As you no doubt know by now, WalletHub released its 2019 Tax Burden by State Report, and, no surprise for most of us, it ranked New York State number one. CONGRATULATIONS!

For purposes of the Report, Burden is defined as the percentage of income. Here is how New York State ranked: 

Tax Burden in New York (1=Highest, 25=Average):

• 1st – Overall Tax Burden (12.97%).

• 6th – Property Tax Burden (4.57%).

• 1st – Individual Income Tax Burden (4.81%).

• 21st – Total Sales & Excise Tax Burden (3.59%).

Even though New York was only sixth in property tax burden, and there is a 2% cap on annual property tax increases in New York, without a voter override, the Binghamton, Syracuse and Rochester metro areas, in that order, still had the highest property taxes in the nation, when compared to home values, according to garappraisal.com. DOUBLE CONGRATULATIONS!

Of course, being first in income tax burden, and sixth in property tax burden, or higher for many of us in Western New York, is why the new federal $10,000 cap on deducting state and local taxes is so painful.

Speaking of taxes, how confused were you when you read the breakdown of your 2019 town and county tax bill? I was fortunate, in that my taxes went down over 6%, but I know that even though the rate per $1,000 for county taxes went down over 1%, many taxpayers’ overall tax bill increased. For me it was because in the categories of State & Federal Mandates, General County Services, County Services to Localities, Town Taxes, and “Other,” my net number went down. Only in the category of Sales Tax Credit did I see a lesser credit. I felt especially good that The State & Federal Mandate amount went down, because for years we were told that those mandates were the real culprits.

If you have some free time, I suppose you could spend some of it with your local assessor, if you really want to understand all of those categories.

I also don’t know why I have three different assessments, but I do know that New York allows different taxing authorities to have their own assessment, rather than having a single statewide assessment. I also know that, as we discussed recently in this column with respect to appraisals, assessments are in large part subjective, depending upon which comparable sales are used by the assessor.

At any rate, I am not holding my breath for us to lose our first place standing any time soon.

On a different subject, as I write this column, the administration is promising a new 5% tariff on goods imported from Mexico. If it happens, and it lasts for a while, it will definitely hurt many businesses, as well as consumers, because of increased prices and the possible loss of some jobs. We recently discussed these “tariff economics” in this column in connection with China tariffs. That said, this is SERIOUS and PERSONAL for me. I eat a lot of avocados. In fact, if you talk to my wife, she will tell you that she is pretty sure that someday I am going to turn green. I always emphasize that they are healthy, but I just like them, and would eat them even if they weren’t healthy, just like all of that other unhealthy stuff I eat.

Avocado prices are already high, so the thought that they are going to increase really hurts, but what hurts even more is that the media keeps rubbing it in. No, I am not paranoid. Every report that I hear always mentions that grocery prices will go up on things like avocados — in fact, I Googled, “what prices at the grocery store would go up if there is a tariff on Mexican goods.” What popped up — a picture of avocados. You can’t make this stuff up!

I had a most memorable experience this week when doing a personal finance presentation for 6th grade Canandaigua Middle School students. As always, among other things, we talked about:

$Understanding unit prices.

$ Being frugal and a smart shopper, in order to get the best value for all of your hard-earned money, so you will have more money and have a better life for you and your family.

$ Cash is King — people who use cash make better spending decisions, and spend less.

$ Start saving NOW! Build the “saving habit” early in life so you will be a life-long saver, and always live below your means. Also, learn to save for emergencies and anticipated expenses

$ Avoid credit card debt, so that you don’t pay more for everything because of the interest.

$ Know the difference between true “needs,” and wants, wishes, luxuries and conveniences, and don’t go into debt for non-needs.

At the end, I asked if there were any questions. A 6th grade male student raised his hand and asked, wait for it, “Isn’t this just common sense”? WOW! A 6th grader gets it, and for 20 years, I saw thousands of adults who didn’t.

These days there seem to be two issues that dominate personal finance advice — student loan debt and retirement. So, in the next column, we will revisit current retirement issues.