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How to Budget - February 18, 2013 by WWFCU

Portrait of a mature couple planning their financial budgetYou can make your own budget worksheet using either a pen and paper or a computer spreadsheet program. Think of your budget in terms of two things: money and time. Money, of course, is divided into its own two categories: Income and Expenses.

Follow these steps to make your budget worksheet:

  1. List your income in a vertical column down the left side of the page. Think of all the sources of income (including paychecks and interest) that you receive. Also, consider how often this income becomes available to you. For example, are you paid weekly or every other week?
  2. List your expenses below your income in that same column. Begin with major expenses such as a car payment, car insurance, food (including school lunches), clothing, and entertainment. Include all expenses, whether you pay in the form of a check, cash, credit card, or the amount is deducted from your credit union account. Remember to include any finance charges, such as interest on your auto loan.
  3. Now, list the related timeframes in a row across the top of the page. For instance, does the expense or income occur weekly, per paycheck, monthly, quarterly, or yearly? Is the expense tax-deductible? If so, add a heading for this in your horizontal row. When you are finished you should have the beginning of a grid or chart. Use this as a worksheet to help you categorize and plan. When you first start using your budget worksheet, you might find that you change it often. That’s good! Your worksheet should be a working document.
  4. Now that you have a “skeleton” worksheet, add anticipated expenses. Are you planning to go to college or participate in a wedding (as either a bridesmaid or a groomsman)? All of these require that you spend a lot of money. (Hint: Anticipate that you will have to spend more than you’d prefer, and budget accordingly. It’s better to be prepared than shocked.) You can also consider anticipated sources of income, such as the yearly birthday check from your Aunt Mildred. Be careful, though; don’t spend the money before you have it.
  5. Don’t forget the “small stuff”! Do you buy soda pop or special coffee, eat lunch out, or buy snacks from the vending machine? If so, keep track of how often you do—and how much you spend. All of these purchases add up throughout the week, the month, and the year. So budget for these, or do without!

Remember: Use your budget as a tool to help you achieve your goals. Once you set up your categories and make it a point to record the appropriate dollar amounts, you’ll see how easy it is to continue recording your income and expenses.

The most difficult part is getting started. But once you have your plan in place, you’ll recognize the power of the information that you have at your fingertips!

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Double Your Refund with Turbo Tax - February 11, 2013 by WWFCU

Turbo_Tax

You don’t have to break the bank by visiting a tax professional. Try TurboTax now to get your taxes done right – and to enter the TurboTax Double My Refund Sweepstakes. You’ll get a chance to win one of:

  • Three Grand Prizes up to $5,000 or twice your refund amount
  • Ten $500 First Prizes

Don’t delay! Start for FREE at your credit union’s website by February 28 to be automatically entered to win!

Your biggest possible refund

With TurboTax, you’re guaranteed to get your maximum refund – or your money back.*

Customized for you

TurboTax searches for the latest deductions and credits based on your job, family and life so you know you’re getting every penny you deserve.

Help when you need it

TurboTax CPAs, EAs or tax attorneys are here for you year-round so you can get expert answers to your specific questions – for FREE.*

Click here for a chance to win!

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How to Protect Yourself from Credit Card Fraud - February 4, 2013 by WWFCU

Here are a few tips on how to avoid becoming the victim of credit card fraud:

  • CreditCardFraudPeriodically review your credit reports. There are three main credit bureaus. Order your credit report from each of them at least once a year. Request copies of your credit report from TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. You can also obtain a free copy of your credit report.
  • Properly discard documents. Cut up, shred, or otherwise destroy credit card statements, bank statements, pre-approved credit offers or any other documents that contain your personal information. Destroy credit card receipts, too.
  • Limit identification pieces. Carry only essential identification pieces in your purse, wallet, backpack, or car. Do not carry your Social Security card or your birth certificate with you unless absolutely necessary.
  • Limit the number of credit cards you carry. Try to only carry one or two.
  • Memorize your PIN and password numbers. Do not write them down.
  • Make and keep copies of account numbers in a secure place.
  • Guard your personal information. Don’t give out credit card or Social Security numbers to people you don’t know.
  • Do not have your Social Security number printed on your checks or driver’s license
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Selling Versus Tradein - January 24, 2013 by WWFCU

SellingCarSo you’ve decided to buy a new car. Congratulations! Now comes the decision of what to do with your old car. These steps can help you make the choice that’s right for you.

