University of Texas Tower

The Austin skyline has changed tremendously over the years but the, UT Austin Tower is the one landmark every weary traveler cranes his neck to spot on the horizon in order to know he’s close to home.UTTower

The 307-foot tall tower was designed by Paul Cret of Philadelphia, was completed in 1937 and with the lighting expertise of Carl J. Eckhardt Jr., this edifice has become the traditional visual spokesman for the university. When the tower is flooded in full orange you know that U.T. reined victorious over Texas A&M University.  There are other worthy reasons for this kind of lighting, like Commencement or other events that the president feels the need to celebrate with this honor.  Sometimes lights are left on in offices on certain floors that convey football scores or rankings in divisions. Nothing pleases a Longhorn fan more than to see the tower bathed in orange and lit up with an immense number one.UTcele

For an up close and personal view of the tower, the UT Tower’s observation deck is open for tours.  This historic building has recently been remodeled and reopened to the public after a 30-year closure!  To check out the amazing panoramic views of the city, and learn about the building’s history, you will need to make reservations through the Texas Union Information Center.  For more information go to:

http://www.utexas.edu/universityunions/texas-union/scene/tower-tours

An Irreverent Guide To Austin

austin, tx

1. Austin is proudly not like the rest of Texas. And, yes, Austin is proudly Texan. Get over that conundrum and you will fit right in. We don’t necessarily like the rest of Texas all that much, but we certainly despise out-of-state visitors insulting anything about the great state we live in.

2. Austin is hot, often. For many months of the year it is just ridiculous to be outside, unless you are swimming or drinking iced-tea or cold, cold beer. The best way to be noticed as an outsider is to comment or complain about the heat.  We know. It’s hot.

3. Driving in Austin is horrible and gets worse each day. Add rain, a football game, or an armadillo in the road, and things get ridiculous. Also, know that pedestrians have no rights. Be warned. And, of course in Austin, as in the entire state of Texas, it is against the law to use a turn signal. A turn signal may distract other drivers, causing them to stop in the middle of the road, so it is best to not advertise your intentions to turn or change lanes.

4. Learning roads and place names is required, but won’t come easy. Make a note that Mopac IS Loop 1; no one calls it Loop 1, though. Similarly, Capital of Texas Hwy is 360, and Research is 183. 2222 is Northland or Allendale or Koenig, depending on what part of 2222 you are talking about. 290 is Ben White, but there are two 290 exits on I-35, and one of which is 2222 (which, as mentioned earlier, is Northland, Allendale and Koenig). Don’t try to figure it out. Just accept it. Also, listen to how words like Guadalupe and Manchaca are pronounced. Yep, odd. But don’t try to change it.

5. Austin is eternally casual. Tattoos and shorts are common, everywhere. The rich might have dreadlocks and nose-rings. “Keep Austin Weird” is a local motto and clothing is no exception. You can wear cowboy boots, but you’ll be surrounded by high tops, flip-flops, and bare feet.

austinmusic6. Music, music, music. 365 nights a year the clubs in Austin are alive with working musicians. From country-swing to power-pop, jazz to rap, we offer a loving variety of sounds. Be sure to visit a live venue, tip the players and staff, and sit back and enjoy what we refer to as paradise.

Source: Stanford Texas Club

Texas Chile Peppers

jalapenoIn Texas, the chile pepper is a staple of many food dishes. Most Texans are familiar with the jalapeño, a medium-sized pepper typically picked when it is green. Originating in Mexico, the jalapeño is widely cultivated in Texas and in 1995 was designated the state pepper of Texas. It can be prepared pickled, smoked (chipolte), stuffed, or simply chopped in salsa. Flavorful, the jalapeño is nonetheless considered to be mild in the range of pepper heat levels.

chiltepinOn the other hand, the Chiltepin, also known as chile tepin, is a wild child pepper, native to Texas and surrounding areas that is very high in heat level. The tepin peppers are often cited as hotter than the habanero, though the tepin chile heat tends to diminish rapidly. In 1995, the Chiltepin became known as official native pepper of Texas. Most botanical experts believe the tepin chile is the oldest form of the pepper plant and, hence, mother of all subsequent peppers.

We love our peppers in Texas, be they the ever-popular jalapeño or the dangerously hot tepin chile.

10 THINGS EVERY TEXAN SHOULD KNOW ABOUT TAX LOANS

questionperson1. Texas Property Tax Loans are available for any taxable real estate, undeveloped or not, on the condition the property is reasonably maintained. The loans cannot be made for and personal property, such as a car or household items, but any residential, commercial or investment property is eligible.
 
2. Maintaining taxes on several properties can be simplified by combining them into one loan.
 
3. Even if your property loan is from past years, Texas Property Tax Loans can cover the delinquent tax, penalties, interest charges, and any fees that could have been applied from collection attempts on past due taxes
 
4. Initially, loans are only available for delinquent taxes. Any time thereafter, Texas Property Tax Loans can pay your taxes to avoid delinquency.
 
5. Even if you have an existing loan with another property tax lender, you could be approved for a Texas Property Tax Loan.
 
6. Texas Property Tax Loans are only available for property taxes in Texas.
 
7. Your tax loan payment will include the principal (Initial amount borrowed), and the interest to the lender.
 
8. Even with past bankruptcies or credit problems, you can be approved for a Texas Property Tax Loan.
 
9. If you show sufficient income for repayment, your Texas Property Tax Loan can be completed within three business days.
 
