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Monday
Mar272017

Tax Tip: Saying 'I do' to the correct filing status

iStock/ThinkstockThere are a lot of financial benefits to being married. But that's not always the case at tax time.

"There's both a marriage penalty, but also because we have something called the Alternative Minimum Tax, which snags a lot of people and you end up owing money when you're not prepared for it," says accounts Janice Hayman.

So, she says, sometimes it's better to go it alone -- at least in the eyes of the IRS.

"The other concern with filling out a W-4 when you have a two-income household and they're both high-income earners, often, the best choice is to select 'married, but withhold at the higher single rate,'" Hayman notes.

The IRS has a withholding calculator on its website, IRS.gov, which can help you determine if you're having enough taken out of your earnings.

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Monday
Mar272017

United responds to critics after barring two teens for leggings

United Airlines(DENVER) — United Airlines responded to criticism it received on Sunday after it barred two teenage girls from boarding a flight because they were wearing leggings.

The incident sent several social media users into an angry uproar, with some calling the policy sexist and discriminatory against women.

The story came to light after Shannon Watts, an activist who witnessed the exchange at an airport in Denver, tweeted about it early Sunday.

"A @united gate agent isn’t letting girls in leggings get on flight from Denver to Minneapolis because spandex is not allowed?" Watts tweeted.

 

 

"A 10-year-old girl in gray leggings. She looked normal and appropriate. Apparently @united is policing the clothing of women and girls," she added in a later tweet.

 

 

A spokesman for United confirmed that two teenage passengers were told they could not board a flight from Denver to Minneapolis because their leggings "were not in compliance with dress code policy for company benefit travel," a program that lets United workers and their families travel for free on a standby basis.

"There are different rules for these privileges because people are flying for free," the spokesperson said in an emailed statement Sunday.

United Airlines also issued a dozen or so tweets in response to users who were upset about the exchange.

In one tweet, the company said it reserves the right to deny service to "passengers who are not properly clothed via our Contract of Carriage."

 

United said the teenagers waited for the next flight and eventually got to fly using their benefits.


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Monday
Mar272017

App aims to convert your DVDs to streamable form

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Now that you have access to on-demand movies and TV, chances are your DVDs sit forgotten next to your CDs — wherever you stowed those after iTunes came out.

We get it: why take the time to walk to your DVD collection, open a case, pop in a disc, etc., when you can fire up Netflix or whatever?

A company called VUDU is now giving users the best of both worlds: for $2, you use your phone to scan a DVD's barcode, and the company will give you streamable access to that very movie that you can watch anywhere — all without a subscription.

You can even choose standard quality or upgrade for an additional fee. Check out Vudu.com for more info — and get a free conversion out of the deal to boot!

"The average movie collector owns nearly 100 DVDs and Blu-rays, said Jeremy Verba, Vudu's general manager.

"We know these customers have invested a lot into building their physical movie collections. As more and more customers create digital libraries, we are constantly looking for ways to help them unlock additional value from the movies they already own."

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Sunday
Mar262017

94-year-old woman celebrates 44 years working at McDonald's

Katie Kenworthy/McDonalds Evansville(EVANSVILLE, Ind.) -- One 94-year-old woman is celebrating 44 years behind the counter at McDonald's.

"When I started, I didn't start to stay," Loraine Maurer told ABC News, adding that she started working at McDonald's in 1973 after her husband retired on disability. "I told him we were too young to stay at home and so I went for a job."

Maurer was feted by her co-workers at an Evansville, Indiana, restaurant, including owners Chip and Katie Kenworthy.

"Loraine has quite a following. That's to say the least, really," Katie Kenworthy, who has owned the restaurant for almost two years, told ABC News. "She has lots of very loyal costumers who come especially to our restaurant to see her."

So Kenworthy decided to plan a party to celebrate Maurer, inviting her church -- Good Shepherd Catholic Church Parish -- along with her family and friends.

"It was wonderful," Maurer said of her party. "The only thing is there were so many people there that I couldn't talk to them all."

