firewood stacked by fence

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to summaries of five or fewer words. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question. 1. Working two jobs at once 2. Checklists? 3. Birthday party gifts 4. Building professional network without spending 5. Uses for old tablets 6. Cold brewed coffee? 7. Depressed after financial turnaround 8. Retiring lean or not? 9. Dealing with greedy adult child 10. Cheap sources for firewood 11. …

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Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs are fantastic retirement accounts, but not everyone is allowed take advantage of the tax benefits they offer. Roth IRAs are completely off-limits once you reach a certain level of income. And your ability to deduct contributions made to a traditional IRA is limited if you or your spouse participate in an employer retirement plan and you make a certain amount of money. In other words — mo’ money, mo’ problems. If that’s your situation, what can you …

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Despite the best intentions of those of us who write about money, most financial advice on the web is downright unusable for readers in financial distress. What good is an article about building an emergency fund when someone can’t make ends meet? And how does investing advice help the family who is barely putting food on the table? Much of the time, the “rah-rah-rah, feel good” articles we write fail to reach people who are actually going through hard times. It’s not that …

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Human beings are creatures of habit. Most of the time, those habits are a good thing – they ensure that our basic needs are met pretty efficiently and we get the core things done that we need to get done in a day. Sometimes, however, those habits work against us. They can continually keep us in a bad financial position, even when we consciously recognize the habitual mistake we’re making. It even happens to me. My worst financial habit is …

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In addition to protecting your dependents from financial hardship, life insurance policies are shielded from taxation under most circumstances. A death benefit is considered to be the reimbursement for a loss, not income. That means when a beneficiary receives an insurance payout, the proceeds normally don’t need to be reported for tax purposes. “Insurance in general is not a taxable event,” says Anthony Bowers, a senior associate with Revolution Financial Management in Valencia, Calif. “It is income replacement.” There are …

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I don’t like admitting it, but I’ve used payday loan services. Like a lot of journalists who specialize in personal finance, I began writing about consumer financial issues after having my own. I know the feeling: You need money, and you need it now, which is why you’re thinking of going to a payday loan store. If that’s where your mindset is, it’s understandable. You probably either need money to cover basic living expenses, or to cover one major, unanticipated …

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Leftovers. You make a meal, your family eats it, and some of it is left behind. Quite often, it’s not nearly as good the second time around, but throwing it away seems wasteful as well. Maybe you just eat a substandard lunch the next day, or perhaps you stuff it in the fridge and forget about it until it’s scary and needs to be tossed. None of those outcomes are really appealing, are they? Leftovers are kind of the poster …

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Maybe mortgage broker is a term you’ve heard in your travels, but you’re unsure how it fits in with your plan to buy the home of your dreams. Well, for those just learning about mortgage brokers, good news: You’re probably about to find out that you can get more for your home-buying buck at a lower interest rate. Mortgage brokers work for you and help you negotiate what can often be a minefield when it comes to financing your home. Here are the …

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A reverse mortgage allows you to convert your home equity into a cash loan, provided you’re over the age of 62. It can help you balance out your income during retirement, make it easier to pay bills, or even help you downsize to a new home. The reverse mortgage industry has a bad reputation, though, and looking for a credible lender can feel like a daunting task. Despite the introduction of new regulations to keep the industry in line, there are …

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“31 Days to Financial Independence” is an ongoing series that appears every Thursday on The Simple Dollar. You might want to start this series from the beginning! Last time, we went in a bit of a different direction and spent some time discussing our “true hourly wage.” As a quick refresher, a person’s “true hourly wage” is the amount they actually get to keep in their pocket per hour of time devoted to work. Before that, we took an extensive …

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