Shameless Plug: The IT Girl’s Guide to Blogging With Moxie

Today’s post is a shameless plug for a good friend of mine, Katherine Scoleri, who just wrote her first book “The IT Girl’s Guide to Blogging With Moxie” with her business partner Joelle Reeder.

I am indebted to Kathy because she is the person who turned me on to the power of blogs.  As a first mover in the blogging world she established herself as a highly sought after blog designer and joined forces with Joelle to form “The Moxie Girls“.

The IT Girl’s Guide to Blogging With Moxie” is a sassy, brassy technology guide — written by women for women — with a practical twist. Dynamic duo Joelle Reeder and Katherine Scoleri put you on the fast track to creating your own blog, polishing your prose, accessorizing with podcasts and photos — and that’s just for starters! You’ll find chats with famous female bloggers, tips on how to promote your blog, and loads of information on the geeky basics for beginners — all wrapped in hip dialogue. 

Buy this book, you will not be dissappointed!

Shameless Plug Over….

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Dollars & Sense Education – Raising Your Financial IQ!

What To Do When Your Company’s Retirement Plan Stinks

A problem that many Americans face is the choice of whether or not to invest in a less than stellar retirement plan (401K, 403B) at work.  I’m talking about plans filled with lousy mutual funds with high expense ratios and bad returns.  So what do you do when you want to sock your money away for retirement and there are no good investment alternatives in your employer’s plan?

1) Complain to your employee benefits department.  This isn’t always going to help and certainly not fast.  You also risk pissing off the people who hired you.

 2) Consider, “Do I get a company match?”  If the answer is yes, you should at least contribute up to the match.  That is and always will be free money.  Virtually any match on your money will beef up crappy returns significantly.

3) After the match has been reached or without a match the decision becomes much harder.  Most people like the ease of investing in a company retirement plan because the money comes right out of your account.  Many people do not have the discipline to save outside of their retirement accounts for an IRA or after tax investing.  If this is you, use your company’s retirement plan.  A lousy plan is better than nothing. 

If you have the discipline to save outside of your work account than you are probably better off investing your next dollars in a low cost IRA or Roth IRA.  After these are maxed out you really need to run the numbers and see if after tax investing will make more sense than investing in underperforming mutual funds.

My Favorite Female Personal Finance Blogs/Bloggers

One of my goals as a personal finance blogger is to increase the general knowledge level and interest that women have about finance.  Many women take on the budgeting role in the household while the man takes on the big investing decisions.  This is a concept that is somewhat foreign to me, as are many gender roles, being that I wasn’t raised in a house with a man.  There were no men to make the decisions. 

My interest in money and finance is innate.  I have ALWAYS been interested in it.  What I struggle with is how to connect with other women because I know I am not the norm. 

One way I start is to take a look at the women bloggers that connect with me.  There are not too many that I connect with unfortunately but these three I really like ALOT.  Light on the coupon cutting advice and recycling your child’s lunchbags and heavier on the nitty gritty like taxes, investment strategies, etc. 

My faves:

Kay Bell at Don’t Mess With Taxes –  THE spot for all things taxes.  This woman knows her sheeeeeeeeeettt.

Nina Smith at Queercents – It’s funny, this site is targeted toward the LGBT community and I’m straight and read it religously.  Nina is insightful and light on fluff

Single Ma’s Fabulous Financials – Not a heavy site but …. a 30 something single mom who is insightful and I think I would be friends with if I knew her in “real life”.

Please contact Dollars & Sense Education to bring our seminars to your company or organization!


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Rule 72(t) – Retire Early Penalty Free!!!

Many individuals feel the 401K is less desirable because they want to retire early and don’t want to postpone their investing gratification until they are 59 1/2.  That is the age that you can withdrawal funds from your 401K without a 10% penalty from the government.  If you have enough money in your 401K to retire at age 45, why can’t you?  Well, you can!!!

Rule 72(t) of the tax code the “equally substantial distribution” eliminates the early withdrawal penalty if done properly!


How It Works

  1. Quit working.
  2. ROLL your 401k into an IRA.
  3. Apply for a 72(t) “equally substantial distribution”.
  4. The IRS will offer you (3) optional payout amounts. The (3) IRS optional payout methods will tell you how much the “equally substantial distribution” will be based on your age, the age of your beneficiary, the amount of money you have, the % rate used for the calculation and how long they expect you to live (based on IRS’s mortality table).
  5. The rule is, once a rollover is completed and a 72(t) is setup to pay out an income stream, it must
    continue until the age of 59 ½ has been reached or for a minimum of 5 years, whichever 
    comes last. For example, if you start a 72(t) at the age of 57, it must run until you are age 62, 
    then it stops. If you are age 50, then it runs until you reach age 59 ½, then it stops.
  6. After the 72(t) has stopped, then of course you can take out of your IRA any amount you might desire or require.

