Best States Tax Social Security Retirement Benefits

Build a sizable nest egg? Check. Purchase a new set of golf clubs? Check. Plan for taxes on your retirement income? Chhhh … Wait a minute. Plan for what?

Lots of retirees are surprised by the big bite that taxes can take out of their savings . And depending on where you live, the tax hit can be especially painful. In fact, some states even tax Social Security benefits , the most important source of income for many retirees.

The 13 states that tax Social Security are Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia.

But just because a state taxes Social Security doesn’t mean it’s a bad place to retire. Overall, Colorado and West Virginia are actually tax-friendly places to live in retirement despite the tax on Social Security. Weigh a state’s entire tax picture — from income tax to sales tax to property tax — to better understand how your money will be taxed and how you can budget for those costs.

Kiplinger’s tax maps can help. Check out the most tax-friendly states for retirees and the least tax-friendly states for retirees to identify your best place for retirement.



How a Pocket Watch Dial Is Created

The dial is the most identifying and conspicuous component of the pocket watch. Often referred to as the “face,” the dial is the smooth, typically white surface where artists hand paint numerals, markings, and occasionally images.


The process of making the dial begins with granulated enamel, which is placed on a metal plate (disk) equal to the size of the dial with a raised edge and then fired in order to form the glass-like appearance. This process is often repeated on both sides of the disk to improve the strength and rigidity of the dial. Despite this relatively straightforward process, watchmakers are able to create a great deal of variety in their dials by essentially layering different sections of the dial. This process is called sinking, and dials are either single-sunk, double-sunk, or very rarely, triple sunk. In order to single-sink a dial, the watchmaker must fire two dials in the fashion described above, the second being smaller and thinner than the first. The watchmaker then makes a hole the same size of the smaller dial in the larger and solders the former into the latter, creating a layered effect with crisp edges. In order for a watch to be double-sunk, this process must be repeated twice, with a total of three dials of varying size, thus producing three distinct layers. The cheaper – and easier – way to provide this effect is called pressing. Pressing is a simple matter of imprinting the desired layers of the dial (whether one or two) directly into the metal base prior to the introduction of the enamel. This allows the watchmaker to fire all layers of the dial simultaneously and can be distinguished from a genuinely sunk dial by the lack of distinct transitions between layers.

In some cases, pocket watch dials were manufactured wholly without the use of enamel. These watches sported an entirely metal dial which was then painted on directly. Due to the fact that enamel is prone to cracking, these all-metal dials were more durable than their enamel counterparts.


7 Financial Mistakes You Should Avoid in Marriage

Marriage is amazing.

That is, if all goes well. And many times, it doesn’t.

There are many issues married couples must deal with that singles don’t experience — and they aren’t simple issues to solve, either.

Think about it. When you want to buy that new car you’ve been eyeing since the fourth grade, you remember and think to yourself, “Oh yeah, I’m married. I just can’t go out and buy a car!” At least, if you’re an experienced married person, you won’t make the mistake of purchasing something big without talking with your spouse first. And that, can be complicated. Convincing your spouse isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

When you slip that ring onto their finger, it’s no longer all about “me,” it’s all about “we.” Unfortunately, many newlyweds aren’t truly ready for that level of commitment. So they learn as they go.

Whether you’re learning as you go, you’re doing well or you’re preparing for marriage, make sure you avoid these financial blunders in marriage.

1. Not creating and sticking to a budget. If you hear the word “budget” and cringe, don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact, I hate budgeting. Why do I hate budgeting? It’s usually pretty boring.

Still, if you’re married, it’s absolutely necessary to budget in order to keep fights down to a minimum and to maintain one’s sanity. Seriously.

When your wife buys $500 worth of clothing in one day because you don’t work a budget together, and you get mad at her, how do you think she’s going to feel? After all, if that’s how she has always spent money, why should she do anything different?
Maybe your husband has been eyeing that new truck and decides to give it a test spin. The salesperson is good and your husband buys the truck because you aren’t working a budget with him. Similar scenario, but much more costly. Yikes.

You see, budgets keep both spouses on the same page regarding what should be spent and what should not be spent (and on what money should be spent on). Perhaps, for example, you and your spouse can agree to only spend $200 a month on clothing. Maybe you decide to only spend $600 a month on groceries. It could be that you decide to have some discretionary fun money that can be spent on whatever you each individually want.

As you start to budget together, you’ll find that many times having a budget frees you to spend money freely without hesitation — because it’s in the budget. This is very liberating — which is pretty profound as many people feel budgets restrict people instead of free them.

Learn how to make a budget that works and get to it. You’ll be glad you did.

2. Not communicating regularly about financial goals. Now, budgeting in a marriage lends itself to having a higher degree of communication about money, but it doesn’t necessarily help all the way.

That’s where communicating regularly about financial goals comes into play. In fact, when you’re creating your budget, you should also be budgeting for large purchases you may want to make (including a down payment on a home, saving for retirement or saving for your children’s college education).

