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Switching banks doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Here’s how to change banks the easy way (and we’ve included a downloadable checklist)

how to change banks

With some banks changing their policies to be less consumer-oriented, I’ve received several questions about the logistics of switching banks. In previous decades, closing your account at one bank and opening an account at another was a simple process. All that was required was to walk into one branch and ask to close your account. Then take your cash or cashier’s check to a different location and open a new account with your deposit.

Today it’s not so simple. Banks now offer direct deposits, pre-authorized electronic withdrawals, and online bill payments. While these are great services, they tie you to your financial institution.

There is a financial risk involved too. If you neglect to change your banking information with a creditor, your payment could bounce. This, in turn, could result in late fees, insufficient fund fees, and perhaps even cancellation of your services.

If you’ve taken a modern approach to banking, with automated and electronic payments, you’ll need to start planning in advance. Here are the priorities, if you’ve already chosen your new bank. To compare banks, read through the reviews available here on Consumerism Commentary.

Do You Need to Change Banks?

Before addressing how to change banks, the first question is whether you should. If the primary concern is a bank’s low interest rates, you may have another option.

Many people today keep their brick and mortar bank, even with it’s low rates. They then open an online savings account for the higher rates. An added benefit is that the money saved is at a separate financial institution. That makes it a little bit harder to spend (if your goal is to save money).

You’ll find our list of the best savings accounts here, and our best overall bank rates here.

How to Switch Banks in 6 Easy Steps

Download the Consumerism Commentary Bank Switch Kit to help you organize the information you’ll need. The link is at the bottom of this article.

Step 1. Open the new account with appropriate minimums

Before you can change the account information stored with creditors, you’ll need to have your new bank’s routing (ABA) number and your new account number. For a short period of time, both your old bank account and your new bank account will be active. This ensures that all your payments go through and all your deposits are received during the transition period. Determine which types of accounts you need at your new bank. You’ll also need the minimum required to open the accounts ready to deposit.

If you had debit cards, ATM cards, check cards, deposit slips, or paper checks with your old account, don’t forget to order the same when you open your new account.

Download the Bank Switch Kit for a convenient way to keep track of your new banking information.

Step 2. Change your direct deposit information

It could take as many as two pay periods for your new direct deposit instructions to take effect. It could take two to four weeks after requesting the change to your direct deposit before you receive a paycheck at your new bank.

Most employers have their own forms for submitting changes to direct deposit, but I’ve included a generic form in the Bank Switch Kit that most human resources should be able to accept. Many employers have the ability to accept direct deposit instructions online, so check with your employer as soon as possible.

This is the slowest aspect of moving from one bank to another, so start as soon as you’ve opened your new accounts.

Step 3. Adjust your automated bill payments

You’ve likely configured many of your monthly financial obligations to withdraw money from your bank accounts. You’ll need to change this banking information one vendor at a time without missing any possible automated withdrawals. Review your past three or four banking statements to help your recollection of all the bills that are paid automatically.

Here’s a list of some of the most common bills that allow automated payments from your bank accounts.

  • rent or mortgage.
  • power bills (electricity or gas).
  • telephone bills (land line and mobile phone).
  • water and sewer bills.
  • property taxes.
  • income taxes, if you have enrolled in the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) or your state’s electronic payment system.
  • car, home, and life insurance.
  • other insurance payments.
  • credit card bills.
  • payments to student loans.
  • payments to car loans.

The downloadable bank switch kit has a checklist where you can indicate the date you called to have your banking information changed. When you call, email, or complete this change online, make sure you know when the changes will take effect. Most of the time, the change is immediate, but if you have a payment already pending using your old bank account’s information, it might not be until the following month that the vendor applies the new banking information.

If you’ve opened your new bank account with just the minimum required to avoid fees, keep in mind that you may need to transfer more money from your to cover your bills.

Step 4. Update any linked bank accounts or investments

The ability to begin investing using automated bank transfers has helped many people begin to save for retirement — or the future in general — without having a large sum to devote to the investment immediately. It’s easy to forget about these investments and transfers. I have had a weekly $15 transfer from my primary checking account to another bank’s savings account for years, and it would be easy to forget this without reviewing my transactions each month. Updating information regarding your linked accounts serves two purposes:

  • to ensure your accounts don’t try to send money to or withdraw money from the account you intend to close, and
  • to ensure you don’t miss any saving or investment opportunities as you rearrange your bank accounts.

