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Financial Resources – News Articles & Links


January Feature Article
New Year's Resolutions

There’s something about the new year that brings out a renewed mindset. There’s the excitement of being on the threshold of a fresh beginning, another chance to get it right. This is going to be the year. The year to give up smoking. The year to get organized. The year to get finances in order.  The year to put an end to all those bad habits and start some new good ones. 

It always starts out great, but by the middle of January, well … does it have to wear off?

It doesn’t. Here are some ideas that will make those resolutions last well into the year. When next December comes around, you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment knowing you set out to do something and actually completed it.

FOCUS. This is the key to success in every undertaking. There may be an itemized list of things you want to change, such as exercising more, eating nutritiously, paying off debts, spending more time with the family, and starting investing for retirement. If you try for everything, you’ll just end up with the same list next year. Instead, try to focus on the one aspect that is most important to you, even if it means temporarily forgetting about other resolutions you would have liked to consider. Your chance for success in that one area will be so much higher than if you attempted to take on more.

PLAN. Think of the obstacles you may face and plan to overcome them. Perhaps you’re trying to lose weight and know that evenings are the hardest time to stay away from your favorite ice cream. Think of a replacement and stock up on it.

DO WHAT IT TAKES. Read up on what it is you’re working on, purchase anything you may need, and speak to family members to get their support. By next year, you’ll be on to another resolution. You’ll know that you followed through and can now put this one behind you.


Tax Bill - Some Key Changes

RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS
Despite efforts to create limitations on the availability of pre-tax contributions to 401(k) retirement plans, Congress decided to leave retirement plans largely untouched after receiving powerful pushback from taxpayers in all sectors of the economy. The Act did make some minor changes though, including changes to a rule regarding the ability to convert funds in traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs. Currently, taxpayers have the ability to convert funds from a pretax IRA to a post-tax Roth IRA and pay tax on the money that is converted. Taxpayers also currently have the ability to change their minds and undo this conversion through a process called recharacterization. The Act has repealed the rule allowing recharacterization of a Roth IRA back into a traditional IRA after a conversion.

MORTGAGE INTEREST TAX DEDUCTION
The final Act will not affect current homeowners; it would allow them to continue to deduct the interest paid on up to $1 million of mortgage debt. New homebuyers will only be able to deduct the interest on up to $750,000 of their mortgage principle on home purchases scheduled to close on or after January 1, 2018. The new cap expires at the end of 2025.  It is important to note that the MITD only applies to those filers who opt not to take advantage of the new standard deduction, which is $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for joint filers under the Act. Those individuals who opt to still itemize, will also be able to deduct up to $10,000 in state and local property taxes under the bill.

HOME EQUITY LOAN INTEREST DEDUCTION
The Act limits the deductibility of interest paid on some home equity loans/lines of credit for loans beginning after December 31, 2017, depending on the purpose of the loan. The Internal Revenue Code currently distinguishes between "acquisition" debt, meaning loans to buy, build or substantially improve a main or second home, and other "home equity" debt. The Act does not alter this distinction, but eliminates the deduction of "home equity" debt and limits total "acquisition" debt to $750,000. Existing home equity lines of credit may also not be "grandfathered" into receiving the deduction. Additionally, beginning in 2018, any interest accrued on certain existing home equity loans/lines of credit may not be deductible. The suspension expires at the end of 2025. 

This article is for general information purposes, as we do not provide tax advice.  Individuals should consult their tax advisor for specific questions.


Special Alert
Equifax Inc. Data Security Breach 

On September 7, Equifax announced a cyber security incident potentially impacting approximately 143 million U.S. consumers.  Based on the company’s investigation, the unauthorized access occurred from mid-May through July 2017.
 
Information accessed during the breach primarily includes the following: 
  • Names
  • Social Security Numbers
  • Birth Dates
  • Addresses
  • Driver’s License Numbers (in some instances)
In addition, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers and dispute documents with personal, identifying information for approximately 182,000 U.S. consumers have also been breached.
 
Equifax has established a website that consumers can access to see if they were impacted by the breach. If your data was exposed by the breach, Equifax is offering complimentary Identity Theft Protection and Credit File Monitoring.

Important Update about your EMV Chip Debit Card

When you use an EMV chip-enabled debit card to make a payment, most merchants that are equipped with EMV chip card terminals give you the option of paying as either “Debit” or “Credit.” Either option may require you to enter your PIN.  Always inform the cashier "you want to choose credit.”  You might encounter the two options - US MasterCard or International MasterCard, always choose International MasterCard; and your transaction will be completed as a credit transaction.  You may also see US MasterCard and MasterCard, choose MasterCard and your transaction will be completed as a credit transaction.  Please note, you may still be required to enter a PIN, but as long as you select credit, International MasterCard or MasterCard, the transaction will be processed as a credit transaction and not Point of Sale (POS).  If you don't see these options, the merchant you are shopping with has decided for you; and they will only route it through US MasterCard as a POS transaction.

Many members who make purchases with their debit cards at certain retailers, no longer have the option of choosing “Credit” when making their payment. Unfortunately, some stores have made the business decision to require their customers using a debit card to use the “Debit” option and enter their PIN, thus making the “Credit” option unavailable. When your purchase, if over $50, goes through as a pin-based POS debit transaction, it will incur a nominal 50 cent fee.

If a retailer does not permit you to select “credit” at the sale terminal, you have the following options:

  • Complete the transaction and pay a 50 cent fee
  • Cancel out of transaction; and pay with a First Service VISA Credit Card instead
  • Cancel out of the transaction and pay with a check or cash

Let your voice be heard!  If a retailer tells you that you no longer have an option on how to pay for your transaction – we encourage you to call or write the store. Let them know that as a consumer, you want them to bring back your choice on how you pay for your purchases.


Additional online resources:

  • MyCreditUnion.gov - Financial tools and calculators, including college savings, student loans, mortgages and retirement savings. Users also have access to a personal budgeting worksheet.
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  • Pocket Cents - A financial literacy tool for all age groups which provides personal finance lessons and tips for groups including youth, tweens, teens, young adults, families, seniors, parents, educators and service members.

Click here for additional free Consumer Protection links to protect your identity and personal information.