As promised, here are some thoughts, observations, and discussions from some recent trips to New York City.
First, driving back and forth to New York City to see some Broadway shows the past two weekends got me focused on the subjects of fees and taxes.
First, going to and from the city, partly on the New York State Thruway, reminded me that the toll system is going cashless in 2020. As a result, I am going to have to get an EZ Pass, rather than being billed by mail, which could get lost in the shuffle, even though I would be on the alert for it. Up until now I haven’t had one, because I don’t drive that much on toll roads. To get one, go to thruway.ny.gov/getezpass. That also reminded me that I had recently read that a moratorium on toll increases is set to expire at the end of 2020, and that the Thruway Authority could require an additional $50 million to cover its costs by 2022. Is it even possible that the tolls won’t go up?
Second, how is this for excessive taxes! The tax for parking in a Manhattan garage is roughly 18.4 %. That is even worse than the hotel room tax in New York City, which is 14.75%, plus $3.50 per day. So if you are headed for New York City, factor those into your budget.
Third, I have always said that one of the most rewarding experiences I had as a Bankruptcy Judge was naturalizing new U.S. Citizens. I have even said that in order to be eligible to vote, you should be required to attend one of those ceremonies every ten years, so that you would be reminded of the freedoms and responsibilities we have as citizens. Because of that, the recent report that I heard on the drive to the city really got my attention. The Trump administration is proposing to substantially increase the cost of becoming a US. Citizen.
According to NBC News, the Trump administration wants to increase the cost of citizenship applications by 83 percent for roughly 9 million immigrants eligible to become U.S. citizens, because “the current fees do not recover the full costs of providing adjudication and naturalization services."
The result would be that the citizenship application fee would go from $640 to $1,170, an 83% increase. In addition, the renewal fees for the DACA program, currently being addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court, would increase from $495 to $765.
Fourth, speaking of citizenship, on our trip, I also heard a report on a U.S Visa program that I was not aware of. I am not sure that it is technically a fee, but before Nov. 21, the EB-5 Program afforded foreign nationals, along with a spouse and children under 21, the ability to obtain U. S. Visas and green cards for an investment of $500,000 in an approved for–profit enterprise that creates or retains a specified number of jobs. Like the citizenship fees, the minimum investment, after Nov. 21, is increasing to $900,000, an 80% increase.
The bottom line is, like so many other costs, the price of US citizenship is increasing substantially.
Fifth, again, I am not sure that this is technically a fee, but when we were driving south on the Henry Hudson Parkway on the west side of Manhattan, we saw an Adopt -A- Highway sign with Donald J. Trump’s name on it. It got me wondering about two things — first, would he continue his adoption after he moves to Florida, and second, what does it cost to adopt a highway in New York state? It turns out that, rather than adopting one, you can also sponsor a highway. You pay the state to do what the program was originally designed for, which is to keep the highway clean of litter. If you adopt a highway, you are responsible, under specific guidelines, to have volunteers keep the highway clean of litter two to four times per year. The section of the highway usually covers one to two miles. In either event, there is a monthly fee that you pay to adopt or sponsor a highway. According to Google, the cost to adopt a highway is between $200 and $600 per month, with a minimum one-year commitment. With the taxes he will theoretically save by moving to Florida, President Trump could probably afford to continue the adoption.
If you are a regular reader, you know that our financial-analyst, New York City nephew and I have had some great discussions about personal finances in the past, including about the many apps that are available to help you save and otherwise better manage your finances. We have also talked a lot about the finances of getting married, since he is getting married this coming spring, including the tips set out in the recent series on financial advice for newlyweds. Although, as you might expect, he is very much on top of it, he said the series could certainly help some of his friends. He also reinforced one of our favorite “anticipated expenses that you need to save for” stories. He is one of the first of his wide group of friends to get married. Those friends are suddenly realizing that it will be expensive to go to the many, often times out of town, weddings, and sometimes pre-wedding events, in their near future, as more of the group marries. They mostly haven’t saved for that, but now realize that they had better start.
He is also the “millennial master of managing many rewards cards” to his financial advantage. They are not for everyone, but if you are disciplined, and financially sophisticated, selected rewards cards can work for you.
At any rate, in the next column we will finally look at some of the pros and cons of rewards cards, as well as some mistakes to avoid.
John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at http://www.mpnnow.com/search?text=Ninfo or at http://www.monroecopost.com/search?text=Ninfo.