to it. In the morning, marvel at your skin’s softness.

Lips dry and flaky? Create an exfoliating scrub by mixing petroleum jelly with sugar. You can also make up a big batch of the stuff and give yourself a good rubdown, to remove dead skin.

Nostrils chapped from blowing your nose while sick with a bad cold? Gently apply some petroleum jelly to moisturize the dry skin and protect it against rubbing.

8. Makeup removal

Woman removing makeup
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Out of makeup remover? Or looking for another way to take off your makeup? Gently massage a little petroleum jelly on your face, then wipe with a soft cloth or tissue.

Dr. Mona Gohara, a dermatologist and associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine, tells Allure:

“It’s light and lubricated, so the makeup slides right off without harming the skin.”

9. Risk of eczema

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Apparently, it’s not just for a baby’s backside: Citing a study published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, the Mayo Clinic reported in 2017 that a daily application of petroleum jelly on a newborn’s skin for the first six months of life can reduce the risk of eczema.

This irritating skin condition affects as much as 30% of children.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

9 Things Anyone Can Get for Free on Amazon

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If you love Amazon, you already know about the many great deals you can find there. But did you realize you can get many items for free at the online retail giant?

These items are available to anyone who shops through Amazon. You don’t need to be a member of Amazon Prime — although joining that program allows you to access an ever-increasing number of perks, as we detail in “These Are the 8 Best Benefits of Amazon Prime.”

Following are some of our favorite examples of the free stuff anyone can get at Amazon.

1. E-books

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You’ll find free e-books for Kindle — which is Amazon’s line of e-readers — on Amazon’s “Free Books and Low Priced Reading Options” webpage.

Don’t have a Kindle? Don’t worry — just check out “This Trick Lets You Read E-Books Without an E-Reader.”

2. Anything you can buy with a gift card

Amazon gift card
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Yes, it’s possible to snag an Amazon gift card for free, as we detail in “8 Ways to Get Amazon Gift Cards for Free.” Then, anything you “purchase” with free gift cards is effectively free.

3. Anything you can buy with points

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If you have one of the Amazon Rewards Visa credit cards or the Amazon.com Store Card, you can use accumulated points to buy things on Amazon. And anything you “purchase” with those points is effectively free.

These cards also come with freebies: You will get a free Amazon gift card worth $10, $50 or $100 — depending on the card — upon signing up and being approved.

Of course, it’s generally unwise to sign up for any new credit card based on the sign-up bonus alone. First, do a little comparison shopping using a free online resource like Money Talks News’ credit card comparison tool to identify the best plastic for you.

Also, if you have a cash-back credit card that is not affiliated with Amazon, note that you can still use the cash back you earned from that card to buy things on Amazon. Anything you “purchase” with any kind of cash back is still effectively free.

4. Mobile apps

Businesswoman looking at her smartphone
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Amazon’s Appstore includes plenty of free mobile apps.

To view just the free ones, select “Free” under the “Price” menu on the left. You can also filter the apps based on various other preferences using the menus on the left.

5. Shipping

Amazon purchases
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Prime members can get free and fast shipping for just about anything, but nonmembers can also get free shipping for many purchases.

Amazon’s “Order with Free Shipping by Amazon” webpage explains:

“Orders of $25 or more of eligible items qualify for FREE Shipping.”

6. Photo storage

Couple using a laptop
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Amazon Prime members get unlimited photo storage and 5GB of video storage on at no extra cost — which is among the best Prime perks. But folks who aren’t Prime members also get free storage on Amazon Photos — up to 5GB worth.

To get even more free photo storage without a Prime membership, see if any of your friends or relatives with Prime use the Family Vault feature.

The Family Vault is basically online storage space that Prime members can share with five other people. And those five invitees also get unlimited free photo storage — even if they are not Prime members.

7. Bonus wedding gifts

Wedding couple
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If you create a wedding registry on Amazon, you will enjoy numerous perks — including the ability to score what Amazon calls “bonus gifts” for free.

Here’s how it works: If you add certain items to your registry and your guests purchase them, you’ll get something for free. Visit Amazon’s “Bonus Gifts” webpage to view the freebies that are currently available.