If you’re not communicating with your spouse about what you want your lives to look like in 10, 20 or 30 years, what you’re really doing is leaving your future completely up to chance or up to whoever has the strongest will. Instead, talk about the future regularly and dream together about your goals and ambitions. By doing so, you’ll be able to build those goals into your finances and make them much more likely to be accomplished.

3. Maintaining debt because of a lack of contentment. There are a number of circumstances when incurring debt might be a reasonable option. There also might be circumstances when keeping debt around temporarily is reasonable as well. However, if you’re increasing your debt as a couple because of your lack of contentment (when you really should be content with what you have), there’s a problem.

This financial blunder can have devastating effects on a marriage. Why strain your marriage over debt when you don’t have to have debt? Do you really think that getting that fancy new car you can’t afford to gambling with your credit card is going to make you happy over the long-term? Forget about it.

Instead, find contentment. Don’t become materialistic.

4. Keeping separate bank accounts. This financial blunder should be a no-brainer — avoid it.

If you’re going to be working a budget together as you should, why keep your bank accounts separate? There should be no secrets in marriage. If you’re married, you should definitely have joint bank accounts. This will also put more pressure on both of you to work together toward your shared goals.

I realize that some people have separate bank accounts because perhaps one account is for the bills and another account is for one-time purchases. Why can’t both of these accounts be joint accounts?

Really, the way I see it, there’s no reason to have separate bank accounts. In marriage you’re one, and so should be your access to bank accounts.

5. Not having an emergency fund. Emergency funds play a critical role in financial plans. Should something happen to you, your spouse, your children, or your property, your emergency fund should help offset the financial losses.

Why is having an emergency fund particularly important in marriage? Some married people feel pretty comfortable not having much money in the bank. They simply trust that money will somehow always be around or that emergencies won’t happen to them. But here’s the thing: spouses of these people don’t always feel the same way.

Being on the brink of not being able to pay one’s bills sends some people’s stress levels into orbit. They can’t fathom being comfortable with $1,000 or $2,000 in the bank — they want more just in case.

And you know what? They’re right: a couple thousand dollars in an emergency fund isn’t nearly enough over the long-term.

Imagine getting into an accident where you hit a telephone pole and you don’t have collision coverage. Oops. Now you need a new car and you both figure you need to spend more than two grand for reliable transportation.

The big oops? You didn’t save enough money in your emergency fund. If you’re the spouse who felt comfortable with just a couple grand in the bank, imagine the look on your spouse’s face when they discover that there’s not enough money to pay for your accident.

6. Keeping important business decisions private. Your spouse should be involved in all aspects of your life — not just your personal life. If you’re planning on taking out a loan for your business, for example, you should definitely talk with your spouse first.

When I was thinking about signing up for a pricey business coaching program, I first asked my wife. Sure, she didn’t jump for joy and approve right away — but eventually she agreed and it proved beneficial to my business. Now, can you imagine if I would have just dropped over $7,000 on a coaching program without talking with her first? She wouldn’t have been happy, to say the least.

Talk with your spouse about your important business decisions before you make them.

7. Not forgiving financial mistakes. Yes, this, too, is a financial blunder.

When you first get on a budget together, do you really think you’re both going to abide by it with perfection? Hardly. It’s going to take some time to adjust to the new rules.

So when your spouse makes a mistake, don’t make the mistake of not forgiving their error. Don’t hold these things against them. Intentional deviation deserves a serious conversation (still with forgiveness), but unintentional mistakes deserve a try-harder-next-time-and-no-worries sentiment (along with forgiveness).

If you can’t forgive your spouse and you harbor anger, do you really think they are going to willingly work the budget with you or communicate about finances? Probably not. They’ll most likely want to hide. And that can be financially damaging, too.

Avoid these financial blunders in marriage, and you’ll be on a road not many travel — but boy will it be worth the effort.


Shorts Subject

Here are some graphs from to the St. Louis Fed (the talk was trying to convince them to start a blog along the lines of what David Altig did in Cleveland, so the main theme was not the graphs below). The graphs show what happens to GDP after a financial crisis. In some cases the effects seem permanent, in others they appear temporary. What I’d like to do next is figure out if there are any systematic differences between the countries that experience permanent versus temporary effects that can be used to understand why they have such different outcomes. Is it the type of shock? The policy response? Institutional differences? And so on (source of graphs – the vertical blue line marks the start of the crisis):

US after the Great Depression

Hong Kong




South Korea









One more note. If you had looked at this graph (from The Economist, the one on the left), you would likely conclude that the fall in GDP for Sweden is permanent:
Sweden and Korea

That looks a lot like the US right now. But if you extend the graph for a few years, the picture changes dramatically:


Is the US like Sweden? Or not?




California’s drought and the soaring cost of hay have led to a glut of unwanted horses. Animal advocates say many of those horses are being illegally sent to slaughter in other countries. A rescue group south of Hollister is trying to save as many horses as possible and they are asking for your help.

