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Saving Money on Car Insurance - March 4, 2013 by WWFCU

rubber stamp with inscription INSURANCEHere are a few ways to save money on car insurance:

Shop around.

Prices vary from company to company, so it pays to shop around. Get at least three price quotes. You can call companies directly or access information on the Internet. Your state insurance department may also provide comparisons of prices charged by major insurers.

You buy insurance to protect you financially and provide peace of mind. It’s important to pick a company that is financially stable. Check the financial health of insurance companies with rating companies such as A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s and consult consumer magazines.

Get quotes from different types of insurance companies. Some sell through their own agents. These agencies have the same name as the insurance company. Some sell through independent agents who offer policies from several insurance companies. Others do not use agents. They sell directly to consumers over the phone or via the Internet.

But don’t shop by price alone. You want a company that answers your questions and handles claims fairly and efficiently. Ask friends and relatives for their recommendations. Contact your state insurance department to find out whether they make available consumer complaint ratios by company.

Select an agent or company representative that takes the time to answer your questions. Remember, you’ll be dealing with this company if you have an accident or other emergency.

Before you buy a car, compare insurance costs.

Before you buy a new or used car, check into insurance costs. Your premium is based in part on the car’s sticker price, the cost to repair it, its overall safety record, and the likelihood of theft. Many insurers offer discounts for features that reduce the risk of injuries or theft. These include air bags, anti-lock brakes, daytime running lights, and anti-theft devices. Some states require insurers to give discounts for cars equipped with air bags or anti-lock brakes.

Cars that are favorite targets for thieves cost more to insure. Information that can help you decide what car to buy is available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Ask for higher deductibles.

Deductibles represent the amount of money you pay before your insurance policy kicks in. By requesting higher deductibles, you can lower your costs substantially. For example, increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 could reduce your collision and comprehensive coverage cost by 15% to 30%. Going to a $1,000 deductible can save you 40% or more.

Reduce coverage on older cars.

Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverages on older cars. It may not be cost effective to continue insuring cars worth less than 10 times the amount you would pay for coverage. Any claim payment you receive would not substantially exceed your premiums minus the deductible. Claims occur on average only once every 11 or 12 years. Auto dealers and banks can tell you the worth of cars. Or you can look it up online at Kelley Blue Book. Review your coverage at renewal time to make sure your insurance needs haven’t changed.

Buy your homeowner’s and auto coverage from the same insurer.

Many insurers will give you a discount if you buy two or more types of insurance from them. Also you may get a reduction if you have more than one vehicle insured with the same company. Some insurers reduce premiums for long-time customers. Shop around; you may save money buying from different insurance companies despite the multi-policy discount.

Take advantage of low-mileage discounts.

Some companies offer discounts to motorists who drive a lower than average number of miles per year. Low mileage discounts can also apply to drivers who carpool to work.

Ask about group insurance.

Some companies offer reductions to drivers who get insurance through a group plan from their employers, through professional, business and alumni groups or other associations. Ask your employer and groups or clubs though which you belong.

Seek out safe driver discounts.

Companies offer discounts to policyholders who have not had any accidents or moving violations for a number of years. You may also qualify for a cut if you have recently taken a defensive driving course.

Inquire about other discounts.

You may get a break on your insurance if you are over 50 or in some cases 55 and retired or if there is a young driver on the policy who is a good student, has taken a drivers education course or is at a college, generally at least 100 miles away.

When you comparison shop, inquire about discounts* for:

  • $500 deductible
  • $1,000 deductible
  • More than 1 car
  • No accidents in 3 years
  • No moving violations in 3 years
  • Drivers over 50-55 years of age
  • Driver training course
  • Defensive driving course
  • Anti-theft device
  • Low annual mileage
  • Air bag
  • Anti-lock brakes
  • Daytime running lights
  • Student drivers with good grades
  • Auto and homeowners coverage with the same company
  • College students away from home
  • Long-time customer
  • Other discounts

*The discounts listed may not be available in all states or from all insurance companies.

Don’t forget that the key to savings is not the discounts but the final price. A company that offers few discounts may still have a lower overall price.

Source: Insurance Information Institute

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Top 10 Ways to Prepare for Retirement - February 25, 2013 by WWFCU

Retirement1. Start saving, keep saving, and stick to your goals

If you are already saving, whether for retirement or another goal, keep going! You know that saving is a rewarding habit. If you’re not saving, it’s time to get started. Start small if you have to and try to increase the amount you save each month. The sooner you start saving, the more time your money has to grow Make saving for retirement a priority. Devise a plan, stick to it, and set goals. Remember, it’s never too early or too late to start saving.

2. Know your retirement needs

Retirement is expensive. Experts estimate that you will need about 70 percent of your preretirement income—lower earners, 90 percent or more—to maintain your standard of living when you stop working. Take charge of your financial future. The key to a secure retirement is to plan ahead.

3. Contribute to your employer’s retirement savings plan

If your employer offers a retirement savings plan, such as a 401(k) plan, sign up and contribute all you can. Your taxes will be lower, your company may kick in more, and automatic deductions make it easy. Over time, compound interest and tax deferrals make a big difference in the amount you will accumulate. Find out about your plan. For example, how much would you need to contribute to get the full employer contribution and how long would you need to stay in the plan to get that money.

4. Learn about your employer’s pension plan

If your employer has a traditional pension plan, check to see if you are covered by the plan and understand how it works. Ask for an individual benefit statement to see what your benefit is worth. Before you change jobs, find out what will happen to your pension benefit. Learn what benefits you may have from a previous employer. Find out if you will be entitled to benefits from your spouse’s plan.

5. Consider basic investment principles

How you save can be as important as how much you save. Inflation and the type of investments you make play important roles in how much you’ll have saved at retirement. Know how your savings or pension plan is invested. Learn about your plan’s investment options and ask questions. Put your savings in different types of investments. By diversifying this way, you are more likely to reduce risk and improve return. Your investment mix may change over time depending on a number of factors such as your age, goals, and financial circumstances. Financial security and knowledge go hand in hand.

6. Don’t touch your retirement savings

If you withdraw your retirement savings now, you’ll lose principal and interest and you may lose tax benefits or have to pay withdrawal penalties. If you change jobs, leave your savings invested in your current retirement plan, or roll them over to an IRA or your new employer’s plan.

7. Ask your employer to start a plan

If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan, suggest that it start one. Many retirement saving plan options are available. Your employer may be able to set up a simplified plan that can help both you and your employer.

8. Put money into an Individual Retirement Account

You can put up to $5,000 a year into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA); you can contribute even more if you are 50 or older. You can also start with much less. IRAs also provide tax advantages.

When you open an IRA, you have two options—a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. The tax treatment of your contributions and withdrawals will depend on which option you select. Also, the after-tax value of your withdrawal will depend on inflation and the type of IRA you choose. IRAs can provide an easy way to save. You can set it up so that an amount is automatically deducted from your checking or savings account and deposited in the IRA.

9. Find out about your Social Security benefits

Social Security pays benefits that are on average equal to about 40 percent of what you earned before retirement. You may be able to estimate your benefit by using the retirement estimator on the Social Security Administration’s website. For more information, visit their website or call 1-800-772-1213.

10. Ask questions

While these tips are meant to point you in the right direction, you’ll need more information. Talk to your employer, your bank, your union, or a financial adviser. Ask questions and make sure you understand the answers. Get practical advice and act now.

Source: United States Department of Labor

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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

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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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