8. Baby items

Baby in a crib
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Amazon’s registry freebies aren’t just for couples tying the knot.

Parents-to-be who create a baby registry on Amazon also enjoy perks, which include a free welcome box. Amazon describes it as “a surprise box of items for parents and baby valued up to $35.”

9. Audiobooks

Teen listening to music on headphones
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Amazon owns Audible, a company that produces and sells audiobooks and other audio entertainment. Audible also offers a membership that enables you to access free and reduced-price audio content.

Audible memberships are not free, but a free 30-day trial is available for both the Plus and Premium Plus plans. Just don’t forget to cancel the Audible membership before the trial ends if you decide you don’t want to pay for a membership.

For more options, check out “10 Places You Can Find Free Audiobooks.”

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

11 Foods That Can Keep for Years

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If you hadn’t previously thought about how you would build up a food supply for an emergency, the coronavirus pandemic probably made you consider it.

What kinds of foods are best to keep in the pantry and freezer in case of a natural disaster, zombie apocalypse or pandemic that drags on for more than a couple of weeks?

Start with the following options. These foods can last for years before going bad.

1. Oats

This prolific cereal grain and staple of many American breakfast tables can last up to 30 years, according to the Utah State University Extension.

Store oats in airtight containers in a cool, dark, dry place. To maximize shelf life, use oxygen absorber packets.

2. White rice

Also known as polished rice, white rice has a shelf life of 25 to 30 years when properly stored. That’s why we included it in “20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling.”

The best temperature for storing this grain is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. The best container is one that is sealed and oxygen-free.

3. Popcorn

Unpopped kernels can last two years, according to the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Best storage is at room temperature.

4. Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate lasts up to two years if properly stored, according to Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

It should be stored in a tightly sealed containers and at a temperature of 65 to 70 degrees. Keep it in a dry location as well. Do not refrigerate it, because the sugar can rise to the surface and give the chocolate a whitish appearance.

5. Honey

Winnie-the-Pooh’s favorite can remain stable indefinitely, according to the National Honey Board. However, a two-year shelf life is standard.

The trade group explains:

“Honey stored in sealed containers can remain stable for decades and even centuries! However, honey is susceptible to physical and chemical changes during storage; it tends to darken and lose its aroma and flavor or crystallize. These are temperature-dependent processes, making the shelf life of honey difficult to define.”

6. Powdered milk

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s FoodKeeper storage guide, powdered milk can last three to five years — but keeps only three months once the package has been opened.

For best storage, keep at cool temperatures in a dark location.

7. Dried beans

Dried beans and lentils have a shelf life of up to 30 years or more when stored properly, according to the Utah State University Extension. However, for best color and flavor, they should be used within 12 months.

The best method of storage is in No. 10 cans or Mylar-type bags with the oxygen removed, and keep the beans at a colder temperature.

8. Certain cheeses

Low-moisture, hard cheese can last from 10 months to several years, reports Dairy Foods Magazine. For example, the typical shelf life for Parmesan is up to five years, and that of aged cheddar is up to 10 years.

The Food Network has a handy how-to on best practices for cheese storage.

9. Canned foods

Generally, commercially canned foods that are canned in liquid should maintain their best quality until their expiration date, which is usually two to five years from the manufacture date, according to the Utah State University Extension.

Note that unopened home-canned foods have a shorter shelf life — one year — and should be used before two years. The USU Extension explains:

“Commercially canned foods are superior to home canned for food storage. Commercial canners can closely control quality and safety to produce the best product.”

When buying canned foods, avoid cans that are:

  • Rusted
  • Dented
  • Scratched
  • Bulging

10. Frozen foods

That succotash that’s been in your freezer for years might not taste amazing, but it’s perfectly safe and likely still nutritious — assuming your freezer has been kept at zero degrees Fahrenheit or colder.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, foods frozen at that temperature remain safe almost indefinitely, and freezer storage has little to no effect on food nutrient value. Quality is a different matter, but the USDA has a handy storage chart showing how long different frozen foods maintain their quality.

The USDA recommends storing frozen food in packaging that keeps air out.

