Cashing in on the Disaster in Japan

One thing is for sure, when there’s a disaster in the U.S. or abroad there’s an appeal to help victims.

 But please be careful before you send any cash.

 The latest disaster of course involves the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami that has devastated parts of Japan, killing thousands and displacing many more.

 The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance offers the following tips if you feel moved to give to victims in Japan:

--Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity. Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other websites, as they might not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. 

--Be careful about giving online, especially in response to spam messages and e-mails that claim to link to a relief organization.

 --Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the disaster impact areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to get new aid workers to quickly provide assistance. Make sure the charity’s website clearly describes what they can do to address immediate needs.

 Visit BBB's website for more tips.

 “Whenever there is a major natural disaster, be it home or abroad, there are two things you can count on,” said Art Taylor, president and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “The first is the generosity of Americans to donate time and money to help victims, and the second is the appearance of poorly run and in some cases fraudulent charities.”

Rich, Who Me?

Here’s a million-dollar question: How much money will it take for you to feel rich?

 The answer for many millionaires is millions more than what they have. Fidelity Investments survey found that 42 percent of millionaires say they won’t feel wealthy until they have at least $7.5 million.

 This is the fourth Fidelity Millionaire Outlook poll, which looks at the investing attitudes and behaviors of millionaires.

 “Our survey reinforces that the feeling of wealth is relative, based on factors such as the current market environment, a person’s age, lifestyle, and so on,” said Michael R. Durbin, president, Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services.

 Actually, I agree with Durbin. Rich is relative.

 But you don’t need millions to be rich. The way to feel wealthy is to count your blessings. Trust me, there are a lot of people doing far worse than you financially.

What People Earn

 One of my favorite features in Parade magazine is its annual survey of What People Earn.”  Parade’s latest survey reveals U.S. salaries at dozens of jobs — from teachers to app developers, to personal chefs to park rangers. This feature should be required reading for every kid heading off to college. It will be a needed wake-up call for many I’m sure.

 In fact, get your kid to take Parade’s Who Makes the Most” quiz in which he or she has to guess which job pays more. There are 25 questions. For example, who earns the most?

 a) Air traffic control specialist

 b) Ophthalmology resident

 c) Electrical contractor

 I’m not giving you the answer. You’ll have to take the test and see how well you can guess who earns more. You may be surprised.

Stressed Workers

 A survey by the American Psychological Association found that most employees are overwhelmed by their underpaying job.

 The APA findings show that 43 percent of workers fret about a lack of career growth and advancement opportunities, and heavy workloads. Nearly as many were concerned about unrealistic job expectations and long hours, as DailyFinance reports.

 Wendy Kaufman, CEO of the consultancy firmBalancing Life's Issues, says in the DailyFinance report that workers, even those who have survived layoffs, continue to worry about their job security.

 Kaufman encourages companies to implement programs that help workers deal with workplace strain.

Comments for “Debit Card Debate”

 For last week’s Color of Money question I wanted to know: Would you change your debit card usage if you had to pay more to use it?

 The question came about because of the debate on the fees merchants pay to allow customers to use their debit card.

 Here are some responses:

 “Yes it would change my debit card usage if I had to pay to use it,” wrote Vickie S. of Columbus, Ohio.  “I would even start writing checks again.  Although, not using my debt card would hurt the retailers because I generally hate to carry cash and would end up only purchasing items that could be covered by the cash in my wallet.”

 “If the bank starts charging me a fee to use my debit card, I would stop using it,” says Denise Dimares of Upper Marlboro, Md.  “This will work for me because it will allow me to keep more money in the bank.  It’s easier for me to swipe my debit or credit card than using my own cash.  I know there is some kind of psychological reasoning behind this thought, but it’s true.  I will swipe my card before I hand over my cash.”

 “Why spend money to spend money?” wrote Arlene Alexander of Springdale, Md. “I can see this having a horrible effect on the grocery store lines with people writing more checks.  One thing that upsets me is standing in a long line and the person at the counter is asking the cashier for an ink pen to fill out a check after the checker has finished ringing up their food.”

 Karen Howell of Tacoma, Wash., said she will not give her money away. "I sure would choose to pay [with] cash. My monies are taxed before it comes to me and now I need to pay a fee to use it. No way. There should be a discount for using cash, I know some smaller businesses offer that option.”

 “My question is just how much does the bank need to charge for something that is transmitted via computer?” asked Judy Burns of Oklahoma City, Okla. “Do they need to charge based on how far away the merchant is from the bank?  Mileage?  Their fees on the merchants are ridiculous.”

Tax Tips for the 2011 Filing Season

 Jim Dupree, IRS spokesperson and media relations specialist, answered some leftover tax questions from last week’s online chat.

 Q: After filing my 2010 taxes last month and receiving a refund, I realized I'd forgot some extra income, which means I need to pay the IRS. How much time do I have to do an amended return? Does that need to be done by April 18 because I now owe money?

 Dupree: If you owe additional tax for a tax year, file Form 1040X and pay the tax by April 18 to avoid penalties and interest.

 Q: I think I recycled one of my W-2's. I have always paper-filed in the past because of the charge to e-file, but it appears that e-filing is free this year. If I e-file, do I still need to submit the documentation?

 Dupree: You submit the information contained on your W-2s electronically when you e-file your return. You can then save your W-2s and copies of your electronic return for your records.

 Q: My husband and I took about $5,000 from a Roth IRA to assist in buying our first home because apparently that's permissible. Will we have to re-pay money into the Roth? Are there future tax consequences?

 Dupree: You’ve already paid income tax on your Roth IRA contributions. Your withdrawal will count as a qualified distribution. For additional information, see IRS Publication 590 (2010), Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs).”

 Q: I have expenses relating to professional education courses. Are these deductible under education expenses, even though they are not college courses, and to what extent? My employer is not reimbursing me for these expenses, since I currently work in a different field.

 Dupree: Generally, they are not. You can deduct the costs of qualifying work-related education as business expenses only if this education meets at least one of the following two tests:

 -- The education is required by your employer or the law to keep your present salary, status, or job. The required education must serve a bona fide business purpose of your employer.

 -- The education maintains or improves skills needed in your present work.

 For additional information, see IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.

 Tia Lewis contributed to this e-letter.

  You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to singletarym@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
SECTION: {section=business, subsection=economy}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, moderationrequired=false, display_more=true, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, comments_period=3, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=3, includepause=true, display_ugc_photos=false, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=3, comments_source=washpost.com, display_comments=true, max_items_to_display=3, moderation_required=false}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, moderationrequired=false, display_more=true, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, comments_period=3, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=3, includepause=true, display_ugc_photos=false, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=business, subsection=economy}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, moderationrequired=false, display_more=true, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, comments_period=3, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=3, includepause=true, display_ugc_photos=false, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=3, comments_source=washpost.com, display_comments=true, max_items_to_display=3, moderation_required=false}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, moderationrequired=false, display_more=true, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, comments_period=3, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=3, includepause=true, display_ugc_photos=false, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Show Comments
Most Read Business