First, as mentioned above, link the new bank account to your old bank account to ensure you can transfer money to your new account at will. This will ensure you have enough funds in the account to cover all the bills you’ve transitioned in the previous step. Keep in mind that savings accounts are limited to six on-demand withdrawals per month. If you exceed that number, the bank may charge you fees or close your account before you’re ready.

Pay attention to your automated investments to your IRA, transfers to your high-yield savings accounts, and investments to your kids’ education funds. Download the Bank Switch Kit for a complete list of possible linked accounts.

Step 5. Wait and close your old bank account

First take the time to ensure that your old bank account has been inactive. You don’t want any new deposits or withdrawals showing up after you close the account. Then follow your bank’s process for closing your account.

In most cases, you can walk into any branch with proper identification for closing your account. In some cases, banks require you call a telephone number. If that is the case, they might want you to talk to a “retention specialist” who will do his or her best to keep you from closing your account. They may offer you a better deal than you may be receiving. It’s best to ignore these offers and stick to your resolution.

If you are required to close your account by phone or by mail, the only way you may be able to receive your deposited money is through a check sent to the address your bank has on file for your account. This is an imperfect process; it would be much better to walk into a branch and walk out with your money. It would frighten me if I had to close a bank account with a significant sum of money and wait for a check for the amount to arrive in the mail.

Once you’ve received the check, make sure the bank has provided the full balance. Your balance at the end of the statement or online should be zero. Ensure you’ve received any accrued interest your account would have earned. In some cases, you may need to time the closing of your bank account to ensure you don’t miss on any substantial interest that might be due to you if your bank does not accrue interest on a daily basis.

The Consumerism Commentary Bank Switch Kit available for download includes a generic letter you may send to your bank in order to close your account.

Step 6. Destroy old forms

Shred any debit cards and deposit slips associated with your old account once you receive confirmation that your old bank has closed your account. Get rid of your paper checks and any endorsement stamps that you may have that include your bank number.

With this step, you can celebrate the moment you are now free from a relationship you are better off without. Don’t forget to monitor your new account and your bills closely over the next few months to ensure you haven’t missed anything. If you find a problem quickly, you may be able to resolve it without needing to pay any penalties (or have penalties reversed if they are charged automatically).

Download the Bank Switch Kit and Checklist

Bank Switch Kit and ChecklistDownload the Consumerism Commentary Bank Switch Kit (Version 1.0α). Adobe Reader or another program that displays and prints Portable Document Format (PDF) files is required.

This is a work in progress. Please feel free to share your feedback. I’ll continue to revise the Kit for more consumers who wish to leave one bank in favor of another.

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People become entrepreneurs for a variety of reasons. Maybe you just stumbled into starting your own business when you built a blog that started making money. Or maybe you inherited a family business, or started a business intentionally. Whatever your reasons for starting and running a business, it’s a good idea to consider your exit strategy right from the start.

Reasons to Sell Your Business

If your business is even a bit successful — or has the potential to be successful — you could sell it. It really all comes down to what someone is willing to pay.

Maybe this is your goal from the beginning. If you love the start-up phase, you might build a business so that you can sell it before moving on to the next thing. Or maybe you think you’ll never sell your business. But there are plenty of reasons owners eventually decide to sell. Understanding those reasons up front can help you make good choices if you ever come to the crossroads of possibly selling your business.

Here are 11 common reasons business owners decide to sell:

1. It takes too much commitment.

Businesses are always a big commitment. But sometimes taking things to the next level, requires more time or effort than you’re willing to put in. Maybe you’ve reached the original goals you set for your business. Or maybe the business became more than you ever planned, and now it’s too much to maintain. Sometimes, you just decide you need to go a different direction with your life, but you don’t want to let your employees and customers down by shutting down your business.

There’s nothing wrong with deciding that keeping your business growing requires too much effort. This is especially true if you want to sell the business so that you can focus on another area of your life, whether another business, your family, or personal development. Of course, you could just decide to reap the final financial benefits of your business and retire.