10. You will need to provide your social security and driver’s license numbers, in addition to any mortgage, insurance and bank information for loan applications. These are necessary for IRS requirements as well as federal and state statutes. We do not conduct credit reports, and confirm title prior to loan approval.

Source: Texas Tax Loans

Property Tax Loans: Your community’s special interest

money_homeNo one ever expects to be burdened with sudden debt. In Texas, third-party companies are currently able to offer property tax loans, or tax lien transfers, to Texans in times of financial distress. The loan companies will pay off back taxes for qualified applicants, and prevent future delinquency by paying property tax before it reaches delinquency. Approximately 70 locally grown companies currently offer these affordable alternatives to about 15,000 Texans every year.

These property tax loans aren’t just helpful to property owners, but benefit their local communities as well. In addition to the hundreds of jobs the businesses sustain, the collected taxes ensure local governments get the necessary funds for important services like schools and public safety. Over the past three years, tax property loans are responsible for the collection of $500 million in tax revenue. By paying back taxes, these companies allow thousands to keep their homes, and continue to contribute to their local economies, yet somehow, are under threat of extinction.

Several banks and collection firms are currently lobbying to change the lien priority on property tax loans. With the lien priority being the biggest incentive for loan companies, this change would effectively shut down the industry altogether. As businesses like these have provided their services for 80 years, many believe that this change could seriously affect the Texas housing market. Local business leaders want to see the decision go to the people, the property owners who would be directly affected by the legislation.

Source: Chron

IRAs More Popular Than 401(k) Plans

In 2011, the Federal Reserve reported that the combined value for Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and employer-sponsored 401(k) plans was over 8.75 trillion dollars. Of that sum, 55% of the funds were in IRAs. This is surprising since the maximum annual contributions to a 401(k) are almost three times greater than to an IRA. Why would there be more money in the combined value of the IRAs?200247143-001

A primary reason for the above noted disparity is that less than 50% of working Americans have access to a 401(k). Not all companies offer such a plan. IRAs, on the other hand, are available to all workers. This ubiquity, partnered with the tax breaks of the IRA, attracts investors. Another reason for the growth of IRAs is marketing. More and more people know about IRAs. IRAs often offer more investment choices and lower operating costs than the 401(k) plan. Therefore, when an employee changes job, he/she may choose to remove (rollover) the 401(k) funds into an IRA. Additionally, as the IRA accounts multiple, investors appreciate the simplification of having their accounts managed by a single financial institution.

It is possible to use both the 401(k) and the IRA. In a 401(k) plan, some companies will offer a matching contribution. For example, you may be eligible to contribute up to 5% of your salary to the plan, but the employer will only match the first 2%. Some investors choose to only contribute the 2% and receive the matching 2%. Any remaining available money goes into an IRA. The investor gets the advantage of both accounts, though some financial advisors suggest than any additional funds should apply first to high-interest debt before adding to an IRA

It is important to understand the strengths and drawbacks of both IRAs and 401(k) plans. Informed investment decisions are the best. Each approach offers participants opportunities to save for retirement and your personal financial situation will dictate how you invest your money.

Source: U.S. News and World Report www.money.usnews.com

Hurdles With 401(k) Accounts

401(k)Let us say that you have worked at your current job for a number of years and you were fortunate to be with a firm that offered you a 401(k) plan. Now, however, a new opportunity arose and you are leaving your current job. What do with the funds you accrued in your 401(k) plan? This scenario is common, as employees stay in their jobs for shorter periods and are more comfortable moving to new companies.

When you change jobs, you have the option of cashing out your 401(k) fund balance, rolling it into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), rolling it into your new company’s 401(k) plan (provided they have one), or leaving the balance in the current plan. It is not advised to cash your funds out since you will be taxed on the amount as income and, if you are under age 55, you will be penalized as well. That leaves three other options. Despite the convenience of leaving your funds in the current plans, many people choose a different route. Why is this?

Surprisingly, many plan administrators shy away from keeping non-current employees in their plans. In fact, a recent U.S. Government Accounting Office survey indicated a majority of plans surveyed were ambivalent about or averse to keeping past employees in their plan. In addition to such aversion, there is often complex paperwork and/or waiting periods required to reclassify your account status. This complex process dissuades some past employees from continuing with their 401(k) plan and, therefore, they choose a different path for their retirement account.

Rolling the funds into a current employer’s plan is contingent upon there being a plan in place. If one exists, there can still be complex hurdles involving paperwork and unusual timing issues. This complexity often dissuades people from taking this step.

A more common path for 401(k) funds is to roll them into an IRA. IRAs have been aggressively marketed in the past decades and many people include them in their retirement planning. Working with both your current 401(k) plan and the institution offering your IRA, you can initiate and complete the process in as short as a few hours. This simplicity is inviting and, additionally, you can begin to centralize your fund holdings with one company. This simplifies your future planning and paperwork issues. It’s advisable to let the two institutions handle the actual funds, thereby allowing you to avoid any potential taxation issues.

What to do with an existing 401(k) plan once you leave your job is an important decision. While simplifying the process and your plan is desirable, you also need to evaluate your financial goals. The ultimate decision on what to do with your funds will reflect where you currently are and where you want to be in regards to your retirement funding. Keep your eye on the prize, do your research, and the best choice becomes evident.

Source: U.S. News and World Report www.money.usnews.com