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14 Red Flags That Will Get You Audited By The IRS

Are you doing your taxes? Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine has put together a list of things that will get you flagged by the IRS this tax season.

Here are 14 audit red flags that will trip you up

  1. You make too much money. The IRS will target those with incomes above $200,000. You have a 1 in 30 chance of being audited.
  2. Not reporting taxable income. You must report all 1099s and W-2s, even if you believe them to be incorrect. (Deal with the discrepancies after filing.)
  3. You give a lot of money to charity. The IRS knows what others who make similar income to you tend to give and will question you if you're claiming too much.
  4. Claiming day-trading losses on Schedule C.
  5. Claiming rental losses.
  6. Deducting business meals, travel and entertainment.
  7. Claiming 100% business use of a vehicle. Be careful, salespeople! To counter any possible IRS questions, I know someone who keeps a paper log on the dashboard and writes down every mile for work, the date and what it was for. If you do want to claim all the cost for a business expense, be sure you have another vehicle too.
  8. Writing off a loss for a hobby.
  9. Claiming a home office deduction.
  10. Taking an alimony deduction.
  11. Running a business where almost all money is in cash.
  12. Not reporting a foreign bank account.
  13. Engaging in currency transactions.
  14. Taking excessive deductions. Again, the IRS knows what is outside normal bounds based on your income.


When Do You Need A Divorce Lawyer And When Don’t You?

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Have you heard about this trend accelerating around the country of people who get divorced without the help of a lawyer?

I read a stat that knocked me over: Three out of 4 divorces in California are done without a lawyer, according to The New York Times!

This is *not* an article or commercial I’m writing for you to go hire a lawyer. But sometimes the law is best left to lawyers. As one family law specialist told The Times, attempting a DIY divorce is too often “like going to WebMD and deciding to treat yourself.” Other times, however, you could legitimately get by with a DIY divorce.

You probably need a divorce lawyer if…

Let me first address who might be served with no lawyer: Those who have no assets, no kids, and when it’s not a contentious divorce. The kind of people who say, 'You know what? This just didn't work out, so we're done.'

But what if there are kids? Then there’s no question; you need a lawyer when you have minor children. Because there’s always stuff that could come up that you wouldn't think about as a non-lawyer, and it could have real implications for the welfare of your children.

If your marriage is ending, be sure to protect yourself from this financial unknown that could blindside you down the road.

You also always need a lawyer if either or both of you have significant assets, or if you have a retirement plan at work or away from the workplace. That's when you definitely hire a lawyer.

A divorce doesn't have to be expensive

Fortunately, there are lots of ways to reduce the cost of hiring a lawyer. There's something called collaborative divorce where each party has a lawyer but they agree not to slug it out in an adversarial way.

Everyone collaborates on doing a fair division of property and a streamlined easy settlement, but with the assistance of lawyers billing at lower total cost. One of the benefits of collaborative divorce is that it can be done without some of the emotional stuff that happens when you have combative divorce lawyers going at it and stirring everything up.

California is experimenting with one-day divorce school. My suspicion is that should help some people and make others realize, “Oh, maybe this wasn't a good idea to do by ourselves.”

Facing a divorce? The #1 tool divorce lawyers will use against you is something you probably do every day.

Then there's a crazy concept coming to the U.S. from Europe called the Divorce Hotel. Literally, the estranged couple checks into the hotel (in separate rooms) and stays in the hotel immersed in coming up with a settlement on an expedited basis. You work with a mediator and an independent divorce lawyer. The benefit is you eliminate any outside distractions at all and get your divorce and move on with your life.

Clearly, there are as many ways to dissolve a marriage as there are to get married. You have to know when and how to protect yourself.

Wevorce aims to make divorce easy and civil

When you think of Silicon Valley startups, they're usually all about new technology or new apps. But what about divorce? Believe it or not, there is a growing startup that uses technology and divorce support services to provide a way for people to go through a divorce at a lower cost and in a more civil way.

