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Getting Ahead
2nd Quarter 2008

In this issue:

Three Habits for Successful Saving

How Not to Become a Tax Pack Rat

Make Sure You Get Your Economic Stimulus Payment

Car Buying Tips

National Credit Union Youth Week

Three Habits for Successful Saving

A personal savings account is like an umbrella on a rainy day and it is recommended that consumers adopt three common savings habits to weather unexpected financial storms. No one wants to get caught in the rain without an umbrella and no one wants to deal with a financial emergency without the proper funds. Putting money away is the only way to prepare for these circumstances.

Americans are not putting their best foot forward when it comes to saving. Only 28 percent put away the suggested 10 percent of their income, as reported by a 2008 America Saves survey. Saving is not only important for emergencies, but can help consumers feel financially secure, finance their big-ticket purchases and keep them afloat during retirement. You don’t have to make a lot of money to save, and you can start by putting away $10 from each check.

The study also revealed that while some Americans save with a goal in mind, only 57 percent are saving enough for retirement.

Consumers are encouraged to save for a rainy day, using three habits shared by successful savers:

  • Save with a goal in mind. Your goal can be to have money for suprises (good or bad) or for something more specific you want or need in the future. Consider short and long-term as well as big and small goals.
  • Save with technology. Consider automatic payroll deductions or an automatic transfer from checking to savings accounts. Arrange to have a specific amount transferred to your savings account every pay period, before you have a chance to spend that hard-earned cash.
  • Increase savings as your pay increases. If you receive a raise or other windfalls like tax refunds, gifts or bonuses, increase the amount of money deposited into your savings account.

Credit Unions are committed to helping their members understand the merit of saving and learning how to save.

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How Not To Become A Tax Pack Rat

Sometimes it's good to be a pack rat, especially if you're hoarding the right pieces of paper. So when it comes to taxes, what are the right pieces of paper?

The IRS has created a guideline for
basic records, documents that everyone should keep and that you'll probably need when you sit down to fill out your tax forms. Top on the list are the records that prove your income and expenses. Some examples include W-2 forms that contain your income and withholding data, 1099 forms documenting other income sources, bank and brokerage statements. Proof of expenses include sales slips, invoices, receipts and canceled checks.

If you own a house, your basic tax records should contain the closing statement, insurance records and state and local tax receipts. When it comes to investments, hang onto mutual fund statements, brokerage documents and year-end 1099 forms.

Typical tax records to keep:

Financial Records
  • W-2 forms that contain your income and withholding data 1099 forms documenting other income sources
  • Bank and brokerage statements
Expense Receipts
  • Sales slips and credit card statements Invoices Receipts
  • Canceled checks
Homeowner's Records
  • Tax records Closing statement Insurance records
  • State and local tax receipts

You should keep copies of the forms and attachments you filed, along with related receipts and canceled checks for three major reasons:

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    1. IRS audit
    2. filing next-year's return
    3. applying for a loan.
Audit substantiation

The most obvious -- and dreaded -- reason to save tax paperwork is to have it as backup in case you're audited.

The IRS has three years from the date you filed your return to audit you if it finds an error that it believes you made in "good faith." This three-year limit also applies if you discover a mistake in your return and file an amended one.

The IRS has six years to challenge your return if it thinks you underreported your gross income by 25 percent or more.

If you filed a fraudulent return, the IRS can audit you any time it discovers your scheme.

Future filing reference

Copies of your past returns also can be handy references. By checking what you filed last year, you can evaluate what your tax situation is this year and see if you need the same forms or possibly new ones.

If your tax situation is substantially unchanged, the saved copies can serve as step-by-step guides to filing your current year's taxes. And tax forms on which you report pension income or IRA values are a good way to keep track of those finances.

Credit support

If you've ever applied for a loan, particularly a mortgage, you know that lenders always want to see your tax returns from the past few years. If you have them on hand it saves time, which means you get your credit sooner, and it could save you money. You can always get copies of old returns from the IRS, but it takes a while and there is a fee for the copies.


Make Sure You Get Your 2007 Stimulus Payment

Beginning in May, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will begin sending one-time economic stimulus payments to more than 130 million households across America. Most people who are eligible for a stimulus payment will receive it automatically if they file a 2007 federal income tax return.

Stimulus Payment

If you don’t usually have to file a federal tax return, but want to get your stimulus payment, you could qualify for it if you have at least $3,000 in income from any combination of earned income, Social Security retirement or disability benefits, and certain veterans' or railroad retirement benefits. You should file Form 1040A or 1040 with the IRS to get your stimulus payment. Form 1040A is a short form, which makes filing quick and easy. Visit for details.

freefileIf you are only filing a return to receive your economic stimulus payment, Free File is a great option for you. All you need to do is follow the simple instructions provided by the software. It’s easy, and it’s free. Free File is located at

Be aware that identity thieves are already pushing scams involving the stimulus payments. At least one telephone scam is making the rounds using the proposed rebates as bait. The IRS is warning citizens of a new e-mail and telephone scam using the IRS name. To find out more go to and click on "warning on identity theft scams."

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Car Buying Tips
  When buying a new or used card, it is important to get all promises and representations in writing. Consumers should never buy a car on impulse or in response to high pressure sales.

Do your homework:

  • Ask the dealer for a vehicle history, title history, Carfax®, or
  • Question prior owners.
  • Have the vehicle inspected by your insurance company and examine it yourself for obvious damage.
  • Ask friends and family when selecting a reputable dealership.
  • Carefully review extended warranties. Remember they are optional, not mandatory.
  • Determine actual mileage.
Tips for buying a used car:

  • Check out the car’s repair record, maintenance costs, and safety and mileage ratings in consumer magazines or online. Look up the "blue book" value, and be prepared to negotiate the price.
  • Buying from a dealer? Look for the Buyers Guide. It’s required by a federal regulation called the Used Car Rule.
  • Make sure all oral promises are written into the Buyers Guide.
  • Ask for the car’s maintenance record from the owner, dealer, or repair shop.
  • Test drive the car on hills, highways, and in stop-and-go traffic.
  • Have the car inspected by a mechanic you hire.
  • If you buy a car "as is," you'll have to pay for anything that goes wrong after the sale.

Source: Kansas Office of the Attorney General

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National Credit Union Youth Week Is April 20-26, 2008

Grade: F

That's the average report card 12th graders earned for financial literacy in 2006. For about a decade, the Jump$tart Coalition® has been surveying high school seniors about personal finance.

What youth don't know is shocking. For example, only 23% understand that interest/dividends on savings accounts may be taxable. Only 40% realize they could lose their health insurance if their parents become unemployed.

Achieving economic prosperity is difficult. It's especially hard for young people who have never learned how to manage money. Credit unions are ideally positioned to respond because they believe in the power of education and are available help you launch toward financial independence.

Join. As a start, open a savings account for each child in your family at the
credit union. As soon as your children can write, have them fill out deposit and withdrawal slips. Guide teenagers through using a debit card and balancing a checkbook.

Share. Include your children in your household finance discussions. Show them how you budget income and expenses. As their skills improve, give them challenges - such as finding a better cell-phone plan, calculating the total monthly cost of owning a car, or sticking to a budget with back-to-school or holiday spending.

Coach. Remind your children to ask for help when they need it. And turn to your credit union when you want help. The credit union tradition of service and the philosophy of self-help make credit unions a natural partner in pursuing financial security.

Join Georgia credit unions this year in celebration of
National Credit Union Youth Week from April 20-26. The theme for 2008 is "Got Green? Grow It at Your Credit Union."

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