Financial news and advice — November 2014

Robert Redford is suing New York State over a US$1.6-million tax bill. Plus, new studies show that China is home to the world’s most money-savvy teens.


Redford vs. New York State

Hollywood icon Robert Redford is suing New York State over a US$1.6-million tax bill. The Oscar-winning actor, producer and director says he’s being double taxed on earnings from the 2005 sale of a stake in the Sundance Channel, a cable television offshoot of his annual Sundance independent film festival. Redford already paid tax to the State of Utah, where he lives, and wants the New York tax bill — nearly half of which is interest — thrown out. The 77-year-old star says he didn’t even know about the bill until a few months ago, when the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance sent him a bill for US$845,066 in taxes plus US$723,404 in interest.


China’s high-schoolers get top marks

Chinese high-schoolers 

Shanghai is home to the world’s most money-savvy teens, according to a study of 18 countries and economies. About 29,000 15-year-olds took a two-hour test administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to determine their financial literacy. The Flemish community of Belgium ranked second, followed by Estonia and Australia; the US placed ninth and Colombia was last. Canada did not participate in the study. Only 10% of all students could solve the toughest questions, such as choosing the better of two loan proposals.


Ladies lag in fiscal know-how

Women still fall behind men in nearly every key area of financial planning, finds a study by US education and counselling firm Financial Finesse. For example, 85% of men have a general knowledge of investing and 78% have a handle on cash flow, compared with just 66% and 63% of women. While the gender gap in financial wellness narrowed overall from last year, it widened for the highest earners (over US$150,000).


Putting a number on success

More than half of workers in the US would feel “successful” earning less than US$70,000, according to a survey by HR firm CareerBuilder. Less than one-quarter say they’d need an annual income of $100,000 or more to feel like they’ve made it, although men (29%) are nearly twice as likely as women (15%) to peg success at six figures. The survey also found that it pays to ask for a raise: while 51% of men and 62% of women have never asked for an increase in salary, two-thirds of those who did ask for a raise got it.


Student debt affects well-being for decades

As if loan payments weren’t bad enough, a Gallup poll shows that university grads who borrowed money to pay for school have a poorer quality of life than their debt-free counterparts. The survey of 30,000 US grads found those with more than $50,000 in debt felt less financially and physically fit and were more likely to say their lives lacked purpose, even years later.