It’s National Consumer Protection Week (#NCPW2018) — March 4-10, 2018 — and I wanted to shed some light on the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer resources. The FTC is a national consumer protection agency with great resources to help you protect yourself from fraud, identity theft, and scams. Maybe you’re wondering about the best way to use credit, how to shop for a used car, or maximize your security online? They help with that too.
Consumer protection was one of my favorite topics to study during my graduate degree (NERD ALERT!). Growing up my mom had taught me by example that it was possible to stick up for yourself as a consumer while still being kind to the person responsible for helping you (i.e. store clerk, waitress, doctor, wireless company, etc.). Learning more about consumer protection in school (shopping and saving, buying and owning a vehicle, credit and loans, dealing with debt, resolving consumer problems, etc.) solidified what I had learned from her.
I follow the FTC’s consumer blog (www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog) to stay up to date on the latest scams on everything from debt collection to identity theft. When I get a fishy phone call, piece of mail or see a strange social media advertisement, I report it on the FTC’s Complaint Assistant website. If I have a question about a financial topic I’ll search it on www.consumer.ftc.gov first, before looking to other sources that may be less credible.
I hope these resources can help you make better-informed decisions about money. If you have any consumer protection-related questions about scams or identity theft leave a comment and I’d be happy to answer!
When you think about important aspects of your relationship with your significant other does managing money come to mind? It's common to have different opinions about spending, saving, investing, etc., Money disagreements are common in marriage and that financial strain can be linked to marital instability (Gudmunson et al., 2007). What about YOUR financially ever after? How do you handle money disagreements? Here are a few expert tips:
Gudmunson, C. G., Beutler, I. F., Israelsen, C. L., McCoy, J. K., & Hill, E. J. (2007). Linking financial strain to marital instability: Examining the roles of emotional stress and marital interaction. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 28, 357–376.
Opdyke, J. D. (2009). Financially ever after: the couples guide to managing money. New York: Collins Business.
My husband and I recently shared the budgeting "secrets" that have helped us successfully create and stick to a budget during our "Financially Ever After" breakout session at the 2018 Date Your Mate event.
Fill out the form below to access the information we presented including the 8 money questions every couple must ask each other, tag‐team budgeting, personal allowance, 1% funds, and more!
Filing your taxes early is one of the best ways to protect yourself against tax fraud. In honor of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week (January 29-February 2) here are some tips to help you prepare to file.
It is MUCH easier to gather all your tax documents the first time than to make a second trip to file an amended return. The IRS projects that about five million taxpayers will file amended returns (IRS.gov). Amended returns take a long time to process! If you’re planning a trip to have your taxes prepared here are some tips to help it go smoothly:
Picture ID: The tax professional will need to verify the identity of everyone listed on the tax return.
Social Security card(s): Typically, you’ll only need to provide this once. Your tax professional will copy it for future use. Tax sites need to see the actual card or ITIN letter.
Last year’s tax return paperwork: Optional. This isn’t a requirement but can be a great reference for this year’s process. Looking over last year’s return in advance may trigger a reminder to bring documentation for itemized medical expenses, charitable giving, work expenses, etc.
Financial Institution Information: Be sure to have the correct routing number and account number(s) for your direct deposit return. Use form 8888 to split your refund and save part of it in a savings account. If you choose this option, you can go to www.saveyourrefund.com and enter to win one of 100, $100 prizes-just for saving money!
Expert Tip: If you make $54,000 or less, save more money by getting your taxes prepared for FREE by local IRS-certified volunteers at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site in your area! VITA Site Search.
10 Tips from the IRS
A positive money mindset takes us much further down the path towards financial success than a negative mindset. If you find yourself constantly saying, "I'm bad with money" or "We'll never be able to afford (fill in the blank)", than most likely you will see yourself continue to make poor choices with money which won't allow you to "afford" the things you'd like. In the spirit of positivity, here are 5 money mantras to beef up your bank account!
Read more about money resolutions:
January 31, 2018 is the deadline to sign up for the free credit monitoring Equifax is offering consumers. If you are one of the many who tried to sign up last fall, experienced trouble getting through, and never got signed up, the time is now. Click the link above.
What’s Equifax offering?
Until January 31st, anyone with a Social Security number can sign up for one year of free credit monitoring at equifaxsecurity2017.com. You don’t need to be a victim of the Equifax breach.
What you get when you sign up?
Equifax’s TrustedID credit monitoring covers all three major nationwide credit reporting agencies – Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. If any suspicious activity appears on your credit report, you’ll get an alert. The free services also include a copy of your Equifax credit report, Social Security number monitoring, and identity theft insurance. Plus, for a year, you can lock and unlock your Equifax credit file for free. Credit locks help limit access to your credit file by identity thieves trying to open new accounts. You need to get locks with all three credit reporting agencies for them to be effective.
What happens after January 31st?
According to Equifax’s website, the enrollment period for free credit monitoring ends January 31st. Instead, starting January 31st, it will offer a free lock-for-life product that will allow you to lock and unlock your credit file, at no cost, from a mobile phone or computer. Equifax hasn’t announced the details yet. So, if you want to know more, check Equifax’s website after January 31st.
Tis the season for increased awareness of and opportunity for charitable giving. Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of the holiday season to tug at our heartstrings and try to get to our wallets. I stopped by Studio 5 to chat with Brooke about how a little research will help you avoid a scam and ensure that your gift goes to a reputable charity that will use the money as you intend.
To avoid charity scams, consider these 5 tips before you give:
One final thought-fake websites and other scams get taken down and scammers get caught largely because consumers like you report them! If you see anything fishy report it to ftc.gov/complaint.
Comment below: How do you incorporate charitable giving into your holiday budget?
According to The National Retail Federation, American consumers spent $655.8 billion on the holidays (excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants) in 2016. Consumer spending is expected to increase by up to 4 percent this holiday season.
Determining how much to spend on Christmas can be tricky. Financial planners advise us to spend no more than 1.5 percent of our income on holiday expenses. So, if you made $50K, you’d want to stay under $750 for total holiday spending. If you love the holiday, but do not want to be paying for it in May, here are a few things to consider now:
You’re invited to enter to win one of three Amazon Echo 2nd Generation Smart Devices to help check someone off your holiday gift list!
Here's how you enter:
1. Watch one or more of my videos on the USU Extension Family Finance playlist found here.
2. When you’re done watching click this link to provide feedback about each video you watched.
Surveys must be completed by Friday, December 8, in order to qualify for the drawing. Winners will be notified by Monday, December 11.
Be sure to enter your name and email at the end of the survey if you would like to be entered into a drawing to win one of the 3 Amazon Echo’s. Feel free to share this opportunity with anyone who may be interested! (Must be 18 years old or older to participate. Limit one entry per person.)
Thanks in advance for your participation!
I presented yesterday to a group of USU employees about "Perfect Planning for Holiday Spending". Is there such a thing as "perfect planning"? I think so! We make financial plans so we can better deal with the unplanned!