February 27, 2012

Retirement Planning Seminars

USU Charter Union is partnering with Utah State University Extension to provide a free financial education series on retirement preparation. There will be 6 separate courses presented by local experts. The courses will be held at the Hampton Inn (1665 North Main Street, Logan) at 7:00 pm, starting March 1, 2012. You can attend these courses live either in person or by webinar.
Topics will include:
• Developing a Retirement Income Plan
• Determining the Best Investments for Your Plan
• Protecting Your Wealth from Liability Risks
• Considering Your Home as a Resource
• Estate Planning for Retirement Plans
• Preparing for the Non-Financial Challenges of Retirement
RSVP is recommended. Seating is limited, so sign up today! Sign up online: http://usuccu.org/announcements

February 23, 2012

Retirement Savers Tax Credit

Start investing for retirement and get an extra tax credit, too!
If you make contributions to an employer-sponsored retirement plan or to an IRA, you may be eligible for a tax credit.
1. The Savers Credit applies to individuals with a filing status and 2011 income of:
• Single, married filing separately, or qualifying widow(er), with income up to $28,250
• Head of Household with income up to $42,375
• Married Filing Jointly, with incomes up to $56,500
2. You must be at least 18 years, you cannot have been a full-time student during the calendar year and cannot be claimed as a dependent on another person’s return.
3. You may be able to take a credit of up to $1,000 ($2,000 if filing jointly).
4. The Savers Credit is in addition to other tax benefits you may receive for retirement contributions.
5. To claim the credit use Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions.

Understand Your Brokerage Account Statements and Trade Confirmations

“FINRA often reminds investors to review their brokerage account statements and trade confirmations—with good reason. Not only do these documents help you stay on top of your investment holdings, but they also provide valuable information that can alert you to errors, or even misconduct by your broker or brokerage firm such as unauthorized trading or overcharging customers for handling transactions. The accuracy of statements and trade confirmations is something securities regulators take very seriously.” Learn how to read your statements at: http://www.finra.org/Investors/ProtectYourself/InvestorAlerts/TradingSecurities/P125631

February 17, 2012

Start planning early for college costs

"Experts say parents and students should start shopping for colleges when a student is a sophomore in high school, and they should include price as one of the chief factors. Often, parents defer to their children's college choices, regardless of the cost. Families should be savvy about finding financial aid, and students should know going in how much debt they'll have upon graduation. Total debt should be less than a student's expected starting salary, one expert says."
I highly recommend this article for parents of college bound kids: Debt can trump dreams: Experts say to start planning early for college costs
By Amy McConnell Schaarsmith, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 16, 2012
“When deciding between colleges, most families should consider cost, and their own financial realities, to make a sensible choice that will make everyone happier in the long run, according to college finance experts.” I especially like this perspective on student loan debt:
"Before you spend student loan money on anything, double the price and ask yourself if you would still buy it at twice the price, because that's what it's ultimately going to cost you," Mr. Kantrowitz said. "That $10 pizza just became a $20 pizza ... but if you live like a student while in school, you won't have to live like a student after graduation."
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/12047/1209198-298.stm#ixzz1mfj94YbO

February 16, 2012

Smart Goals Worksheet

Get SMART about saving during America Saves Week: Feb. 19-26, 2012 http://americasaves.org/
Use the Smart Goals Worksheet to set realistic saving goals:
Specific – What exactly do you want to achieve?
Measurable – How much money will this goal take?
Adaptable – Is this goal adaptable for changes in your financial situation?
Realistic – Is this a goal that you can realistically achieve?
Time-bound – What is your time frame for achieving this goal?
Link to worksheet: http://www.nifa.usda.gov/nea/family/pdfs/fce_create_smart_goals.pdf

February 7, 2012

Avoid Foreclosure with a Short Sale

The alarming statistics on homeowners struggling to make payments on mortgages they cannot afford and homes they can't sell is depressing but one bit of hope is available. The ABI Bankruptcy Brief reports: “Accelerating efforts to move troubled mortgages off their books, banks are offering as much as $35,000 or more in cash to delinquent homeowners to sell their properties for less than they owe, Bloomberg News reported today. Lenders have previously delayed or blocked short sales, but banks have now decided that the deals are faster and less costly than foreclosures. Banks are nudging potential sellers by pre-approving deals, streamlining the closing process, forgoing their right to pursue unpaid debt and in some cases providing large cash incentives." If you are in this situation or know someone who is, pass along this info.

Wall Street Journal Sunday

A great resource for learning about personal finance and investing as well as keeping up with new developments is The Wall Street Journal Sunday which appears in newspapers across the country, including The Salt Lake Tribune. It's available on line for free at WSJ.com/Sunday. Check it out each week.
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