Over the years, I've had many wonderful opportunities to address audiences large and small at all kinds of events, from retreats to conventions, college chapels and conferences throughout the U.S and abroad.
It's one of the best things I get to do, and I am always honored to be invited. The part I enjoy most happens when I've finished and it's time to take questions from the audience.
Dear Mary: We owe about $200,000 at 4 percent on our 15-year mortgage and have the money to pay it off now. If we do this, we lose the tax benefit of the mortgage interest and face the possibility of being pushed into a higher tax bracket. One way to avoid this would be to purchase a second home, get a mortgage and rent out the house. We've heard that the rental market is good in our area. What do you think of our idea? — Alex
Dear Alex: My advice depends a lot on your age. If you are nearing retirement, I recommend you bite that tax bullet and pay off the mortgage. That will assure you a rent-free retirement — a gift you'll never regret giving to yourselves.
If you are not ready to do that, your idea of buying a second property may be a good one. But first, you need to speak with a competent tax professional who can look at your entire financial situation and advise you accordingly, especially in light of recent changes to the U.S. tax code.
Once you rent out a second property, it becomes an investment, and that is treated differently than a second residence or vacation home when it comes to tax reporting. Expenses on an income property, which include but are not necessarily limited to interest and depreciation, offset the rental income, resulting in either a net profit or net loss.
Dear Mary: For years now, I've ordered the "Money for Your Used Clothing" book from your website to help me value items I donate to charity throughout the year. I've been watching for the 2018 Tax Year edition but have not seen it. Is it available yet? — Mollie
Dear Mollie: I regret to let you and all my readers know that the publishers of that wonderful resource made the decision to cease publication with the 2017 edition, due to the massive changes in the U.S. tax code.
For most people, it's a good thing. With the significant increase in the standard deduction, most people who have filed for tax year 2018 learned it no longer pays for them to itemize their federal tax return because their new standard deduction exceeds their itemizations.
If your situation is unique and you have donation receipts that exceed your new standard deduction for your 2018 tax year filing, I suggest you follow the "Money for Your Used Clothing Tax Year 2017" valuation guidelines. We do have a few copies of that edition remaining ($20 plus shipping and handling), which you can order by calling (800) 550-3502.
Dear Mary: Per your website's recommendation, I ordered and have been using my Deik Cordless Stick Vac. I really love it. It does a great job on the dark kitchen floor. It hasn't solved the growing problem of all the little white things magically appearing out of nowhere, but it does pick them all up. I didn't realize it came with headlights, and that was really a nice and very helpful bonus. The charge lasts longer than my floor requires, and it's a big kitchen.
Your help in my decision to make this purchase was greatly appreciated, and I thank you. — Robert
Dear Robert: Thanks for the feedback on your new Deik. Reviews are pouring in from hundreds of your fellow readers who share your high regard for Deik.
Deik is a fabulous lightweight, inexpensive workhorse that is like a broom, dust mop, and dustpan all in one. And, yes, those headlights! I use my Deik daily, as I too have dark wood floors. Just think of how much dust and debris would build up over just a few days if we couldn't see it so well. Perhaps it's always been there, just not so visible.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.