This Week's Must Read

It’s tax preparation time again, which means it’s time to collect your records and hope for the best. it’s also a time when taxpayers quake at the thought of a potential audit.

The good news is your odds of being audited are low: In 2012, the latest year for which the IRS has released data, just 1 percent of all taxpayers were audited. And really, honest taxpayers have nothing to fear but inconvenience from an audit.

“To me, the real question is not how do I avoid an audit but how do I make sure I’m ready for an audit,” said Jackie Perlman, principal tax research analyst at H&R Block’s Tax Institute.

Still, it’s worth knowing what elements in your filing might catch the eye of the IRS. This year, there are some long-standing potential triggers, but also some new ones.

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Everyone knows that not paying your taxes can get you into trouble with Uncle Same. But it turns out, the same is true if you do pay your taxes.

In the past three years, tax identity fraud has skyrocketed. According to attorney Steve Poporoff of the Federal Trade Commission, complaints about this relatively new crime have tripled since 2010. In fact, last year they made up almost half (44%) of the total number of consumer complaints the commission received.

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A lot of my fellow baby boomers, in their 50s and early 60s, find they have an option to take early retirement. Some are teachers or other public employees who can opt for retirement after a certain number of years of service, which often puts them in their 50s. Others have been offered an early retirement package from their company. The package seems like a lot of money, so they’re tempted to take it.

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Ever find yourself around the watercooler discussing with co-workers how your 401(k) is performing—likely leading to the increasingly popular “I’ll never be able to retire” discussion? It’s becoming a bit of a modern-day lament, begging the question: Why do Americans have this doom-and-gloom attitude about their golden years’ financial situation?

Academic, institutional and media reports tend to serve up workers with warnings—often wrapping up with a “save now and save more” silver lining. It doesn’t seem to be inspiring the masses. According to a Wells Fargo study, 37 percent of Americans expect to work until they are too sick to work or die.

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It’s well established that if you start saving about 10 percent of your income for retirement starting at age 25, you’re going to be in excellent shape for retirement when you hit age 65. This fact should be emblazoned on every single college and trade school diploma issued in the United States today: start saving for retirement now, not later.

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Rookie mistakes abound when you try pretty much anything for the first time. So, why should retirement be any different?

It’s just that in retirement, as in skydiving, when you make a mistake, it’s a lot harder to recover.

So, to help you through that first year, we asked the experts what are the biggest mistakes made by rookie retirees. Collectively, they had about a dozen, but we have boiled them down to seven.

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If you’ve had any exposure to retirement or college savings plans, you’ve probably heard the term “tax-advantaged.” It simply means that these types of accounts offer tax benefits that are supposed to incentivize individuals to save. In return, there are typically restrictions on the funds in order to make sure they are used for a specific purpose and not just for general savings. So, just how can these tax-advantaged accounts be more beneficial than a regular savings account?

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The Obama administration this week said it is delaying the enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate, extending until March 31 how long Americans can go without insurance before facing a penalty.

But how strict is the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate to begin with? It’s a question that’s floated around since the mandate was first mentioned: Can the government – and more specifically, the IRS – really enforce the mandate penalty? The answer is yes, but only up to a point. Whichever political side of the ACA you are on, it is a technical question that’s piqued the curiosity of consumers and pundits alike.

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Financial literacy is an important, lifelong personal finance skill that everyone should have because it fosters careful spending and informed decision making. Responsible personal finance habits will guide you toward a life of financial freedom, and increasing your vocabulary of money words can only help. Here are five money definitions you should add to your financial literacy repertoire so you know how to get the most out of your money and financial decisions.

1. Credit Score

Your credit score impacts many facets of your life including getting a loan for a car or house and being approved for a credit card. Because a poor credit score can have such a negative impact on your life, it’s important that you frequently check your credit score. Experts recommend checking your credit report at least once a year to catch errors or identity theft.

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