Going Paperless

It’s an overused cliché in movies: a client arrives at his accountant’s office and dumps a shoebox full of receipts on the desk, fistfuls of white paper spilling over the sides. If you regularly keep receipts and documentation for tax write-off purposes, this scene may sound familiar. But it doesn’t have to be—much of our daily business has gone virtual, with loan statements, bank statements, credit card accounts, and even tuition bills delivered via email or on a secure server online.

Interested in going digital? Here’s what you need to know.

Invest in a good scanner.

The IRS was actually ahead of its time when it began accepting scanned receipts in 1997, in a rule called Revenue Proclamation 97-22. But the documents need to be legible, clear, and easy to access—which means that if your receipt is bunched, blurred, or otherwise illegible on your screen, it will likely be rejected, or … Read More

Parents: Get the 4-1-1 on the 529 College Savings Plan

Have a child who’s headed off to college in the future? It’s never too early to start planning how you’re going to cover the rising costs of higher education. A 529 savings plan can help you save for your child’s (or other dependent’s) college tuition. The rules differ by state (you can look up your state here), but the basics are the same: you make regular contributions to an investment and then withdraw from that pool of money to pay for college-related expenses.

The good news: your withdrawals are tax-free, meaning you won’t be subject to any taxes each time you take out money to pay for a qualified expense.

The bad news: not all college-related costs are considered qualified expenses.

So before your child heads off to earn his first degree, you’ll want to do some homework yourself. Using 529 money to pay for the wrong kinds of expenses … Read More

The Secrets of a High Credit Score

Having a good credit score can unlock doors for you—from getting for a car loan to qualifying for the mortgage you’ve always wanted. Some lenders, including credit card companies, offer bonus incentives to people with good credit scores, including lower interest rates, mileage programs, and higher spending limits. Here are some tips to help you set healthy financial habits and watch your credit score skyrocket:

 1. Check your credit score and report.

It sounds like a no-brainer, but the first step in improving your credit is knowing how potential lenders see you. The most widely used and reputable scoring system is the FICO score, which assesses your credit  on a scale between 350 and 800. Obviously, the higher your score, the more appealing you will be to lenders, so knowing where you’re at now and where you’d like to be can give you some motivation to re-think your spending and saving … Read More