February 2007 Newsletter

February 14: Money Habitudes: Understanding Your Relationship to Money workshop for singles and couples. The program is activity-based. Bring your spouse or partner, a friend, a colleague, or come on your own. Each individual will explore their money attitudes and habits (habitudes) using a set of specially designed cards; couples will be encouraged to explore and discuss their similarities and differences. "If you don't realize that you are automatically reacting to a situation based on long established money habitudes, you may be sabotaging your chances of reaching your goals - and it becomes more complex when two or more people are involved." Syble Solomon, developer of Money Habitudes.
Refreshments provided.
Financial Planning for Women (FPW) is a monthly educational seminar that meets the second Wednesday of each month at two times: 12:30-1:30 p.m. in Family Life room 318 on the USU campus. Bring your lunch. The same program is repeated in the evening: 7-8:30 p.m. at the Family Life Center, 493 North 700 East, Logan (at bottom of Old Main Hill). The longer evening time slot allows for more discussion. Programs are free and registration is not required. Bring a friend! For further information: (435) 797-1569 ; jean.lown@cc.usu.edu
February is College of Science month.
Each month FPW provides incentives for women affiliated with each of USU's seven colleges to attend FPW. Affiliation means you work for the college, graduated from, are a student in the college, or are spouse/partner of an affiliate. Everyone affiliated with the College of the Month will receive a "Paycheck Power Booster Calculator" and be entered into a drawing for a personal finance book ( Get a life: You don't need a million to retire well or Work less, live more: The new way to retire early or subscription to Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine).
Couples with Great Marriages Needed for Utah State University and University of Nebraska Research Project
Couples who believe they have a great marriage are being invited to volunteer to tell us about how their marriages became great. We want to know how couples, nation-wide have created strong, satisfying, happy and high quality marriages. The research conducted by Dr. John DeFrain of the University of Nebraska and Dr. Linda Skogrand of Utah State University will be used for Cooperative Extension program development and educational efforts to improve the quality of marriages locally and nationally. Volunteer couples are encouraged to contact Dr. Linda Skogrand, by phone at (435) 797-8183 , via e-mail at Lindas@ext.usu.edu or by mail at the following address to receive a questionnaire:
Dr. Linda Skogrand
Utah State University
2705 Old Main
Logan, Utah 84322
Volunteers will be sent a questionnaire to complete together and return, postage-paid. Couples will be able to view the questionnaire before they decide to participate anonymously in the study or not.
If you missed the January program on Small Steps to Health and Wealth , check out the website
which contains all the materials and worksheets: http://www.rcre.rutgers.edu/sshw/
Also go to the FPW web page http://www.usu.edu/fpw/ and click on FPW PowerPoints for a detailed overview of the strategies.
Take Action: February (not April) is income tax month! (Most of the following is direct from the IRS.)
Website of the month: www.irs.gov
CHECK OUT FREE FILE
If you have access to a computer and the Internet you may be eligible to prepare and file your 2006 federal tax return electronically-for free. Free File is an easy way to file your taxes and get your refund in half the time. Taxpayers access Free File through the IRS Web site at IRS.gov. Each company sets its own criteria for free usage. It is generally available if adjusted gross income for 2006 is $52,000 or less. fast, accurate and secure. The benefits of using Free File are identical to those of e-filing, which include:
Reduced tax return preparation time
Faster refunds
Accuracy of return
Acknowledgment of return receipt
For more information on Free File, check out the IRS Web site at IRS.gov.
A "REFUND ANTICIPATION LOAN" or RAL, is a loan against your expected tax refund. It is a very short-term loan, arranged by your tax preparer through a bank. The loan is repaid when the IRS sends your full refund to the bank. These loans are EXPENSIVE! According to a report in 2005 by the Consumer Federation of America and the National Consumer Law Center, the loans cost about $29 to $120, depending on the size of the refund. That means the interest rate on "RAL" loans could range from about 40% to over 700% APR (Annual Percentage Rate of interest). An average refund is about $2,150, with a typical finance charge of $100 for a refund anticipation loan - a 178% APR. Additional fees for tax preparation, electronic filing, or check-cashing can double or triple that cost. If you are not careful, you will be spending a good portion of your tax refund before you even get it! And what exactly does a RAL get me? A typical RAL loan gets your refund to you in about 1-4 days compared to 7-10 days with electronic filing and direct deposit to your bank.
LONG-DISTANCE TELEPHONE EXCISE TAX REFUND
You may be eligible for a one-time tax refund! This one-time refund of previously collected federal telephone excise taxes may be requested on your 2006 federal income tax return. Anyone who paid long-distance excise taxes on landline, cell phone, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), or bundled service that was billed for the period after Feb 28, 2003 and before Aug 1, 2006 is eligible for this refund.
