What the experts say
Keeping college kids insured
Before the kids head off to college, do your insurance homework to make sure they’re fully covered, said Barbara Marquand in the Los Angeles Times. If they will be living in a dorm, their belongings are probably covered under your renters or homeowners insurance—but ask your provider if there are any limits. Students living off campus will need their own renters policies. Also check whether your health plan’s provider network includes doctors and hospitals near the school. If not, most universities offer student health plans with comprehensive coverage. And even if your child isn’t taking a car to school, keep him or her on your policy, for coverage at home on breaks. “Maintaining continuous auto liability insurance also keeps rates down over the long haul.”
Banks’ anti-lawsuit armor
Big banks “are increasingly using the fine print of checking account agreements” to stop their customers from taking them to court, said Ann Carrns in The New York Times. More than 70 percent of the nation’s major banks now use so-called mandatory binding arbitration clauses, up from nearly 60 percent four years ago, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Those clauses require customers to settle dis agreements out of court, through a private arbitration process, and many of them also bar participation in class-action lawsuits. “As a result, consumers don’t have much recourse if their disagreement involves a relatively small amount of money per customer, even if a large number of customers are affected.” Between 2010 and 2014, only 505 consumers went to arbitration over a dispute of $2,500 or less.
Unmarried couples get a tax break
The IRS just gave well-off couples “another good reason not to get married,” said Ben Steverman in Bloomberg.com. Unmarried couples who own property together can now effectively deduct twice as much of their mortgage and home interest on their tax returns, thanks to a recent IRS rule change. Before, the IRS held that its $1.1 million mortgage deduction limit applied on a per-residence basis, but the rule was tweaked after an unwed California couple sued the agency. Married couples are still limited to a $1.1 million deduction—another tax hit for high-earning spouses. Couples in which one partner earns a lot more than the other usually see their tax bill fall after getting married. But the opposite is true for two well-paid professionals, “as their combined incomes put them in the highest tax brackets.”
Charity of the week
The southwestern U.S. is home to thousands of archaeological sites that offer crucial clues to the history and culture of America’s earliest inhabitants. For three decades, the Tucson-based Archaeology Southwest (archaeology southwest.org) has sought to explore and preserve this landscape, which is dotted with sacred shrines, rock art, and the ruins of ancient settlements. The organization protects sites by buying land and by working with landowners and local governments. It uses low-impact investigative methods to answer important archaeological questions, such as what happened to the Hohokam culture that flourished in Arizona from 450 to 1450 and left behind complex irrigation systems and beautiful jewelry. Archaeology Southwest shares its discoveries with the public through tours of sites, a monthly magazine, and interactive exhibits at museums and online.
Each charity we feature has earned a four-star overall rating from Charity Navigator, which rates not-for-profit organizations on the strength of their finances, their governance practices, and the transparency of their operations. Four stars is the group’s highest rating.