March 24, 2017
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LOS ANGELES TIMES PHOTOKrystal Pirespatch and Dan Seigerman, of Los Angeles, Calif., stand in front of Pete's Dragon during the Main Street Electrical Parade on Jan. 19 at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, Calif. ( )

Paying more for the magic

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For the last seven years or so, Joseph Armendariz of West Covina, Calif., has watched the price of his annual Disneyland pass creep higher, prompting him to wonder when the cost finally would be out of reach.

Armendariz, who works at a community college administration office, paid $619 for his annual pass, which lets him into the park on all but 50 days of the year. If the charge continues to rise, he said he may be forced to get a cheaper $469 annual pass that blocks him for about 140 days.

“They are pricing out parts of the community,” he complained. “It is becoming a very niche thing where only certain people can go.”

10 ways to save on every trip

Business or pleasure? No matter the reason, we all like to save money on travel, even if we’re heading to luxury resorts. Here are 10 tips culled from my own experience for saving on trips no matter where you’re heading.

You can often cut your costs in half by vacationing when other people stay home. You can save 30 percent to 40 percent by traveling in so-called “shoulder season,” which typically is during spring or fall when the kids have gone back to school. Off-season offers the most savings, and that’s when I like to go. Usually, the weather’s not perfect. I’d rather put on a coat to avoid the crowds and high prices.

What does a dog really cost?

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You’ll have to buy kibble, a collar and a leash. That, plus the upfront cost of a new pup, pretty much covers it, right?

Not quite. Most new pet owners grossly underestimate what it actually costs to own a dog, say Wisconsin veterinarians Race Foster and Marty Smith, founders of the pet supply company Drs. Foster and Smith, on PetEducation.com.

Best money-saving tips from travel agents

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Traveling costs money, but there are ways that you can cut back on your expenses and leave more cash for your next trip.

* Schedule at the right time: “Seasonal rates vary depending on where you’re headed, so be sure to do your research to determine the best time of year for your chosen destination,” said Anthony Tucker, All Inclusive Outlet.

It’s OK to spend money on yourself — really

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People who spend too much outnumber, by far, those who spend too little. But the methods that therapists and financial planners use to help “underspenders” can guide the rest of us about when it’s OK to splurge and when we should resist.

Chronic underspenders can be so terrified about running out of money that they put off health care, ignore needed home repairs or descend into hoarding, says financial planner Rick Kahler of Rapid City, S.D. Framing certain expenditures as an investment and creating a plan that helps them see how much money they can spend without causing financial ruin can ease their distress, he says.

Tax time: Some refunds delayed as IRS battle against fraud intensifies

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WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service’s battle against fraud and identity theft is intensifying as the tax filing season opens, and some of the neediest taxpayers are getting caught in the middle.

The agency is barred from issuing refunds before Feb. 15 on any returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. Congress mandated the delay to give the IRS more time to review returns to try to catch fraudulent ones before refunds are paid out.

Five Spot: How to estimate retirement benefits

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Q: I want to estimate my retirement benefit at several different ages. Is there a way to do that?

A: Use our Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator to get an instant, personalized retirement benefit estimate based on current law and your earnings record. The Retirement Estimator, which also is available in Spanish, lets you create additional “what if” retirement scenarios based on different income levels and “stop work” ages.

Must you buy what friends are selling?

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She’s got her sales pitch down, and last year, she sold 7,000 boxes of cookies. This year, she’s determined to do even more.

If you live anywhere near Hinsdale, Ill., you can expect a knock on your door from Grotto.

Retirement advice from retired financial experts

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Most retirement advice has a flaw: It’s being given by people who haven’t yet retired.

So I asked money experts who have quit the 9-to-5 for their best advice on how to prepare for retirement.

Financial fragility: Signs your aging family members may need help managing their money

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It’s inevitable. As we age, our bodies and our brains change, and not always like fine wine. Cognitive skills decline as part of the normal aging process and in turn, so do some of our financial management skills.

Research shows that financial decision-making peaks around age 53, and by age 60 our ability to process new information starts to slow. The shift happens at a different pace for everyone, and it can be accelerated by medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. While some people are capable of managing their own finances throughout their lifetime, others may find their skills suffering.

8 steps to financial security

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Financial security isn’t a number or a threshold. It has to do with what you spend, and save, relative to your income.

Nothing proves that quite like research on millionaires by wealth management firm UBS. Sixty percent of those with more than $5 million defined themselves as wealthy, compared with 28 percent of those worth $1 million to $5 million. Yet what millionaires mean by “wealthy” is not necessarily financial independence: Only 10 percent defined wealthy as not having to work. It’s not even a number; only 16 percent said surpassing a certain asset threshold automatically made you rich.

5 Spot: What to do with unwanted gift cards

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If you got a gift card that is going to sit untouched, what should you do? Here are a few options:

* Regift it: This may be your easiest solution. If you can’t use the card or just don’t want it, someone else might. So why not hand it over to a loved one who wants it? Gift cards are typically good for several years and there are no rules about changing hands.

Many happy returns? You might have less time to bring Christmas gifts back this year

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If you’re on the fence about whether to return a gift this Christmas, you may not have as much time to decide as you used to. Or, you may have more time. It all depends on where you bought it.

A recent study by ConsumerWorld.org found some stores are shortening their return windows. Others are getting more generous and offering special extended holiday return periods, while most stores’ policies have remained about the same as last year.

Gifts that keep on giving: The wide range of subscriptions has something for everyone

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Suffering from a pre-holiday “what to give” headache? The prescription may be a subscription.

Subscription gifts, one of the hottest retail trends, literally keep on giving: New installments arrive over the course of weeks or months.

Buyer beware: Some steps to help you find a cheap used car

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — When shopping for a low-priced used car, three things will become evident:

Some people want to swindle you.

Holiday wish lists: Local service agencies seek donations

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The holidays are a time for giving.

As we have done in previous years, the Kenosha News has requested “wish lists” from local agencies that support our community so our readers will have an opportunity to extend their gift-giving to include these fine organizations.

Their big backyard: Promised Land Ministries in Trevor offers summer, winter camps for area churches

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TREVOR — Promised Land Ministries has been serving area congregations with affordable missionary training and getaway gatherings for nearly two decades.

It sits on 53 acres in Trevor that serve as the grounds for summer and winter camps and a training center for mission teams.

7 tips to avoid costly health plan enrollment headaches

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With the annual signup period for plans on the health law’s marketplaces open, many consumers are worried about rising premiums, shrinking provider networks and the departure of major insurers such as UnitedHealthcare, Aetna and Humana from many exchanges.

The impact on coverage will vary, but the shifting landscape means that it’s more important than ever for consumers to carefully evaluate the plans that are available in their area and choose the best one for their needs. There are several elements to factor into that decision.

5 Spot: Consider these winter weatherization and budgeting tools

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MADISON — As winter approaches, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin encourages utility customers to take advantage of weatherization and smart budgeting programs to reduce the burden of utility bills this upcoming winter.

“Wisconsin winters can be tough, but residents can save money and energy by taking a few common-sense measures early,” said Ellen Nowak, PSC chairwoman. “Conserving energy means saving money, and assistance is available to help customers plan for winter heating costs. For Wisconsin families on a budget, these are both good tools to help manage utility bills during the winter months.”

Where they stand: Clinton, Trump on pocketbook issues

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A look at where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump stand on issues related to personal finances:

In much of the U.S., families spend more on child care for two kids than on housing. And if you’re a woman, it’s likely you earn less than your male colleagues. That’s according to the latest research, which suggests that while the U.S. economy has improved, women and their families are still struggling to make the numbers work.

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