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The Giving Season: Six Tips for Making Smart and Effective Charitable Donations This Holiday Season

The holidays are a popular time for charitable donations. With so many charities to choose from, it's more important than ever to ensure that your donation is well spent. Here are six tips that can help you make smart and effective charitable donations.

1. Choose your charities wisely

Choosing worthy organizations that support the causes you care about can be tricky, but it doesn't have to be time-consuming. There are several well-known organizations that rate and review charities, as well as provide useful tips and information on how to donate and choose a charity (see sidebar). To get started, here are some things to consider:

·         How the charity plans to use your gift. Contact the charity by phone or go online to find information about the charity's mission, accomplishments, financial status, and future growth.

Should I accept my employer's early-retirement offer?

The right answer for you will depend on your situation. First of all, don't underestimate the psychological impact of early retirement. The adjustment from full-time work to a more leisurely pace may be difficult. So consider whether you're ready to retire yet. Next, look at what you're being offered. Most early-retirement offers share certain basic features that need to be evaluated. To determine whether your employer's offer is worth taking, you'll want to break it down.

Does the offer include a severance package? If so, how does the package compare with your projected job earnings (including future salary increases and bonuses) if you remain employed? Can you live on that amount (and for how long) without tapping into your retirement savings? If not, is your retirement fund large enough that you can start drawing it down early? Will you be penalized for withdrawing from your retirement savings?

At Buffalo Solar Solutions, Old-fashioned Customer Service Meets Today’s Technology

At Buffalo Solar Solutions, Old-fashioned Customer Service Meets Today’s Technology

When South Buffalo residents Tyler and Alicia Uebelhoer decided to open Buffalo Solar Solutions in the Summer of 2015, they poured their personal savings into the business venture and dedicated themselves to providing customers with the best possible service and a pressure-free sales approach. While it took a tremendous amount of effort — not to mention a lot of blood, sweat and tears — to get the business off the ground, the entire Western New York community is beginning to see the benefits.

Now going on two years old, the company no longer operates out of the Uebelhoer’s home. Showing steady growth every month, the employees of Buffalo Solar Solutions have worked out of their new office at 1212 Abbott Road, Suite A, since October. 

What are my health-care options if I retire early?

If you're eligible for an early-retirement package from your employer, determine whether post-retirement medical coverage is included. These packages sometimes provide medical coverage until you reach age 65 and become eligible for Medicare. Given the high cost of medical care, you might find it hard to turn down an early-retirement package that includes such coverage.

If your package doesn't include post-retirement medical coverage, or you're not eligible for an early-retirement package at all, you'll need to look into alternative sources of health insurance, such as COBRA continuation coverage or an individual health insurance policy, to carry you through to Medicare eligibility.

Top Financial Concerns of Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials

Many differences exist among baby boomers, Generation Xers, and millennials. But one thing that brings all three generations together is a concern about their financial situations.

According to an April 2016 employee financial wellness survey, 38% of boomers, 46% of Gen Xers, and 51% of millennials said that financial matters are the top cause of stress in their lives. In fact, baby boomers (50%), Gen Xers (56%), and millennials (60%) share the same top financial concern about not having enough emergency savings for unexpected expenses. Following are additional financial concerns for each group and some tips on how to address them.

Baby boomers

Ten Year-End Tax Tips for 2016

Here are 10 things to consider as you weigh potential tax moves between now and the end of the year.

1. Set aside time to plan

Effective planning requires that you have a good understanding of your current tax situation, as well as a reasonable estimate of how your circumstances might change next year. There's a real opportunity for tax savings if you'll be paying taxes at a lower rate in one year than in the other. However, the window for most tax-saving moves closes on December 31, so don't procrastinate.

2. Defer income to next year

Consider opportunities to defer income to 2017, particularly if you think you may be in a lower tax bracket then. For example, you may be able to defer a year-end bonus or delay the collection of business debts, rents, and payments for services. Doing so may enable you to postpone payment of tax on the income until next year.

3. Accelerate deductions

Earnings Call: A Closer Look at Financial Reports

The second quarter of 2016 marked the fifth quarter in a row of declining U.S. corporate earnings. Low oil prices and a strong dollar were largely to blame for lackluster financial results. 1

Publicly traded companies are required to report quarterly financial results to regulators and shareholders. Earnings season is the often-turbulent period when most companies must disclose their successes and failures.

An earnings surprise--whether profits come in above or below the stock market's expectations--can have an immediate effect on a company's stock price, so it's easy to understand why executives may go to great lengths to impress their investors. Earnings do represent a corporation's bottom line and are generally a key driver of the stock price over time. Still, an earnings surprise may not be a reliable indicator of a company's longer-term outlook, partly because earnings figures generally reflect past performance.