Research Your Car’s True Value
The first bit of research you’ll want to do is establish the current value of the vehicle you are going to sell or trade in. Kelly Blue Book is a good place to start. Many other Internet sites and buying guides are available to assist you in your research. Make sure the information you are looking at is current, as prices can vary greatly from year to year. Don’t forget that other factors, such as mileage, accident history, maintenance records, and general appearance, will factor into the amount a buyer is willing to pay. The sentimental value you place on your car may be just that. “Your baby” may not be as charming to others as you think.

Decide How Soon You Must Sell
Determining your car’s value will help you decide if it is worth the time and effort to sell it yourself. Do you need the money as a down payment before you can buy your new car? Selling on your own may take more time than you think. Making appointments with prospective buyers as well as keeping your car clean and attractive may not be worth the additional dollars you’ll gain from the sale. It can be tempting to trade in your old car for an immediate down payment on your new ride.

Determine What is Most Important to You—Cash or Convenience
Dealers use your trade-in to make money. You’ve already determined the fair market price for your vehicle, but the dealer is going to pay you less. You must decide what price you are willing to pay for convenience. For example, if you believe you can get $5,000 selling the car yourself, and a dealer will give you $3,000, is it worth the $2,000 difference for the immediate gratification of having the cash in hand? For some people, the answer is yes. The hassle of advertising, taking to strangers (and the potential danger of strangers coming to their house to look at the car), and the days or weeks of waiting for the car to sell is enough to convince most people to let the dealer make the profit. But for some, the additional moneymaking potential is worth the additional effort.

Preparing Your Car for Sale or Trade-In
Whether you trade or sell your car, there are few things you can do to increase the perceived value. Make sure the car is very clean and any obvious flaws, such as a cracked windshield, have been repaired. Provide a list of all maintenance records, such as major repairs or recall work, so the buyer will know the history of the car. If necessary, deodorize the interior to remove smoke, pet, or food odors.

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Map Out Your Finances - January 14, 2013 by WWFCU

MapFinancesThe details of our financial lives can be tricky, and without a clear road map it’s easy to feel lost. Changes in tax laws and the family structure offer potential complications in how we handle our money, so heed these tips as you make financial plans for the future.

Invest. If you have extra money after paying the bills and funding tax-deferred retirement plans to the max (and perhaps socking away a few dollars for your kids’ college tuition), think about investing what’s left. In the long run, you’re likely to find compounding returns far more rewarding.

Assess your financial relationship. As your financial relationship with your spouse matures, consider combining more of your assets, opening investment accounts for retirement purposes or your kids’ college costs, and diversifying your investment strategies. It doesn’t mean that you have to merge all of them (and remember that 401(k) and IRA plans can’t be) so you’ll still have some financial autonomy.

Save for college. The right strategy to save for your children’s higher education depends on several factors—your tax bracket, the investment flexibility that you require, and the amount you have to save. You may think your kids can apply for financial aid, but know that many colleges are taking education savings into account when calculating a family’s need for grants or loans. Explore 520 savings plans, Education IRAs, or taxable investment accounts.

Protect yourselves. There’s no such thing as total job security, so financial advisers recommend an emergency fund. While you may find it difficult to start a “just in case” fund, plan for one by knowing what your fixed expenses are, guessing how long you may be unemployed, and by starting to make regular deposits into a dedicated “lost job” account.

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Seven Key Points About Auto Financing - January 4, 2013 by WWFCU

AutoFinancingThe automobile is an essential part of American life. Even high school students, the ink barely wet on their drivers’ licenses, often expect to have a car at their disposal. Most of us would have a hard time getting to work, doing our shopping and leading our daily lives without a car.

