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The Most Interesting New “Taxes” Across the USA

The Most Interesting New “Taxes” Across the USA

In these difficult economic times, with governments at all levels (federal, state and municipal) struggling to balance their books while not increasing taxes on increasingly strapped citizens, some authorities are developing new and interesting ways to raise revenues.

July 1st is the first day in the new fiscal year for many states, so some of the new laws just took effect on that date. And while they may be termed “fines” or “penalties,” don’t mistake them for anything but new ways for governments to raise revenue without actually being seen to “increase taxes.”

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    Anti-Slow Poke Fine

    Florida has enacted the one fine that we all wish was in effect on every highway that we drive: the slow-poke fine. If you’re caught ambling along at 10 miles below the posted speed limit in the far left (aka passing) lane, you can be fined $60 as part of a brand-new “road rage” law.

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    This slow-poke ticket would also hit your driver’s license the same as would a speeding ticket, meaning it can increase your insurance rates. So if you tend to view the speed limit as something to be avoided, stay out of the “fast” lane or face the music.

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      Anti-Bullying Fine

      In tiny Monona, WI, the citizens have a zero tolerance for bullying. In this town, population 7500, bullying can range from schoolyard skirmishes to neighborhood disputes, and includes cyber-bullying as well as physical harassment.

      The penalty ranges from $114 for a first offense to $177 for a second, and parents can be penalized for their children’s actions once a warning has been issued.

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        Anti-Smoking Taxes

        Minnesota has just increased its tax per package of cigarettes from $1.23 to $2.83, making it the 6th highest tax in the country. New York state still reigns at the top of the list, though, with a tax of $4.85 per pack.

        Of course, all these high cigarette taxes tend to encourage inter-state smuggling, which is another issue entirely. The idea behind the high cigarette taxes, besides raising revenues, is that at some point a consumer will decide that the cost is too high, and will hopefully quit smoking.

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          Higher Taxes for Summer Drivers

          Eight states have higher gasoline taxes going into effect just in time for summer vacations. Since gas taxes tend to be channeled into road and bridge repairs, this measure is meant to align the cost with the drivers with the highest use.

          Wyoming raised its tax by ten cents per gallon, followed by Connecticut (4 cents), Maryland (4 cents), California (3.5 cents), North Carolina (2.5 cents), Georgia (2.5 cents), and Kentucky (2.4 cents). Two states, Virginia and Vermont, did actually choose to lower their gas taxes. Three states (Washington, Oregon and Texas) are evaluating some sort of VMT (Vehicle Miles Traveled) tax on electric vehicles, in order to assess owners of those vehicles for their use of the states roads and bridges. Since those vehicles don’t purchase gas and therefore don’t pay gas taxes (either state or federal), they are not paying a share of the upkeep and repair expenses.

          Virginia has addressed this issue already with a green-vehicle fee that is charged in addition to the normal registration fee on a vehicle. Owners of hybrid and pure-electric vehicles pay an annual $64 charge, under the assumption that they do not pay as much in gasoline taxes as drivers of conventional vehicles.

          Other Unusual Taxes

          If you buy a bagel in New York City, you have to pay a tax if you want the vendor to slice it, toast it or spread cream cheese on it for you. 8%, as a matter of fact, illustrating the difference between a bagel purchased for home consumption (tax exempt) and a bagel for on-site consumption (8% tax).

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          In Utah, businesses that hire nude or partially nude employees pay a 10% tax on services sold. Targeted at erotic dance clubs and escort services, the revenues go for treatment for sex offenders and investigation of internet crimes against children. And Maryland charges all homeowners and businesses a $2.50 per month sewage tax, which is also known as the “flush tax.”

          So the next time you’re faced with a tax that you think is unfair or ridiculous, think about some of the taxes in other states. You could be paying a blueberry tax, if you live in Maine, or a tax on fruit from vending machines if you live in California.

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          Simon Andras

          Simon is an entrepreneur who blogs about lifestyle.