11. Sugar

How long does the sweet stuff last? Domino Sugar says:

“Sugar, properly stored, has an indefinite shelf life because it does not support microbial growth.”

However, Domino adds that sugar is best when used within three years of purchase. Powdered sugar is best when used within two years of purchase.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

How to Thrift Shop for Vintage Lane Acclaim Collection Furniture

Woman shopping for secondhand furniture at a thrift store
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Shopping thrift stores, flea markets and estate sales can be overwhelming. With the sheer volume of stuff, how do you know where to start? How do you spot gems amid all the junk?

As a professional reseller who has been combing through thrift stores for the better part of 30 years, I can help. If you’re ready to cut your shopping time in half, score bigger bargains or walk away with brag-worthy finds you can flip for cash, read on.

From hard-to-find household items to resale money-makers, everything featured in my “Thrift Shop Like a Pro” series qualifies as a BOLO (“be on the lookout” for) item. When you find it, buy it!

Featured Find: Lane Acclaim furniture

Last month, I accompanied a good friend to Ikea. Though in the market for all sorts of furniture, he politely declined my offer to stop at a few thrift shops and consignment stores along the way.

Several hundred dollars (and 10 Allen wrenches) later, he had a condo full of decent-looking Scandinavian-inspired furniture. Sure, most of it was particle board covered in paper, but hey, different strokes.

If he had waited, he could have found something cheaper, more stylish and much better made — like vintage Acclaim collection furniture by Lane.

Designed by Andre Bus and introduced in 1958, Acclaim paired traditional furniture elements like inlaid dovetail borders with mid-century features like sleek lines and minimal ornamentation. This hybrid approach helped hesitant Americans embrace mid-century style, and it paved the way for more revolutionary furniture to come.

Today, coffee tables and end tables are most common in the secondhand market. But the full Acclaim line also included:

  • Desks and chairs
  • Bedroom sets
  • Dining room set
  • Snack cart
  • Credenza
  • Bookcase

Why buy it?

The better question is, “Why not buy it?” Acclaim has it all — cool Danish-modern style paired with solid wood construction and just enough detail to make each piece interesting. By scouting estate sales, consignment stores and thrift shops, buyers can build an heirloom-quality collection gradually.

Though some stores have caught on to Acclaim’s popularity and value, it’s still possible to find an unrestored end table or coffee table for $20 to $30.

Look for the ugly ducklings — pieces with coffee rings, sun damage or scratches. Restoring a Lane Acclaim table is simpler than you might think, and it makes a perfect weekend project.

Acclaim’s mix of quality and style has produced an acclaim-worthy resale market.

This set of three living room tables in original condition sold for $1,199 on eBay. And on Etsy, this restored Acclaim desk is listed for $1,650. Heck, even this spray-painted end table sold for $150 on Etsy. (Furniture purists, let’s tell ourselves the next owner will restore it properly.)

What to look for

The easiest way to spot an Acclaim is to look for the oversized walnut and oak dovetail joints. Though they’re nonfunctional, running no deeper than the veneer, the dovetails make every piece instantly recognizable.

Vintage end tables from the Lane Acclaim collection
Kentin Waits / Money Talks News

Lane furniture is well-marked, too. On desks, dressers and chests of drawers, you can find the logo on the interior left-hand side of a top drawer. Tables and chairs are marked on the underside.

The Lane logo features a horizontal wooden spindle encasing the words “Lane” and “Altavista, Va.” In some versions of the logo, there’s also a stylized image of a long lane bordered by trees.

Though all pieces are popular, Lane’s triangular “guitar pick” accent table is especially prized by collectors. Other hot sellers include:

  • Rolling snack or bar cart
  • 70-inch bench or cocktail table
  • L-shaped “Boomerang” coffee table
  • Three-drawer chest (sometimes referred to as a record cabinet)

Pro tip: Years of wax buildup can sometimes obscure Acclaim’s signature dovetails. If you have a hunch about a piece, inspect it closely.

For more tips like these, check out my article “10 Secrets to Finding Quality Secondhand Furniture.”

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

7 Reasons Not to Claim Social Security Early

Older woman working at a florist shop
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Some people believe in starting to collect Social Security as early as possible, which is generally at age 62.