The problem is the cost. For most people, a vehicle is the most expensive purchase they make except for a house. Therefore, financing a new or used car is a major transaction. However, there are seven simple steps to financing a car that you should keep in mind. Follow these steps when you’re planning to finance:

  1. Shop for your financing first. Don’t wait until you have a car picked out and the salesman is dangling keys in front of your face. You may make an impulsive decision that isn’t your best deal. Check around for financing before looking for a car. Credit unions are often the best deal for car loans, so be sure to contact your credit union for rates. Figure out what you can afford and stick to it. You won’t help yourself if you spend more than you can afford.
  2. Remember that there are three steps to the car buying process. You can win or lose on all three. The process includes a) buying your new car, b) selling your old car, and c) financing your new car. Look at each step separately and make your best deal on each.
  3. Any car you look at is not one-of-a-kind. There will always be another vehicle. Get your best deal from one dealer, and then take that to another dealer to see if there’s an even better deal for you.
  4. All things are negotiable. This includes price, features, financing, terms, trade in, and warranties. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, make counter offers, or even get up and walk out of the dealership.
  5. Although the differences can be small, there is a better time to cut a deal. At the end of the month, the dealership sales department is running up against its monthly quotas and the pressure to meet the goal intensifies. Sometimes, if the salesman or sales department hasn’t met the quota, they’ll be open to a better deal.
  6. Get your best deal in writing then go home and sleep on it. The deal will almost always still be there in the morning and your thoughts will be clearer.
  7. If you’re not having fun buying your new car, go home. This is not a time to succumb to high pressure sales pitches or your own tiredness. Buying a new vehicle should be fun.
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Tax Tips for Recently Married Tax Payers - December 28, 2012 by WWFCU

If you’ve recently updated your status from single to married, you’re not alone; late spring and summertime is a popular period for weddings. Marriage also brings about some changes with your taxes. Here are several tips for newlyweds from the IRS.

  • Notify the Social Security Administration It’s important that your name and Social Security number match on your next tax return, so if you’ve taken on a new name, report the change to the Social Security Administration. File Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. The form is available on SSA’s website, by calling 800-772-1213, or visiting a local SSA office.
  • Notify the IRS if you move IRS Form 8822, Change of Address, is the official way to update the IRS of your address change. Download Form 8822 from IRS.gov or order it by calling 800-TAX-FORM
    (800-829-3676).
  • Notify the U.S. Postal Service To ensure your mail – including mail from the IRS – is forwarded to your new address, you’ll need to notify the U.S. Postal Service. Submit a forwarding request online or visit your local post office.
  • Notify your employer Report your name and/or address change to your employer(s) to make sure you receive your Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, after the end of the year.
  • Check your withholding If you both work, keep in mind that you and your spouse’s combined income may move you into a higher tax bracket. You can use Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, to help determine the correct amount of withholding for your marital status, and it will also help you complete a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. Fill out and print Form W-4 online and give it to your employer(s) so the correct amount will be withheld from your pay.
  • Select the right tax form Choose your individual income tax form wisely because it can help save you money. Newlywed taxpayers may find that they now have enough deductions to itemize on their tax returns rather than taking the standard deduction. Itemized deductions must be claimed on a Form 1040, not a 1040A or 1040EZ.
  • Choose the best filing status A person’s marital status on Dec. 31 determines whether the person is considered married for that year for tax purposes. Tax law generally allows married couples to choose to file their federal income tax return either jointly or separately in any given year. Figuring the tax both ways can determine which filing status will result in the lowest tax, but filing jointly is usually more beneficial.

Bottom line: planning for your wedding may be over, but don’t forget about planning for the tax-related changes that marriage brings. More information about changing your name, address and income tax withholding is available on IRS.gov. IRS forms and publications can be obtained from IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Provided Compliments of culink.com

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Identity Theft: Protect Yourself from Predators! - December 17, 2012 by WWFCU

Defined as when one person masquerades under the identity of another, identity theft has flourished in recent years with the advent of online, faceless Internet lending and credit transactions.

Although it is almost impossible for consumers to completely guard themselves against identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other consumer agencies suggest the following best practices that may help reduce the risk of loss.

  • Before you reveal any personal, identifying information, find out how it will be used and whether it will be shared with others.
  • Pay attention to your billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if your bills don’t arrive on time. A missing credit card bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your credit card account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks.
  • Guard your mail from theft. Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after it has been delivered.
  • Put passwords on your credit card, bank, and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information such as your mother’s maiden name, birth date, phone number, and child’s name.
  • Minimize the identification information and number of cards you carry to what you’ll actually need.
  • Do not give out personal information over the phone, through the mail or via the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or know whom you’re dealing with.
  • Keep items of personal information in a safe place. Be sure to tear or shred receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, bank checks, and statements before disposing.
  • Be cautious about where you leave personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having service work done in your home.
  • Find out who has access to your personal information at work and verify that the records are kept in a secure location.
  • Give out your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible.
  • Don’t carry your Social Security card; leave it in secure place.
  • Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies every year. Make sure it is accurate and includes only those activities you’ve authorized.
  • Only do business with Internet companies that use a secure form to capture private information (such as an account number or credit card number). For example, you can tell if the form is secure if the lock or key symbol on your browser status bar is solid instead of broken or open and https appears in the URL line.
  • Avoid the temptation of purchasing a product from a merchant or through an auction site where the deal looks too good.

