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This Week In Your Wallet: You Did It!

Jean Chatzky  |  April 16, 2019

Whew.  Another April 15, another tax deadline met.  (Unless you live in Massachusetts or Maine where they marked Patriot’s Day yesterday — that, combined with emancipation inWashington, D.C., gives you until April 17.  And, if you ran the marathon, it’s our opinion you deserve it.)

So, now that the dominoes have fallen, what did the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act really do for your wallet? Turns out, most of us got a tax cut last year — but not all of us believe that to be true. According to the New York Times, just 39.6% of us believe we got a tax cut, while 64.8% of us actually did. Why the disconnect? Many impacted by the SALT cap weren’t the net losers we assumed we would be under the law.  Others may have missed the extra dollars trickling into our paychecks every pay period throughout the year (an average of $50, for folks paid bi-weekly). Indeed, refunds overall were up by 1% as of April 5.
Still, if you want to ensure you’re set up to get more back next year (yes, giving the government an interest-free loan for 12 months only so you get a solid lump sum down the pike is a questionable way to save, but if it’s the only way that works for you, we’re not going to judge.) Or if you owed money this year and want to prevent it happening again —the time to act is now. Last year, the new tax tables were only in effect for nine months of the year. This year, they’ll be in effect for all 12, so any problems you encountered will be made that much worse if you don’t take steps to adjust your withholding — a step that H&R Block says a whopping 80% of us failed to take in 2018. It’s easy — go to your company’s HR department as soon as you’re able, and fill out a new W-4. If you’re unsure how much to have withheld, the I.R.S.’s withholding calculator can guide the way.

Thriving In The Boy’s Club

Have you ever had the experience of having your ideas dismissed, only to have them praised after your male counterpart repeats them? What about being interrupted by a male colleague while you’re speaking during a meeting? Or have you experienced perception worries — that a colleague will see you as either overly emotional, or too cold? If you answered “yes” to any of these, it should come as no surprise that working in a male-dominated workplace is often seen as the ultimate balancing act of being assertive yet likable. That’s why at HerMoney.com this week, we put together a helpful rundown on how to not only survive in the boy’s club at work — but also to thrive in it. Being the only woman in certain meetings — or an entire office — can be a challenge.  Arm yourself with the right tools, though, and you can start claiming your seat at the table with confidence. We got you.

Tracking Me, Tracking You

How would you feel about wearing a fitness tracker that reported health data back to your insurance provider in real time?  Or a special algorithm with the capacity to watch your social media accounts for behavior that could be deemed a liability? It’s heeeere,  reports Sarah Jeong in this week’s New York Times. These things that once sounded like science fiction are now the cutting edge of the insurance industry. We’re entering a new era where companies will be “adjusting policies and premiums based on new forms of surveillance,” she writes. The worry is that although these things are optional now — John Hancock made headlines last year when it offered customers the option to wear a fitness tracker — one day they may not be, and they may impact how much you pay for all forms of insurance, including homeowners, car, health, and more. The industry refers to this as “personalized pricing,” but how personal is too personal? For example, an insurance company’s algorithm might use your ZIP code to determine your race, the Facebook groups you join to determine if you suffer from depression or cancer, or the apps you sign up for to find out if you might become pregnant. With all of these things, companies are aware they’re straddling a fine legal line — but that doesn’t mean they’re stopping their investment in these technologies anytime soon.

Just The Two Of Us 

Do you and your spouse share a bank account? Many of us keep our money separate, and Millennials are more likely to do so than previous generations, with 28 percent segregating their their finances, according to a 2018 survey by Bank of America. While this can be a smart choice — and it’s a choice that only you and yourpartner can make — new research from UCLA has found that couples who combine accounts often report a higher level of satisfaction in their relationships. Why? One reason may be that sharing resources helps create feelings of “financial togetherness,” writes Charlotte Cowles in The CutIn other words, having shared financial goals can make couples feel like they’re walking a similar life path, and that their goals are shared — insert warm fuzzies here. “Pooling money isn’t so much about relinquishing your own paycheck, or taking someone else’s, or sacrificing yourindividuality for your relationship — it’s about contributing to a shared life,” Cowles writes. If you do decide to join your financial lives, just be careful that you don’t get too carried away with working together towards a shared and cede control to yoursignificant other — being on the same page is great, but so is knowing that you’ve got the skills to do it on your own, if and when you need to.

Have a great week,

Jean