Once again, Happy Holidays.

Good news for those of us who are retired and are fortunate enough to receive Social Security retirement benefits. Our benefits will increase by 2 percent in 2018, after they increased only 0.3 percent in 2017. Remember our recent discussions about thinking more rationally about money and how we spend it, and the value of considering “lost opportunity costs” when we spend money. What else could you spend that same money on that may have more “real value” to you or your family? That being said, why not ask yourself now, what could you best do every month with that increase? What a great way to start the New Year off right, by trying that new personal finance tactic and technique that can improve your financial wellness.

CONSUMER ALERT! Most cars today have all kinds of fancy electronics. Some of them are great, like the blind spot warning lights on my car. On the other hand, I find some of them both frustrating and distracting, and there are more and more reports coming out about how distracting they can really be.

Then there are those electronic keys. I have recently discovered that for some high-end cars, it can cost $475 or more if you need to replace one. So here is my advice. First, take really good care of the ones that you have, and don’t lose one. Second, if you buy a used car, especially a high-end one or one with an electronic key, make sure that you are getting two keys with the purchase before you negotiate the final price. You won’t want to pay as much for the vehicle if you have to buy a second key for $400 or more to have the security of having two keys. Like so much else, it is NOT LIKE THE OLD DAYS.

The final voting on the proposed federal tax bill will not have taken place at the time this column is due, so I, like all of us, am anxiously waiting for the dust to finally clear. Clearly, there will be winners and losers with the changes that will ultimately be made, and there will be some taxpayers who will end up paying more in taxes. For now, the final interplay of the proposed new rates and applicable income ranges, the probable retention of the Alternative Minimum Tax, a cap on the deductibility of state and local taxes, just to name a few things, remains unclear. What does appear to be more and more certain, however, is that there will be a cap on the deductibility of state and local taxes, including real estate taxes, and, as a result, many higher-income taxpayers, and taxpayers with higher valued real estate regardless of their income, in high-taxed states, like New York, will most likely be among the losers.

It does appear that, except for future mortgages of $750,000 and above, the current deductibility of mortgage interest will be retained. As a result, there will be a more limited negative effect on real estate values than was feared when there was talk of eliminating the deduction altogether. However, the loss of the full deductibility of real estate taxes will certainly have some negative effect on real estate values for higher valued and taxed real estate nationwide.

There now appear to be a number of provisions that will remain the same, which were at risk. I believe that most taxpayers are supportive of them. They include employer-paid tuition for continuing education, tuition waivers for employees of educational institutions, including teaching and researching graduate students, and a deduction of up to $250 for teachers who purchase classroom supplies.

As an attorney, one of the proposed changes that caught my attention was that for divorce and separation agreements beginning in 2019, alimony will no longer be deductible for the spouse paying it, and the recipient will no longer be required to pay taxes on it. I have read some reports, but I am still unsure what the real basis is for this change. On the one hand, it could be argued that it will provide tax relief for the lower earning recipient, but, on the other hand, it will result in a greater tax burden on the payer, so is there a social policy reason for that? Furthermore, in many cases it should be expected that it will result in lower gross alimony awards to the recipient, but, also, in some cases it could result in an award that may be lower than it would have been after taxes under the current system. Is there a social policy there?

For me, the real answer is that the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that the repeal of deductions for alimony payments, and the corresponding inclusion in the gross income of the payer, would result in an estimated additional $100 million in Treasury revenue for the fiscal year of 2018. A small concession to the expected increase in the national debt.

Next time: How much are Americans spending in time and gas to wait in the longer fast-food drive through lines?

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