Friday Favorites: December 1, 2017

Happy December.  How have things been with you?  Here’s a roundup of my favorite posts over the past couple of weeks.  Also, here’s a little tidbit of what’s going on.  I hope things are good with you!

Pain In The….

I’ve really started to enjoy running. Unfortunately, for the second time in the last three years, I’ve had to take a break.  I started feeling a pain in my foot and recognized the signs of plantar fasciitis.  Like last time, I know taking a timeout from running will help.

This time, I’ve decided to work on the elliptical machine as a replacement.  This has been going all right, except until this week.  I’ve been upping my intensity, and guess I pushed it a little harder than I should have.  I pulled a muscle in my calf.  This is also on the right side of my body!

Thankfully, the strain seems to be very mild.  After three days of hobbling around, I could feel improvement.  With a mild strain, I should hopefully be back to normal within a week.

Still, not much fun!

Favorite Posts

Here are some favorite personal finance posts over the last couple of weeks.

Have a great weekend!

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Why Cut Taxes Right Now?

Everyone hates taxes, right?  I know I certainly do.  You may not think so based on the title of this post, but I get it.  As every American probably knows, the big move right now is to reform taxes.  The President wants to cut taxes.  The Republican House and Senate seem to be moving forward.  I guess I’m just not sure: Why cut taxes?  At least right now.

Does Anything Get Fixed With The New Proposals?

My biggest concern with what I’m reading is that things don’t seem to get fixed.  When I look at taxes, the problem I have is how arbitrary things are.  You have, as an example, a $3,000 limit if you lose money on stocks.  That’s the most you can write off in a year.  This is completely arbitrary.

Take the alternative minimum tax.  That’s been in place for decades. They always do a year by year change to exempt most people from it.  Does the new plan get rid of it or fix it for good?

The rich currently benefit from the thousands of deductions and credits more so than any other group.  It does stand to reason that if you make more money, you have more opportunities here.  Still,  ‘simplifying the tax code’ was a rallying cry for President Trump.  Is it going to get any simpler?

Business taxes are going to be cut under the new proposal.  This is supposedly to attract or keep businesses in America.  The thing is, I haven’t heard a single business say that this would make a difference?  Will it?  Or will businesses simply pocket the money?

At the same time, businesses paying less are supposed to expand.  In theory, taxes go down meaning there’s more money.  More money should fuel growth.  Will this work?

The tax cuts are supposed to increase household income.  But does this rely on businesses paying more from their tax savings?  I’m not sure businesses will do that.  More often than not, shareholders, not employees are rewarded.

These are just a few examples off the top of my head.  And while I may have missed some details, I’ve not seen these things addressed.  Are we really ‘fixing’ anything so much as ‘changing a bunch of stuff’?  And is that a good idea?

Does A Tax Cut Make Political Sense?

I’m kind of confused why Republicans are standing behind this.  Polls show that most citizens have doubts about this.  They seem to be pretty knowledgeable that the middle and lower class are not the primary beneficiaries.  Yes, the ‘trickle down’ effect is supposed to help them, but there’s a lot of skepticism.  With good reason, I would think.

So, I wonder why Republicans are standing behind this.  People would love a tax cut.  I’m just not sure the majority of voters will love this tax cut.  If this passes, and people aren’t happy about it, they’ll take it out on politicians next November.  After Republicans lost several key elections last month, this has to be worrisome.

But, it could be that they’re screwed either way.  After all, to be the Republican that says no to a tax cut, even a flawed one, could be used against them.

The Economy Is Bad, Right?

No, of course not.

Usually tax cuts happen when the economy needs a boost.  Tax cuts happen to get us out of a recession.  Or when growth is flat.  But, we’ve been in a period of economic growth for practically ten years.  It hasn’t been fabulous growth, but it’s growth nonetheless.

So, what’s the motivation for the tax cut?  And is it a good idea?  After all, if we cut taxes now, what happens during the next eventual recession?  A tax cut now will make it harder to play that card when it might be needed.

My Opinion

As I’ve said above, I would love to pay less taxes.  I’m just not sure this is the way to go.  I’m not in favor of any plan that puts the majority of cuts in the pockets of the rich.  The middle class is losing pensions and pays more for health care.  The lower class has a harder time than ever finding full time jobs.  These are the people that need the help the most.  Promising that the help will get there by first giving the savings to the rich is a bad idea.  The rich show that they will likely use that money to simply get richer.  They’ll invest it. They’ll save it.  What they won’t do is pass it down.  At least, not as their first option.

And I’ve already made it clear my thoughts about the impact to the deficit.

So, the answer for me is a firm no.

Readers, what do you think of the tax cuts?  Are they fair? Should we cut taxes at all?  What changes would you make and what would you keep?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

When To Make The Switch To LED Christmas Lights?

We got our decorating done this past weekend. Usually, we go in full force the day after Thanksgiving, but we decided to start a bit earlier this year.  We have a mix of LED Christmas lights and regular lights.  Pretty much everything inside is regular and outside is LED.

