Financial news and advice — September 2015

Madonna gets a generous tax break on her Hamptons property by planting trees, while Eleanor Roosevelt could possibly become the new female face on the US$10 bill.


Tax break proves Madonna is truly a Material Girl

Pop superstar Madonna could end up paying next to nothing in property taxes on a 24-acre parcel of land in the Hamptons, the New York Post reports. She bought the former potato farm adjacent to her mansion’s property in 2010, under the condition she use it for commercial agriculture. Her solution? Turn it into a tree nursery, effectively planting a forest to hide her US$4.9-million home from the paparazzi. Even more affronting to local residents: the generous tax break for “farm” property. If she sells $10,000 in trees over two years, she’ll pay less than $300 tax on the land.


Lady Bountiful on bill?

Eleanor Roosevelt 

While we Canucks are used to seeing the queen on our currency, a female face has not been depicted on US paper bills for more than a century. That will change in 2020, when the redesigned US$10-bill will feature a woman. As for which woman, that’s still up in the air; the US Treasury is soliciting opinions online. According to a recent Ipsos poll, however, a third of Americans want to see former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt on their cash. Other popular choices include women’s suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony (17%) and Helen Keller (13%).


Canadians fail TFSA test

Confusion still abounds when it comes to tax-free savings accounts (TFSA), even though they’ve been available for more than five years. In a recent Great Canadian TFSA Test held by Mackenzie Investments, only 51% of Canadians answered three of the test’s five questions correctly (meaning 49% failed the test). More than half of respondents didn’t know that the contribution room for TFSAs can be carried forward into future years and 47% thought TFSA contributions are tax deductible (they’re not).


A million new millionaires

There are now a record 14.6 million millionaires around the world, with 920,000 joining this elite rank in 2014, according to a report from Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management. The top three countries for millionaires are the US (4.4 million), Japan (2.5 million) and Germany (1.1 million), while Canada has 331,000. The richest of this fortunate bunch (worth US$30 million or more) make up just 1% of the total, but hold 35% of the wealth.


I'd rather be cleaning

Asking for a raise is right up there with root canal and tax audit in the “things I’d rather be doing” category. While 89% of US workers believe they deserve a raise, just 54% plan to ask for one this year, finds a survey by staffing firm Robert Half. Instead of making the case for a pay bump, many workers would rather clean the house (32%), look for a new job (13%), get a root canal (7%) or be audited by the Internal Revenue Service (6%).