Khan Academy and Practical Money Skills: Roth IRAs

Confused about Roth IRAs?  Watch this video from Khan Academy and Practical Money Skills for Life!

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America Saves: Make Your Tax Income Work for You

Make Your Tax Refund Work for You!

 

It’s easy for us to think of this year’s tax refund as free money coming to us courtesy of Uncle Sam. However, the truth of the matter is that the check you receive is a return of your own hard earned money. And since you’re going to get your own money back, why not use it to get ahead of your financial goals?

 

In 2014, sixty-nine percent of those polled by American Consumer Credit Counseling indicated that they had used their tax refund to pay down debt and get ahead on monthly expenses, including rent, utilities, and car payments. In 2013, twenty-six percent indicated they would put their refund into savings, while forty-five percent said they would use it to pay down credit card debt. The National Retail Federation saw that forty-six percent of its 2014 survey respondents intended to cushion their emergency savings with their returns, with nearly six in 10 young adults between 18 and 24 putting their refunds into savings.

 

The results of these surveys are indicative of a growing, budget-friendly and money-savvy trend: Americans are opting out of tax-time splurging and are focusing on getting ahead. Here are a few easy ways to get yourself set up for success as tax season approaches:

 

  • Take advantage of a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. VITA programs offer free tax help to those who generally make $53,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English speakers. Qualified individuals can receive basic income tax return preparation assistance from IRS-certified volunteers.
  • Use Form 8888 to split your refund.  Why rack up more debt on your credit card in an emergency when you can set aside savings to cover it interest-free? The IRS provides taxpayers with multiple avenues to receive and save their refunds. Take advantage of direct deposit to your checking account to pay off debts and automatically deposit a portion of your refund to your savings account.
  • Need more inspiration to save? Enter to win with SaveYourRefund. SaveYourRefund has 101 cash prizes, including 100 weekly prizes of $100 and one grand prize of $25,000.
  • Take the America Saves pledge to make a commitment to yourself to save. Get emails to keep yourself motivated and/or sign up for text message reminders to get tips and advice about your savings goals.

 

We know that making smart financial decisions isn’t always easy. So whether you’re just starting to look at ways to get ahead in 2015 or are already planning to put your refund towards your goals, remember that your tax refund doesn’t have to go to one place. When you get your hard earned money back, put a piece of it towards paying down debts AND save some for a rainy day. It really is that easy.

 

 

Tammy Greynolds works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at americasaves.org.

Practical Money Skills: Seven Money Habits to Curb Now

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Seven Money Habits to Curb Now

Whether it is biting our fingernails, losing track of house keys or procrastinating; we all have some bad financial habits that we’d like to break. Often, we simply “accept” our bad habits without thinking about how they may actually be standing in the way of us living our lives as we want to. When it comes to making the most of your money, consider curbing some of these actions that may be taking a toll on your wallet.

  1. Ignoring your bills: Just because you don’t look at them does not mean they don’t exist. Mail has this unfortunate way of piling up very quickly, so take a few minutes every day to sort through your papers to make sure you don’t miss bills or other important paperwork. Setting up automatic payments through your bank can make this process easier.

  2. Maxing out your credit cards: When used correctly, credits cards are an effective and useful tool in helping you to make big purchases and build a good credit history. The key is paying off your balance every month. Be wary of spending up to your credit limit and just paying off the minimum amount each month. That is one way people fall easily into debt.

  3. Not contributing to your 401k plan: It may feel like you have absolutely no money to spare, but investing in your company’s retirement plan is crucial to building a nest egg for the future. Start by talking to the HR person at your company and learning about your benefits. Then, try to contribute as much as your company matches since it is essentially free money towards your personal savings.

 

Read the rest of these great tips at: http://www.practicalmoneyskills.com/personalfinance/tipsandtrends/curb.php

America Saves Week: Seven Ways to Turn Saving Money into a Habit

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7 Ways to Turn Saving Money into a Habit

by Brittany Lyte, Wise Bread

 

The spending and saving habits of your past don’t define your future — your current ones do. And this America Saves Week is a great time to start with a clean slate. Hitting the reset button won’t cure all your financial woes, but when it comes to adopting good saving habits it’s truly half the battle. The other half, of course, is drafting a well-planned road map for success. Luckily, we’ve got a primer to get you started. Read on for our guide to adopting seven money-saving habits that stick.

 

  1. Set a Goal

How much money would you like to save? And for what?

 

When you pinpoint a clear savings goal — be it a new car, a down payment on mortgage, or a backyard swimming pool — it becomes a whole lot easier to conjure up the self-restraint required to achieve it. It needn’t be a big ticket item, either. Simply having a goal to visualize, like a college savings account for your children or a fund for spontaneous weekend escapes, will help keep you focused, motivated, and disciplined.

