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Published in Blog
Tuesday, 27 December 2016 19:34

Get Up When You Fall Financially

This morning was hard to get up. My husband's alarm went off and I woke up to use the bathroom. My body felt sore. I felt the effects of the cookies, bacon, and chocolate covered popcorn, which I ate yesterday. I felt cold as soon as I got out of my bed. I wanted to go back to sleep. I felt gravity pulling me back to my warm bed. I thought of all the work ahead of me today. Except for the bathroom, every room looks like it experienced a tornado. Christmas was a busy day for my family. I visited 3 families, attended two church services, and had a sick child. The house was now a disaster zone. This can also happen financially over the holidays.

Somehow, I found the strength to walk past my bed without getting back into it. Somehow, I meditated and planned my day. This was a HUGE victory for me today. I think it was because Christmas gave me the belief that I can change. Seeing friends and family and feeling loved inspired me to keep trying. Experiencing kindness and generosity inspired me to want to keep moving forward. Even though I overspent, I can recommit. Even though the house is a mess, we can restore order one item and one room at a time. Sometimes we don't feel like waking up financially, but every day is a new day. If we mess up and give in to a purchase we didn't plan on, or miss a budget meeting, we can start again any and every day. In the big picture, it's not really going to matter that I spent a few more hundred dollars than I wanted to spend, as long as I keep trying.

During this holiday, several of my friends and family have told me that they want to get on top of their finances. They want to budget. They want to plan for taxes. They want to invest. These friends and family have asked my advice on budgeting and asked what app or system they should use. Some of them face huge obstacles in doing this, so I don't want to minimize how hard it can be to change financially. I will compare it to my experience with exercising.

I started exercising regularly a couple of months ago. At the gym, I am surrounded with healthy and strong people. I think about what they had to sacrifice to build the muscles that they have. It is a long and gradual process, and it can't be faked or sped up. There is no shortcut. I can't just be stronger because I want to be. For the first time, I have been weight lifting with a bar and weights. I started with just the bar and am adding small amounts. I can't just put a 35 pound weight on the bar and lift it. I have to sacrifice, plan, and build up the strength. I have to commit. On Christmas Eve I went to a hard interval training class. The teacher pushed herself and admitted it was hard, but at the end she encouraged us and played inspiring music that talked about getting back up and try again. I left feeling so inspired to celebrate my victories and keep trying.

There is no magical app that will make me in shape or get my friends to budget. It doesn't really matter what app you use. There are a lot of good tools, but there is no magical app that will force us to be disciplined. However, exercising at the gym helps inspire me. I believe I can get stronger.

Consider this blog to be your financial gym. Come here to believe that you can change, and surround yourself with people who are growing stronger physically and believing that they can improve. Happy New Years. Enjoy the holiday!

Monday, 21 March 2016 23:34

Spring Clean-Up for Our Finances

The first official day of Spring was warm and bright the other day at our house. My kids were so excited to eat outside, and we spent the afternoon enjoying the weather. One of them even complained about it feeling too hot. Lately, Spring Clean-up has started. One of my neighbors was raking his dead tree limbs when I walked by. This weekend my husband trimmed the raspberries, brought in new dirt, and planted peas and flowers.

Spring Cleaning for Your Finances

  • Clean-up Financial Records
    Spring is Tax season. I realized that I kept more tax records than I needed to keep. The years have flown by, and I had kept taxes from 2000. IRS requires them to be kept for 7 years, so I cleaned those old ones out. Most of the forms needed to file taxes should have been sent. If you are waiting on a K-1, 1099-R, or 1099-D, I do recommend that you wait. (It is much easier to wait than to amend a return.) But, if you’re not waiting on any forms, get taxes filed. I finished mine up this weekend. 
  • Did you know? Wasatch Peaks offers Shred Days Spring through Fall to help us clean out our records. Check here or with your local branch for more information on Shred Days. They know how to make cleaning up your records enjoyable!
  • Check Your Credit Report
    Another financial Spring clean-up that I like to do is to check my credit report with the three credit reporting agencies: Transunion, Equifax, and Experian. You can check your credit report for free, online. This is really quick. I just checked mine. I like to check it when I file my taxes because it’s easy for me to remember to do it then. The free credit report doesn’t include a credit score, but it does include your credit history. Checking your credit report regularly can help catch identity fraud. Also, it’s good to check for mistakes or errors. These can be disputed and corrected. Wasatch Peaks Credit Union has more information about credit reports here.
  • Budget
    I complimented one tax client on her summarized expenses she gave me for taxes. She said that doing that helps her to be aware of what’s going on in her business. That is really true. Tax season is a great time to start fresh with recordkeeping and get into great financial habits. It’s also a good time to evaluate the past year financially and make goals for the new year.
  • Contribute to Retirement
    We still have time to make retirement contributions to an IRA for 2015. The deadline is the same as the tax deadline. One month is left! My husband and I have done this for the last couple of years. It’s nice to have an extra couple of months to contribute as much as possible. The yearly contribution limit is $5,500 per person (or if you are over age 50, $6,500). Now that my taxes are filed, I need to do this. If you get a tax refund, investing it for your future retirement is a great idea. This financial exercise isn’t easy. There are of other ways to spend tax refunds, but I remember that there is a yearly limit and so I try to contribute as much as I can. We had a goal to reach the maximum contribution limit last year, and we are still trying to reach that goal. Also, if you are getting a refund and you are an employee, you can change your W-4 so that you have less taxes withheld throughout the year and more money to budget and save in your paychecks. I need to do this. Last year I did this and planned to have almost the exact amount withheld that we would owe, but our income decreased when we went through unemployment so we had more withheld than we owed.

