Personal Finance from Forbes.com

  • The Secret to Lowering Your Energy Bills
    When you’re paying your monthly rent or mortgage, the last thing you  want to worry about are high energy bills adding to your expense. It’s the era for going green. Lowering your energy bills saves you money and is better for the environment. Doing so is incredibly easy since it’s mainly a case of changing your habits and making better choices.
  • 9 Steps to Boost Your Credit Before You Buy
    The process of buying a home doesn’t just begin when you walk through the door of your first open house – it starts long before that. One of the first stops on the road to home ownership is figuring out your finances, and that includes understanding your credit, a critical piece of the buying puzzle.
  • Is 'Impact Investing' Just Bad Economics?
    There was an entertaining article in this Sunday's New York Times Style Section about a gang of rich kids who got to go on a field trip to the White House to “empower” them and let them schmooze about their charitable projects (possibly now to include the DNC?).  My favorite line was a description of 26-year-old zillionaire Zac Russell, who wore a “loosely fitting suit without a necktie that contrasted with the stately White House surroundings.”  I recall how President Ronald Reagan refused to take off his suit jacket or loosen his tie in the Oval Office even when he was hot because he did not want to insult the dignity of his surroundings with undue casualness.  Fortunately, these trustafarians know how to chillax.
  • The Economy According To The Fed
    The Fed publishes its report on the state of the U.S. economy eight times per year. In this article, we'll explain the Feds latest report from April 16th in simple, concise terms, cutting through the noise and confusion which exists in much of the media.
  • Does Your Advisor Compare Apples To Pork Chops? Five Ways To Ensure Your Performance Report Isn't A Lemon
    A woman walks into a car dealership and wants to test-drive a sports car. The sales associate says, “Your car is out on the road, but drive this lawn mower. It will help you understand the car you want better than you could ever imagine.” “That’s ludicrous,” she says. “What can I learn about the car I want by riding a mower? I want to compare this car to other sports cars like it.” “Please, just do it for five minutes. And then we’ll talk.” So the woman placates the salesperson and takes a bumpy, eight-mile-an-hour drive around the car dealership’s lot. After dismounting the mower, the waiting salesman guides the woman inside the dealership and into one of the ubiquitous cubicles that serve as sales offices. “Now what the heck was I supposed to learn from that exercise?” she asks, mildly annoyed. He lists all the advantages the sports car has over the mower. The sport car aces highway crash tests, but the mower fails miserably. The car can go 400 miles on a tank of gas; the mower only 10 miles. The car has satellite radio and the mower has none. While the mower is guaranteed for one year, the car has a five-year warranty. And on and on. Finally, the woman asks, “So what do these comparisons tell me?” The salesman finishes his sales pitch with evangelical zeal, excitedly proclaiming, “This proves the car has everything you want.” The woman walks out of the office annoyed. Another buyer, a young male who overheard the pitch, hurriedly jumps into the vacated seat and asks the salesman, “Is this really the best car on the market?” “It is. Trust me.”
  • Court Approves Tax Sale Of New Mexico Property For Less Than 1% Of Its Value
    Despite the ferocious reputation of the IRS, if you can't pay your income taxes, it is possible to get quite a bit of slack.  It is not hard to apply for a payment plan and before any serious collection activity, you will get notice of your right to a collection due process hearing. You can appeal the result of that hearing to Tax Court.  Typically Tax Court decisions on collections hearings concern taxes that are at least five years old.  Compared to that, the system for collecting property taxes in many parts of the country is much, much speedier. There is something of  "You snooze, you lose" attitude in some jurisdictions  with the penalty, loss of the property, often disproportionate to the tax involved.  The New Mexico Court of Appeals decision in the case of Francisco and Rachel Valenzuela is a cautionary tale in this regard.  They lost a property valued at $25,000 over $215 in unpaid property tax. In New Mexico, like several other states including Indiana and Florida, localities collect delinquent property taxes by auctioning off the property. (Sometimes what is auctioned off is a certificate. Investors in the certificates can end up getting a healthy rate of interest when the owner finally gets around to paying the taxes.  If the owner takes too long and the certificate holder jumps through the proper hoops, the certificate holder ends up owning the property, free and clear.) Apparently New Mexico skips the certificate step. That is what happened to the Valenzuelas. Here is the story.
    Plaintiffs Francisco and Rachel Valenzuela owed delinquent taxes on property in Portales, New Mexico, which the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department (the Department) sold at auction to Defendants Allan and Sherry Snyder. It is undisputed that the minimum bid at the sale was established by the Department as $215, and the Snyders, who were the only bidders at the auction, paid that amount. The Department's Property Tax Division (the Division) issued deeds on the property to the Snyders, which the Snyders recorded.
    So, in effect, the Valenzuelas sold their property to the Snyders for less than 1% of its value.  It gets a a little lawyerly from here.  They appealed to district court and won the first round.
    The Valenzuelas filed suit seeking an order setting aside the tax sale. They alleged that because the purchase price was so grossly disproportionate to the property's fair market value-alleged to be at least $25,000-it would be inequitable and unconscionable to let the tax sale stand. The district court granted them summary judgment on the ground that the Snyders failed to respond to the motion for summary judgment and were deemed to have admitted the facts alleged by the Valenzuelas.
    It almost looks like the Valenzuelas pulled a reverse snooze/lose on the Snyders.  They told the judge that the property was worth more than 100 times what the Snyders paid for it and the Snyders didn't object in the proper manner, so the Court gave the Valenzuelas summary judgement.  But not so fast, says the appeal court.  The Snyders, because of the failure to properly respond were deemed to have admitted:
  • Worst Property Taxes
  • Deciphering Your Money Mindset
    You arrive at adulthood—somehow—after spending years in and out of school, learning from books, teachers, friends, the media and our parents.
  • Beware Annuities' Hidden Costs
    Annuities come with a lot of nuts and bolts – and sometimes slick sales pitches.
  • 8 Tips For Taking Out Student Loans
    Considering that the average student loan borrower graduates with more than $26,000 in debt, you need a strategy to keep your loan debt from ballooning out of control.

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