|Financial Household Resiliency Workshops|
Every Weednesday from Feb 1st to Feb. 22nd from 5:30-7:30, 2011 Lloyd Center
Teaching Your Kids About Money Seminar
Tuesday, Feb. 7th from 6-7pm at 2011 Lloyd Center
|Stay tuned for our February Innovative Connections Issue on:|
Goal Setting in the New Year!
Tax time is almost here. Working next door to CASH Oregon (a non profit organization provides free tax preparation), we feel the hustle and bustle already! Recently we hosted a workshop on Getting Ready for Tax Time, and for all those who missed it, this Innovative Connections is dedicated to get YOU ready for tax time!
This can be a stressful, exciting or hopeful time of the year. We hope to give you the information you need to make the most of tax time. Our Tip of the Month has guidelines for using your refund strategically; in addition, we have resources for getting your taxes done for free (there is no need to pay!), ways to avoid refund anticipation products, information on tax credits and deductions and tax time savings bonds. Woo...it's a lot...but take it in piece by piece and as always feel free to contact us with any questions.
We will be hosting a new round of Financial Household Resiliency workshops starting February 1st, so sign up now! We are also hosting a great seminar on Teaching Your Kids About Money in the beginning of February. Kids are a great incentive to get yourself financially organized.
Also, stay tuned for next month, for our issue on goal setting in the new year and information about America Saves week which we will be participating in and hope you will join us too!
Happy New Year,
Tip of the Month: Use Your Tax Refund Strategically!
* Send us your tips! Each month we will collect your innovative money management tips -- these could be about resourceful ways you've saved money, thrifty activities you enjoy, helpful
insights into living on a tight budget, etc. We will enter these tips into a pool and if selected, your tip will be featured in the next Innovative Connections and you will win a $20.00 Fred Meyer gift card.*
Tax time brings a window of opportunity. If you are getting a refund, suddenly you have extra cash and there are endless possibilities for its use! This is why it's important to plan ahead so that you can use you refund strategically. Even though it may be tempting to spend it on something special, it may benefit you in the long run to put it towards debt or savings. There is no one right wayto use your refund, we just urge you to think it through! Here are some guidelines:
a) Make sure you've met all your needs for the month with your regular income. If not, use your refund to catch up on bills or even better, get ahead on bills.
b) Look at past debt that you've been meaning to pay. Prioritize these debts and come up with a plan for paying them back. Will your refund cover all of them? Remember debt and savings are two side of the same coin. Paying back debt now, means you will be able to save more later.
c) Now, start looking ahead to anticipate expenses over the next year. Birthdays, holidays, car repairs, winter heat, water bills, seasonal unemployment....these are all things you can budget your tax return to cover.
d) Start an emergency savings fund. Put some or all of your refund away for a "rainy day" or unexpected expenses that can trip you up over the year.
e) Put your refund into savings! Open a Certificate of Deposit (CD) at your local financial institution to earn a little more interest and save your refund until you need it. (Also, see section below about tax time savings bonds!)
| Resource Highlight: Where to get Your Taxes Done for Free |
There's no reason to pay to get your taxes done when there are several FREE options out there equipped with volunteers who have passed stringent requirements in order to help you do your taxes!
Check out these programs:CASH Oregon, in conjunction with AARP, can help most tax payers. See the Frequently Asked Questions for who qualifies, where to go for help, and other pertinent questions. A list of sites where you can sit down with someone and they will fill out your return based on information you provide can be found at: http://www.cashoregon.org/taxprep/sites.htm.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VICA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly are programs for low income (maximum AGI of $49,000). Both CASH Oregon and AARP coordinate with these programs and may refer you to one or the other. Cash Oregon's number is 502-243-7765, and AARP's number is 888-227-7669.
The military also has a strong VITA Program. The Armed Forces Tax Council consists of the tax program coordinators for the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The AFTC oversees the operation of the military tax programs worldwide, and serves as the main conduit for outreach by the IRS to military personnel and their families. Call 800 TAX 1040 for more information on a AFTC/VITA site for the military.
Resources compiled by Roger Metzler
|Avoid Refund Anticipation Products
Refund anticipation products, although tempting, can be expensive and unnecessary. A 2008 report estimated that that Oregonians lost $23 million in refund anticipation loans (RALs), checks (RACs) and tax preparation fees. RALs and interest can add up to over $250 and shrink your refund by as much as 10 percent, with APRs well over 30%.Here are some alternatives to refund anticipation products:
E-File with Direct Deposit
- File your tax return electronically (E-file) to speed up your refund.