 

  1. Map Out a Timeline

Once you’ve figured out what you’re saving for and how much money you’ll need, it’s time to figure out how long it will take to reach your goal. If you want to save $4,000 for a trip to France, for example, figure out how much money you’re willing and reasonably able to part with each paycheck and then calculate how many paychecks it will take you to get there. This savings plan is the roadmap that will help steer you to the day when you’ve finally saved enough money to book those airline tickets.

 

  1. Set Benchmarks

The act of consciously putting away a set amount of money on a set schedule will help build the muscle memory you need to turn saving money into a habit. And since this is the key to adopting a new behavior that will serve you long after you’ve reached this particular savings goal, it’s important to stay on track. Break down your timeline into weekly, monthly, and quarterly savings targets and be sure to verify that you’re meeting them every time.

 

When you take a large goal and compartmentalize it into a series of smaller ones, it becomes a whole lot easier to accomplish.

 

  1. Start Small

If you’re struggling to make ends meet and the idea of feeding your family, filling up the gas tank, and paying the bills while also contributing to your savings account seems impossibly daunting, remember that no amount you invest in your savings is insignificant. Even $1 a day makes a difference. The key is identifying the largest amount of money you can commit to stowing away on a regular basis without thwarting your ability to make good on all your other financial obligations. Don’t shortchange yourself, but beware of setting a goal that’s overzealous. The process of meeting your goal should be a challenge, but it shouldn’t be impossible.

 

  1. Reward Yourself

Reward yourself when you reach major savings milestones to help keep up the momentum. For example, after a month of successfully meeting your weekly savings benchmark, treat yourself to a meal at your favorite restaurant or grant yourself the license to splurge (a little!) on your next shopping trip. Remember, your reward needn’t require you to spend any money, and it certainly shouldn’t bump you off track. A relaxing home pedicure, a guilt-free movie marathon, or a sunset stroll through the park does the trick just as well as anything you can buy.

 

  1. Don’t Let Yourself Slip

Likewise, it’s important to implement consequences in the event that you fall short on one of your savings benchmarks. If you come up 20% shy of your quarterly benchmark, hold yourself accountable. Spend a night in that you otherwise would have spent out on the town. Calculate how much money you saved by forgoing an evening of food and entertainment and funnel that amount straight into your savings account. Then break out your savings timetable and devise a new plan to help get yourself back on track.

 

  1. Snuff Out Your Bad Habits

If you’re still struggling to stick to your plan, see if you can identify any wasteful spending habits  so you can nix them. Keeping track of every outgoing dollar over a two-week period can reveal unhealthy spending habits you never knew you had. Online budget planners offer easy tools to score and analyze your every dollar, but old-fashioned pen and paper works just fine.

 

What will you do during America Saves Week to kick off your new savings habit?

 

Brittany Lyte is a columnist for Wise Bread (+WiseBread) — top personal finance blog and winner of PC Magazine’s Top 100 Website Award.

 

 

 

America Saves Week: Five Simple Steps to Save Successfully this America Saves Week

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5 Simple Steps to Save Successfully this America Saves Week

By Tammy Greynolds, America Saves Communications Coordinator

 

America Saves Week (February 23 – 28, 2015) is an annual opportunity for individuals to assess their savings and take financial action. America Saves’ mantra – and the focus for America Saves Week – is simple: Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically. When you know what your current financial picture looks like, you can be more proactive in setting yourself up for future success.

 

Try these five simple steps during America Saves Week to help yourself save successfully:

 

  1. Assess Your Savings.

Like your health, you should assess your savings annually to make sure you’re savings priorities are on the right track. Complete this simple 12 question assessment to find out your current standing and help you plan for the future.

 

  1. Evaluate your Savings Preparedness.

Check off your savings accomplishments on the Saver Checklist to further evaluate where your savings habits need strengthening for your future goals.

 

  1. Take the America Saves Pledge.

Those with a savings plan are two times as likely to save for emergencies and retirement than those without one. Join the nearly 400,000 American Savers who have already committed to save. When you make the pledge, you can choose to receive text message tips and reminders to help you save towards your goals.

 

  1. Share Your Savings Goal.

Take part in the 2015 #imsavingfor Photo Contest. Share a selfie that shows what you’re saving for on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and enter the contest at http://americasavesweek.org/imsavingfor for a chance to win $500. Savings never looked so good.

 

  1. Make Your Savings Social.

Are you on Twitter or Facebook? Join America Saves in encouraging your friends, family, and colleagues to save this week. Better yet, join one of the five – yes, five! – Twitter chats that America Saves will be a part of this week to get real-time savings tips and advice.

 

America Saves Week is coordinated by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council. Started in 2007, the Week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status.

America Saves Week: Take Your Financial Future into Your Own Hands

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This America Saves Week: Take Your Financial Future into Your Own Hands

By Katie Bryan, America Saves Communications Director

America Saves Week, February 23 – 28, 2015, is the perfect time to review your finances, set your savings goals for the year, and set up a system that will allow you to save automatically. That’s why the America Saves Week theme is – Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically.

