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Good News in Hard Times

Oil prices have hit a record high. Inflation is rising. The dollar is sinking. The stock market is at its lowest point in a year. Is there any good news for our finances these days?

Yes -- and it pays to look on the bright side. Congress has passed several measures that take affect this year that will help you keep more money in your pockets. Plus, the economic downturn and market decline present opportunities for some of us to get better deals when we borrow money, buy a home or invest in stocks.

When it comes to your finances, here are eight things to smile about -- especially in these hard times.

1. THE REBATE CHECK

In an effort to encourage people to spend and boost the ailing economy, the government wants to give you money. Taxpayers who file their 2007 returns by April 15 can expect rebate checks by late spring or summer.

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2. UNDERVALUED STOCKS AND BONDS

Now is the time to pick up shares of big-name companies because their stocks are beaten down and relatively cheap. Even bond prices have fallen lately.

3. LOWER INTEREST RATES

The Federal Reserve has been lowering interest rates to stimulate the economy. For consumers with good credit ratings, that means savings when they borrow.

4. NEW TAX BREAKS

You might owe less to the IRS this year thanks to a new deduction for private mortgage insurance, an extension of the sales-tax write-off and a boost in the alternative minimum tax exemption amount.

5. FALLING HOUSE PRICES

This isn't very good news if you're selling home -- but it's great for those buying.

6. HIGHER RETIREMENT ACCOUNT LIMITS

You can contribute $1,000 more to your traditional IRA or Roth IRA this year. Limits have risen for retirement plans for the self-employed, too. Where to get the extra money to contribute? The rebate check.

7. HELP WITH COLLEGE BILLS

A new law lends a helping hand to those pursuing a career in teaching or public service. Find out what it takes to qualify and how to apply.

8. NEW ROLLOVER OPTION

Now you can roll your 401(k) directly into a Roth IRA without jumping into a traditional IRA first.


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