“Live while it is yet possible to live!” the early birds cry. “After all, I could die tomorrow, and then the government will keep my money.”

What’s more likely is that you’ll live a lot longer than 62.

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the average woman reaching the age of 65 today will live until nearly 87. The average man who is 65 today can expect to live until about 84.

One way to help ensure you don’t run out of money before then is to postpone claiming your Social Security retirement benefits. There are advantages to waiting as late as 70 years old.

While waiting until age 70 isn’t for everyone, following are some reasons that claiming sooner than later can be a bad idea.

1. Claiming early reduces your benefit

Some people think that taking Social Security at age 62 means more money overall. That’s not necessarily true.

The amount of your monthly benefit is based on a formula that’s meant to be actuarially neutral. That basically means you should get the same total amount of benefits over the course of your retirement regardless of the age at which you first claim benefits.

Your monthly benefit will be reduced if you claim before reaching what the SSA calls your “full retirement age,” an age set by the SSA that depends on the year you were born. For example, full retirement age for a person born in 1955 is 66 years and 2 months, while full retirement age for anyone born in 1960 or later is 67.

If you delay claiming until after your full retirement age, you will receive an even bigger monthly benefit once you do claim. For every year you hold off past full retirement age, your benefit will grow by as much as 8%.

The SSA’s “Quick Calculator” can give you a rough idea of your own benefit amount based on when you plan to retire.

A custom analysis of your claiming options, offered by specialized companies like Social Security Choices, can further help you determine when the best time is for you to claim your benefits.

Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson himself got an analysis from Social Security Choices. To learn more about such a report — including how to land a discount on the cost of your report — check out “Maximize Your Social Security.”

2. You might outlive your other retirement income

If there’s a chance that you could use up your retirement funds before you die, a higher Social Security benefit could be crucial.

Getting every last dollar you can in your monthly benefit is important, especially if you don’t have a partner who’s also receiving benefits.

3. Working longer can increase your benefit

Your monthly benefit amount is based on the amount of income you earned during each of your 35 highest-earning working years. However, not everyone is able or willing to work for 35 years, often due to health or family issues.

When that’s the case, the government will substitute zeroes for the missing years in its calculation, which can significantly lower your monthly benefit amount.

Low-earning years also bring down the total, says Emily Guy Birken, author of “Making Social Security Work for You.”

As tempting as early retirement can be, think big-picture and look for ways to bring in more bucks before claiming.

“Anything you can do to replace those zeroes and anything you can do to replace those low-earning years will help beef up your retirement,” Birken tells Money Talks News.

4. COLAs will not boost your benefit as much

A lower monthly benefit means that each cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) — the inflation-based regular increase to your monthly benefit amount — will result in less money than it would have if you had postponed claiming Social Security.

Why? COLAs are a percentage of your monthly benefit. So, the smaller your benefit amount, the smaller your COLA dollar amount.

A 2% COLA, for example, would increase a $2,000 benefit by around $40 a month, or $480 per year. But it would increase a $2,480 benefit by about $49.60, or $595.20 per year.

5. You might stiff your spouse

Working at least until your full retirement age gives your husband or wife a better chance at a reasonably comfortable retirement if you die first.

That’s because widows and widowers often can benefit from Social Security survivors benefits, which are based on their spouse’s benefit amount.

Using the same benefit amounts as above, say a man gets a $2,000 benefit, while his wife’s check will be $1,700 upon her own retirement. If he dies first, she could be eligible for up to $2,000 in monthly benefits. But if he’d waited a few years to claim Social Security, and let his benefit amount grow, she could have been eligible for up to $2,480.

6. You might be hit by a ‘tax torpedo’

Some people want to let their portfolios grow, so they take Social Security early and live on it until they’re forced to withdraw required minimum distributions (RMDs) from their retirement accounts.

This plan can backfire, though, because of how Social Security benefits are taxed.

The extent to which your benefits are taxable is based on what the SSA calls your “combined income.” It includes taxable income, such as withdrawals from tax-deferred retirement accounts like traditional 401(k) plans and traditional individual retirement accounts (IRAs).

