Author - Thomas Fisher, CFP®

This is Your Last Chance to Save With Home Energy Credits
Your Homeowners Insurance Does NOT Cover an Earthquake
Is Your Bank Safe?
Which Countries Are Still AAA?
5 Tax Changes You Can Expect in 2011

This is Your Last Chance to Save With Home Energy Credits

For the foreseeable future, a number of tax credits for home energy efficiency improvements will go away at the end of 2011. Here are some credits that apply to improvements made to a taxpayer’s principal residence.

Generally speaking, the credit is for 10% of the improvement cost, up to a lifetime credit of as much as $500. A tax credit is a direct reduction of tax liability, unlike a deduction.

For Energy-Star qualified windows and doors, 10% of the materials cost (not including installation) qualifies, up to $500 for doors or $200 for windows.

Insulation, metal and asphalt heat-resistant roof …

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Your Homeowners Insurance Does NOT Cover an Earthquake

This week's earthquake centered near Mineral, Virginia caught New Englanders by surprise as its shock wave rumbled through the area. Although we tend to think of earthquakes as a west coast phenomenon, today’s tremor reminded easterners that we get them sometimes too. How much does a standard homeowner’s policy cover in the event of an earthquake?

Earthquake Coverage

This is a very easy question – nothing. Homeowner’s insurance policies specifically exclude any coverage for claims due to damage caused by movement of the earth, period.

Ah, you say, but we don’t get big earthquakes in the east. Historically, that is …

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Is Your Bank Safe?

This week, a friend expressed concern to me about the safety of his bank. So today I'm addressing two questions: how can you find out whether your bank is in good financial shape, and just how strong is the FDIC's insurance fund?

My initial response to this question is that bank accounts are insured by the FDIC for $250K or more, depending on how the accounts are configured. But my friend pointed out that his bank is one of the largest banks in the US. If it’s “too big to fail,” he asked – what happens if it does fail?…

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Which Countries Are Still AAA?

Now that Standard and Poor’s has lowered the US debt rating to AA+, only sixteen nations have the highest rating from all three major ratings agencies (S&P, Moody’s and Fitch).

The nations still considered most credit-worthy by the “big three” ratings agencies are:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Isle of Man
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Singapore
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom

A look at the list helps explain why, in spite of the S&P downgrade, US Treasuries have remained strong this week.  Most of these nations have economies that are tiny compared with the US, and the amount …

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5 Tax Changes You Can Expect in 2011

Last week was the 150th anniversary of the US income tax. Originally established to fund the Civil War, the Federal income tax underwent various changes, with the basic system we have today being established in 1913. It seems appropriate, on this anniversary, to note that we can expect to see some significant changes in the structure of the income tax code later this year.

Although the recent Budget Control Act of 2011, Washington’s last-minute solution for the extension of the debt ceiling, includes no specific changes in tax laws, there is a good chance that the second round of deficit …

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