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Costly votes

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While some people didn’t bother to vote because they couldn’t care enough to participate in the election process, at least two young adults took their responsibility to such great lengths that it cost them a pretty penny.

Domonique Williams, who works as a contract administrative assistant at the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington, and Larry Feazell, an 18-year-old Howard University freshman, both had to fly to their home states to vote. Neither could really afford the trip, but with help from family each went to extraordinary lengths to cast a ballot this week, according to two news reports.

Williams, 27, had requested an absentee ballot from her hometown of Boston weeks in advance, reported The Washington Post’s Manuel Roig-Franzia. The ballot never came, despite her repeated attempts to get it mailed. When it became clear she wouldn’t get her ballot, Williams went back home.

“Hers is the story of an unusually dogged American voter,” Roig-Franzia wrote. “That’s because Domonique certainly wouldn’t be who is she is, so persistent and unstoppable, if it wasn’t for her great-grandmother, Edna Murrell, still a force in Dominque’s life at age 91. Edna had taught Domonique the value and privilege of voting, and she had to find a way to live up to that legacy.

Williams found a JetBlue ticket to Boston for $289.60.

“She did the math in her head,” Roig-Franzia said. “College loans. Rent. A day off work without pay.”

She wanted her vote to be counted nonetheless.

In the end, her grandmother offered help to pay for the ticket.

Feazell’s story is similar. He was pushed by his mother to return to Las Vegas to vote, according to a local Fox television station. Feazell had missed the deadline for an absentee ballot in Nevada, but his mom wasn’t about to let him off the hook that easily.

She paid $450 for an airplane ticket so her son could go home to vote. “It wasn’t so much about the candidates, it was about exercising his right to vote,” Dorothy Wesley said.

“It was definitely bill money, but it’s a sacrifice,” said Wesley. “Life is a sacrifice, and a lot of people sacrificed for our right to vote.”

Typically, I wouldn’t approve of such an expense when bills have to be paid, but Feazell’s mother is right. A lot of people over the years has spent so much more and even lost their lives fighting for the right to vote. I won’t fuss this time. This was money well spent.

Fiscal Cliff

It’s still about the economy. The election is over, thank goodness, but who can celebrate when you watch the stock market take a dive, unemployment is still too high and there’s that looming fiscal cliff that so many people may be tossed over.

One of the immediate issues on President Obama’s plate is that fiscal cliff, which is “nearly $500 billion in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect in January that could throw the nation back into recession,” reports Lori Montgomery and Zachary A. Goldfarb of The Washington Post. Obama has threatened to veto legislation to avert the cliff by extending the George W. Bush-era tax rates for the wealthy.

On Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average ended down 313 points, its biggest point drop since a year ago. The decline was attributed to fiscal concerns about Europe and the U.S. economy.

“There is a strong case that a major reason for the drop in the markets Wednesday morning is that global investors are starting to look ahead at what will happen to U.S. economic policy in the very near term — over the next two months — and see more reason for fear than rejoicing,” reported The Washington Post’s Neil Irwin.

The Dow opened up on Thursday morning but quickly dipped and was slightly down a little before noon.

Another financial issue facing some consumers: The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 is set to expire by the end of the year.

“If it does not get extended by Congress by the end of the year, homeowners will have to start paying income taxes on the portion of their mortgage that is forgiven in a foreclosure, short sale or principal reduction,” reports Les Christie of CNN Money.

Now, we are all just waiting to see what debt deal, if any, will keep us from falling off the cliff.

But here’s the Color of Money Question of the Week for you: Now that the election is over, how are you feeling about your own finances? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. In the subject line put “Fiscal Cliff.” Please include your name, city and state.

What Now?

In a recent Motley Fool article, “Obama Wins: What You Need To Know,” Morgan Housel explains how the election will affect your personal finances

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

-- Don’t dump your investments plan because your candidate lost. “If you were happy with your portfolio and investing style three months ago, you should be happy with it three months from now. Making investment decisions while heated about an election outcome puts you in the express lane to regrettable decisions,” Housel writes.

-- Be optimistic. Think about this, Housel says: Housing construction and auto sales are set up for a big rebound. The boom in domestic energy production is good, and household debt payments to income are at the lowest level in almost two decades. “Look past election-season hyperbole, and neither candidate was radical in any historical sense, and would have inherited an economy with the wind at its back,” he says.

Guilty Gift-Giving

For last week’s Color of Money question, I asked: “How do you avoid overspending during the holidays?”

“I make a list of each person who receives a gift for the holidays and/or birthday,” said Jennifer Protil of Silver Spring, Md. “It makes me think about and plan the year, balancing larger gifts with smaller gifts on a different occasion. Seeing all my gift giving on one page helps me choose thoughtful, more meaningful gifts over impulse buys that cost more and are less appreciated. An added bonus is that I can watch for sales on items I’ll give later in the year.”

Lorna Gilkey of Alexandria, Va., wrote: “For many years, I have had a very strict, titanium rule that I do not break under any circumstances regarding holiday gift giving and it is this: ‘If I gave birth to you or you gave birth to me, then you get a holiday gift. That’s it, no one else. Period.’ After saying that for years, most people respect the rule. Those who give me something hoping to get a gift in return are rewarded with a big smile and a hearty ‘Thank You!’”

Tia Lewis contributed to this report.

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

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