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Come not between the dragon and his Roth

I really wish they hadn’t called it an IRA. Back in 1997, a senator named William Roth pushed through a law which allowed for a different type of retirement account. Up until then, if you wanted to...

 

Ever wished you could work from home?

It used to be a rare thing to meet someone who worked from home and actually made a decent income. Some people say they could never do it. They’re not self-starters. They can’t deal with the distractions. They’d feel like they were always at...

 

What we can learn from cracked ribs

Let me tell you a story. I promise I will eventually flounder my way to a relevant point. A few years back, on a cold winter day, I was out walking my dogs. At one point the boy dog suddenly began...

 

What's mine is mine, what's yours is ours

Remember 1987? If you lived here in Alaska, you might remember that it was the absolute nadir of the recession. Oil prices had dropped, jobs had gone away, houses had been abandoned. Generally...

 

Trust me, it ain't a trust if it ain't a trust

“I’m just gonna leave everything to Bubba,” says the gent across from me. “That's certainly doable,” I tell him. “But what's the reason you’re disinheriting your other kids?” “I’m...

 

The unexpected grandchild and your will

I grew up in the '70s. Back then, young people tended to sow their wild oats fairly indiscriminately. Sometimes, one of those wild oats sprouted. Those of you with grayer hair than mine, or at least...

 

Can a debt collector take your benefits directly out of your bank account?

Suppose a debt collector sues you and wins a judgment. It may get a court order to garnish money from your account or benefits received by prepaid card. But the U.S. Department of Treasury requires banks to automatically protect certain federal benef...

 

Those Flowers for Algernon moments

I am going to begin this column with more than just a spoiler alert. If you have never read the short story “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes, put down this paper immediately. Go buy it, or...

 

Medicaid and Medicare: Same thing?

You like potato, I like potahto You like tomato, I like tomahto Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto Let’s call the whole thing off! The point the Gershwin brothers were making, I take it, was that...

 

New estimates on savings needed for health care in retirement

New research from the Employment Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) updates previous estimates of how much money Medicare beneficiaries are projected to need to cover health expenses in retirement, including premiums for Medicare Parts B and D, premiu...

 

Smaller sized estates may still require probate

Here’s another question I am asked regularly: how small does an estate have to be before it does not have to go through probate? Back when I was starting out, and in fact for quite a few years after...

 

Learn from this late actor's mistakes

If you go to the movies very often, you might have heard of an actor named Philip Seymour Hoffman. He was quite a talented character actor, he even won an Oscar for portraying Truman Capote, and he...

 

Social Security celebrates Black History Month

Throughout the month of February, we honor African Americans by celebrating Black History Month. Created in 1926, this event coincides with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln on Feb. 12 and Frederick Douglass on Feb. 14. African American communities...

 

Sizing up inherited IRAs and income tax

When I first discovered the estate tax (or if you like, “death tax”), way back in the 1980s, the rate could be as high as 55 percent. That’s right, once you got above a certain level, Uncle Sam...

 

Your estate plan needs some wiggle room

Doing your own estate planning is not a good idea. There are a lot of mistakes people make when they try, and they usually don’t realize it. One example is what I call the “illiquid estate.” If...

 

When Dickens and Prince come together

This month’s column is about the novelist Charles Dickens, and the artist formerly known as Prince. Yes, there is a connection. Bear with me. Dickens, as you may know, wrote a novel called “Bleak...

 

Legal power of attorney not perfect, but beats the alternatives

Winston Churchill once said that democracy was a crappy system, until you consider the alternatives (I’m paraphrasing of course). When I hear that, it reminds me of the controversy over powers of...

 

'Disposition Directive' is a new legal must-have

All right, I gripe about the legislature as much as the next guy. On the other hand, I am also happy to give credit where credit is due. And this last session, the legislature passed a bill which is...

 

Social Security experts answer your questions

Staff from Alaska’s Social Security office will be available for questions via videoconferencing at the following locations and times:     Kodiak Job Center, on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month (Oct. 11 and 25), 9 a.m. to noon. Kenai...

 

Invest carefully in precious metals, coins

There’s no shortage of commercials urging you to buy gold and silver and other precious metals. The idea is that it’s a smart way to diversify your portfolio and protect your retirement funds. But of course everyone’s situation is different....

 

Sorry, joint tenancy is not allowed in Alaska

We Alaskans pride ourselves on being independent. But despite our “we don’t give a darn how they do it Outside” attitude, most of our state laws are the same as just about everywhere else in...

 

You can still file and suspend Social Security

You probably heard that changes in the law now affect the way you file for certain benefits. These changes place limits on when voluntary suspension and reinstatement can begin for you and your family members who might also be entitled to benefits on...

 

Social Security experts answer your questions

Staff from Alaska’s Social Security office will be available for questions via videoconferencing at the following locations and times:     Kodiak Job Center, on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month (Aug. 9 and 23), 9 a.m. to noon. Kenai...

 

'No contest' clause may not be your answer

“And another thing,” says the client across from me, tapping his finger on the desk for emphasis, “I don’t want Junior to get anything. He’s an ingrate who broke his mama’s heart, and...

 

Help out by becoming a representative payee

Your parents were there for you when you were born. They’ve been with you through the most important achievements of your life. Now it’s your turn to show them that they can count on you. As your parents get older, they may need help making...

 

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