Many people don't want a big fight. Traditional divorce is a very adversarial proceeding with the lawyers and the courts. Enter the idea of Wevorce, which started in California and now is spreading around the country.

Wevorce offers a mix of science and the human touch as a way for people to collaborate through the divorce process. You begin by filling out a questionnaire with 180 questions that have to be answered online. Both the husband and the wife have to do this. Then Wevorce uses thoses responses to determine what kind of divorce situation you're dealing with.

Based on answers to the questions, Wevorce comes up with a list of who are the experts who have to be involved in your particular situation to collaboratively get it done. The experts involved could be accountants, lawyers, financial planners, counselors. All in an effort to avoid a lengthy process and the whole adversarial nature of traditional divorce.

Wevorce has moved from California to Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, Tennessee, Texas, Ohio, Oregon and Washington State. Their goal is to be a 50-state enterprise as an alternative with divorce.

Of course, there are situations where a marriage is so broken you can't do a collaborative thing and it's going to involve slugging it out in the courts. But if possible, if you've got kids, think about them. Think about what you can do to limit the harm to them during this difficult process.  

Startups Use Tech To Reinvent Borrowing Money

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The power of data is setting a new breed of lenders free to make loans to millions of Americans who previously couldn't borrow money.

Using technology to rethink lending and borrowing

Some 70 million Americans have "no file" or a "thin file" with the credit bureaus, which means traditional bank credit models aren't able to determine whether or not they'll be a safe credit risk when lending money. That effectively locks them out of traditional borrowing channels.

But the good news is that the alternatives are growing. Startups like Earnest and Affirm use different algorithms to determine your credit worthiness.

Both use a variety of things like looking at your social media contacts, how long you've had your current cellphone number, whether or not you use proper capitalization when filling out online forms, and any of a number of other oddball risk-analysis factors.

This niche in lending has come about because lenders can now use ultra-cheap computing capabilities to figure out in a whole new way what the likelihood is that you'll default. Of course, none of this is proven science so we'll have to see how it plays out for the lenders.

The New York Times reports Earnest, which launched 2 years ago, is growing month to month at a whopping 70%! The loans they do are from a few thousand dollars up to $30,000. The people they lend to are mostly millennialls who are comfortable doing business in a non-traditional way with a non-traditional company. Traditional banks, meanwhile,  have been caught flatfooted yet again by this trend. They're stuck using old one-dimensional ways to gauge you as a borrower.

There's even a controversial company in the the payday loan arena called Zest Finance that is doing payday loans at a much lower interest rate using these sophisticated algorithms to decide who they'll lend to. Their rates are still outrageous at Zest Finance, but they're a fraction of what they are with traditional payday loans.

A New Easy Way To Shop for Insurance Online

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Shopping for any kind of insurance is a complete pain. But what if there were a way to get rate comparisons emailed to you and no unwanted phone calls from pushy agents?

Too many people don't shop for insurance of all kinds because they're afraid of having to deal with pushy salespeople. Or they don't want to deal with the reality that they will die. Or they think insurance is too complicated. So they do nothing … and leave themselves or their families unprotected.

That's where a website like comes in.

PolicyGenius makes shopping for insurance easy

With, you do a brief registration and then you answer a questionnaire that takes about 3 or 4 minutes. Some of the questions can be pretty intrusive, but you want to answer honestly so you can get the right quotes.

What kind of insurance can you get quotes for? Level term life insurance, disability insurance, renter's insurance, and even pet insurance!

You can have quotes emailed to you and nobody will ever call you, unless you want them to.

The power of direct writers

Buying insurance is dull. Most insurance is still bought from an agent because it's based on that traditional relationship. But direct writers are growing. Geico and Progressive are 2 examples of marketing powerhouses in selling direct. USAA is another, but their insurance services are exclusively for military.

Now coming into the mix is the idea of buying through a website as an electronic agent. For people who are younger and never experienced a relationship with a real live agent, this is particularly appealing. PolicyGenius is testimony to that. Now it is rumored that Google will get into price comparison on various insurance products.