Benefits of LED

According to the site Holiday LEDs, there are many benefits of switching to LED lights, which include:

  • Much less energy use – They say that LEDs use about 90% less energy than traditional light strings.
  • Longer life – They say that the bulbs last 50,000 hours, which is up to 20 times longer than a normal set of bulbs
  • Safer – LED bulbs throw off a lot less heat than normal bulbs, which reduces the risk of fire caused by overheating
  • Easier to use – Many LED light sets do not suffer from the frustrating problem of a loose, missing, or broken bulb causing the entire line to fail.
  • Brighter – The LED lights typically emit a more bright, crisp light, so you don’t use as many lights on the tree.

Drawbacks

  • Price – The price has come down for LED bulbs.  Still, they remain higher than regular bulbs

    Image from morguefile courtesy of earl53
  • Performance – We replace at least 1-2 lines of outdoor LED lights per year. The bulbs might last, but the lines don’t.  I expect being outdoor lights, they won’t last as long.
  • Availability – Last year I saw quite a few stores carrying them, but most had a limited selection or were sold out quite early.
  • Color – We use regular lights inside because they’re much warmer lights.  The LED bulbs have made some strides. Still, they’re much more harsh lights.

We definitely see a bump in our electricity bill during the holiday months.  I think this would be higher if it weren’t for our mix of bulbs.

So far, our mix of bulbs seems to work for us.  I would love to switch more of our internal bulbs to LED lights, especially since we have one pre-lit tree that now needs lights strung over about 80% of it, since other lines have burned out. I think it will take a while. Maybe in a few more years we’ll get there.

Readers, have you made the switch to LED yet?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

10 Things You Learn After Having Kids

There’s no manual on having kids.  That’s one of the first things I remember being told after we first became parents.  That was over eight years ago, but the words still ring true.  I’m sure I’m not the only parent that often feels like a manual would sure come in handy.  Though one doesn’t exist, there are some truths that I’ve learned.  Here are things you learn after having kids that I bet ring true for many out there.

You’ll Parent Like You Were Parented

Nobody is an exact replica of their parents.  But, on many occasions I’ve seen my parents come through in what I do.  My wife has pointed out the same thing.  While we all end up with our own unique styles, our parents have influence on this.

You’ll Learn While Teaching

One of our primary jobs as parents is to teach our children.  We need to make sure they’re prepared to face the world.  I’ve learned that as we do this with our kids, I learn from them.  Until you’re a parent, you often don’t question how thoughts and emotions develop.  Watching this develop is a true learning process.

You Often Feel Like A Huge Failure

image from Morguefile courtesy of DodgertonSkillhause

Things are going to go wrong.  Your kids will have bad days.  You’ll have bad days.  Or moments.  Sometimes things will fall apart, with or without reason.  You’re going to blame yourself.  You’re going to take it personally.  When someone tells you not to do these things, you’ll do them anyways.

The good news is that you’ll get through it.

Your Relationship With Your Significant Other Will Change

Before you’re a parent, it’s just the two of you. That all changes the second your baby is born.  Not only does it change right then, your relationship will continue to evolve.  I’m guessing that process might slow down, but will forever evolve.

You’ll Feel Physical Pain For Them

When you first hold your baby, you’ll promise them that you’ll never let anything hurt them.  But the world will hurt them. They’ll have physical pain and emotional pain.  As a parent, you’ll suffer with them. Your heart will physically hurt when their heart is breaking.  It sucks, but it shows you’re looking out for them in ways that only parents can.

Time Really Does Move Faster

Everybody always says that time seems to move faster when you’re a parent.  Guess what?  It’s completely true.  From my  estimation, time as a parent moves twice as fast as what the child experiences.  Don’t think it’s cliche when someone tells you to cherish moments.

The Best Way To Teach Is By Example

Going back to an earlier point, we need to teach our kids.  The thing about it is that they’ll learn many life lessons from your actions.  You can’t tell a child not to yell but then fight with your spouse regularly.  It won’t work if you admonish a child for a messy room if the house is in shambles.  Kids learn by watching.  They watch their parents.

Kids Need You To Listen

As a parent, you want to impart the wisdom that you have onto your kids.  This is a noble intention, and it sometimes works.  But, every so often, you just need to shut up and listen.  Sometimes kids come to you not looking for an answer.  Be that person when they need you to be.

Kids Know When You Aren’t Listening

In this day in age, it’s easy to get distracted.  Phones.  TVs.  Tablets.  They all take you away from what’s in front of you.  Kids will learn quicker than you think that if you’re paying attention to those things, you’re not giving them your full attention.  Nobody likes to be patronized.  Not even kids.

Sometimes It’s Important To Play

Kids love to play.  At a young age, play time is their job.  They learn how things work.  They figure out relationships.  Social cues are learned.  And, every so often, they need you to play with them.  Every once in a while when my kids are playing, I’ll ask “Can I play?”  So far, they haven’t told me know.  And, so far I’ve always been happy I asked.

Readers, what lessons have you learned from having kids?  How do the ones above strike you?  

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.