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          Published on May 7, 2019

          How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

          How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

          When it comes to stocks, I bet you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

          Everyone who’s not a financial expert has been there. I’ve been there. But, time is passing and you need to be crystal clear with how you’re investing for your retirement.

          Otherwise, it’s back to work until you can afford not to. So, how can you invest for retirement when you’re not a financial expert?

          You take the time to learn the fundamentals well. If you do, you can grow your wealth and retire happy. The best part is that you don’t need to be a financial expert to make smart investment decisions.

          Here’s how to invest for retirement the smart and stress-free way:

          1. Know Clearly Why You Invest

          Odds are you already know why should invest for retirement.

          But, maybe you know the wrong reasons. It’s time you get clear on why you’d like to retire. Here are some questions to help you get started:

          • Will you spend more time with your family?
          • What does retirement mean to you?
          • Are you looking to launch that business you’ve been holding off for years?

          Everyone wants to retire but not for the same reasons. Once you’re clear for why retirement is important for you, you’ll focus on making it happen.

          Investing in the stock market allows you to take advantage of compound interest.[1] All this means is that your money earns money on top of its interest. A reason why investment in the stock market is one of the best ways to plan for retirement.

          2. Figure out When to Invest

          “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”– Chinese Proverb

          It’s true if you’d had started investing when you were 10 years old, you’d have a lot more money than you do today.

          The reality is that most people don’t start investing until it’s too late. So, if you’re currently waiting for the perfect time to start an investment, it would be today. Open your calendar and block out 2 to 3 hours to choose how you’ll invest for retirement.

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          A quick way to get a snapshot of where you stand is to use Personal Capital. Input all your personal information and spend some time setting your retirement goals. Once completed, you’ll know where you stand with your retirement.

          Having a savings account for retirement isn’t planning for retirement. Why? Your money loses value when you factor in US inflation.[2]

          3. Evaluate Your Risk Tolerance to Create the Perfect Portfolio

          Investing your money well depends on your emotions.

          Why?

          Because when the market drops most people panic and withdraw their money. On average, the US stock market yields an annual 6% to 7% ROI (return on your investment.) But, this won’t happen if you’re worried about short-term loses.

          Before you invest your next dollar, know your risk tolerance.[3] Your risk tolerance determines the number of risky and safe investments you’d have.

          Regardless of your investing style, you need to view investing for retirement as a long term game. Know that some years you’ll lose money but recoup this in the long-term.

          Avoid watching market-related new. Also, create a double authentication to log in your investment account. This way you’re less likely to withdraw your money.

          4. Open a Reliable Retirement Account

          Depending on your circumstance, you may need to open a new brokerage account. This is the account is where you’ll invest your money.

          If you’re currently working for a company, odds are that they offer a 410K investing account. If so, here’s where you’ll invest most of your money. The only problem with this is that you’re limited to the stock options that are available.

          You do have the option to open a separate IRA (individual retirement account.) Here are some of the best brokers:

          1. Vanguard
          2. TD Ameritrade
          3. Charles Schwab

          5. Challenge Yourself to Invest Consistently

          Committing to invest for retirement is hard, but continuing to do so is harder.

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          Once you’ve started investment for your retirement, you run at risk from stopping. Often you’ll want to contribute less, so you’d have more money in your pocket.

          That’s why it’s important that you create a budget that allows you to invest each month. If you’re working for a company, you can set a percentage for the amount you’d like to contribute each month. Most people by default contribute 1% but aim to contribute 10% to 15%.

          Be the judge for how much you can afford to contribute after covering important expenses. To stay motivated, use Personal Capital to view your net worth.

          A benefit to contributing money to your retirement account is not taxed. For example, if you earn $100 and invest 10%, you’d contribute $10, then get taxed on the remaining $90. As of 2019, the most you’re able to contribute towards your 401K is 19K but this can change.

          6. Consider Where to Invest Your Money

          The most common way to invest your money is in stocks, but it’s not the only way. Here are other ways to invest:

          Robo Advisors

          Robo-advisors[4] are fancy algorithms that’ll choose the best investments for you. Sites like Wealthfront make it easy for first-time investors to invest their money. You’d input information about yourself and set your risk tolerance.

