Michelle Singletary
Michelle Singletary
Columnist

President Obama’s economic mission

Much of President Obama’s second inaugural address focused on money.

And, as expected, there were a number of people opining about his economic goals.

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“In the rich oratory of an inaugural address, President Obama sketched out a vision Monday for addressing the problems that have been afflicting the American economy — not just since the financial crisis and recession but for long before,” wrote Zachary Goldfarb of The Washington Post. “And amid calls to impose discipline on the federal budget, he defended the value of a costly social safety net, describing it as a critical support for Americans willing to “to take the risks that make this country great.”

Helaine Olen, contributor to Forbes’ online Web site, wrote that Obama spoke out for the many people whose financial world is turned upside down by no fault of their own. “I’m not sure Barack Obama intended to do that. But he did and I want to thank him for it.”

“We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss or a sudden illness or a home swept away in a terrible storm,” Obama said.

“Don’t get me wrong. Of course, we should all strive to lead the most financially responsible lives we can. But no one – to the best I can determine – is arguing that we should lead lives of reckless monetary abandon, spending like the proverbial drunken sailor on shore leave,” Olen wrote. “However, bad things do happen to even the best savers and investors.”

Olen is of author of “Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry,” which is this month’s Color of Money Book Club selection. Read the review.

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Multitasking Costly Mistakes

In an interview with Julie Morgenstern, a productivity expert and bestselling author of “Time Management from the Inside Out,” Forbes.com contributor Jessica Kleiman asked, is multitasking productive in the workplace?

Morgenstern doesn’t think so.

“It has been scientifically demonstrated that the brain cannot effectively or efficiently switch between tasks, so you lose time,” Morgenstern said. “It takes four times longer to recognize new things, so you’re not saving time; multitasking actually costs time. You also lose time because you often make mistakes. If you’re multitasking and you send an email and accidentally ‘reply all’ and the person you were talking about is on the email, it’s a big mistake.”

Morgenstern says our memory issues are among the symptoms of the multitasking epidemic.

So, how can you get a break from having to do five things at once? Here’s what Morgenstern tells Forbes:

-- Take a break from electronics. Spend only one to three hours at a time engaged by electronic means so “you can engage in a deeper and different way on problems, studying, writing, thinking, talking, etc.”

-- Shut down your e-mail and all screens the first and last hour of the day.

This week’s Color of Money Question: What was your most troubling or embarrassing multitasking mistake? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state. Put “Multitasking Costly Mistakes” in the subject line.

2013 Tax Tips

It’s that time of year again: tax season. So, from now until April 15, I will be highlighting tax stories and at times offering tax time tips.

I would like to start with a story from Bloomberg that listed 10 tax code loopholes that are pretty peculiar, to say the least.

Here are a few highlighted by Karen Fickes and Warren Joseph of Bloomberg:

-- Golf cart deduction. In an effort to promote the development of electric cars, golf carts could get you a credit of up to $6,500 in 2009, which could offset more than half the typical cost of some models. Congress changed the law to limit the credit to 10 percent of the cost of the vehicle.

-- Big cars. The tax code limits write-offs for expensive vehicles. However, the restriction doesn’t apply to an unloaded vehicle with a gross weight of 6,000 pounds or more. That means you could purchase a large SUV that offers a faster write-off than buying a smaller vehicle.

-- A credit for children. To give a boost to the housing market, Congress changed the tax code to add a tax credit for first-time homebuyers. But you couldn’t get the credit if you already owned a home. So, “some taxpayers had their minor children buy homes in order to get the credit,” Bloomberg reported. The loophole was eventually closed.

The article about the loopholes was very interesting and provides further proof that we need to simplify the tax code.

Family Financial Fights

If money has managed to divide your family, send me you story and I’ll try to offer some advice on how to mend the money dispute. Send your story to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name city and state. Put “Family Financial Fights” in the subject line.

“Lance Armstrong: Why confess now?”

For last week’s Color of Money Question, I asked: “Will you buy into Lance Armstrong’s career recovery by watching the Oprah Winfrey interview or shelling out money to see or read what he has to say?”

“I will not bother with a cheat like him,” wrote Daniel Davis of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. “Really, it’s a waste of time. The man is clearly a calculative person and a person does not change over night. Why should people sympathize with him when evidence clearly shows he is at fault?”

David Lepelstat of Merrick, N.Y., said he would probably watch highlights of the Armstrong interview.

“As far as paying a dime to buy a book or read about him in any other format, that would be a big no,” he said. “Just don’t trust anything that comes out of his mouth.”

Edward Green of Leesburg, Va., said: “This is yet another stain on American professional athletes that perform in the international arena. If he wants to earn back any credibility, he should have purchased commercial time, every quarter of the Superbowl game, paying for the time out of his own pockets (as a start). The tens of millions he gained in personal endorsement should go to the Live Strong Foundation, which I’m sure will never recover from his unethical actions.”

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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