A 4-month-old colt named Tiko is one of 70 lucky horses now living at the Equine Rescue Center and Sanctuary. Tiko was born just a few weeks after his mother was rescued.

“The mom was headed to the slaughter house. She would’ve ended up in a France grocery store in shrink wrap,” Equine Rescue Center founder Monica Hardeman said.

But instead of being sold as horse meat, the mare ended up at the Equine Rescue Center and gave birth to a beautiful colt. This haven for neglected, abused and abandoned horses started five years ago and just moved to a larger home on 400 acres in San Benito County, south of Hollister.

Right now, the center is taking care of one donkey and about 70 horses. Many of the rescued horses are put up for adoption, but others, who are old or have serious health problems, will spend their golden years at the rescue center. The residents include a 37-year-old beauty named Sonny, who just loves having his back scratched.

Jacie Bradley of Hollister is adopting a blue-eyed horse named Rowdy. She said this is a wonderful place to find a horse because Hardeman knows so much about each animal’s needs and temperament. Adoption fees range from $500 to $2000 depending on the horse.

The generous donation needed to buy the new ranch came from Atherton investor Craig Duling.

The horses come from all over. They include Pickets, an abused horse rescued in Modesto and two 4-year-old fillies from Golden Gate Fields in Albany. Hardeman says the horses did not make the cut on the race track, but “would be great horses for showing or jumping or dressage.”

A lot of the horses at the center were rescued from auctions, where many end up being sent to other countries to be killed and eaten. That is illegal in the United States, but there is very little enforcement. So healthy, well-trained horses often get sold for next to nothing, then shipped to Mexico and Canada for slaughter.

Hardeman said the biggest reason people give up good horses is the cost. The price of hay has doubled in the last couple of years. “Especially in the Central Valley, people need to feed their families or feed their horse,” she said.

Hay is so expensive the rescue center is also struggling. The hay bill is a minimum of $8,000 a month, according to Hardeman. So that does not leave much money to pay the constant veterinary bills.

The center has an urgent need for donations to build shelters to create shade for the horses. There are four wells on the new property. So if the center can raise the money to put in irrigation lines, they can save a lot of cash in the future by growing their own hay.

Hardeman runs the center with help from her boyfriend Gabe Pimentel, along with a string of interns and volunteers. The only pay is a great experience.

“You learn a lot about the horses’ nature, how they act among themselves. I had no idea. I felt like I was waking up because I was blind before,” former intern Annika Seidler said.

Hardeman started the Equine Rescue Center after her sister was murdered. Horses helped her deal with the pain she felt and now she is giving back to them.

The Equine Rescue Center is a non profit and depends entirely on donations. They can only take in as many horses as they can afford to feed. They have a big fundraiser coming up in Woodside on October 4.

For details about contributing, volunteering or adopting a horse, click here.



Risk-Based Pharmaceutical Contracting

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care has apparently struck a deal with Amgen for a risk-based contract for Repatha, the new cholesterol-lowering drug. Amgen provides a discount but also assumes financial risk if the HPHC members who take Repatha do not experience the cholesterol-lowering effects touted in the clinical trials. It has been observed that this adds a interesting layer of pay for performance to the roll out of this drug.

HPHC, which moves about 1.2 million lives, is old hat at negotiating discounts on pharmaceutical pricing, known for using the leverage of preferential formulary placement to play competing therapeutically equivalent drugs off of each other. Repatha and other drugs in the category of PCSK9 are targeted toward a sub-population of those with high cholesterol but they are spendy.

The real challenge is the prescribing protocol that HPHC will have to implement, reserving Repatha for only those enrollees who meet strict eligibility requirements, most likely including the requirements that step therapy with older cholesterol reducing drugs having failed and the beneficiary’s willingness to accept an injectable format. As intriguing as risk-based pharmaceutical contracting is, it has not been invented by this contract but, rather, has been in use for some time in the U.K.

Will American-style health care (even tightly managed American-style vertically integrated HMO health care ) be able to constrain use? That’s one risk I am pretty sure Amgen was not willing to bet the farm on, although the contract is reported to contain language accelerating increased rebates to HPHC the larger its enrollee pool using Repatha.


Vacheron Constantin

Vacheron Constantin, Swiss manufacture of prestigious luxury watches, has unveiled the Reference 57260 pocket watch. A pocket watch considered to be a breakthrough technical feat and named for its record breaking 57 complications, and its world-renowned maker, Vacheron Constantin’s 260th anniversary. What started as an initial concept conceived by a major American collector, specific function requests never before incorporated into a watch were on the list of must have’s. The Reference 57260 pocket watch became a reality eight years later thanks to the determination of the Vacheron Constantin team of three master watchmakers. Though eight years may seem like a lengthy time to wait, it comes with great rewards. There has been only a handful of occasions in which a watch brand has been able to claim the bragging rights associated with building the most complicated timepiece in the world.


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