Tell the IRS to deposit the refund directly into your bank account-by providing your account number right on your tax return. You can get a refund in about 10 days this way-without paying one cent extra for a loan.
Get a bank account - If you don't have a bank account, open one up to take advantage of direct deposit.- this is the fastest way to get your refund.
Wait just a bit longer - Do you really have to get cash from your tax refund today? Can you wait a few weeks to save more than $100? If you have an urgent bill to pay, ask for more time until the tax refund check comes from the IRS. Don't take on a new debt to pay an old bill.
Avoid check cashers - Check cashers charge an extra fee to cash RAL and tax refund checks. Some check cashers charge up to 7% to cash a RAL check-the average is about 3%. So if you receive a $2,000 refund, it would cost you and average of $60 to cash the RAL check-on top of the RAL and tax preparation fees. A smarter move is to use a bank account.
|Tax Credits and Deductions: The Basics
The best ways to lower your taxes are by taking advantage of tax credits and tax deductions. Tax credits, which reduce the actual taxes you pay, are better than tax deductions, which only lower the income on which taxes are paid. Since the government doesn't tax every dollar you make (even though it seems like it) a dollar of tax credit can be worth more than a dollar of tax deduction.
Example: Assume you have finished your tax returns and find you owe $1000 in taxes. Then you hear about a tax credit you can claim that is worth $500 to you. You redo your tax return, claim the credit, and you only owe $500. Nice!
Assume the same facts as before, but what you hear about is a tax deduction worth $500. When you redo your taxes this time, you find that you owe some amount between $800 and $925 (depending on your tax bracket). The difference is that the tax credit reduced your taxes, while the tax deduction reduced your taxable income. But both save you money, so it's good to be informed!
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is one of the most popular tax credits because it is designed to help low and moderate income taxpayers and, it is refundable.
Most credits simply reduce the taxes you pay, and once the tax is reduced to zero, any unused tax credits are lost. With the EITC, if there is credit left after reducing the taxes to zero, the IRS sends you a check for the remaining amount of the credit.
Millions of American families who are eligible for the EITC do not apply for it, leaving billions of tax credit dollars unclaimed. The
Government Accountability Office and the IRS indicate that between 3.5 million and 7 million households are eligible but don't apply for it. Don't be one of them if you qualify!
See http://taxes.about.com/od/Tax-Credits/Income-Tax-Credits.htm (or www.IRS.Gov) for requirements and further explanations about the EITC, as well as information about the following list of credits:
2011 Child Tax Credit, Additional Child Tax Credit, Elderly & Disabled Tax Credit, American Opportunity Credit, Lifetime Learning Credit, Child care/adoption credit, Excess Social Security Payments, Savers Credit, Health Coverage Credit (very limited eligibility), Residential Energy Credit, and Investment credit.
You can also go to the IRS.gov site (www.irs.gov) and search on any of the credits for more specific information about qualifying for tax credits.
Below are the most common deductions:
Home Mortgage, Real estate taxes, Vehicle/Personal Property Taxes, Alimony paid (alimony received must be included in gross income), Student Loan expense, (job related) Moving expenses, Charitable contributions, Sales tax, New Vehicle, Investing expenses, Medical/Dental, Casualty/Theft Losses, Job Search/Job related expenses, State and Local taxes, Tax Prep fees, Safety deposit box, Certain Legal fees, and Losses from Investments/Bad debt
The IRS pamphlet Topic 500 (or http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc500.html ) has a complete list of the deductions and eligibility requirements.
Also check out Tax deductions you might overlook (http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/taxes/2011-03-18-tax-deductions.htm.
With all of these, credits and deductions, it is important to check out the specifics of eligibility each year, as the rules change frequently. In addition, have documents to back up any claimed credit or deduction.
Good luck making the most of your taxes!
Written and compiled by Roger Metzler
| Tax Time Savings Bonds |
Tax time savings bonds are a great way to save your refund, earn interest and not be tempted to withdraw your savings early! Here are the dets:
- Buy Savings Bonds for yourself or for a Gift
- Tell your tax preparer you want to purchase savings bonds with all or a portion of your refund
- They are sold in increments of $50
- Interest on bonds is tax free if you use them to pay for education for you or your child
- You must hold them for 1 year before cashing in, but will earn interest for up to 30 years
- Interest rate is currently 3.06% (better than a savings account!)