You can request a refund of the actual federal excise tax you paid based upon your telephone bills for this period. Or you can request the standard refund amount ranging from $30-$60 based upon the number of exemptions you claim on your individual income tax return.
By choosing the standard amount you will only need to fill out one line on your tax return. The standard amount is based on actual telephone usage data and reflects the long-distance phone tax paid by similarly sized families or households.
If you are not normally required to file a tax return, there is a new form (Form 1040EZ-T) that you can use to request this refund. Form 1040EZ-T can be mailed to the IRS or it can be prepared and filed electronically at no cost by using Free File at IRS.gov
INCOME TAX DEDUCTION FOR EDUCATORS EXTENDED
Millions of teachers and other professionals in elementary and secondary schools are eligible to deduct as much as $250 of their out-of-pocket classroom expenses for 2006. To claim it for 2006, put in on Form 1040's line 23--even though that line reads: "Archer MSA Deduction," which involves medical savings accounts. Enter "E" on the dotted line to the left of that line entry if you're claiming the educator expense only. Put "B" if you're claiming both this deduction and the Archer MSA deduction. If you enter "B," attach a breakdown showing the amounts claimed for each deduction.
SPLIT YOUR REFUND! For the first time the IRS will direct deposit refunds to 3 separate accounts. Americans are being encouraged to "split" their refund to encourage savings. If you want some of your refund deposited in your checking account to cover bills, direct some to a saving or investment account, too.
Quote of the month: Credit cards don't sneak out at night and go shopping all by themselves. ("Don't lose it: Seven tips." Newsweek, 8-27-01, p. 38
Read this if you use a debit card:
"Banks swipe fees as consumers swipe debit cards"
http://www.responsiblelending.org/pdfs/OD-press-release-FINAL.pdf
Banks across the nation are taking advantage of the upward trend in debit card use to make high-cost overdraft loans more common and still costlier, according to a study released by the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) today.
"What banks are calling 'bounce protection' is starting to look more like a 'protection racket,'" said Eric Halperin, director of CRL's Washington office and a co-author of the report. "Banks are raking in fees from unwitting customers who would not overdraft if given a choice."
The report, "Debit Card Danger," analyzed the checking accounts of more than 5,000 customers of the nation's 15 largest banks and found that debit card purchases and ATM withdrawals trigger 46 percent of high-cost overdraft loans. Written checks, on the other hand, are responsible for just over one quarter.
Making an in-store debit card purchase is by far the most expensive way to overdraft, costing $2.17 for every dollar borrowed. By comparison, check-triggered overdraft loans cost $0.86 per dollar borrowed. These findings refute the contention commonly made by banks and credit unions, many of which also have fee-based overdraft programs, that they are protecting consumers by sparing them the expense of bounced checks.
Banks could prevent debit card overdrafts at checkouts and ATMs by denying the transaction or warning the customer, though doing so would eliminate the opportunity to charge an average $34 fee."
Read The Wall Street Journal Sunday in the Sunday Salt Lake Tribune Business Section or read it online: http://online.wsj.com/public/page/sundayjournal.html
Local Events and Seminars
An inexpensive date for a good cause: Planned Parenthood Chocolate Festival is Saturday, Feb. 10, 6:30 at the Bullen Center. $6.
Housing and Financial Counseling ( USU Family Life Center ) workshops:
Saturday Feb. 10 Homeownership workshop 8:30-4:30 (registration required)
Call 797-7430 to register.
The Good Life Workshop
Wednesday, February 28, 2007 Organizing Financial Paperwork
Speaker: Joe Marshall, Hearthside Software
Speaker: Adrie Roberts, USU Extension Agent
For info: Adrie J. Roberts, Utah State University Extension (435) 752-6263
Smart Money education series for teenagers 14-18 years
Wed. Feb. 21, 6:30-8:30 pm
USU Charter Credit Union, 198 N. Main , downstairs conference room (enter at rear of building). Workshops are free. To register: 753-4080, ext 3400 or moneyteacher@usuccu.org
The USU Family Life Center , 797-7224, 493 N 700 East (bottom of Old Main Hill), provides individual financial counseling. This is the best source for basic money management and getting out of debt. They offer the PowerPay computer debt analysis. Counseling sessions cost $5 for first session with sliding scale charges based on family income and family size for subsequent counseling sessions.
Thanks to the Certified Financial Planner Board Grant for financial support of FPW.