February 2008 Newsletter

February 13: Income Tax Basics & Planning
Discover your marginal tax bracket and how to use it in planning
How to choose a tax preparer or do it yourself (see advice below)
Why you should avoid “instant refunds” in the form of tax refund anticipation loans
Tax prep software
How doing your own taxes can help with your financial planning and investments
Please forward this message to a friend and bring her to FPW and receive your choice of a Nolo Press book as a reward. (See list of books at end of newsletter).
Financial Planning for Women (FPW) is a monthly educational seminar that meets the second Wednesday (except December) at two times: 12:30-1:30 p.m. in Family Life room 118 or 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. For further information: (435) 797-1569; jean.lown@usu.edu; http://www.usu.edu/fpw/
Bring a female friend or colleague with you who is attending FPW for the first time and you will receive a thank you gift. Please speak up at the meeting and let us know.
Reminder: PowerPoint presentations for the past few years are available on the FPW website.
Please note the 12:30 session has been moved to Family Life room 118 (basement of same building) for Spring semester only. Signs will direct you to the room.
Due to the heavy snow the evening session was cancelled in January. The entire Small Steps to Health and Wealth workbook, 25 behavior change strategies and lot of other resources are available on the web: http://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/
March 5: (first Wed.) Investment Planning
April 9: What every woman needs to know about Social Security
May 7: Best Mutual Funds for Retirement (note change to first Wednesday)
If you decide to hire a tax preparer
The Right Way to Hire Financial Help by Charles A. Jaffe
(this book is available in USU and Logan libraries)
By law anyone can be a tax preparer. This is why it is very important that everyone follows these guidelines when hiring their tax preparer/planner. Jaffe gives several questions that can be helpful to ask during your search.
  1. Can I do this myself? - This “depends on how aggressive you want to be in taking deductions and pursuing opportunities.”
  2. What kind of tax preparer do I want? - This can be anywhere from free and simple to costly and complex. It really depends on each individual situation what would work the best. The more complex the situation, the higher up the scale you should go.
  3. What can I expect to pay? How do tax preparers charge for their services?
There is no average so you need to shop around. Typically they either charge by the form or by the hour. They can also charge a flat rate per return, which would be motivation to produce the maximum amounts of returns quickly.
  1. Where do I start my search? - Word-of-mouth is a great resource but look outside of just your circle of friends. Contact the Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation at 1-703-549-ACAT or the National Association of Enrolled Agents at 1-800-424-4339.
  2. How do I check them out? – You can use the same agencies that gave referrals to check out specific people. If they work for a firm, check out the individual and the company through BBB or state Attorney General.
  3. What should I ask for during an interview? (for the complete list see the book)
  4. How long have you been preparing tax returns?
  5. Looking at my return from last year, how do I compare to your average client? Am I more or less complex, or about the same?
  6. What continuing education classes have you taken? What credentials, if any, do you have?
  7. How many clients do you work with?
  8. Are you open for business all year?
  9. How do you charge for your services? What do I get for my money?
  10. What other costs might I incur?
  11. How can I reduce my costs?
  12. Will anyone else be working on my return?
  13. What is your approach to deductions?
  14. Will you guarantee me a tax refund? (You want this answer to be no.)
  15. What percentage of your returns has been audited?
  16. Who will represent me in an audit?
  17. Who pays the penalties and interest on the amount I owe if I am audited?
  18. Could I get the names of a few recent clients who you have worked with?
  19. How will we resolve complaints if I am dissatisfied?

Expecting a big tax refund? This is NOT a good financial strategy! Adjust your income tax withholding by filing a new W-4 with your employer.
W-4 withholding calculator
“The purpose of this application is to help employees to ensure that they do not have too much or too little income tax withheld from their pay. It is not a replacement for Form W-4, but most people will find it more accurate and easier to use than the worksheets that accompany Form W-4. You may use the results of this program to help you complete a new Form W-4, which you will submit to your employer.”
“Subscribe to Tax Tips to get tips about taxes via e-mail from the IRS each business day during the tax-filing season and periodically through the rest of the year.
