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A timely extension of unemployment benefits

Q: I was laid off last November and I am about to collect my last unemployment check. Where do I stand on collecting extended unemployment benefits? I desperately need to collect since I am 60 years old and no one seems interested in hiring me.
N.N., via e-mail

A: A new development works in your favor. On May 23, Congress passed legislation that would grant another 13 weeks of federal unemployment benefits to people who are about to collect the last of their state jobless checks. That extra money was due to lapse June 1.

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And if you happen to live in a "high-unemployment state" - currently Alaska, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, or Washington - you could be eligible to receive yet another 13 weeks of benefits, for a total of 52 weeks of pay.

Department of Labor officials say provisions in the law mandate that states notify people who qualify of their eligibility. So you should not have any problems with paperwork.

Nearly every state limits unemployment benefits to 26 weeks, plus whatever the federal government may or may not decree. After that, you're pretty much on your own.

If you exhausted your original benefits before Congress acted, or find yourself still unemployed when the additional checks stop coming, you can turn to local social-service agencies for assistance.

Q: My only earned income is from work in a sheltered workshop, and I understand that it is tax-free. Can I deposit this money in an IRA? Most specifically, can I put it in my Roth IRA?
A.B., Elgin, Ill.

A: Contributions to an IRA, whether a Roth IRA or a deductible IRA, may only be made out of an individual's compensation.

Tom Burkhart, chief executive of The Savant Group in San Francisco says the IRS has defined compensation as the amount properly shown on Form W-2, Box 1 less the amount shown in Box 11. If your income meets this definition, even if it isn't taxed, you may make a contribution to a Roth IRA of your own. And if you're married, you even can contribute to a spousal Roth IRA.

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Q: Where can someone in their 20s receive good financial advice? Every Internet site I have visited seems geared to the 30-plus set.
Name withheld, via e-mail

A: Jason Anthony, coauthor of "Debt-free by 30: Practical Advice for the Young, Broke, & Upwardly Mobile," recommends several websites for people in their 20s. He suggests you check out www.street.com and www.smartmoney.com. They're full of practical advice and, as he says, "fairly painless" to read and understand.

Mr. Anthony also likes the Motley Fool, www.fool.com. It's run by brothers Tom and David Gardner, who don't take themselves too seriously as they dole out money information.

Of course he recommends his own book, which includes sections on debt and managing money even when it's scarce. And - here's a surprise - The Wall Street Journal. "It's not as starchy as people think," says Anthony, and has plenty of stories that have the attitude and tone that he thinks make them more accessible to titans-in-training.

(We humbly suggest that you peek at Work & Money occasionally, too.)


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