In Utah, some days it feels like Spring: other days it feels like Winter, but it really is Spring. I invite you to join me in some Spring Clean-up of financial records and habits.

  • Did you know? Wasatch Peaks offers Shred Days this Spring to help us clean out our records. Check here or with your local branch for more information on Shred Days. They know how to make cleaning up your records enjoyable!
Thursday, 25 February 2016 23:24

The Smarter Way to Your Biggest Refund

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© 2015-2016 Intuit Inc. All rights reserved. State filing charges apply. Limited time offer for TurboTax 2015. Terms, conditions, features, availability, pricing, fees, service and support options subject to change without notice.  Intuit, TurboTax and TurboTax Online, among others, are registered trademarks and/or service marks of Intuit Inc. in the United States and other countries. Other parties' trademarks or service marks are the property of their respective owners.

Published in Blog

The last day to fund a either a Roth or traditional IRA is April 15–the day personal tax returns are due. For the 2015 tax year, you have until Friday, April 15, 2016 to set up an IRA account or to contribute 2015 funds into your account. For the 2016 tax year, the last day to contribute 2016 funds is Monday, April 17, 2017. If you contribute to an IRA between Jan. 1 and April 15, you must clearly designate the year for which you are contributing.

Individual retirement accounts are excellent retirement savings tools. In addition, for traditional IRAs, all or a portion of your contributions may be fully tax deductible. Consequently, many taxpayers make last-minute additions to their IRAs to reduce their tax burden for the recently ended tax year. To take advantage of this option, it is important to know the deadline to fund your IRA.

The 2015 tax year maximum IRA contribution is $5,500; it’s $6,500 if you're 50 or older. The contribution limits are the same for the 2016 tax year. Don’t miss the opportunity to take control of your retirement, open your Roth or Traditional IRA today.

Should you have any questions about your IRAs or if you want to open an IRA please call James Aoki, our Financial Planner, at 801.627.8732.

Published in Blog
Tuesday, 12 January 2016 19:36

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Wasatch Peaks Credit Union has teamed up with TurboTax® to get you your maximum refund, savings of up to $15 on TurboTax federal products, and a chance to win $25,000.

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1 TurboTax $25,000 Payday Sweepstakes. NO PURCHASE OR FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE NECESSARY. Open to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States or the District of Columbia, 18 years of age or older at time of entry. Void in Puerto Rico and where prohibited by law. Sweepstakes ends 2/18/16. Subject to complete Official Rules and all applicable federal, state and local laws. For Official rules including odds of winning, alternate method of entry, and prize descriptions, visit the Official Rules. PRIZES: One (1) Grand Prize: A check for $25,000. Retail value, $25,000. Ten (10) First Prizes: A check for $1,000. Retail value, $1,000 each. Maximum retail value of all prizes is $35,000. The odds of winning a prize depend upon the total number of eligible entries received by the end of the Promotion Period. SPONSOR: Intuit Inc., 7535 Torrey Santa Fe Rd, SDG-2A-03-22H, San Diego, CA, 92129.
© 2015-2016 Intuit Inc. All rights reserved. State filing charges apply. Limited time offer for TurboTax 2015. Terms, conditions, features, availability, pricing, fees, service and support options subject to change without notice. Intuit, TurboTax and TurboTax Online, among others, are registered trademarks and/or service marks of Intuit Inc. in the United States and other countries. Other parties’ trademarks or service marks are the property of their respective owners.

Published in Blog
Monday, 11 January 2016 22:53

How Does Health Care Reform Affect You?