 

Did you know that only half of Americans report having good savings habits? Even if you are already saving, it’s good to take a look at your greater financial picture and decide whether there’s potential to save more or set a new savings goal. Join thousands of others who are pledging to pay down debt, save money, and take financial action during America Saves Week.

 

Not sure what to save for or what to save for next? Here are the most popular saving goals of those who have pledged to save through America Saves:

 

  • Save for Emergencies – Research has shown that low-income families with at least $500 in an emergency fund are better off financially than moderate-income families with less than this amount. Nearly a quarter of savers who have taken the America Saves pledge have chosen “emergency savings” as their first wealth-building goal. Learn more.

 

  • Save for Retirement – Retirement savings is a top priority for many savers. Saving for retirement now will ensure that you have enough money to maintain a comfortable standard of living when you stop or reduce the amount of hours you work. Learn more.

 

  • Save for Education – Saving for education is the second most popular goal savers select when they pledge to save with America Saves. There are many different things to factor in when saving and paying for college. Learn more.

 

  • Pay Down Debt – Getting out of debt is the #3 goal savers select when they pledge to save. The good news is that there is hope. With planning, discipline, patience, and maybe some outside help, almost anyone can reduce their debts and start to accumulate wealth. Learn more.

 

  • Save for a Home – For decades, home ownership has been the main path to wealth for most Americans. Today, home equity – the market value of a home minus the balance on any home loans – represents more than four-fifths of the typical family’s wealth. Learn more.

 

Not sure how to save for your goals? Here are some saving strategies to help:

 

  • Save Automatically – The easiest and most effective way to save is automatically. This is how millions of Americans save at their bank or credit union, and how millions of employees save through 401(k) and other retirement programs at work. Learn more.

 

  • Save at Tax Time – Do you spend weeks eagerly anticipating your tax refund? When the money finally comes in, is it gone tomorrow? Many people view tax refunds as unplanned bonuses. They see the money as a gift from the government, to use for splurges or treats. But a tax refund provides the opportunity to improve your financial situation.  Learn more.

 

Take the America Saves Pledge, or re-pledge, today to set your savings goal and make a plan to save. When you take the Pledge, you can also choose to receive text message tips and reminders to help you save for your goal. And don’t forget to follow America Saves on Facebook and Twitter.

 

America Saves Week is coordinated by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council. Started in 2007, the Week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status

Tax Season Blues? Get help from Total Action for Progress!

It’s almost tax time, and for some citizens you can receive tax preparation assistance from Total Action for Progress (TAP) Tax Assistance Service Program!   Keep reading for more information!

What is the Total Action for Progress Tax Assistance Services Program?

TAP Tax Assistance Services provides free tax preparation to help people in Roanoke, VA and surrounding areas access valuable tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. The tax clinic is open from February 2nd through April 15th each year.

TAP’s Tax Assistance Service is in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Virginia CASH Campaign operated through the Virginia Community Action Partnership (VACAP).

What areas does this program serve?

Must be a Virginia state resident.

Is there a cost for this program?

There are no costs to approved clientele for this program.

How can I access the program?

We are open from February 2nd through April 15th. Every year the tax site moves to a convenient location in the downtown Roanoke area. Taxpayers are assisted by appointment only.

To schedule an appointment, please call the Tax Services appointment line at (540) 283-4804 or (540) 283-4806. Taxes are prepared at the Dumas Center, located on 108 Henry Street, 1st floor, Roanoke, 24016. For general tax questions, call Teffany Henderson at (540) 283-4916. You may also contact Ms. Henderson via email at by using the “Contact” button at the bottom of this page.

**New This Year**Taxpayers must have health care coverage information for everyone claimed on the tax return:

Am I eligible for this service?

Tax Assistance Services are available for all persons who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit or households with an annual income of less than $51,000.

 

Read more about TAP’s Tax Assistance at their website: http://www.tapintohope.org/CommunityTaxServices.aspx

Practical Money Skills for Life: Five Important Money Questions to Ask

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Is your relationship getting serious?   Practical Money Skills for Life’s Jason Alderman gives couples five important money questions to ask each other:

Valentine’s Day is often a time to reflect on your relationship, and consider the next step. If your relationship is heading toward joint finances, it’s essential to talk about it first – openly and honestly.

A 2014 survey (http://www.nefe.org/press-room/news/financial-infidelity-poses-challenge-for-couples.aspx) by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) found that 13 percent said they had failed to share information about their personal debt or income, which had “an effect on the relationship.”

his year, consider thinking beyond the roses and candlelight dinners to a potential future of merged finances. Here are five key questions that should drive your conversation:

 

Read the rest of the article at: http://practicalmoneyskills.com/personalfinance/experts/practicalmoneymatters/columns_2015/0130_5Questions.php