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Fall Lawn Care

Supposedly, one of the few reasons to celebrate the end of summer is that you can finally stop caring about what your lawn looks like. But we regret to inform you that you can’t give up on your grass just yet. In fact, some of the work is more effective (and therefore more cost-effective) when done now than at any other time of year. Here are a few steps to take this fall to make sure you get a healthy happy lawn next spring.

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More Reasons to Take Social Security Sooner

Now that the stock market has quieted down a bit and it appears that the world isn’t going to end any time soon, we can return to our series on when one should take Social Security. It’s usually better to wait as long as you can, but a few weeks back we listed several reasons you might want to take it sooner rather than later. Here are a few more for you to ponder.

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Investment Steps to Take Today

We interrupt our series on waiting to take Social Security so that we may bring you a special report on what you should (and shouldn’t) do in light of the recent volatility in the investment world. The natural inclination is, of course, to PANIC! and toss aside years of saving, investing, and planning, liquidating whatever investments you have that are exposed to the volatility.
But a more measured approach may serve you better in both the short and long runs.

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Taking Social Security Sooner

We’re still debating the merits of taking Social Security now, instead of delaying the benefits. So far we’ve argued that the longer that you wait, the bigger the checks will be. And living off of other sources of income (i.e. your IRA) could lower your overall tax bill in retirement. But those benefits still might not outweigh having a proverbial bird in the hand instead of two in the bush. Here are some reasons that you may want to take your Social Security retirement benefits at an earlier age.

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Waiting to take Social Security

In response to questions sent in by readers, we’ve been discussing the strategy of retirees waiting to take Social Security as long as possible, and instead living off of any savings, IRAs, and pension payments.

The benefits are many, but the drawbacks can still be enough to give a person pause.

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Staying Financially Independent

Last week’s column was a timely discussion of how you can find out how much money you need to become financially independent, as well as the way you can check on your progress towards that goal.

Of course, becoming financially independent is one thing. Remaining at that status is entirely another, and certainly deserves some attention.

Here’s how to use a few rules of thumb to increase the chances of your nest egg lasting at least as long as you do.

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Buying a Home While Paying Student Loans

We returned from a well-deserved break to find that our e-mailbag has begun to fill up with questions (admittedly, it’s a very small bag). So we decided to empty it out and provide some answers.

This week’s question is from a young man who wants to know how he can “start a family and buy a house” after he graduates from college, especially if he has a substantial amount of student debt. We’re not comfortable coaching readers on how and when to start families, but hopefully these tips will help him accomplish his other financial goals.

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Becoming Financially Independent

This is the time of year that many families are spending time and money to send their kids to sports camps, enroll them in private athletic training, and signing up for various traveling teams and tournaments.

These activities can be well worth the effort and expense. But if parents are thinking that this significant investment will pay off in the form of a college scholarship, they may need a little education.

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Life Advice To New Grads

Last week we had a few hopefully-useful specific financial tips for new college graduates. But there are even more important decisions younger adults will have to make that will have a great effect on their money, and their lives.

Here are few things that some of us who are older had to learn from experience, and wish we had known a little sooner.

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Money Advice To New College Grads

This time of year is when millions of Americans (mostly younger, some not so much) will stride across a stage to accept their diplomas from some type of higher education institution.

As a token of our congratulations, we will spend the next few weeks imparting some (hopefully) valuable money and life lessons to these new grads.

Since this column is entitled “On Your Money”, it’s probably best to start with the money lessons first.

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College Savings Plans

This Friday is May 29th, also known as “5/29”. Since we’re discussing the best ways to save and pay for higher education expenses, it seems appropriate to devote this week’s column to 529 college savings plans.

(Unfortunately the ability to make topic tie-ins that are this clever can’t be taught at any college or university).

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It's Possible To Pay For College

Graduation time is here again, and once again parents of younger children realize that they are that much closer to having to come up with tens of thousands of dollars to help pay for their kids’ higher education expenses.

To alleviate some of the understandable stress experienced by these families, we’ll spend the next few weeks on the topic of how you, too, can actually afford to send your kid to college.

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Home Equity Loans and HELOCs

We return from a well-deserved break with a continuation of our discussion on mortgages. As you no doubt remember, with interest rates low, valuations picking up, and lenders getting friendlier, there hasn’t been a better time to get a new mortgage in the past several years.

But not every homeowner needs, wants, or can qualify for a new mortgage. So here are some alternative ways to tap your home equity for special expenditures, or just in case.