- Interest rate varies every 6 months
To learn more about Tax Time Savings Bonds watch this video!
|Bonds Make It Easy: Tax Time Savings Video|
Upcoming Financial Education:
Teaching Your Kids About Money
Tuesday, February 7th 2012, 6pm-7pm, Lloyd Center Mall, Suite 2011
One of the best gifts you can give your children is teaching them the skills to manage money. Passing on good money management habits is a concrete way that you can set your children up for a successful future; even if you are living on a tight budget. In this workshop we'll discuss key ways to get your finances in order so you can serve as a model for your children. We will also cover activities and tips for teaching your kids about money and ways to save for all the extra expenses that come with having a kid (back to school, birthdays, college, etc.). It's never too early to start learning and never too late to start teaching! Now's the time to start your kids on a path to success!
This seminars are $5. Fee waivers are available for those who qualify.
*These seminars are part of our ongoing monthly seminar series covering special topics of interest to our clients. For more information about our seminar visit our website here.
To Register: call or email Talia at (503)-firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming Financial Household Resiliency Workshops:
We will hold our winter round of FHR workshops every Wednesday from February 1st to February 22nd, 5:30-7:30pm.
Wednesday, February 1st, 5:30-730pm: Making Ends Meet
Wednesday, February 8th, 5:30-730pm: Budgeting and Saving
Wednesday, February 15th, 5:30-730pm: Hands-On Banking
Wednesday, February 22nd, 5:30-730pm: Building, Repairing and Protecting Credit
Our classes and seminar will be held at our Lloyd Center office:
3rd Floor of the Lloyd Center Mall (near Nordstroms), 2011 Lloyd Center.
You can register online here or call or email Talia at (503)-email@example.com.
The classes and the seminar are open to everyone. The classes can be taken individually or as a series. They are $5 each and $15 for all four classes. Fee waivers are available for those who qualify.
| We Can ACH Your Loan Payments! |
We now have the ability to automatically withdraw funds from your account to make your loan payment for you.This is called Automatic Clearing House (ACH) and is an electronic network that allows us to direct deposit your loan payments into our account. If you would like to sign up for this, please fill out the form on attached here and send or fax it back to us (please do not email for security reasons). ACH is a good idea if you have a bank account and a reliable balance in your account on your monthly loan due date. If this does not fit you, ACH is not the best option. If you have any questions, as always, feel free to give us a call: 503-249-5205.
|For Our Borrowers|Are You Receiving Your Payment Reminders?
If you chose to receive your payment reminders by email, make sure that they are coming to your inbox and not your junk mail. If you would like to change the way that you receive reminders (by mail, by email, or by phone call) let us know! Call Talia at or Carmina at 503.249-5205
. How to Make Your Loan Payment
- You can mail your payment by check or money order to: Innovative Changes, 4610 N. Trenton St., Portland, OR 97203 or 2011 Lloyd Center, Portland, OR 97232.
- You can drop off your payment (check, money order or cash) at the New Columbia Opportunity Center Front Desk- Mon- Fri, 8am-5pm
- Please note the building is closed to the public during the lunch hour (12pm-1pm) and is occasionally closed on Fridays for State furlough days.
- The front desk person has envelopes and is authorized to collect payments on our behalf if we are not in. If you are paying in cash and need change, you must contact Carmina or Talia in advance to arrange a meeting time.
- You can drop off your payment (check, money order or cash) at the Lloyd Center, 3rd Floor, Suite 2011 (2011 Lloyd Center Mall, Portland, OR 97232) Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm and Saturdays by appointment (call Carmina).
- You can also pay via pay pal by following directions on our website here. Please note, it asks you to fill in a donation amount, but this is not a donation, it will go towards your loan payment.
We Are Here to Help!
Are you having trouble making your payment this month, or afraid that it might be a little late? Let us know! We understand that unexpected events and expenses can make it hard to keep your finances on track, and Innovative Changes wants to be there for you in such cases. Innovative Changes is flexible and willing to work with our borrowers to satisfy loan obligations, and in return we ask for honest and timely communication. Remember, if you know your payment is going to be late, let us know ahead of time and we might be able to avoid charging a late fee, or sending out a late notice.