Senior Personal Finance Correspondent
Linda's Feed
Apr 15, 2011
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Taxes: How to file an extension


If you are one of those chronic procrastinators who has yet to close out the 2011 tax season, don’t waste time reading all of this. Just file an extension asap. If you think you’ll owe money, send a check along with it.

And what if you’re reading this after the April 18 deadline has passed? Go directly to your post office and mail an extension form right now. It couldn’t hurt.

Apr 13, 2011

Stern Advice: Fixes for the biggest retirement risks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Life is kind of crazy and unpredictable, and that doesn’t stop when you retire. You could still win the lottery or get hit by a bus, or anything in between.

That’s why traditional straight-line retirement planning does not address much of what goes on during real-life retirement. The old guidelines of “put this in every month until you retire, then take this much out every month,” just don’t cut it anymore. In order to protect your life style no matter what happens, you have to cover a lot of bases.

Apr 12, 2011
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Scary and scarier: rising prices and rising rates


Data expected out of Washington this week may raise anxiety levels of investors and consumers who are already worried about inflation and rising interest rates.

On April 12, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that U.S. import prices jumped in March. We’ll also get data on producer prices on April 14 and consumer prices on April 15. But here’s what we already know: It costs more to fill your car, and your belly. And what doesn’t run on food or fuel?

Apr 8, 2011
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Maxing out on miles with the latest credit card offers


It was just a month ago that we reported on a big fat miles offer from Capital One on its Venture Card.  The company offered to double existing airline miles for new cardholders until it had given away  one billion miles. That was fast! They weren’t quite gone in 60 seconds, but Capital One announced on April 5 that it had given away all those miles and was done with the promotion.

Don’t despair if you missed it. There are some new and potentially juicier deals on the table from other issuers. Here’s where to get your free trips now:

Apr 6, 2011
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IRS commissioner: My taxes are done. Where are yours?


A threatened government shutdown won’t stop Internal Revenue Service commissioner Douglas Shulman from filing his own taxes on time; they’re already done. “I make sure it gets done on time,” he told Reuters. “I just have to look it over.” He said that taxpayers should follow that example and not expect to get any extra filing time if there is a temporary federal work stoppage.

“The IRS will be accepting tax returns,” he told the National Press Club in a luncheon speech on April 6. “The American people should file their taxes and they are required to file by April 18.”

Apr 6, 2011

Stern Advice: Should you buy a 529 for your unborn grandchild?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As publisher of the SavingforCollege website, Joe Hurley is a bit obsessed with 529 college savings plans, so it’s no surprise that he has one in his name and one in his wife’s.

What’s unusual is that he doesn’t expect to use those funds to send his kids to college. One has already completed his undergraduate education and the other is almost done.

Apr 5, 2011
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5 ways to avoid a tax audit


Don’t stay up at night worrying about having your taxes audited, or imagining horrible interrogation scenarios with tax agents and windowless rooms. Fewer than one percent of returns are ever examined, and the vast majority of those are done through the mail and not in person. More reassuringly, more than one in 10 of those audits result in “no change” in the amount the taxpayer owes.

That data and more is included in the Internal Revenue Service’s most recent data book. In 2009, the IRS received 187 million returns, and it audited 1.7 million returns in fiscal year 2010, producing a 0.9 percent audit rate. So breathe.

Apr 1, 2011
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Day trading is a waste of money, says tax court


Still day trading? You might as well roll your dollars into a fat cigar and smoke them. That’s not a comment on your investment prowess, it’s the official position of the U.S. Tax Court.

Here’s the backstory: A taxpayer named Larry Tucker filed tax returns for 2000, 2001 and 2002 on April 15, 2003, but didn’t pay his taxes. By 2004, he owed $23,263 and, facing a tax lien, asked the Internal Revenue Service to accept an “offer in compromise.” (That’s a technical term for the deal the IRS will cut with a taxpayer who can afford to pay part of his bill, but not all of his bill.) But the IRS is permitted to reject those compromises if it decides the taxpayer has been wasting or consuming money that could have otherwise been used to pay taxes.

Mar 31, 2011
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Tax obsessed? There’s an app for that


Are you so into tax season that you hate to be away from your tax forms? Maybe you’ve got questions about your return that you’d like to be answering while you’re on your way to work, or out at dinner with your friends.

If you’ve got a smart phone, you’ve got an answer. Here are some tax apps for this tax season.

Mar 30, 2011

Stern Advice: Opening day of financial aid season

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – This is the week most colleges send out their financial aid award letters.

Enterprising students and parents will consider those packages a first offer. They will spend the month of April trying to cut a better deal before they decide, by May 1, where to send their sons, daughters and dollars.

    • About Linda

      "Linda Stern is an award-winning personal finance journalist who loves to write about how the big picture affects your pocketbook. A former contributing editor at Newsweek magazine and a long-time Reuters columnist, Stern covers everything from credit cards to retirement planning to investing. As a Washington-based correspondent, she sneaks in as much tax and economic policy as her editors will allow. She tweets at And when she expresses opinions, they are her own and not those of her employer."
      Joined Reuters:
      October 2010
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