2. Too much is at risk.

You might want to move on from your business if you have too much on the line, either personally or financially. In some businesses, or at some time periods, there are too many random forces at play. If the economy is changing or, for any other reason, you can’t easily maintain your revenue, you may feel uncomfortable maintaining your business. This may be especially true if you, personally, or your business can’t absorb the high level of risk.

Chances are likely you can find a buyer for your business, who can handle the volatility and risk associated with your particular business. In that case, let them take on the risk while you move on to something less volatile.

3. The market isn’t favorable.

If you’re in a rapidly-changing industry, like technology, you need to be able to read and react to market trends quickly. Otherwise, your business could become irrelevant. If you don’t have the skillset to adapt your business to align with the current market, now may be the time to sell. Again, another business owner may have the skills and energy to deal with the changes in the market.

4. You’re interested in another investment opportunity.

Owning a business is often a result of your passion, but it’s still an investment. You’re investing your time, money, and effort. And that investment always comes with an opportunity cost. Because you’re putting your energy and money into this business, you’re effectively saying no to other opportunities.

But what if another opportunity comes along that seems like an even better option than your current business? Maybe this opportunity comes in the form of a new business venture you’d love to jump in on. Or maybe you just find that your business’s growth rate will slow down. In some cases, you could be better off financially by taking the money the sale of your business will generate and investing it in the stock market.

5. There’s too much competition.

If you’re an innovator in a developing industry, chances are you’ll find your niche — at least for a while. But your innovation could take you down one of two paths.

On one path, outside investors are interested in your innovation. They want to put money into your business because they think they’ll see good returns from that investment. But the second is that others see what you’ve done, start imitating it and get investors for their own version of your business.

A little competition isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But if the market gets too competitive, it may be time to move into something new.

6. You’re stifled by regulations.

Industry and government regulations are just a fact of operating a business. If you don’t want to play by the rules, don’t start a business.

If you’re paying close attention to your industry, you should always know when new regulations are about to come down. You should be prepared for new regulations and ready to adapt. If this gets too tiresome, though, you may find yourself wanting to sell your business to someone who can better handle the rules and regs.

7. You need the capital.

Sometimes selling your business isn’t actually about your business. Not all business owners are millionaires. In fact, many don’t pay themselves a good salary, especially if they’re in the start-up phase. If you’re starting up your business, you might reinvest all your profits and take no salary at all. Your share of the company could be enough to compensate.

But there may come a point in your life when you need the capital. Maybe you just want to retire without financial needs. Or maybe you have a pressing need for cash to cover an emergency. Although it can take a long time to sell a business, this can be a way to generate some capital when you need it.

8. You can’t agree with your partner.

When you have a business partner, sometimes it’s all fun and games. And then sometimes, things just don’t work out. If you and your partner have serious disagreements — either personal or business-related — selling could be the solution. That way, you can both get out of the deal with some cash in hand to start a new venture.

This, by the way, is one solid reason to be sure you have all the legal issues with a partnership worked out before you start a business with another person!

9. You’re burnt out.

Many business owners wind up selling a business due to burnout. Running a business is tough. It often means long hours, learning on your feet, and maybe not bringing home a lot of money. And the problem is that the bigger your business grows, the worse some of these issues become!

After a few years of this, some business owners can’t take it any more. And that’s perfectly okay. If you’d rather go back to the gig economy or become an employee again, selling your business can be a good option. It’s better than just shutting down, especially if you can get some of your money back out of the business.

10. Selling was always the plan.

Some people are just made to be serial entrepreneurs. They ride the thrill of coming up with a new idea and bringing that idea to life. If you have the knack — and the stamina — for this type of life, maybe selling your business has always been your plan. You like to take things through the start-up phase, but then let someone else handle it from there.

If you’re successful with these tactics, you can be really successful financially. Each time you sell the business, you gain capital to invest in your next venture, plus some profit to pad your own bank account. Then you can more quickly start up the next business with your greater amount of capital. String together a few of these sales, and you could be looking at a sunny financial future.

11. You get an offer you can’t refuse.

Maybe a buyer just falls into your lap one day. You’re not looking to sell your business, but a motivated buyer is offering you well  beyond what you think it’s worth. If this happens, you can do a couple of things.

One option is to take the money and run. Maybe you didn’t realize until now that you do have other dreams you could accomplish if you could sell your business. In that case, if you’re getting a good deal, sell the business and start something new!