          Then, set your monthly contribution amount and your robo-advisor would do the rest. Robo-advisors charge a fee to manage your money, but less than regular advisors.

          Bonds

          Think of bonds as “IOUs” to whomever you buy them from.

          Essentially, you’re lending money and charging interest. Like stocks, not all bonds are equal. Some will be riskier than others depending on their rating.

          Here are the different types of bond categories:[5]

          1. Treasury bonds
          2. Government bonds
          3. Corporate bonds
          4. Foreign bonds
          5. Mortgage-backed bonds
          6. Municipal bonds

          Mutual Funds

          Picture a group of people dumping all their money in a jar that’s managed by a professional. This is how mutual funds work. The fund manager manages the money looking to earn capital gains (interest.)

          One of the best types of mutual funds is index funds. Since these funds don’t try to beat the market and instead follow it, they need less research. Because of this they often charge the lowest fees and yield the best long-term results.

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          Real Estate

          Yes, buying a home is an investment when done correctly.

          Imagine buying a home and using it as a rental property. After repairing it, you receive a monthly surplus check of $100 to $200.

          This may not sound like a lot, but repeat this process enough times and you’d earn a large amount of passive income. That’s why real estate is one of the best investments to not only retire but become wealthy.

          But, it requires a lot of money to start and you should expect losing money along the way as you learn the process.

          Savings Accounts

          Your money can still grow in a savings account. Nowadays most online banks offer a 2% annual return. Although the average inflation is higher your money will be available when you need it.

          7. Master Disincline to Dodge Short Success

          Investing for retirement is a long-term strategy. That’s why you need to master delayed gratification. All this means is delaying short-term pleasure for something bigger in the future. Research shows that those who have delayed gratification are more successful.[6]

          So how can you master delayed gratification?

          By building your discipline.

          Think back to what retirement means to you. A clear purpose will help you avoid withdrawing your money during a market downturn. It’ll help you contribute more towards retirement when you’d want to waste it instead.

          Your journey towards retirement will be long, so reward yourself along the way. Choose a reward that’s relevant and meaningful, so that you reinforce positive behavior. For example, after contributing more towards retirement, treat yourself to dinner.

          8. Aggressively Invest on This One Investment

          I’ve mentioned several types of investments but haven’t covered the most important one.

          It sounds cliche but here’s why you’re your best investment towards retirement. The more you know, the more money you’ll be able to make. The more good habits you adopt, the more secure your retirement will be.

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          More importantly, investing in yourself is an investment that no one can take away. There’s no market downturn nor tragic circumstance that’ll wipe your knowledge and experience.

          But, how can you invest yourself?

          Reading books, blogs, and anything that’ll help you learn new topics daily. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks on your commute to/from work.

          Save money to buy courses and hire coaches. I used to believe hiring coaches was a waste of money when I could learn the subject alone.

          But, coaches see your blind spots and hold you accountable. Hiring the right coach will help you achieve your goals faster than you would’ve alone.

          Retire Happy with Excess Money

          The key to a secure financial future doesn’t only belong to financial experts.

          It’s possible for you and I. What if you were able to retire earlier than most people and weren’t a financial planner? What if you were able to focus on what you enjoy doing the most while your money was working hard for you?

          I know this sounds impossible now, but the truth is you’re capable of taking charge of your retirement. I’m not a financial expert but I’ve learned how to invest my money by reading books and learning from others.

          Investing your money is scary. So start small and invest a small amount of your money with a robo-advisor. Feel your money drop and rise for a month or two. Then, invest more and keep this up until you’re aggressively saving for retirement.

          One day, you’ll wake up with a net worth you’re proud of – confident about your retirement. You now know a few strategies you can use to invest in your retirement. Will you take action to retire happy?

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          Featured photo credit: Matthew Bennett via unsplash.com

          Reference

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