Maurer, who has four children, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, said the relationships she has with her customers are particularly important, since they helped her get through a very tough period in her life -- the loss of her husband, Kenneth, in 1980.

"They were my live savers when I lost my husband," she recalled. "The customers helped."

Every winter, Maurer contemplates retiring, but she says she just can't give up her shift, which now consists of two days per week.

"I would miss it too much," she said. "I don't want to get depressed and it's not that I don't look forward to going to work. ... It's not a job.

"I really and truly enjoy it," Maurer added. "Life is what you make it. And so I'm trying."

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Sunday
Mar262017

Ride-sharing app Lyft to help riders donate to charity

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The popular ride-sharing app Lyft will soon install a new feature that will allow users to donate extra change to charity.

The company announed in a blog post that it will allow users to opt into the "Round Up & Donate" selection, which will be located on the app's Settings page. When users choose to opt in, their ride will be rounded up to the nearest whole dollar, and that extra change will be distributed across causes that include environmental and veteran care and LGBTQ equality.

Users will not be able to choose to donate on a ride-by-ride basis, but they could opt out entirely at any time if they want.

Lyft Vice President of Marketing Melissa Waters talked about the latest feature in a statement:

"Lyft is a values driven company and we deeply believe in participation. Round Up and Donate is a program that makes it easy to participate in a meaningful way by allowing people to give back to the causes they care about within our communities."


The feature is not yet available, but the company announced riders will be able to start donating "in a few weeks."

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Sunday
Mar262017

5 ways to save on summer vacation flights

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Rick Seaney is the CEO of FareCompare, a website that curates the best deals on flights from around the world. He explains how you can save some money if you are planning on travelling this summer by doing a few simple things right now.

1. Look at money-saving destinations

If you’ll vacation in the U.S., consider a tour of New England after flying into Boston, or revel in the Rockies after landing in Denver. Both have been "cheaper destination" cities for years. Lately, we’ve also seen good deals to sunny San Diego, Seattle and the always-fun New Orleans.

In Europe, deals to Iceland and Scandinavia continue, while Paris has been a bargain for some departure cities. More recently, we’ve been seeing more and more deals to Barcelona.

2. Sign up for faster security

Time is money, and if you miss a flight, the airlines will prove it to you by charging a very expensive change fee (up to $200).

Avoid running late by gliding through security checkpoints -- you can do this by joining PreCheck and using the members-only lanes. The cost is $85 for five years. International travelers pay $100 for five years for Global Entry, which includes PreCheck. Ask anyone who’s in it and they’ll say it’s worth it for the speed alone.

Join now because you have to make an appointment for an in-person interview, and while that usually takes all of five minutes, it can take a few weeks before membership is officially approved and that all-important Known Traveler Number reaches you.

3. Your precise vacation days matter

If flying domestically, you can often find much better deals by flying Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. If you can’t build your vacation around those days, try flying one of them, maybe Saturday to the following Sunday -- at least you’ll save something.

Next, take a look at No. 4 before turning in your days-off request.

4. Check fares now

This will give you a good idea about the cheaper times to fly. It’s also a good time to sign up for airfare alerts. In both cases, if you see a fare you like, book it; cheap seats don’t last.

Example: In early March, I received a question from a man in the Midwest who wanted to know if he should purchase $690 round-trip tickets to Ireland for late August or wait. Normally, one should wait to buy Europe fares five months to two or three months from departure but that was a great price, and I said buy.

Tip: Late last week, I saw summer tickets for Los Angeles to Dublin in mid-August for $500 round-trip, and Boston to New Orleans for a mere $80 each way. Get going!

5. Know your airline, avoid painful fees

Plan your bags in advance and you won’t over pack and you won’t pay fees (or pay too much). Here’s a quick tip sheet:

- Free carry-on bags: Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United (unless you buy basic economy tickets on American and United; then you’ll be charged a fee and the carry-on must be checked)
- Free checked bags: Southwest allows passengers two checked-bags for free
- No free bags: Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit charge for all bags. Be sure to look at the fees carefully; these discounters often charge more for carry-ons than checked-bags
Last-minute travelers: The biggest money-saving tip for summer (or anytime) is, before booking airline tickets, always compare airfares. No single carrier always has the best deal on every route.