But the other option is to try to see what your potential buyer sees that you don’t. If they’re offering you a load of cash for your business, they’re clearly seeing something that you don’t see. Redouble your efforts to grow your business, and just see what you can do!

Have you ever sold a business? What were your considerations when deciding to sell?

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There was once a time when the word “millionaire” carried cachet. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word was first used in French in the early eighteenth century and in English nearly a century later. Regardless of your station in French society in 1719, achieving a net worth of one million livres was notable.

The same would be true for one million U.S. dollars a century later. Only a small percentage of society could be listed within a roster of millionaires.

Millionaires are easier to find today. Inflation and the erosion of the dollar’s value — continuously, over the course of multiple decades — has put the goal of acquiring a million dollars within reach for more Americans. Of course, the club is no longer the exclusive party it once was. When the term became popular, the millionaires were most likely the heads of multi-national corporations. These are the same folks who are most likely to be multi-billionaires today.

Of course, a million dollars is still an admirable financial target. (I say “target” because I’m hesitant to call any financial milestone a goal. Goals are related to why one might set a financial target, not the target itself.) Outside of real estate equity, though, most households won’t have assets worth one million dollars.

It Isn’t Worth What It Once Was

This next part may sound odd, especially considering this is a country where 50 million people are living in poverty, according to the U.S. census. However, a net worth of one million dollars isn’t really a demarcation line between the rich and the not-rich.

Retiring with a net worth of one million dollars in investable assets might allow you to withdraw $50,000 a year for 20 years using the simplest calculation. That’s fine, except that an annual income of $50,000 while living in the United States would probably not provide the lavish lifestyle historically associated with the idea of the millionaire.

If you want to live the life of the upper class, you’ll need a net worth well north of one million dollars. That way, you can generate an annual income of six or seven digits.

Related: How Much Do You Really Need to Retire?

Millionaire Mystique

Yet the concept of the millionaire still carries some mystique. The success of the book The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko is evidence of this.

The 2010 edition of book is ranked #1 in wealth management by Amazon, even today. The book’s subtitle is “The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy,” which is interesting. The authors didn’t seek out the “wealthy” for their advice and tips for this book. They interviewed mere millionaires.

The premise is that today’s millionaires achieve their status by living below their means, spending less than they earn, and making financial choices that weigh future possibilities against today’s media-driven desires.

The authors show that the neighbor with an old car still running well is more likely to be financially secure than the neighbor whose fancy car requires unaffordable lease payments. People become millionaires by owning small businesses rather than working for a large corporation in middle management.

There is nothing wrong with this advice. It may inspire some readers to get started making better financial choices. However, it won’t lead to “wealth,” as represented by the socially-inherited concept of the millionaire. If we want the best advice for creating a lifestyle in which money is no longer a concern and the fulfillment of desires is not limited by wealth, ignore the millionaires and look to the multi-billionaires.

Learn More: How to Build Wealth and Make Life Easier

Look Toward the Top

Forget about the neighbor who owns the auto repair business. Don’t waste your time looking for advice from financial bloggers like me. While keeping in mind that wealth itself is not a goal — your goal should be what you want to do with your life when you have access to as much capital as you need — take a look at the Forbes list of the wealthiest Americans. Two categories stand out.

First, there are the business owners who started their companies small. Millionaires kept their businesses small, while these individuals, like Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, and the Waltons, took their businesses a few steps farther.

Next, the list includes people whose business is investing in businesses, like Warren Buffett and George Soros. Use your money — as well as other people’s money — to create wealth.

This is easier when you have a lot to give. Warren Buffett gets sweetheart deals on his investments because a billion dollars from Berkshire Hathaway is more newsworthy, media-positive, and encouraging to other mimicking investors than a billion dollars from a conglomerate of Chinese or Middle Eastern investors.

Don’t be fooled. You’ll need to work incredibly hard and be blessed with an inordinate amount of luck to become this wealthy. Paving your way to one million dollars, however, isn’t quite the challenge it once was.

Aim Higher

“Aim high” was the recruiting slogan for the U.S. Air Force, and it applies here.