When it was first passed, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or more commonly known as ObamaCare–which includes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act. The .pdf of this act is 974 pages of law, so this little post will not attempt to be a comprehensive summary of it. No, this is my family’s experience with it.

The first change that we noticed after the law went into place was that the amount deducted out of my husband’s paycheck for health insurance doubled in September 2014. Since our health insurance was provided through my husband’s employer, and the cost was still very reasonable, we continued on without any changes until July 2015.

We had health insurance provided through Ty’s employer until one month after his position was eliminated. Because health insurance was one of the major issues that we faced during our unemployment period, I started becoming familiar with the ACA as I depended on our insurance agent to guide me through finding health insurance. Since then, I’ve taken a class about the ACA and I continue to learn more about it in preparation for tax season.

  • Tax Returns- Most all of the forms needed for individuals will be mailed out by the end of January. If you fall into one of these categories, make sure you receive the appropriate Health care forms, which you’ll need in order to file taxes. I will be looking for a 1095-B in my mailbox.

1095-A: if you went through the Marketplace for insurance
1095-B: if you bought directly through a health insurance provider
1095-C: if you were covered by an employer who provided health insurance coverage referred to as “self-insured coverage”

  • 60-Day Exemption Period- Unless you meet one of the longer term exemption requirements, which my family didn’t, I learned that there is 60 days exemption period from the health insurance requirement. I didn’t feel comfortable being uninsured for any amount of time, and I knew it would most likely take longer than 60 days to get coverage through new employment.
  • Qualifying Events- Under the law, health insurance needs to meet certain requirements to be considered qualified coverage. As I was shopping for insurance, I really wanted to find a short term policy that would cover us for a few months (under six months,) which is the time period I expected to be ineligible for employer-sponsored health insurance. I learned that not all insurance qualifies as minimum essential coverage. So, we could have insurance, but still not meet the law’s requirements. Also, we must experience a qualifying event in order to purchase insurance outside of the open enrollment period. Unemployment was a qualifying event for us, and we wouldn’t be able to purchase different coverage unless we had another qualifying event.
  • Tax Credit- There is a possible tax credit, but you must purchase health coverage through the Marketplace. My family didn’t purchase through the Marketplace. Why? Because, I couldn’t see into the future and didn’t know what our income was going to be for the year. I had no idea how long we would be unemployed or ineligible for employer-sponsored health insurance. We purchased a similar policy to the one we had previously had through our employer. It cost about the same amount that my friends with similar sized families paid. We used emergency savings to pay for health insurance during this time.

I hope my experience helps your family make the best decision you can make. Please share your experience and help us all navigate through health insurance related issues. Every time I read the ACA or talk to someone about their experience, I learn something new about it. For more information, go to the IRS.

Monday, 07 December 2015 18:46

Tax Time: Preparing to Prepare

Compiling everything you need in order to prepare your federal income taxes is often a bigger challenge than actually doing them. Though the process of locating forms and documents may feel overwhelming, it really just requires knowing what you need, and an organized approach to hunting and gathering.

Obtain the Right Tax Form
Make sure you get the right tax form for your individual situation. Many people will use the same one they used for the previous year, but if your circumstances have changed, you may need to use a different form. The options for most employed individuals are the 1040EZ, the 1040A, and the 1040. To know which is right for you, visit the IRS website (where you may also download the appropriate form) at www.irs.gov.

Gather Personal Identification Information
Of course you will need to know your own Social Security Number, but you may need to know a few others as well. These may include those of your spouse, children, childcare provider, and anyone to whom you pay alimony.

Gather Income Information
Your next task is to collect all of your income information. Depending on where you derived your income, you will need documents for:

  • Earned income (your W-2 form from your employer)
  • Partnership, S-Corporation, and trust income
  • Pensions and annuity income
  • Unemployment compensation
  • Rental income
  • Social Security benefits
  • State and local tax refunds
  • Earnings from the sale of your home or real estate
  • Investment income (interest and dividends, proceeds from broker transactions, and retirement plan distributions)
  • Alimony received
  • Jury duty pay
  • Gambling, prizes, and lottery winnings
  • Scholarships and fellowships
  • Collect Deduction Information

If you plan to itemize your deductions, make sure you account for everything. Depending on what you are able to deduct, you’ll need to have records for such outgoing expenditures as:

  • Mortgage interest
  • Real estate taxes
  • Rent
  • IRA or other retirement plan contributions
  • Miscellaneous investment related expenses (such as safe deposit box fees if used to store investment documents and computer depreciation if used to track assets)
  • Early investment withdrawal penalties
  • Medical/dental bills
  • Moving costs
  • Charitable donations and volunteer expenses
  • Auto loans and leases for vehicles used for business
  • Student loan interest
  • Alimony
  • Unreimbursed job-related expenses (travel, uniforms, union dues, education)
  • Job-hunting expenses
  • Child care expenses
  • Adoption expenses
  • Tax return preparation expenses

If you have to scavenge for each necessary item, make a commitment to keep good records from this point forward. It will make this time next year a much less demanding experience.