***I need to point out, just for clarification, that YES all the income you receive is fully “income taxable” at your applicable income tax rate but without any added penalty.

Please contact Dollars & Sense Education to bring our seminars to your company or organization!


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Starting Early – Tax Advantaged Investment Accounts For Newborn Babies

Money magazine published an interesting article in the November issue about Michael Schrraden, founder of Washington University’s Center for Social Development.  Schradden believes that giving newborns a tax advantaged account with an initial deposit from the government could help in the fight against American debt.


His proposals have helped launch a program in the UK and he has support currently from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress.  The lead proposal is called the ASPIRE Act and would offer a one-time $500 deposit and an additional $500 for the poorest kids.  This money plus any additional money invested would could be invested in a number of funds. 

What do you think of this program?  I think it could be beneficial but only if implemented extremely well.  Personally, I would need to hear more about the plan.  Where will the funding come from?  Will parents be educated about the system? Will parents have the ability to withdrawal funds for themselves? 

 As fiscally conservative as I am, this smells like a recipe for more tax shelter for high earning families.  Maybe I am a pessimist but coming from a low-income family there certainly was not enough money to put away in a kiddie 401K for me.  If you can’t make rent, you can’t invest for your kid.  My second fear would be irresponsible parents (and there are plenty out there) withdrawing their children’s funds and squandering the money.

I would love to hear what others think. 

The Jock Exchange

I love sports.  I love watching sports, I love playing sports.  I also love finance.  For years I have thought, why isn’t there an exchange the deals in the business of athletes?  Soon there will be!  On the proposed A.S.A. Sports Exchange, an athlete would sell 20 percent of all future on-field or on-court earnings to a trust, which would in turn sell securities to the public.  

I can see it now, “Honey, how would you like to allocate our assets in our IRA? I would like 30% in an S&P 500 Index, 50% in International funds and 20% in Ladainian Tomlinson”. Life is good.  I just wish I launched the idea myself.

A Personal Finance Blog Revolt!!!

My one pet peeve with MOST personal finance blogs out there is their almost religious commitment to being thrifty.  I have read articles lately about refilling toothpaste bottles and reusing cereal liners.  In my opinion that’s not personal finance, that is borderline homelessness. 


I know there are people out there that are mired in debt and need to use these gorilla tactics to crawl out of the hole they are in.  I have been at those points in my life where I had to stretch every dollar reeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllyyyyyyyy far.  However, I suspect that there is another group of individuals out there that are so turned off by the “personal finance paupers” that they eschew personal finance blogs, articles and tv shows.  My belief is that you can still have a comfortable life and build wealth.  You just need to budget accordingly.

I have a confession to make: I eat out every day.  That’s right.  Every day.  No, I don’t buy my food in bulk at Sam’s Club.  And you know what else, I drink alot of beer at bars.  I have budgeted these things into my life because they make me happy.  Could I sock a little bit more into my savings account if I ate at home and drank a six pack all by my self.  Sure, but what fun would that be?  I have been able to invest a hell of alot of money from age 22-29 without living a boring life.  Does it help that I am single with no children? Sure.  Does it help that I live in a city with a low cost of living (Philly)? Sure.  Does it help that I have made a decent salary over the last few years? Sure.  But I am convinced you can have your cake and eat it too.  In college, I made $12,000/year.  My pay was able to cover rent, electric, gas, car insurance, food and alot of partying.  Did I have to skimp on luxuries? Obviously.  But I budgeted around my priorities and 12K went a long way.

My view is personal finance should be about finding the sweet spot between growing your net worth and living a fulfilling life.  Just my 2 cents.

 Please contact Dollars & Sense Education to bring our seminars to your company or organization!


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Looking Out For Aging Parents’ Finances In Their Later Years

As with most of my posts, this is inspired from interactions I have with individuals that I advise.  I have never had to think much about the finances of older people who are in poor health.  Luckily for me, my mother is in excellent health and very young.  So this topic has never been top of mind for me.  But for many folks the sad reality is that they are watching the decline of their parent’s health and have some very real financial issues to deal with.


The Situation 

Most middle class and lower class Americans that need to enter a nursing home do so via Medicaid.  The cost of a nursing home is extremely expensive so people can’t afford it.  However, you cannot have significant assets and income and qualify for Medicaid.  So in order to qualify your parents can lose all of their assets.