If you feel you have been a victim of identity theft, contact the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline toll-free at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338); by mail: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580; or online.

Provided Compliments of culink.com

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How to Budget? - December 10, 2012 by WWFCU

You can make your own budget worksheet using either a pen and paper or a computer spreadsheet program. Think of your budget in terms of two things: money and time. Money, of course, is divided into its own two categories: Income and Expenses.

Follow these steps to make your budget worksheet:

  1. List your income in a vertical column down the left side of the page. Think of all the sources of income (including paychecks and interest) that you receive. Also, consider how often this income becomes available to you. For example, are you paid weekly or every other week?
  2. List your expenses below your income in that same column. Begin with major expenses such as a car payment, car insurance, food (including school lunches), clothing, and entertainment. Include all expenses, whether you pay in the form of a check, cash, credit card, or the amount is deducted from your credit union account. Remember to include any finance charges, such as interest on your auto loan.
  3. Now, list the related timeframes in a row across the top of the page. For instance, does the expense or income occur weekly, per paycheck, monthly, quarterly, or yearly? Is the expense tax-deductible? If so, add a heading for this in your horizontal row. When you are finished you should have the beginning of a grid or chart. Use this as a worksheet to help you categorize and plan. When you first start using your budget worksheet, you might find that you change it often. That’s good! Your worksheet should be a working document.
  4. Now that you have a “skeleton” worksheet, add anticipated expenses. Are you planning to go to college or participate in a wedding (as either a bridesmaid or a groomsman)? All of these require that you spend a lot of money. (Hint: Anticipate that you will have to spend more than you’d prefer, and budget accordingly. It’s better to be prepared than shocked.) You can also consider anticipated sources of income, such as the yearly birthday check from your Aunt Mildred. Be careful, though; don’t spend the money before you have it.
  5. Don’t forget the “small stuff”! Do you buy soda pop or special coffee, eat lunch out, or buy snacks from the vending machine? If so, keep track of how often you do—and how much you spend. All of these purchases add up throughout the week, the month, and the year. So budget for these, or do without!

Remember: Use your budget as a tool to help you achieve your goals. Once you set up your categories and make it a point to record the appropriate dollar amounts, you’ll see how easy it is to continue recording your income and expenses.

The most difficult part is getting started. But once you have your plan in place, you’ll recognize the power of the information that you have at your fingertips!

Provided Compliments of culink.com

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Take the Rebate! - December 3, 2012 by WWFCU

Manufacturers often market vehicles by offering a rebate or exceptionally low financing. Should you take the rebate or the special financing? The dealer does not give you both.

For example, you have decided to purchase a vehicle for $20,000. The dealer is going to give you a rebate of $3,000 or a finance rate of 0%. Which deal is in your best interest?

Here is a comparison of the loan payments with the dealer’s reduced financing and a credit union’s standard financing.

0% APR financing for 36 months on a $20,000 loan

Result:

Monthly Payment = $555.56

Total of Payments = $20,000.00

5.5% APR Credit Union Financing* for 36 months on a $17,000 loan

($20,000 minus the $3,000 rebate)

Result:

Monthly Payment = $513.33

Total of Payments = $18,479.88

$1520.12 is saved over the term of the loan with credit union financing. In addition, if you were to sell the car during the time you were paying on the loan, more money would come back to you because you had a lower loan balance.

Here are a few other things to consider:

  • Many consumers will not qualify for the low rate financing. You generally must have near-perfect credit to get the best rates.
  • In many cases, special financing is available only on specific models
  • Most often, offers of special financing are for a limited term, generally up to 36 months. This can make the payment considerably higher than most of us would like.
  • Large down payments may be required.

*The rates quoted are for comparison purposes only, and are not a guarantee of the rates offered by any particular Credit Union. Contact your WWFCU for the current rates on new and used car loans.

Provided Compliments of culink.com

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