Copyright © BALANCE 2005

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 07 October 2015 16:17

The Mystery of Tax Law

In the movie, "Pirates of the Caribbean," Elizabeth told Captain what he should be doing and quoted the Pirates law, Code of the Brethren. Captain Barbossa responds, "The code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules. Welcome aboard.”

Have you ever felt this way about taxes? It's a mysterious code that some people have access to, but no one understands it. Is tax code a set of guidelines that are optional to follow, or is it exact rules that applies to everyone? Does it protect us?

Federal Tax Law, which is found in the United States Code (U.S.C.) governs how we are taxed, and it applies to us. (It is Title 26- the IRC: Internal revenue code.) The State of Utah Tax Code is found in Title 59 of the Utah Code. Not only is this excellent reading material if you have trouble sleeping, but it is also a great resource to understand and comply with tax requirements. Knowledge can empower us. Knowing how to look up some law that affects your life is powerful because you have access to research and can understand what requirements you must meet to comply with tax law. Professional advice is recommended, but it's our responsibility to understand that advice before we take it. In our do-it-yourself society, a lot of taxpayers don't get professional advice on their taxes, so it's important to know where they can go.

Why is a 401k is called a that? It is because it is found in Section 401 subsection k. When my professor taught us this in college, it was an "ah ha" moment for me. I realized we can go right to the source and that taxes don't have to be a big mystery that the average person can't understand. Tax code is law and there are a lot of numbers and sections you have to weed through to get to the information you need. Then, you have to get used to the terminology, but with the internet, you can search for anything you don't understand. IRS has a lot of resources to help understand the Tax Code and to give updates Here is the link to IRS information about the 401k.
I’ve seen people avoid filing their taxes, not because they intentionally don’t want to follow the Code, but because they are overwhelmed by it and so they avoid it.

Are taxes and tax law intimidating to you?

Tuesday, 22 September 2015 21:54

Crunch Time for Tax Planning

Football season is here, and the 4th quarter is super important because it’s the chance for teams to catch up or to maintain their lead. Important decisions are made during this time which determine the outcome of the game. This is CRUNCH TIME!!!!!! The fourth quarter of 2015 starts in just a couple weeks. Now is crunch time to review several tax related items:

  • The amount of money withheld from your paychecks
  • Donations
  • Estimated tax payments for self-employed
  • Retirement contributions
  • Tax withholding

When you start employment, one of the forms you’ll fill out is a W-4, and your Human Resource department should have you review this at the beginning of each year. It should also be reviewed if you have a life event during the year (job change, marriage, or child born.) My husband recently changed jobs so he just filled out a W-4 and we are reviewing our withholding.

Some people purposefully want to have more withheld so that they receive a tax refund, which is forced savings for them. Although I understand why they like getting a big refund check, my personal goal is to withhold what we owe. But, whatever you decide, this is the time to make adjustments if needed to your withholding.

Although it sounds simple to have the exact amount of taxes withheld that you owe, it often isn’t because of itemized deductions. In Utah (and most states with the exception of a handful), we pay Federal and State taxes. If you have itemized deductions, you need to take those into consideration when filling out your W-4 Withholding form. There is a worksheet on form W-4 which can help calculate withholding allowances for Federal taxes. The IRS also provides a Withholding Calculator to assist you in the calculation.

There is not a separate state withholding form, but you can adjust your state withholding. Line 6 on Form W-4 allows you to designate extra withholding. Your Payroll department can help you can figure out what this number needs to be, and you can specify that it is being withheld for Utah state tax.

I have seem some people never adjust this withholding, and I have seem some adjust it more than they should because they want to have extra money to spend that week, which resulted in owing taxes when they filed.

Donations
Another item to review before the end of the year if you itemize deductions is your donations, especially non-cash contributions to qualified organizations. Now is a great time to declutter and see if you want to donate to your local thrift store charitable organization. Up to $500 worth of non-cash donations can be deducted without filling out a special tax form (just keep your donation receipts!) Here is the link to more information on this topic.

Also, if you want to donate to any 529 Education accounts, now is a good time to do that. Here is the link to the Utah Education Savings Plan website.

Estimated taxes
If you are self- employed, here is a link information paying estimates.

This is a great time to review retirement contributions and plan how much you will contribute by the tax filing deadline. Here is a link to details.

It’s almost crunch time!

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