Magazine

A Mightier Ballpoint


America's teenagers have strong opinions about personal finance matters. They are intricately involved in their household buying decisions. And with 35% collecting an allowance -- more than half receiving up to $20 a week -- some are even learning the value of money. So says a Junior Achievement and Allstate Foundation poll of nearly 1,000 13- to 18-year-olds. Taxes are a big issue: 74% of the girls and 66% of the boys think they're excessive. With views like these, this group could make a formidable voting block when they all come of age in the next five years.

Looking for a way to cut your federal income taxes, short of having another child? If you've been supplying more than half the support for a parent, you might be eligible to take an extra dependent exemption of $3,100 in 2004. Even if you kick in less than 50%, as long as family members together contribute more than half, you can get the exemption if other contributors agree in writing not to claim it, says Mark Luscombe, a CPA and tax lawyer with CCH Tax & Accounting (WTKWY).

You're entitled to a dependent child-care credit of up to $3,000 as well if you hire someone to watch over mom or dad while you work. Or you might be able to add such an expense to other health costs you pay to top the 7.5% adjusted gross income hurdle to write off medical expenses. For single people, there's the added benefit of becoming a "head of household," possibly lowering your tax bracket. Remember, your parent must earn less than $3,100 in taxable gross income. For details, go to irs.gov and check out Publication 501.

Color will reign in the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts this fall. In addition to the usual reds, oranges, and golds of the changing leaves, you can see an exhibit at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield featuring brilliantly colored illuminated works by 20 contemporary U.S. artists. In their creations, some of which are interactive, the artists integrate light through the use of shadows, illusions, glowing jewels, candlelight conjuring up spirits, twilight, and other luminous effects. Presence of Light will be on view through Oct. 31 (berkshiremuseum.org).

It's a pen. No, it's a highlighter. Well, it's actually both. The new Sheaffer Prelude MPI conveniently converts from one to the other when you twist the barrel. Handy for marking up documents, it comes in three styles with 22K gold plate trim, for $45, $60, and $70, depending on the finish. A new ballpoint pen cartridge costs $2.25, and a three-pack of highlighter refills goes for $7.50 (sheaffer.com).


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