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What Kind Of Mortgage Is Best For You

With mortgage interest rates low, home values rising, and lenders more friendly to borrowers than they’ve been awhile, now might be a good time to get a new mortgage, or refinance the one you already have.

Although your situation may differ, most of the time there are a few simple rules to use in deciding what loan terms are the most favorable to you.

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Reasons You May Need a New Mortgage

Now that you’ve (hopefully) finished and filed your income tax returns, it’s time we turn to another step that may involve lots of paperwork, confusion, and potential stress: getting a new mortgage.

However, all the work involved in getting that mortgage can provide a much bigger payoff than any tax refund you have ever received.

Here are five reasons you may want to consider getting a new mortgage, even if you’re not buying a new house.

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Wise Ways to Use Your Tax Refund

Hopefully by now you’ve completed and filed your income tax returns, and are eagerly anticipating a juicy refund, which, according to the IRS, should average around $3,000.

Sure, you could spend that money on a new TV or a well-deserved vacation. But here are some money-smart ways to use your refund for a more rewarding purpose.

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When You Can't File or Pay Your Taxes on Time

One sign that you’ve reached “adulthood” is that you get more excited on the day you receive your tax refund than you do about all other holidays combined.

But for people who either can’t complete their tax returns, or (worse yet) discover that they owe state or federal taxes, this time of year can be full of anxiety, stress, and spent scrambling for solutions

Here’s what to do when you can’t file (or pay) your taxes by April 15th, and how to hopefully avoid this problem in the future.

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Reducing Your Tax Refund

If you’re like most taxpayers, you are anxiously (or excitedly) anticipating a refund on the state and/or federal taxes you overpaid during 2014.

The IRS says that nearly eight out of ten filers are going to receive at least a refund on their federal tax returns, for an average amount of about $2,800.

But it may not be in your best interests to pay in too much in taxes sooner, only to receive your own money back later. Here are some reasons you may want to rethink receiving a refund, and what to do if you want to hang on to your money as long as possible.

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IRA or ROTH IRA

We’re at that time of year where workers (and their spouses) are trying to decide if they can (and should) contribute to an IRA or a Roth IRA for the 2014 tax year.

The quick answer to those questions is, “Maybe!”, so perhaps some rules of thumb will be helpful.

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Ways to Save on Car Insurance

According to the website CarInsurance.com, the average annual cost to insure a vehicle in the Chippewa Valley is around $830, or about 70 bucks per month.

Of course, what you pay may be much more or less than that amount. Here are seven ways you can spend as little as possible, and still get the coverage you need.

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Shopping for Car Insurance

In terms of enjoyability and anticipation, “shopping for car insurance” ranks down near “doing your taxes”, “shoveling your driveway,” and “waiting in line at the DMV.”

But if you haven’t compared the relative price of your auto insurance policy in the past several years, you may be missing out on a meaningful amount of money.

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Tax Identity Theft

In the next few weeks thousands of taxpayers will get a negative surprise when they file their taxes (and it will have nothing to do with how much they owe).

What they might find out that someone has already used their Social Security number to file a false tax return, and collect a fraudulent refund from the IRS.

The aftermath of this happening to you can mean a delayed refund, piles of paperwork, and even a loss of certain income-sensitive benefits if the thieves file your return using an overly-inflated income figure.

Here’s how to prevent being victimized by “tax identity theft.”

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Saving on Groceries and Calories

We haven’t given up on helping you keep your New Year’s Resolutions to spend less and weigh less (hopefully you haven’t given up yet, either).

Today we’ll tackle another big potential budget- and belt-buster: shopping for groceries and eating at home. The good news is that you can save money, calories, and time, without making major disruptive changes in your routines.

Instead, try these five little tweaks over the next few weeks.

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New Year's Resolutions

Year after year, two of the most commonly-cited New Year’s Resolutions are to “lose weight” and “save money”.

The difficulty in achieving these goals is evident by their perennial appearance on our list of things we would like to improve in our lives, as well as the billions of dollars and thousands of hours we spend trying get richer and/or thinner.

The good news is that the path to success in these areas is similar, and in some cases can even be accomplished simultaneously.

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Online Holiday Shopping

Last week we alarmed you with the revelation that there were only a few more weeks left until Christmas, and provided some tips to stay

safe and save money as you hurried out to the stores.

Now there are seven fewer days left until the 25th, and since you probably don’t have enough time to get to the stores, we’ll tell you how to

shop smartly on the web.

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