May Newsletter 2016
Is Homeowners Insurance Tax Deductible?
This month is tax time - an annual ritual in which taxpayers search for every possible savings to help reduce their taxes, including deductions for eligible expenses. Is homeowner’s insurance one of these?
Although many people believe it is, the short answer is no. However, some exceptions do exist and partial deductions may be possible.
Rentals: Rental homes are the most common exception. You may deduct all of the property insurance for homes used exclusively as rental properties. If you rent out part of your home and report the rental income, you can deduct your property insurance as a business expense on the portion of the home you rent out.
Business: Do you use part of your home for business? You may be eligible to deduct some of your homeowners insurance, based on how much of the home is devoted to business use. This can be tricky, so it's best to leave calculations to an accountant.
Loss: If you made a claim for theft or other damage on your homeowners insurance policy during the current tax year, you may be able to make a partial deduction. If your insurance was not sufficient to cover losses, you may be eligible to deduct the difference between actual cost and your settlement.
Itemizing: You must itemize on your tax return to take advantage of any of these insurance deductions. But itemizing may make you ineligible for other types of deductions. Consult with a tax expert to decide which approach to take so that you will gain maximum benefit.
Check with your insurance agent to verify what out-of-pocket insurance deductibles, premiums, or other insurance costs you have incurred over the year to see if you're eligible for deductions. It's also beneficial to have a professional prepare your return or check it, cost notwithstanding. The good news? Next year, you can write off the cost of hiring the tax preparer.
Kitchen Talk: A Fun, Easy Way to Connect with Your Kids
For many parents, it can be difficult finding time to spend with their children. But there is one easy and inexpensive way for parents to connect with their kids in a meaningful way: in the kitchen.
When parents and children cook together, the shared experience can be special. Older children feel valued when asked for their input around the stove, and, for the very young, an invitation to help out in the kitchen will make them feel like a "big kid."
You can even use baking as an opportunity for kids to learn, in a very real way, about fractions and measuring. Building memories is as important as learning how to peel vegetables or dress a salad. While it can be especially difficult for parents to connect with their teenage children, dinner prep can help them develop skills that will stand them in good stead when they move out.
As one now-grown tween said: "I knew that someday I'd need these skills. And I still remember cooking with my mom." Following are some suggestions for kids' tasks, ranked from beginner to expert: washing produce and mixing for the beginner; chopping, boiling, and following a recipe for children with some experience in the kitchen; and for your chef-to-be, well, take a chance on letting him or her experiment with tweaking recipes.
Working together in the kitchen is fun; so is eating the results together. Sure, they'll make mistakes, but aside from overcooked vegetables, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. And so do they.
Forget Cleaning Marathons: Divvy Up Your Tasks
A home that is always squeaky clean and organized is everyone's dream. But sadly, when you do find the time to tidy and scrub, the mess seems to come back within 24 hours. Experts say the trick is not to do a big cleaning every few months, but to divide and conquer. Do some tasks daily, some weekly, and some monthly.
Here's how, courtesy of RISmedia.com and TidyMom.net:
Once a day
Make the beds in the morning. Sweep the kitchen after dinner. Wipe down kitchen and bathroom counters. Before bed, the whole family should do a quick survey of their bedrooms and the living areas, and put their own items back.
Once a week
Once a week, give your house a wipe-down: dust surfaces, clean mirrors, and wipe cabinets and the fronts and handles of appliances. Scrub the toilet bowl and clean the shower walls with a squeegee. Vacuum and mop all floors.
Once a month
Once a month, set aside time for a thorough cleaning. Wipe the tops of shelves, baseboards, etc. Clean out the fridge and freezer; check expiration dates on items
Once a year
TidyMom.net suggests you assign yearly chores to certain months. For example, this month (April) wash windows both inside and out. In January, clean out medicine cabinets and check medicines' expiration dates. Clean hard-to-reach spots (like behind heavy sofas and appliances) in February. In August, sort through drawers and closets. Wash your walls in September. And before each new year, go through all your personal files, sorting and organizing receipts and tax forms.
While this may sound just a bit too organized, consider the alternative. With this checklist, you'll have a more pleasant and healthier environment for you and your family. And there's a bonus: getting the kids involved teaches them some good life lessons for the future. While this may sound just a bit too organized, consider the alternative. With this checklist, you'll have a more pleasant and healthier environment for you and your family. And there's a bonus: getting the kids involved teaches them some good life lessons for the future.
Each month I'll give you a new question. Just reply to this email for the answer.
Kale chips can be a nutritious substitute for what snack?
Recipe: Spring Shaved Asparagus Salad
To make this a light main dish, add shredded chicken, sliced steak, or marinated tofu.
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 small shallot, finely minced
- 1 pound asparagus, woody ends snapped off
- 3 medium radishes
- 1/2 cup toasted, chopped pecans and throw away anything moldy. Vacuum upholstered items and turn mattresses over.
- 1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
- Whisk together the honey, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, water, and shallots in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Once asparagus is trimmed and cleaned, use a vegetable peeler to shave off slices of the asparagus, working from the tip to the end of the stalk.
- Place in a serving bowl. Cut radishes in half then slice into half-moons and add to the bowl with asparagus.
- Toss with dressing and pecans and top with the cheese to serve.
Your Identity Is Precious: Secure it, Insure it or Lose it
Chances are you don't want to share your identity with the myriad thieves and con artists lurking on city streets and Internet alleys. Victims of identity theft suffer financially and emotionally, often facing the consequences of this criminal action for years. And it could happen to you.
When your identity is stolen, the thief will pretend to be you and use your personal information to help himself or herself to your bank account or make purchases on your credit card; even worse, he or she can also set up insurance policies, take out loans, and buy a home. All in your name.
To protect yourself against such schemes, start with insurance. Some homeowner’s policies include identity theft coverage, but most often this coverage is a stand-alone policy or endorsement. Typically, for an additional $25 to $50 per year, you can get coverage to reimburse you for the cost of restoring your identity and repairing credit reports. While the proper insurance can help if your identity is stolen, you should protect it diligently so you won't need it. Take the following
- Don't discard ATM receipts in public containers or leave them where they could be taken.
- Use caution when shopping online.
- Install and update anti-spyware and antivirus programs on your devices.
- Monitor your bank account activity and credit card statements carefully.
- Check your credit report annually.
- Use strong passwords online.
- Shred documents that contain personal financial information.
- Minimize the personal information you carry with you in your wallet or purse.
This month, some famous quotes on the topic of food:
Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.
Food is our common ground, a universal experience.
Food should be fun.
When you invite someone to sit at your table and you want to cook for them, you're inviting a person into your life.
Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship. It is of great importance to the morale.
One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.