Taxes and retirement: What is taxed?

Upon retirement, you don’t get a paycheck with the proper amount of taxes withheld. That’s obvious.
What may not be so obvious until you retire is the amount of taxes you owe. Unlike employees, retirees write checks for their taxes, making them acutely aware of their tax burden.
Of course, everything we save for retirement is taxable at some point and in some way.
If you are ready to retire, here are some things to look forward to:

  • Social Security taxes: You have to pay tax on your benefit. You can have amounts from 7 percent to 22 percent withheld from every check. See form W-4V (for Voluntary).
  • Pension and annuity taxes: See Form W-4P to instruct the payor how much to withhold.
  • IRA distributions: The law requires 10 percent be withheld unless you tell the distributor not to withhold. You can also tell the distributor to withhold all of the taxes.
  • Company plans and lump sums: Some of these plans are taxed at 20 percent.

The etiquette of doing business abroad

Every facet of U.S. business abroad depends upon its international relationships. As a result, it’s vital that business professionals understand what is expected of and from him or her when visiting a foreign country on business.
According to Business Etiquette International, research and retain as much as you can about the specific region of the country you are visiting. Learn the cultural nuances of the area, and–at a minimum–be able to use the local words for “Yes,” “No,” “Please,” “Thank you,” and “Help.” Clients truly appreciate the visitor who is trying to speak their language, if only in a few words or phrases.
Keep in mind that etiquette has no uniform set of standards around the globe. A gesture or remark in the U. S. may have the opposite meaning in other cultures and countries.
Business relationships cannot be overstated in international business etiquette. How you meet and greet residents in a foreign country is probably the most important part of your visit.
Behavioral studies show that, in the U.S. and abroad, most people judge your social position, economic, educational, and success levels within 30 seconds of introduction. In the next five minutes, they also form their opinions about your intelligence, reliability, friendliness, and compassion, among other traits.
Be sure to rehearse your meeting in advance and dress for it in a manner reflecting the culture and your client’s expectations. Establish clear objectives for your meeting, communicate politely, and be upbeat.
The more you know and understand about the nation’s culture–and local language–the deeper your relationships will become.

Determining Comps When You Want to Sell Your House


The home you’ve cared for and loved might seem incomparable to you, but when you sell (or get a home equity loan), someone is going to have to find a comparison.
In the language of real estate and mortgage that is called comps.
Comps help answer the biggest question on your mind and a lender’s mind when you look to sell your house: What’s my home worth?
The answer? It depends.
It’s important to note that home values boil down to educated — and sometimes uneducated — guesses. They are merely opinions, with the one that truly matters being the bank’s. Toward the end of the process, the buyer’s bank needs to approve of the purchase price in order for the loan to be approved.
Before then, however, you have a few ways of gathering information. The best is to consult with a real estate professional who can provide you with a figure based on “comps” — comparative sales. The agent will conduct a comparative market analysis, or CMA, and give you their professional opinion on your home’s potential sales value. This is generally a far better option than relying on your neighbor’s or your uncle’s opinion, as the agent is trained and experienced at comps.
What goes into a CMA? The agent will find recent sales of similar properties in your location; the best comps are within 90 days or less, though if you live in an area that’s less populated, you’ll likely use comps from six months back and sometimes longer.
If your home is ranch style, it should be compared to sales of other ranch homes. A cape or a contemporary is different. Comps also take into consideration the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the acreage, whether there’s a garage and a basement, and things like central air and the type of heating.
The key is to work with someone who understands your specific market and who has a track record of accurately providing figures. Top-selling agents (not necessarily top listing agents) are generally the ones who do best at this. As a seller’s agent, they know how to price your home to move while also getting you a fair price; as a buyer’s agent, they typically understand how to negotiate well.

How to make the most of your gas mileage

Whether you drive a big truck or a small car, everyone can benefit from making the most of their gas mileage. Sometimes, people think they’re doing everything they can to get good gas mileage, but they may not realize there a few tweaks here and there that could make a big difference. Especially in the summer when you might be going on road trips near Cypress, TX, you’ll want to do your best to get good gas mileage, so continue reading to learn some tips from InsureUS.