If you have an agent you've relied on for their advice in the past when the chips were down, then that agent is worth it. But if you never had that relationship and you are used to buying things electronically, I say try a direct writer, particularly the ones online.

Be aware that some comparison sites are actually captives, not true comparison sites. If you get quotes and they're all from one company, you'll know you're in that situation.

Why you need things like disability insurance, renter's insurance

A quick word about some of the lesser known insurances I mentioned above. With disability insurance, did you know you're 3 times more likely to become disabled than die during your working lifetime?

And on the subject of renter's insurance, it's among the most under-purchased products there is. Every winter, there will be these apartment fires because of space heaters and then the word comes—no one had renter's insurance. So the Red Cross has to find a place for people to live temporarily. That scenario could avoided with renter's insurance.

Some landlords will require you to have renter's insurance, though that's very rare. The policy you get must have replacement value coverage for your belongings and relocation assistance should your place become uninhabitable. Don't leave yourself unprotected!

The platform PolicyGenius has developed for getting quotes is really good. It's light years ahead of the insurance industry at this point.

So if you know you should be protecting family and you're looking for quotes, check out this service.

2 Sizzling Deals on TVs Before the Super Bowl

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With the Super Bowl just around the corner, there are always big deals on TVs during the week leading up to the big game.

Double deals on hot TVs

Best Buy is selling a 55-inch LED for store pickup for $399. You have to order this online at and then go pick it up at a local store.

$399 is very cheap for that size of a screen. 55 inches is great especially if you sit back 12 feet or less from the screen in your home. This is a Westinghouse LED, which is an off-brand, and the picture is great.

Go to to see which stores have it available and arrange for store pickup at a Best Buy close to you. Some stores have it, some don't, so you'll have to look around.

But my favorite deal -- if you're willing to open up your wallet -- is one that Amazon started for Prime members that has since been matched and undercut by one dollar!

I'm talking about this Vizio P series 4K TV for $1,999.  This TV offers 4 times the resolution of your current HDTV!

On the question of 4K TV programming, the reality is there’s not a lot of programming yet. Some movies are in 4K and both Netflix and Amazon Prime send out some programming in 4K already. But it will come sooner rather than later.

The Super Bowl is *not* being broadcast in 4K this year, only traditional high def. But these 4K TVs will digitally up-convert the signal to approximate a 4K experience as best they can.

With the Amazon deal, it's only for Prime members at $1,999. For everybody else, it's $2,299.  (If you're a Prime member, you'll only see $1,999 when it's in your cart.)

But Costco has matched the price at $1,999. And Sam's Club has undercut them both by one dollar at $1,998!

5 Ways To Make an Extra $5,000 This Year

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Are you living within your means and using a budget to help you track spending and cut costs, but still struggling to make progress with your financial goals?

You’ve probably read every article out there on how to save more money each month. Maybe you’ve ditched the take-out coffee habit and ditched your expensive cable package. You try to spend wisely and live frugally.

The fact is, sometimes pinching pennies just isn’t enough. If you want to keep making big progress towards financial success, it’s time to think about earning more.

To get you started, here are 5 ways to make an extra $5,000 this year

1. Start Driving

You can turn a depreciating asset -- your car -- into an income-producing one by becoming a driver for a ridesharing service like Lyft or Uber.

NerdWallet found that Uber drivers tend to make more than drivers working with other rideshare companies. According to their findings, a driver who provides about 60 rides per week could make $50,000 in a year.

With an average of $15.97 earned per ride, you could earn $5,000 extra in a year if you provided a ride about 313 times -- or about 6 rides per weekend.

2. Participate in Focus Groups

Getting paid to share your thoughts and opinions is a pretty good deal. Focus groups provide market research opportunities for brands and businesses, and participants in these panels are paid for their time.