 The Rules

Medicaid is a state managed program and thus the rules differ from state to state.  Many times individuals will try plan their estate by transferring assets to family in order to qualify for Medicaid.  It’s not that easy, the Federal Government will “look back” 5 years to see if you have transferred assets (cash, house, securities, etc).  If you have done so, you are penalized by losing eligibility for Medicaid.  This can put a family in an terrible quandry. 

For example, say Grandma Maloney gifts $10,000 to her granddaughter to go to college.  Four years later, Grandma falls and breaks her hip and needs to enter a nursing home.  Grandma will be ineligible for Medicaid for a period of time because she transferred assets during the last 5 years.

Home equity can also preclude you from Medicaid eligibility.  Individuals with equity of over $500,000 in thier home are also ineligible.  For many seniors that have their home paid off and live in expensive parts of the country this is common.

What To Do?

This post is not meant to be a resource for what to do.  The rules differ significantly from state to state and each individual’s circumstances warrant unique planning.    Heads up and plan well!

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Retirement Accounts for The Self Employed (Part 5 of 5) – What Is The Best Plan For You?

Independent’s Week is officially over!  I hope all of the self employed people out there enjoyed my detailed blog entries about the differences between all of your options for retirement plans.  In the chart below I summarize your options, key details and the pros and cons of each plan.  Enjoy.


For the rest of this series:


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Retirement Accounts for the Self Employed (Part 4 of 5) – The Keogh

Ok folks, another entry for the self starters out there!  Part 4 of how to sock your money away for retirement for the self employed.  Non self employed folks, come back next week and I’ll some good stuff for you!  So let’s do this… Part 4 – The Keogh. 

Keogh plans are the self-employed equivalent of corporate retirement programs.  They come in two basic flavors: profit-sharing plans and defined benefit pension plans

Annual contributions to Keogh profit-sharing plans are based on a percentage of self-employment income or compensation and subject to a $45,000 ceiling.  A plan document must be drafted in Year One (this may cost a couple hundred bucks), and the IRS demands an annual report (you can probably do this yourself).

Keogh defined benefit pension plans are designed to deliver a targeted annual retirement benefit, which can be as high as $180,000.  Each year’s contribution must be calculated by an actuary — the exact amount depends on your income, the target benefit, years until retirement and anticipated investment returns.  Annual actuarial fees and the required IRS report can run up to a couple grand.  Another negative: You’re locked into making the actuarially determined contribution each year.  However, if you make good bucks and are over 50, a defined benefit plan may be worth all the trouble — because it permits much bigger contributions than any other type of program.  If you’re younger, go with a SEP, profit-sharing Keogh or Solo 401(k).


To put this entry in perspective, the Keogh plan is quite complicated and probably not appropriate for most self employed folks out there.  Keogh setup and ongoing fees for paperwork and for professional guidance are more suited to self-employed individuals with established businesses and consistent incomes.  One reason behind this limited parameter is that once you open a determined benefit contribution plan, you’re locked into that contribution every year

Do I Qualify For A Keogh?

Any sole proprietors, partnerships, LLCs, and anyone with self-employment income.

Are Keogh Contributions Pre or Post Tax?

Keogh plan contributions are deducted from pre tax income and contributions and interest income are tax deferred until withdrawal.

Where Do I Set Up a Keogh?

A Keogh plan is something you REALLY want to talk to a live financial advisor about.

How Much Can I Contribute Annually to a Keogh for myself?

You will encounter the same $45,000 ceiling for contributions to a Keogh profit-sharing plan but you can set a ceiling as high as $180,000 for a defined benefit Keogh plan.

Why Not Just Open a Traditional or Roth IRA?

Do Both!

When Do I Set This Up?

If you are establishing a plan for the first time, complete the Adoption Agreement(s) by December 31 (Simplified Keogh plan) or your fiscal year-end (Standard PSP/MPP plan), and you will be eligible for a deductible contribution for this year.

What If I Already Participate In My (Other) Employers Plan?

I was not able to get a definitive answer about this.

Do I Have to Put Away the Same Amount of Money Every Year?

With a profit-sharing plan you can vary annual contributions from 0 – 25% of compensation per year or skip a year if business conditions change.

With a defined benefit pension plan you make fixed contributions each year (1 – 25% of compensation) as your commitment to retirement benefits but once you select a percentage, you must contribute that same percentage each year, no more and no less. This contribution cannot be changed unless you amend the plan.

What If I Have Employees?

I was not able to get a definitive answer on this one!

Next Stop!

In Part 5 I will sort out what plans make sense for your individual situation!

For the rest of this series:

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