Getting a piece of the start-up pie
Buying shares in your employer before it launches an IPO is meant to be a temptation, says Matt Krantz at USA Today. Start-ups often offer pre-IPO shares at bargain prices to lure or retain talent, but "not all pre-IPO companies work out so well." Many never go public after all, and those that do are usually subject to "lockup periods that bar employees from selling for three or more months." So if your employer offers you a chance to buy shares in the company, "approach this decision like you would any stock purchase." Consider the price soberly. "It's possible your company will be the next Facebook, but don't bet everything in case it doesn't happen."
IRS audit season
No taxpayer enjoys an audit, says Ann Carrns at The New York Times. Though the likelihood of being selected for one is low, the audit rate has been rising. The IRS usually conducts them by correspondence, and they "generally relate to a specific item on your return, or small dollar amounts." There are also "desk" audits, which may require you to visit an IRS office and meet with a revenue agent. And if you run a business, the IRS may send someone to examine your returns in person — a so-called "office" audit. If you get an "information document request" in the mail, consider hiring a professional accountant, since audits can be a bureaucratic nightmare. If you do respond on your own, "make sure your documents are in order — no receipts in shoe boxes — and submit only as much information as is needed to answer the request."
Secondhand goods to skip
Some things you should never buy used, says Farnoosh Torabi at Yahoo. While snapping up previously owned furniture and clothes can save you money, some used goods are likely to "require costly repairs down the line or even pose safety risks." Laptops are a good example. Instead of buying one on Craigslist, you'll be better off getting a new one from a national retailer or a refurbished laptop — complete with warranty — from the manufacturer. Secondhand software is tricky, too; developers usually limit how many times a program can be loaded, so "you could end up with a copy of Microsoft Office or Photoshop that's better used as a doorstop." And steer clear of pre-owned helmets and children's car seats. If they've already been in an accident, they "could have sustained damage that's not visible to the untrained eye."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
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