With earnings ranging anywhere from $10 to $150 per one or two hour session, it’s hard to say exactly how many groups you’d need to attend to earn an extra $5,000 per year. At $50 per focus group meeting, you’d need to participate in 100 panels -- at $100 per meeting, of course, you’d need to attend 50 of them to meet your yearly goal.

You may be able to add to this type of income by participating in research-based activities, like taking online surveys or working as a mystery shopper.

Start by checking out, which pays $75 to $150 per survey you complete.

3. Perform Odd Jobs

No, this isn’t a new idea. But it can still be a lucrative one. Opportunities to perform odd jobs around your community for a little extra cash are abundant. Within my own experience, I’ve seen people (including my own dad) succeed at earning extra money by:

  • Operating a small landscaping company that served local homes and businesses
  • Driving county-owned service buses that help elderly residents who can no longer drive (or don’t want to)
  • Working with local office buildings to come by during working hours and wash employee cars
  • Babysitting or nannying neighborhood children, or running errands for busy neighborhood moms
  • Cooking homemade meals for elderly members of the community

If you want to pursue this route with a modern twist, hop on TaskRabbit and sign up to perform odd jobs in your area. Tasks include anything from housecleaning to running errands, and you’ll earn an hourly rate for your work.

Again, it’s hard to nail down exactly what you need to do to reach the $5,000 in extra income. It depends on what odd job you perform and how much you charge for it.

If you worked for $10 per hour, you would need to work about an extra 10 hours per week throughout the year to earn an extra $5,000. If that sounds like a lot, consider the fact that the average American watches 5 hours of TV per day.

Most people do have the time to devote to earning a little extra money. It’s just a matter of deciding to work for it.

4. Sell Your Stuff (or Someone Else’s)

Last fall, we participated in a community yard sale. We don’t have much stuff to begin with, as we lean towards a minimalist lifestyle.

But after combing through every inch of our house, we managed to collect a small pile of items that barely took up 10 square feet when laid out on the driveway. Our yard sale offering looked pretty pathetic next to the overflowing garages and driveways around us.

But by noon, we’d cleared out the stuff we thought was junk and completely worthless in exchange for over $200. Not bad for about four hours worth of sitting outside and the occasional haggling.

Many people have whole houses full of stuff they no longer want, need, or use. While you can’t hold a garage sale every other week and make $200 (which is what you’d need to do to meet the goal of $5,000 extra this year), you can start with one big sale and see how far you get.

Once you’ve cleared out your own items, consider helping other people you know clear out their own homes. You can offer to collect the stuff they no longer want and spend your time hosting a yard sale in exchange for a percentage of the total profits.

Or consider “flipping” big ticket items that you can pick up from Craigslist or Goodwill on the cheap. It’s amazing how a little TLC can transform old and discarded pieces of furniture -- and how a little work to restore an old piece can bring in a tidy profit.

5. Teach Others

A great way to give back to your community and make a little extra money at the same time is to teach a skill or specialized knowledge that you know to other people. You get to share something valuable with the people around you, and you can receive compensation for your time.

Teaching others in order to earn extra money can take many forms, including:

  • Tutoring
  • Hosting a class, lecture, seminar, or webinar
  • Writing for written or online publications in a field you know a lot about (i.e. gardening, mechanics, fitness, etc)
  • Creating your own website and blog to share this knowledge, which you can monetize through advertising, sponsorships, and hosting your own online courses. You could even sell your own ebooks.

You don’t have to try all of these (and obviously building a website or blog isn’t going to appeal to everyone, and requires a lot of hard word before you start seeing a monetary payoff). But they’re ideas to consider.

Tutors can make upwards of $50 per hour, and teachers who can host an educational workshop of some kind could make $150 or more per student who attends.

Freelance writers charge anywhere from $50 to $150 per article depending on experience, and bloggers can easily make full-time incomes from their efforts (but this usually takes a few years and a lot of unpaid work upfront to achieve).

It is possible to try and succeed at one of these 5 ways to make an extra $5,000. Get creative and confident! Strike out and experiment with these ideas today -- you’ll shortly be on your way to making extra cash in 2015!

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