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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Week to Celebrate

Well, maybe not. The Federal Trade Commission has named January 13th through January 17th as Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week to provide people with tips on how to avoid being a victim of tax related fraud. There are two general types of fraud to be aware of.

The first is refund fraud. With refund fraud, the scammers use your stolen name and social security number to file a fake tax return with the IRS. Of course, this tax return results in a tax refund payable to the thieves. The big problem for you happens when you file your real return. After the IRS realizes it’s been scammed, they often will freeze your refund until it can all be sorted out. In addition, there is a major hassle associated with trying to clear things up.

The second fraud is employment fraud. The crook uses your stolen information to obtain employment. Victims of this fraud get a notification from the IRS that they have unreported income. Again, it takes months to sort out the mess and get things corrected.

Here is a summary of the tips to avoid being a victim of tax identity theft:

· File your taxes through a secure internet connection or take them directly to the post office.

· Be careful about giving your Social Security number to anyone. Ask them why they need it and what they are going to do with it.

· Shred old tax returns and documents that you are not required to keep.

· Ask to see the license and credentials of your tax preparer. Get recommendations and research them before you give them your personal information.

· The IRS DOES NOT email or text tax payers. Do not respond to emails claiming to be from the IRS. Do not provide personal information in response to an unsolicited email.

· Check your credit report annually. You can check your report at annualcreditreport.com.

· You can get more information at irs.gov/identitytheft

Monday, January 20, 2014

New Year's Financial Resolutions

“I am going to lose 10 lbs.” “I am going to eat better.” “I am going to go to the gym 3 times a week.” These are all common resolution topics around the holiday season. But what about making some financial resolutions to make sure you and your family stay on track? Here are a few New Year’s financial resolutions to consider:

Get your emergency fund to a comfortable level:
A lot of experts say to make sure you have 3-5 times monthly expenses in a savings account. That’s a great place to start, but more importantly is to get to the amount that is comfortable for your family and your particular situation. This may be $5,000, $10,000 or $30,000. Make it a point to accumulate enough cash so everyone in the family can sleep better at night.

Audit your insurance plan:
This means all insurance. Life, disability, auto, home, health. Some insurance prices are going up and some (like life insurance) can actually go down in price assuming good health. Make sure to pay attention to carriers, deductibles, co-pays and benefit amounts. You might find you are paying too much or don’t have the proper coverage.

Put together an estate plan:Don’t be intimidated by the name. An estate plan does not have to be that complex. An estate plan could consist of simply a will and medical power of attorney. Don’t wait until you and your significant other are going on a trip without the kids to start the process. Contact an attorney to guide you in the right direction. As part of your estate plan make sure everything is mapped out for your family to find if you are not around. Read last month’s blog article for more tips: Where is Everything?

Make a budget and follow it:
Sit down together and write down all of your monthly expenses. A budget is much easier to follow if it is written down and glanced at regularly.

Meet with your financial advisor:
If you do not have an advisor then interview a few until you find one you are comfortable with. Meeting at least annually with your advisor will keep you on task towards reaching your goals. Your advisor will help you make sure you are saving enough towards retirement, college education or any other savings goals. A good advisor will actually hold you accountable and help you complete your new year financial resolutions.