Depending on the amount of your combined income, up to 85% of your Social Security benefit could be taxed.

One way to dodge such a tax torpedo is to withdraw less money from your tax-deferred retirement account each year. And delaying claiming Social Security can help you do that because you’ll get a bigger monthly benefit.

In turn, Birken explains:

“You won’t need to take as much from your taxable retirement [plan] to make up the amount you need to live on.”

Some people don’t realize they might have to pay taxes on their benefits. Birken calls it “one of the really nasty surprises about Social Security.”

For more ways to keep Uncle Sam from taking part of your benefits, check out “5 Ways to Avoid Taxes on Social Security Income.”

7. You still like your job

Just because you’re old enough to retire doesn’t mean you have to retire.

Even a part-time salary — plus any other retirement benefits — could cover expenses until you hit age 70, at which point your Social Security benefit would be maximized.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

5 Ways You Can Save $500,000 in 15 Years

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Many Americans are lagging far behind in the race to build a decent nest egg for retirement. Around 42% of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for their golden years, according to a recent GOBankingRates study.

However, being so far behind in savings does not doom you to poverty. Even if you are relatively far along in your work life — maybe you’re 55, or even 60 — all is not lost. It still is possible to save $500,000 between now and the age of 70 or 75.

Let’s say that one Christmas, you decide to treat yourself in the new year by putting money into a retirement account monthly starting the following January. At this point, you have nothing saved for retirement, so you are starting from scratch.

According to a federal government online calculator, this is how much you must squirrel away to reach your goal of $500,000 over 15 years based on various rates of return for your investments:

Annual rate of return Annual amount to save Total amount saved
5% $23,500 $507,009.93
8% $18,000 $502,096.89
10% $16,000 $508,232.62
12% $13,500 $503,276.15
15% $11,000 $523,003.88

Without a doubt, amassing that $500,000 in such a short time frame is going to be a challenge. Although the S&P 500 has averaged an annual return of around 10% historically, there are no guarantees the market will continue to rack up such large gains.

In truth, you cannot control market return. On the other hand, you have much greater power over how much you spend and save.

Get started on your retirement nest egg

If you are just starting to invest for retirement, take the advice of Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson. He urges you to skip those online retirement calculators and to avoid overthinking your savings plan. Instead, simply save and invest as much as you reasonably can:

“At the end of the day, the amount we should all put aside for retirement is the most we can. You don’t need a calculator to tell you that’s the sole determinant of the quality of retirement you’ll have and when it will begin.”

Of course, changing your saving habits will take time. Just as you can’t go from a couch potato to a marathoner in a few weeks, you need to gradually transition to your new, more financially responsible lifestyle.

Last year, we outlined several ways that you can slowly add fuel to your savings strategy. The lessons are just as good in 2021. One of these methods is known as the “52-week savings challenge.”

“The idea is simple: Each week, save an amount of money based on the week of the year. So, the first week of the year, you put $1 aside; the second week, it’s $2; and the last week of the year, you save $52.”

Obviously, you’ll need to supercharge this strategy if you hope to reach your goal in 15 years. But any step in the right direction is a good one. As the well-worn axiom goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

If you are getting a late start, check out “Ask Stacy: How Do I Invest for Retirement Without Risk?” In this video, Stacy offers tips to investors in their 60s who are trying to build a nest egg while earning “decent returns without indecent risk.”

For more retirement savings tips, check out:

Finally, consider enrolling in one — or both — of two Money Talks News’ courses taught by Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson.

The first — The Only Retirement Guide You’ll Ever Need — is a 14-week boot camp intended for those who are 45 or older. It can teach you everything from Social Security secrets to how to time your retirement.

The second — Money Made Simple — is another 14-week course that teaches you the money basics. Topics covered include everything you need to know about:

  • Budgeting
  • Banking
  • Credit
  • Taxes
  • Insurance
  • Investing
  • Taxes
  • Real estate
  • Estate planning

After finishing the course, you will be ready to manage money efficiently while spending less time to get the results you want.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Avoid Paying Taxes on Social Security

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The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 changed a lot of rules, but one thing remains the same: It is exceedingly difficult to evade the long reach of the taxman.