Lionizing millionaires seems like a good way to come up with financial advice that applies to a mass audience. However, I can almost guarantee that today’s recent college graduate planning to retire with assets worth one million dollars forty years in the future will be gravely disappointed. It won’t be because he or she couldn’t meet that goal, either. It’ll be because the sum isn’t going to provide the financial security expected.

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Given the option, owning assets that produce income is a much better financial strategy than owning assets that generate expenses.

If you own a house or apartment for your own residence, for example, you have a lot of expenses. You will need to pay for maintenance, repairs, taxes, mortgage interest, landscaping, and utilities. Or you may pay a homeowner association fee that covers some of these expenses. If, however, you own a house or apartment that is available for rent or lease, you can generate income with the property. In some cases, you can even end up with positive cash flow after you pay the expenses.

Being a landlord is a viable vocation. After all, landlords exist for every rental tenant, and they often thrive financially. Sasha, a former writer for Consumerism Commentary, owns several properties. She shared tips for buying a rental property for prospective landlords based on her own experiences.

Succeeding in the business of rental properties requires a certain set of skills and desires, and making a living isn’t always as easy as others would lead you to believe. If you want to earn a living — for example, the equivalent of a $50,000 salary — you’ll need to profit more than $4,000 per month. That’s a lot of pressure.

Consider these questions and tips before jumping into the rental property business. That way you can determine whether you have what it takes to be a landlord.

Do you like “doing it yourself?”

If you’re a handy person who likes doing your own work around the house — light plumbing, perhaps some construction, yard work, and so on — you might be a good candidate for becoming a landlord. If you’re just starting out, you may be unable to afford outside contractors while still turning a profit. Doing the work yourself saves money.

Do you know the right people?

Do you plan to expand your property portfolio beyond one or two locations? (If you want to earn a living, you’ll likely need to expand quickly.) Well, you’ll soon reach a point where you can’t handle all the work yourself.

You’ll need to call in trusted contractors to handle repairs quickly and thoroughly. If you have personal relationships with contractors, you’re in a better position to negotiate discounts and enhance your overall profit. These relationships take time to build, and it takes time to find the best people to hire for the work. If you’re able to begin your adventure as a landlord with these relationships already formed, you’ll be in a much better position.

The same is true about real estate agents. If you have connections in this business, you will have better access to potential tenants, reducing your advertising costs. You may hear of new deals coming to market before the sign is even out in the yard. Word of mouth is incredibly important, and knowing agents can remove some obstacles before you even get started.

Can you handle the 24-hour responsibilities?

Hiring a company to manage your properties cuts into your profit. Depending on the location, you may be able to afford this from just your rental income. If that’s the case, work with a property management company that will answer the phone at all hours to fix any problems that arise.

Otherwise, if you’ll be DIY-ing the management, be prepared for calls in the middle of the night from tenants for problems big and small. If you’re starting your adventure with rental properties while working at another job, you will find yourself with competing priorities often.

Do you like dealing with people?

Some tenants can be difficult; there’s no way around it. In most states, tenants also have legal rights that level the playing field in disputes. If you’re able to screen tenants well and have a choice of potential residents, you can carefully choose who will be living in your house or apartment. If, however, you need to fill a vacancy to prevent losing money every month and there aren’t enough tenants interested in the property, you may have to accept a tenant you might not like in order to prevent negative cash flow.

Even if you believe you’ve chosen well, dealing with strangers is not for everyone. Tenants will certainly not care for your property as well as you would. Even nice people can surprise you in a tenant/landlord relationship. To become a landlord with a successful business, you’ll need to be able to deal with people who might be different from you in terms of values and personality.

Do you have cash and savings to buy the properties?

The great thing about buying a house with cash, rather than with a mortgage, is that you can eliminate the expense of the mortgage payments. Every cent of rental income you receive (after maintenance expenses) is profit. That can make the difference between a rental property business that succeeds and one that struggles.

Leveraging your property purchase by using other people’s money — a mortgage — can turn out to be profitable when property values increase, but that’s not guaranteed. Loans open up the possibility of becoming a landlord to more people, easing the affordability of properties. Having the cash to buy the property outright is not necessary. If you have the money and are willing to invest in your own business, though, it will be much easier to generate a positive cash flow.

Can you charge high enough rent to cover your expenses?