Any opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Mar252017

Uber self-driving SUV involved in accident in Arizona

Uber(TEMPE, Ariz.) -- An autonomous Uber vehicle was involved in an accident in Tempe, Arizona, on Friday night.

According to ABC affiliate KNXV-TV, police said a car failed to yield to the self-driving SUV and hit it. As a result of the crash, authorities said the SUV rolled onto its side, KNXV-TV reports.

Although there were no injuries reported, there was a passenger in the self-driving SUV, police said according to KNXV-TV, and the driver of the other vehicle was cited for a moving violation.

Uber confirmed to ABC News the ride-hailing service was aware of the incident, but did not have any more information.

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Saturday
Mar252017

Americans are dying with an average of $62k of debt

BernardaSv/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- You're probably going to die with some debt to your name. Most people do. In fact, 73 percent of consumers had outstanding debt when they were reported as dead, according to December 2016 data provided to Credit.com by credit bureau Experian. Those consumers carried an average total balance of $61,554, including mortgage debt. Without home loans, the average balance was $12,875.

The data is based on Experian's FileOne database, which includes 220 million consumers. (There are about 242 million adults in the U.S., according to 2015 estimates from the Census Bureau.) To determine the average debt people have when they die, Experian looked at consumers who died from October to December of 2016,

It found that 73 percent of consumers had debt when they died. Sixty-eight percent of those with debt had credit card balances. The next most common debt category was for mortgages (37 percent), followed by auto loans (25 percent), personal loans (12 percent) and student loans (6 percent).

These were the average unpaid balances: credit cards, $4,531; auto loans, $17,111; personal loans, $14,793; and student loans, $25,391.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Mar252017

3 can't-miss tips for cheap summer flights

ipopba/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Can't seem to find a reasonably-priced summer flight? ABC News' travel editor gave her top three tips to "Good Morning America."

1. July 9 is the day to avoid this summer, according to CheapAir.com, an American online travel agency. The site analyzed hundreds of thousands of airfares and found the Sunday after July 4 will cost $100 more than the average fight this summer at about $480. In general, Sundays are a day to avoid flights as they’re popular with both leisure and business travelers. July is the most expensive month to travel behind the Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays.

2. If price is more important than anything else, June 6 is your day. Tuesdays are almost always the cheapest day to fly, no matter the season. Can't make June 6 work? The second half of August is also a good bet after many schools are back in session.

3. Good news for summer travelers: Airfare is trending slightly cheaper this summer than last, about $20 per ticket. That said, expect fares to go up as the summer gets closer. Average summer airfare is about $380, so keep that price point in mind when shopping. If you're in that range, you're getting a fair price.

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Friday
Mar242017

ICAO calls for cockpit cameras in all newly-designed planes by 2023

iStock/Thinkstock(MONTREAL) -- The aviation-safety arm of the United Nations has called for all newly-designed planes to have video cameras in the cockpit, according to a letter obtained by ABC News. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) sent the letter to national aviation regulators.

Supporters of the cockpit cameras say video footage would enable investigators to see what pilots were dealing with - and how they responded - in the case of a crash. However, many pilots oppose the move, citing privacy concerns.

As a compromise, the ICAO's proposal suggests the installation of cameras pointed directly at the flight instruments, with video records that could be deleted after successful flights.

The proposal would apply only to aircraft both certified and built after 2023 - meaning that any currently-flying plane models (like the A320 or 737) will not be mandated to include cameras, even if specific planes are built after that date.

The ICAO does not have the authority to require countries or companies to follow their recommendations, but the industry often opts to do so of its own accord. The regulators who received the letter have until April 20 to respond, with debate over the proposal likely to take even longer.

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