Tax Tips are brief, to the point and cover a wide-range of topics, including:
* Common errors to avoid when you prepare your tax return
* Where you can get free tax help
* Guidance on available tax deductions and credits
* How e-file can make filing easier, get you your refund faster and protect your payments
* How to file for an extension or amend your return
We’ll issue more than 70 Tax Tips through the April filing deadline and dozens more throughout the rest of the year.
To subscribe to IRS Tax Tips: http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=154820,00.html
America Saves-Utah Saves- Aggie Saves Week, February 24- March 2, 2008.
Join Utah Saves! Reduce debt and increase saving & investing at www.Utahsaves.org
Aggie Saves Event at the USU Taggert Student Center
Monday, February 25, 11:30-1:30
Local financial institutions will offer special deals on new savings accounts.
America Saves is a national social marketing campaign that encourages individuals, particularly low and moderate income persons, to save money, reduce debt and build wealth.
America Saves has over 500 financial institutions both banks and credit unions providing no or low fee, low opening balance savings accounts that allow small savers to achieve success.
More than 1,000 non profit organizations, companies, government agencies, educational institutions, religious institutions, and unions are involved.
America Saves Week, February 24 – March 2, 2008, is a new and expanded effort aimed at reaching more institutions and individuals to increase awareness on the need to save money, reduce debt and build wealth with a primary focus on Financial Action – commitments to save, invest and build wealth.
Earn 4.05% interest in an online savings account; FDIC insured; no minimum deposit! (Rates change with interest rates in the overall economy)
Fight ID theft. Time to order your free credit report from one of the three major credit bureaus.
Then order from the other two bureaus in May and September.
How does your energy use compare to similar homes? Find out at www.energystar.gov under the Home Energy Yardstick section.
Plasma TVs are huge energy guzzlers! Look for the energy star rating. Unplug appliances when not in use; many draw electricity even when turned off.
Save money & reduce pollution and energy use: compact fluorescent bulbs use 75% less energy than incandescents (which means less pollution from coal-fired power plants). Buy one package of bulbs each month to spread the cost. Consider a programable thermostat (potential savings = $150/year)
News & Resources to enhance life-long learning:
Find answers to your personal finance questions at E-extension website FAQs
CFP Board's "It's Your Turn" eNewsletter is sent monthly to those who subscribe through CFP Board's Web site, www.CFP.net/learn.
Read the current newsletter and subscribe at: http://www.cfp.net/enewsletter/
Opt Out of Credit Card Offers
Visit https://www.optoutprescreen.com/ or call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688). You'll need to provide your Social Security number and date of birth in order to be offer-free.
Idaho's Two Cent Tips email newsletter. Send an email to erickson@uidaho.edu to subscribe.
Read The Wall Street Journal Sunday in the Sunday Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret Morning News Business Section or read it online: http://online.wsj.com/public/page/sundayjournal.html
Personal Finance Top Tips via e-mail
Often the best way to learn and take action is to receive information and advice in small amounts. Sign up for email advice from Money magazine columnists: http://money.cnn.com/services/newsletters/
Smart Money education series for teenagers 14-18 years and their parents.
Wed. January 16, 6:30- 8 p.m. @ USU Charter Credit Union, 198 N. Main, Logan. In downstairs conference room (enter at rear of building). Workshops are free. To register: 753-4080, ext 3400 or moneyteacher@usuccu.org
February 9 Home Ownership Workshop 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Call 435-797-7224 to register.
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.
Books from which to choose if you bring a new participant to FPW:
Your little legal companion: Helpful advice for life’s big events
Nolo’s essential guide to divorce
Divorce and money: How to make the best financial decisions during divorce
Get it together: Organize your records so your family won’t have to
Quick and legal will book
Nolo’s simple will book (with CD)
Estate Planning Basics
The Busy family’s guide to estate planning: 10 steps to peace of mind (with CD)
Long term care: How to plan and pay for it
Social security, medicare, and government pensions
Work less, live more: The way to semi-retirement
Work less, live more workbook: Get set for semi-retirement (with CD)
For more info on these books go to www.nolo.com
Thanks to the Certified Financial Planner Board Grant for financial support of FPW.