by J. C. Bailey III

If you have a few minutes, this is a good time to consider your giving, your investments, and review your pay stub.

Gifts to qualified charitable and non-profit organizations are tax deductible, with some limitations.  Confirm that the entity to which you are contributing is legitimate and qualifies under IRS guidelines before you write a check or put a donation on your credit card.  Donations of goods and services are more difficult to quantify and cash is difficult to document.  If you have any doubt as to the legitimacy of a charitable organization, don’t invest, until your concerns are addressed.  Always request a receipt and keep good records in a safe place for reference, filing, and confirmation purposes.

Investing in others is great, but many people neglect opportunities to invest for themselves.  If your employer offers tax deferred retirement investment opportunities, you have to seriously consider them.  Your investments can be made systematically without the temptation to reroute the money to a short term goal or emergency, may lessen your taxable income and reduce your tax bill as well as grow tax deferred.  If your employer matches any part of your contribution, you are being handed free money to participate in a plan that benefits you long term.

Your paystub, whether paper or online, has some important information beyond the fact that it is not large enough to suit most of us.  Look at the deductions for insurance and make sure it is in your best interest to purchase insurance through your employer.  It may be that the health insurance offered by your employer is your best option, but you owe it to yourself to review other options.  If you and your family are in excellent health, it may be that purchasing health and life insurance outside of the employers plan is a better option.  Review your withholding to make sure you get as close to breaking even with the IRS as possible.  Owing a lot of money is dangerous and giving an interest free loan to the government seems unwise.  If you are addicted to receiving a refund, please don’t spend it before you get it.  Invest it after you receive it.

Whether December 21, 2012 has significance beyond the first day of winter or not, these reminders are of secondary importance.  Relationships are infinitely more important than currency and codes.  May this season bless your relationships and afford you time to invest in what matters most to you.



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