That’s even true of Social Security benefits. Many people know that if you work while collecting benefits before reaching your full retirement age, it can result in a reduced benefit. But earn too much money — even by simply making withdrawals from some types of retirement plans — and you also can end up owing income taxes on your Social Security benefits.

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA):

“Some of you have to pay federal income taxes on your Social Security benefits. This usually happens only if you have other substantial income in addition to your benefits (such as wages, self-employment, interest, dividends and other taxable income that must be reported on your tax return).”

Whether you owe taxes on these benefits depends on your “combined income.” The SSA defines this as the sum of:

  • Your adjusted gross income
  • Your nontaxable interest
  • One-half of your Social Security benefits

If you file an individual tax return and your combined income is between $25,000 and $34,000, you may owe income taxes on up to 50% of your Social Security benefits. Earn more than that, and up to 85% of your benefits could be subject to taxes.

If you file a joint return and your combined income is between $32,000 and $44,000, you may owe taxes on up to 50% of your benefits. Earn more than that, and up to 85% could be taxable.

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce your income and reduce — or even avoid paying — taxes owed on your Social Security benefits. They include:

1. Delay collecting your benefits

Choosing to delay collecting Social Security benefits until your full retirement age — or even beyond — might be the simplest way to avoid paying taxes on your Social Security benefits, at least for a while.

Waiting to file for benefits also means you will get a bigger check each month once you finally do start collecting.

For more on the pros and cons of delaying Social Security benefits, check out:

2. Don’t work, or work less, in retirement

Every dollar you earn doing part-time work can push you a little closer to owing taxes on your Social Security benefits. Of course, it’s silly to quit a job you enjoy — or need — simply to trim your tax bill.

But if the job is a low-wage pain in the neck that only provides you with a modest financial benefit, you might be better off — at least emotionally — quitting so that you can reduce your income for the tradeoff of lowering or eliminating taxes on your Social Security benefits.

3. Avoid municipal bonds

A lot of people turn to municipal bonds as a way to lower their tax bill. Interest earned from these types of bonds typically is not subject to income taxes.

However, municipal bond interest is included in the formula that determines whether you will pay taxes on your Social Security benefits.

As MunicipalBonds.com states:

“When it comes to taxing Social Security benefits, tax-free municipal bond interest can become a ‘stealth tax’ that quietly eats away at income. Bondholders should be aware of these potential tax consequences when deciding between tax-free muni bonds and other kinds of fixed-income investments.”

Consider consulting with a financial adviser to help you determine whether municipal bond holdings might cause such trouble for you.

4. Withdraw money from a Roth account

If you have socked away money in a traditional IRA or 401(k) plan, expect Uncle Sam to come calling during your retirement. After years of deferring taxes on those contributions, the bill is due once you begin making withdrawals on the money.

Additionally, these withdrawals will boost your combined income, which could make the difference in whether or to what extent your benefits are taxed.

One way to avoid such taxation is to withdraw only as much money as the government obligates you to do each year — known as the required minimum distribution (RMD) — and to take any additional cash that you need from a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) plan, if you have one. No taxes are due on Roth distributions, and these withdrawals will not impact your combined income.

However, there are many good reasons not to withdraw money from a Roth account — including that RMDs do not apply to Roth IRAs.

So, consult with a tax professional before making this decision. A pro can help you decide whether withdrawing money from a Roth account — or making a combination of withdrawals from both a Roth and a traditional account — is the best strategy for you.

5. Distribute your RMD to a charity

Giving money to charity is a great way to help make the world a better place. While doing good for others, you can also lower the odds that your Social Security benefit will be taxed.

If you are at least 70½, you can take up to $100,000 of your annual required minimum distribution, give it to a charity and avoid income taxes on the money. This is known as a qualified charitable distribution.

Since the money is not taxed, it will not boost your adjusted gross income. But you need to be aware of some key rules.

For starters, the money must be directed to a qualified 501(c)(3) organization.

Also, you cannot use funds from a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored plan to make this type of distribution. There are ways around this — such as rolling over money to an IRA — but again, this strategy should not be used without consulting your tax adviser.

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Source: moneytalksnews.com