Tag Archives: finance

Six Ways to Optimize Your Tax Refund

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the average taxpayer received a $3,000 refund in 2017. This chunk of change—depending on how you allocate it—could make a big impact on your bottom line. Before you’re tempted to spend it on impulse buys, consider these options for maximizing your tax refund.

Boost your emergency fund. Financial experts say you should have three to six months’ worth of living expenses saved in an emergency fund to protect yourself in case of a job loss or another unexpected financial hardship. Stashing your tax refund into an emergency fund could get you well on your way to reaching that dollar goal.

Pay off high-interest debt. Doing this results in an instant return on your investment because you’re saving yourself from paying interest to the lender. If you have several debts to tackle, aim for the one with the highest interest rate first. If you can’t pay off the entire balance, look into transferring the remaining debt onto something with a lower interest rate, like a credit card or personal loan.

Prepay your mortgage. Putting extra money toward your mortgage payment is a great way to save money over time. Use your tax refund to make one additional, full mortgage payment. If you do this every year, you could shave off thousands in interest, shorten your repayment years, and build equity faster.

Fund an investment account. If you’re new to investing, a great place to start is at your local financial institution. Many offer competitive, low-risk investment options like money market or share certificate accounts. You could also consider putting your tax refund toward a Roth or traditional IRA, which can be great ways to save for retirement.

Save for the future. The IRS allows you to split up your refund into several accounts. Consider putting some, or all, into a special savings account to help fund a future purchase, like a vacation or next year’s holiday gifts. This is also a great opportunity to jump-start a college savings fund for your child.

Make home improvements. While your refund won’t cover an entire kitchen or bathroom remodel, you could make minor improvements such as painting cabinets, updating hardware, or installing a new backsplash. Look into replacing old appliances for more energy-efficient models or installing new windows to save on heating and cooling bills.

 

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

 

 

 

Warm Up to Responsible Spending

With warm, sunny days upon us, it’s time to plan for more than just your tan: summer spending. Vacations, airline tickets, dining out, and entertainment—it adds up. If you haven’t budgeted for these expenses in advance, a quick swipe of your credit card takes care of it. But if responsible credit card use isn’t your strength (or you just need a refresher), these tips could help curb the temptation to overspend this summer.

Be selective. There are several factors to look at when picking a credit card. First, you’ll want to see what your limit is. If you don’t think you can handle the freedom of a credit card, start with one that has a lower limit, like $1,000. Additionally, look at the credit card’s annual percentage rate or APR. That interest will add up if you’re not planning on paying off the total each month, so shop around for a low APR. Finally, look out for cards that charge annual fees just for keeping them open.

Monitor your balance. You should keep credit card payments to 10 percent of your monthly take-home income. For example, if your monthly income is $2,000, your monthly credit card payment should not be more than $200. This doesn’t mean your balance should not exceed $200, but make sure your minimum payment is no more than that. Keep in mind, however, that paying off the entire balance each month is in your best interest financially.

Know the benefits. By making purchases with your credit card and paying the balance off each month, you’re proving to lenders that you’re a responsible, creditworthy consumer. It boosts your credit score and will help you in the future if you ever want to get a loan—or another credit card.

Stick to a budget. It’s important to set parameters for yourself when using a credit card. One simple way to do this is to use the credit card for one specific purpose, like gas or groceries, so it’s easier to keep your spending in check. Another way is to get a card with a low limit. This forces you to keep your spending under a certain amount.

Smart credit card use doesn’t have to be a mystery or limit your fun this summer. Follow these simple tips and your poolside lounge session (while possibly chasing the kids) will be that much more relaxing.

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

The Art of Avoiding the Scam

As technology evolves to secure our identities, so has scammers’ creativity and resourcefulness to steal it. While we may think we’re savvy enough to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft and fraud, the reality is that we’re all susceptible to the threat. Secure yourself with these helpful tips.

Don’t give out personal information unless you’ve initiated contact. Scammers will contact you by phone, mail, and even email requesting personal information. Never give out that information unless you’ve initiated contact or know exactly whom you’re dealing with.

Avoid logging on to personal accounts on public computers. This can make your information accessible to the next person who uses it. Additionally, accessing your checking account via public Wi-Fi puts your information at risk. Only use your personal computer on a private, trusted Wi-Fi signal to access any information that people could use to do you harm.

Create strong passwords. Make it something challenging for others to guess by interchanging E with 3, switching between upper and lowercase, and adding special characters. For example, if you wanted to make your password “animal”, a better alternative might be @N!mA1. That’s much harder to guess and still easy to remember.

Check your credit report annually to look for any discrepancies. The three major credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—are required by law to provide you with a free credit report every 12 months. To request a free copy, visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call toll-free 1-877-322-8228. Be cautious of websites that advertise a “free” credit report. They often require you to sign up for a monthly subscription fee in order to receive your report.

Secure your debit and credit cards. You can sign up for digital wallets, which help add a layer of security to your debit and credit cards by encrypting the card information. You can also sign up for purchase alerts where you’re notified via phone and/or email if a certain parameter, such as a dollar amount on a transaction, is hit. It’s also a good idea to let your financial institution know if you’ll be traveling to prevent your card from becoming locked due to unfamiliar transactions.

Being proactive and staying on top of your credit and finances goes a long way toward protecting yourself from scammers; however, if you find you’re already a victim, visit https://www.ready.gov/cyber-attack to learn what your next steps should be.

 

Article provided by Member One