  1. Stay within the speed limit

  2. Avoid rooftop cargo boxes; haul cargo behind your vehicle and remove rooftop boxes when not in use

  3. Clean out your vehicle, and don’t haul around extra weight

  4. Don’t let your vehicle idle for more than ten seconds

  5. Take advantage of cruise control

  6. Drive sensibly; avoid sudden stops and starts, and don’t accelerate when you will soon need to slow down

  7. Regularly check and maintain your engine

  8. Keep your tires at the correct pressure for your vehicle; check them often, especially in extreme temperatures

  9. Use the oil that is recommended for your vehicle

  10. Combine trips and plan stops so you don’t backtrack

Simply making a few of these suggested changes can improve your vehicle’s fuel economy, and if you make an effort to change in many areas, you will start to see a big change. Another great way to save when you have a vehicle is by making sure you have the correct auto insurance for your needs. Talk to an insurance agent at InsureUS near Cypress, TX today if you have any questions about your policy.

Some 401(k) fears valid, others not, experts say Fear: The boss might steal it.

Somewhere on an assembly line is a young worker who once told a reporter: I wouldn’t put my money in a 401(k) because the boss could steal it.
Rest easy.
In average situations, there is very little chance the boss could steal the money from a 401(k), which would be a crime, probably involving fraud.
Contributions to a 401(k) go to a financial company. Maybe the boss picked the company, but the boss can’t access your money. The boss doesn’t own it and can’t spend it.
Fear: I can’t afford to contribute.
There are a lot of benefits to a 401(k). The money you put in isn’t taxed. It’s only taxed when you take it out at retirement.
If you took about $100 a week out of a paycheck every month for 15 years and put it in a 401(k), you would probably have more than $146,000 at the end of 15 years. At the end of 30 years, you’d have $611,729. This example by the Motley Fool assumes a return of 8 percent.
So, when you reach retirement, you might have your Social Security (depending on government future plans), and you’ll be able to add to it by taking 4 percent of your nest egg each month. You’ll be comfortable then if you sacrifice now.
Fear: I’ll lose all my money.
Over the long term, there is a 99 percent chance you will make money. But sometimes you won’t. Recently, retirement plans have racked up interest of 10 percent and higher. In 2008, during the housing crisis, people lost money…but not all of their money.
If you can’t stand losses, you usually can have your plan administrator put your money in highly conservative, safe investments. They don’t make as much money, but they don’t lose it either.
Fear: What if the company goes out of business?
Your money is safe because the company usually doesn’t manage retirement accounts. They have big financial companies like Fidelity, Vanguard, or Principal do that. Those companies manage millions of retirement accounts. Motley Fool says be skeptical if the plan administrator is “Scruffy’s Retirement and Fried Chicken.”

Business Book Review: How crazy ideas sometimes change the world

Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries
By Safi Bachall
St. Martin’s Press
In 2004, a team of engineers was gripped with a fantastic idea: They would make a handheld phone with a big color screen and give it the ability to connect to the internet. Plus they would set up a store where people could download applications for the phone.
Sound familiar? Surprise. Those engineers were not at Apple. They were at Nokia, where that crazy idea was shot down soon after birth.
Three years later, writes Safi Bachall, Nokia engineers watched Steve Jobs introduce their dumb idea on a stage in San Francisco.
Bachall’s book chronicles Loonshots, crazy ideas that change the world — or would change the world, if they weren’t buried and forgotten.
Bachall’s exceedingly readable book combines the principles of science with business to show how good teams often kill good ideas.
The structure of companies and teams means more than culture, he writes. Bachall points out that small, starving companies can produce dazzling results because the stakes are high for all members. Rank doesn’t matter. But as the teams get larger and more successful, the stakes aren’t nearly as high. Then rank matters more. At that point, good ideas can be ditched.
Small changes in structure, not culture, can transform a team, he writes.
This book will interest business leaders for its unique take on teams and culture. But anyone who wants to know about the nature of success and failure will be fascinated by the many stories Bachall tells.