How America Works

The February jobs report was a mixed bag. Let’s get the bad news out of the way: the economy added only 20,000 positions, the smallest gain since September 2017. The number was much lower than last year’s average monthly amount of 223,000 and far below expectations for 190,000. 

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What explains the drop? There is no single answer, but here to help us break it down is Chip Cutter, a reporter at the Wall Street Journal who recently worked on a story called, How America Works: Inside the Hottest Job Market in Half a Century

Some possible culprits include a statistical anomaly, exaggerated by seasonal oddities that are unlikely to persist; spooked employers, who sat on their hands as growth slowed in the beginning of the year amid the government shutdown; bad weather, which hurt construction and maybe just a weird one-off, much in the same way that the huge January number may have also been an outlier. In fact, if we take the first two months of the year, job creation averaged about 165,000, an amount that would be consistent with a slowing economy in Q1.

However, there was also good news. Average hourly earnings increased by 3.4 percent from a year ago, the best annual gain in almost a decade (April 2009). Additionally, the headline unemployment rate returned to 3.8 percent, which is where it was before the government shutdown. 

Finally, the broad measure of unemployment (aka “U-6”, which includes unemployed; discouraged and marginally attached workers; and those who are working part-time, but seek full time) declined to 7.3 percent from 8.1 percent, its lowest point since December 2000. These numbers seem to indicate that the labor market may be slowing this year, but it is still relatively tight and healthy.

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CBS This Morning: Financial Spring Cleaning

A recent survey found almost nine out of 10 people set a money goal for 2019. The top priority: paying down debt, followed by better budgeting. I joined CBS This Morning to discuss why the start of spring is the perfect time to clean up your finances.

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Can I Retire Early?

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On the latest call of the week we're chatting with Russ, who wants to know if he's in a good position to retire early and what are some of the warning signs he should be looking for in case things don't go as planned. When you're thinking about early retirement you really want to make sure you have all your ducks in a row. A great call. 

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"Jill on Money" theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.

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Make Your Financial Life Spark Joy, Not Oy

Make Your Financial Life Spark Joy, Not Oy

Tidying Up Queen Marie Kondo has taken the world by storm, helping people de-clutter their lives with a methodical approach. She says that we should “Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service, then let them go.”

Is College Worth It?

Is College Worth It?

The college admissions bribery scandal has raised an important question: Is college worth it? According to the Social Security Administration “Men with bachelor's degrees earn approximately $900,000 more in median lifetime earnings than high school graduates. Women with bachelor's degrees earn $630,000 more.” But that “wage premium” varies depending on which college you attend.

Retirement Years

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A great, great call from Brad in Florida to kick things off this week. Brad and his wife did an AMAZING job of setting up their retirement years. Are there any changes or tweaks to be made? That’s the gist of the call, which will likely be in the Top 5 of 2019.

Hour two was emails. I’m afraid we’re once again falling behind on the inbox. There’s just too many coming in and not enough time during the week to answer them. I suppose it’s a good problem to have.

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"Jill on Money" theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.

CBS This Morning: Planning for Aging Parents

Many families do not plan ahead for the care of aging parents, and the financial burden often falls on adult children. Nearly three in 10 Americans with a parent 65 or older say they have helped their parents financially in the past year, according to a 2014 survey. I joined CBS This Morning to discuss how you should start those difficult financial conversations and what you should be asking your parents.

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Tax Season Tips with Ed Slott

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With tax season in full swing, it can only mean one thing. It’s time for our annual chat with Ed Slott, the ultimate tax guru, and founder of IRA Help.

Here is your tax season boot camp for the first tax year of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

Itemized vs. Standard Deduction: Every taxpayer needs to determine whether it makes sense to claim one of these two deductions, both of which reduce the amount of income subject to tax. TCJA nearly doubled the Standard Deduction to $12,000 for Single and Married Filing Separately, $24,000 for Married Filing Jointly and $18,000 for Head of Household.

A couple of caveats on itemized deductions:

Your total deduction for state and local income, sales and property taxes is limited to a combined, total deduction of $10,000 ($5,000 if Married Filing Separate). Any state and local taxes you paid above this amount cannot be deducted.

The deduction for home mortgage and home equity interest was modified. It is now limited to interest you paid on a loan secured by your main home or second home that you used to buy, build, or substantially improve your main home or second home. So if you used a home equity loan or line of credit to pay off another debt, like a credit card or student loan, it would not be deductible.

There is a new dollar limit on total qualified residence loan balances. If your loan was originated or treated as originating on or before Dec. 15, 2017, you may deduct interest on up to $1,000,000 ($500,000 if you are married filing separately) in qualifying debt. If your loan originated after that date, you may only deduct interest on up to $750,000 ($375,000 if you are married filing separately) in qualifying debt.

Deduction for alimony is eliminated for agreements executed after December 31, 2018, or for any divorce or separation agreement executed on or before December 31, 2018, and modified after that date. In conjunction with this change, alimony and separate maintenance payments are no longer included in income based on these dates.

Claim Credits: Now that personal exemptions have been eliminated, credits are even more important.

The Child Tax Credit has increased to a maximum of $2,000 per qualifying child under the age of 17. Up to $1,400 of the credit can be refundable for each qualifying child as the additional child tax credit. In addition, the income threshold at which the child tax credit begins to phase out increased to $200,000, or $400,000 if married filing jointly.

There are two different education credits available: the American Opportunity Tax Credit (formerly Hope Credit), which is partially refundable, and the Lifetime Learning Credit. Both may apply to expenses you pay for yourself, your spouse and any dependents.Have a money question?

Have a money question? Email me here.

We love feedback so please leave us a rating or review in Apple Podcasts.

"Jill on Money" theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.

Connect with me at these places for all my content:

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CBS This Morning: Estate Planning

Failing to have a will is one of the biggest errors you can make. Fifty-eight percent of American adults have not prepared estate planning documents, according to Caring.com. CBS This Morning spoke to a Massachusetts woman who could lose the home she has lived in for most of her life because her step-father did not leave a will.

Have a money question? Email me here.

CBS This Morning: Student Loan Debt

Student loan debt is a huge problem for many graduates and their families. College students graduate with an average debt of more than $28,000. Nationwide, student debt topped $1.5 trillion at the end of 2018. I joined CBS This Morning to discuss what people need to consider before taking on student loan debt.

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