Category : Personal Finance & Investing

(CT) A federal judge (again) has declard that the longstanding clergy housing allowance violates the 1st Amendment

Once again, a federal judge has declared that the longstanding clergy housing allowance violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Offered only to “ministers of the gospel,” the 60-year-old tax break excludes the rental value of a home from the taxable income of US clergy. It’s the “most important tax benefit available to ministers,” according to GuideStone Financial Resources.

It’s also the biggest: American ministers currently avail themselves of the tax break to the tune of $800 million a year, according to the latest estimate by the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

Wisconsin district judge Barbara Crabb first ruled against the housing allowance in 2013, finding that the second part of Section 107 of the IRS tax code provides “a benefit to religious persons and no one else, even though doing so is not necessary to alleviate a special burden on religious exercise.” Her ruling “sen[t] shockwaves through the religious community,” the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability stated at the time.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture, Taxes

Keeping Things in perspective Dept–Looking back to 1938 and what it cost to Live

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Personal Finance & Investing

(NBC) Parents of Toddler Killed in Disney Resort Alligator Attack Launch Foundation to Help Families with Children in Critical Medical Need

The parents of Lane Graves announced that the foundation, named in honor of their son, would help other parents pay expenses like electrical bills or the mortgage, while their children endure organ transplants.

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Posted in Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing

(Local Paper) South Carolina insurance director confirms http://HealthCare.gov prices will increase 31% next year

As Congress once again turns its focus toward health care reform, the S.C. Department of Insurance posted some sobering news about 2018 health insurance prices.

The agency confirmed on its website Thursday that average premiums for HealthCare.gov polices will skyrocket 31 percent in South Carolina next year, confirming information the federal government published on the future of health insurance costs earlier this summer.

Some customers will face higher increases than others. A 60-year-old patient in Charleston County who doesn’t use tobacco and wants to buy a “silver” plan next year will pay about 28 percent more. His monthly premium will increase from about $837 a month this year to $1,068 a month next year.

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Posted in --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance & Investing

(WSJ) After Irma, Many Mobile Homeowners May Face Tough Choice–rebuild or walk away

Some of the homes hardest hit by Hurricane Irma in Florida are also the least likely to be insured.

Florida has more mobile and manufactured homes than any other state. These homes, which are built in factories rather than directly onto a lot, often house low-income residents and seniors seeking cheaper housing for their retirement.

The homes are also less likely to be insured than many other types of homes, with the Florida Manufactured Housing Association estimating as many as 50% of the homes may lack insurance.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Marriage & Family, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Personal Finance & Investing

(WSJ) In America Men, young adults and rural residents increasingly say college isn’t worth the cost

Americans are losing faith in the value of a college degree, with majorities of young adults, men and rural residents saying college isn’t worth the cost, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey shows.

The findings reflect an increase in public skepticism of higher education from just four years ago and highlight a growing divide in opinion falling along gender, educational, regional and partisan lines. They also carry political implications for universities, already under public pressure to rein in their costs and adjust curricula after decades of sharp tuition increases.

Overall, a slim plurality of Americans, 49%, believes earning a four-year degree will lead to a good job and higher lifetime earnings, compared with 47% who don’t, according to the poll of 1,200 people taken Aug. 5-9. That two-point margin narrowed from 13 points when the same question was asked four years earlier.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Education, Personal Finance & Investing, Rural/Town Life, Young Adults

(Bloomberg) American weddings are getting rarer and smaller—but not cheaper

You’re not the only one spending fewer summer weekends watching other people get married—but don’t worry, the weddings you’re still invited to might feel a little more special these days.

Fewer Americans are getting married, and the ones who still are have scaled back their weddings. Their nuptials are becoming smaller, though not necessarily cheaper, affairs.

Many couples are waiting longer and longer to schedule their weddings. In 2015, the median first-time American bride was almost 28 years old and the median groom almost 30, according to the most recent data available from the Census Bureau. (Ten years earlier, the typical bride was 25.5, the typical groom 27.)