In some locations, monthly rental properties are very competitive. That can drive down prices, decreasing your profit. If you’re competing in an area where most investors own their properties outright without a mortgage while you have mortgage expenses to contend with, you have less pricing flexibility than your competitors. You need to charge high enough rent to cover your expenses, while still hoping to take home a profit.

With mortgage payments to contend with and potential competition, you may only be able to profit $200 to $400 per month on a property. That’s $4,800 a year… a far cry from the $50,000 we’re talking about for earning a living. You’d need to own over 10 properties, each profiting $400 per month, in order to reach that target.

Related: Using the 1% Rule to Determine If a Rental Property Is a Good Investment

Sure, once you own multiple properties, you may also be able to increase that per-property profit due to economies of scale — buying materials in bulk and receiving significant discounts from contractors. You might be able to reach the annual income target faster, but it will still take a long time to reach the number of units necessary. Use this mortgage calculator to assist in determining how much profit you might generate.

In other locations, though, you can charge much higher rent compared to the purchase price or mortgage payment. Property prices still tend to be high in New Jersey (where I live), so potential for profit isn’t as great. Head to other areas of the country, though, and you’ll see a different story. There, you can buy properties commanding rental fees of $1,000 or more, for purchase prices of just over six figures. Let’s say your monthly mortgage payment is $450 and you can successfully charge $1,100 in rent. Well, your path to earning a living just got much clearer and shorter.

How much work are you willing to do for an extra $400 a month?

The initial hard work may pay off when you add additional properties to your portfolio. However, the path to millionaire status through rental properties is not as simple as television shows on HGTV might lead you to believe.

You may profit in terms of your financial statements, but if you consider your time and your sweat equity worth something, the calculation gets a little trickier. This is particularly true when you’re doing more work to get started.

Learn More: Fixer Upper: What I Learned from Flipping My First House

Even in markets where home prices have remained relatively high, it’s still possible to earn a living with rental properties. The work isn’t for everyone, and that’s a good thing. Those who are willing to put the necessary labor into creating a successful business will be rewarded. While you can bring in extra cash from a sole property, earning a true living isn’t that easy. If you want to create a passive income that can support your family, you’ll need to expand and add some volume to your rental property portfolio.

Are you earning a living through rental properties? What lessons have you learned? If you’ve considered becoming a landlord but have decided against it, what held you back?

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The Latte Factor: Your Spending Reflects Your Priorities

by Luke Landes

The concept of the Latte Factor is one of the most divisive in personal finance. Money gurus get so worked up over whether the Latte Factor is a valuable lesson in money management, that one might think the issue were as important as the national debt. Most of the time, passionate responses pertaining to the […]

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2017 IRS Standard Deductions and Exemptions

by Luke Landes

Most taxpayers can choose between itemizing tax deductions to reduce taxable income, which requires accurate record-keeping and support and taking the standard deduction. The standard tax deduction is a fixed amount that reduces the amount of money on which year-end taxes are calculated. Generally, if you can show that you’ve had more deductible expenses than […]

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Should the US Postal Service Offer Basic Financial Services?

by Luke Landes

The U.S. Postal Service could offer basic banking services to customers, many of whom do not have reliable and affordable access to mainstream banking products like savings accounts and forms of credit. From the moment I heard this, it sounded like a bad idea. Not long ago, discussions about the U.S. Postal Service focused on […]

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With More Options for Marriage, Income Inequality Increases

by Luke Landes

An article on The Atlantic brought new research on the growth of income inequality to my attention. The article explains that the cause of today’s income disparity between the wealthy and the rest of the country is explained by the plot of the film When Harry Met Sally — or the increasingly common occurrence of […]

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2014 Federal Income Tax Brackets and Marginal Rates

by Luke Landes

Anyone who likes getting a look at their future tax expenses might be interested in seeing what next year’s tax brackets and tax rates will be. The IRS has now announced the official rates and brackets for 2014, although the numbers have been predicted for months because the IRS uses a simple process of inflation […]

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How the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) Will Affect My Insurance

by Luke Landes

In just a few days, one of the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act will go into effect. The health insurance marketplace will open. The public discussion about this marketplace and about Obamacare overall is full of partisan politics, so it’s difficult to see beyond the rhetoric and get an idea of what this […]

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