The U.S. marriage rate—the number of new marriages per 1,000 people—has been falling for decades. It fell especially fast during the recession, in 2008 and 2009, but there’s little evidence that people started getting married again even as the economy recovered. And research firm IbisWorld predicts the marriage rate will keep falling over the next five years.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Sociology

(CT) DL Mayfield–How Government Support Saved Me; Signing up for food stamps changed my view of poverty in America

Just a few months ago, my family stopped qualifying for government cheese.

It came as a little bit of a surprise to me—I had, after all, been a part of the WIC (women, infants, and children) program for almost seven years, starting with my first child. My daughter was born two months early due to life-threatening complications and I was never able to breastfeed. WIC supplied the formula, an expense that would have been a huge blow to our family’s finances. As my husband and I took turns getting our graduate degrees, WIC provided us with milk, cheese, eggs, and a few other essentials, and when we were support-raising missionaries living in immigrant and refugee neighborhoods for three years, we used our WIC vouchers along with all of our neighbors.

Two years ago when my second child was born, I wasn’t able to work, and while moving across the country, our only car broke down. By the time we finally found an apartment to live in and a job for my husband, we didn’t even have enough money to buy curtains for our windows. We applied for food stamps, or SNAP, along with WIC, and I don’t know what we would have done without it for those few months. I felt sweet relief being able to go to the grocery store, swipe my card, and purchase food for my family. Each time, I was incredibly grateful for my country.

In light of where my family is now, it’s important for me to take a moment and remember those feelings—both the stress of not having money to buy essentials and the gratitude for any small breaks.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Personal Finance & Investing, Poverty, Religion & Culture

Irenic Thoughts: Synonymous with Anonymous

Chuck Feeney became a billionaire in the duty free shop business. Then he gave away $600 million anonymously. As the Daily News wrote of the reclusive philanthropist,

Chuck Feeney is what Donald Trump would be if he lived his entire existence backward.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Personal Finance & Investing

A market edge for Muslims

The strategy is almost heresy on Wall Street: Find a top-performing investment by seeking out a mutual fund with some of the industry’s strictest ethical screening requirements.

Yet that approach, if adopted, would work in at least one case. The Amana Income Fund, which avoids not only alcohol, tobacco, and gambling stocks but also pork producers and lenders who charge interest, received a Lipper award earlier this year for outperforming 180 equity income funds ”“ screened and unscreened ”“ over the past three years.

Amana Funds dominate the relatively small niche of socially responsible investing (SRI) that aims to reflect Islamic law, or sharia. The idea is for an entire portfolio to reflect moral values from the Koran, which deems pork products unclean and regards the charging and paying of interest as immoral endeavors that foster exploitative relationships.

“If Islam forbids it, then we’re not going to buy it,” says Monem Salam, deputy portfolio manager at Amana Funds. That principle generally “keeps us out of trouble,” he says, by requiring the funds to avoid such ticking time bombs as Enron and WorldCom, which imploded in accounting scandals a few years back. Both were too heavily leveraged to pass muster at Amana.

In theory, Islamic funds face an uphill battle since about half of the stock market universe ”“ including most financial services companies ”“ is off limits to them. But in practice, Islamic funds fulfill their moral ideals in considerable measure by mimicking some revered habits of billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

For instance, because excessive stock trading amounts to gambling in the eyes of Islamic authorities, Islamic funds practice a buy-and-hold strategy that helps keep trading costs down. Also, concern about the ethics of borrowing and lending leads Islamic fund managers to avoid deeply indebted companies, such as several big-name airlines, which tend to stumble in recessions and in times of slow economic growth. Both practices are quintessential Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, based in Omaha, Neb.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Islam, Other Faiths, Personal Finance & Investing

Cause for Concern?

From here:

A report today from Portales Partners on brokerage margin debt, which at $318 billion is 14% above its highest level reached in March 2000 — the year the dot.com bubble burst.”

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Personal Finance & Investing