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Succes Online Financial Education Newsletter
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Are you protecting your financial life? 

Protect your finances

By Jessica Horton, Copywriter

Personal finances have become increasingly complex, yet hardly a day goes by that doesn’t involve a financial transaction. Realizing that there are those eager to separate consumers from their money and destroy their financial reputation makes financial protection take on a new level of importance.

In recognition of National Consumer Protection Week 2012, a coordinated consumer education campaign encouraging consumers to take full advantage of their rights, taking place March 4 to March 10, MMI and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) challenge consumers to add a layer of security to their financial future by putting the following do-it-yourself protection tips in place:

  • Be wary of what you post on social media sites. Even the smallest bit of data or casual comment on social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, can provide thieves with enough information to wreck havoc – both personally and financially.
  • Beware of phishing. Learn what to look for in order to verify that an email is authentic, as crooks can make such communications appear very realistic through logos and Web addresses that mirror legitimate businesses and organizations.
  • Assume it's a scam. If an email or offer sounds too good to be true, suspect that it's a scam – especially if it's requesting money or personal information. Never give out personal financial information through email, even if it’s to a trusted source. Always assume that a potential hacker or identity thief is more technologically savvy than you are.
  • Use your credit card. When purchasing something online, make the payment with a credit card instead of a debit card, if possible. Credit cards generally provide more security against fraud. Review the fine print on statements from any financial institution you do business with to determine how much purchase protection you are offered in the event of theft or fraud.
  • Know your rights. Become familiar with consumer rights by reviewing the Fair Credit Protection Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Credit Billing Act, each available through the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Keep a close eye on your credit report. Guard against identity theft by obtaining a free copy of your credit report and reviewing it for anything that may look suspicious or questionable.
  • Read your credit card statements – carefully. Open and examine credit card statements for unauthorized transactions. If your financial institution offers online access to accounts, log in and review your statements and transactions on a regular basis.
  • Opt for direct deposit. Request direct deposit for all checks. If this option is not available to you, consider obtaining a post office box or locked mailbox.

It’s important to remember that even when faced with considerable financial stress, you shouldn't overlook the importance of financial protection. You should remain knowledgeable of your rights, and aware of potentially harmful situations.

There is always legitimate help available through non-profit credit counseling agencies, such as MMI. If you need help reviewing your statements or paying off debts, contact one of our counselors today.

Money Management International is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). The NFCC is the nation’s largest and longest serving national nonprofit credit counseling organization. NFCC Members annually help over three million consumers through close to 800 community-based offices nationwide.

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The goal of our highly trained professionals is to arm you with the knowledge necessary to take control of your financial situation. Our online seminars stress the development of skills that can assure long-term success. You will gain the peace of mind that comes from improved spending habits, increased savings, and the wise use of credit. Take the first step toward financial wellness by enrolling in a Web seminar today!

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Tips for paying the taxman

Are you prone to procrastinating? You're not alone.

Have you finished your taxes yet? If you’re like many Americans, you will procrastinate as long as you can. In fact, one out of every three taxpayers will wait until the final weeks before the tax deadline to file.

Calculating your taxes now doesn’t mean you have to file before the deadline, but it does give you time to prepare for the results.If you find that you will owe taxes and are not sure how you will pay, the experts at Money Management International (MMI), offer the following advice:

  • Start saving. By brown-bagging your lunch or reducing other daily expenses, you may be able to save as much as $100 a week. This would enable you to save nearly $500 before the big day.
  • File on time. The penalty for not filing on time is generally 5 percent of the balance due per month. The IRS recommends filing your taxes even if you are unable to pay. If you truly can’t get it done by the deadline, file for an extension.
  • Pay on time. The interest charged on late payments is determined every three months and is the federal short–term rate plus 3 percent. During the last several years the interest rate has ranged from a high of 9 percent to a low of 4 percent.
  • Get help. There are many institutions – including the government – that will loan you the money for a price. To request a payment plan, complete Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, and attach it to the front of your income tax return.
  • Don’t compound the problem. If it can be avoided, don’t pay your taxes with a credit card; the last thing you want to do is roll your tax bill into a revolving credit card balance that you will still be paying on this time next year.
  • Change your W-4. Contact your company’s personnel department to reduce the number of deductions you claim or have extra money withheld so that you won’t be hit with the same surprise next year.

To make filing your taxes easier, consider using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). The EFTPS enables tax preparers, businesses and individuals to pay federal taxes electronically using a variety of payment methods. 

Most importantly, include potential tax payments in your budget as a periodic expense. Plan ahead just as you would for holiday gifts and automobile registration.

 


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Update your account balances online. When you receive your monthly statement from your creditors, login to your MMI account and update your balances. It is important that we have the most accurate balance information possible on file. 

If you would like more information about signing up for a Debt Management Plan through Money Management International, visit MoneyManagement.org.


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About Money Management International

Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling, and debt management assistance to consumers since 1958. MMI helps consumers trim their expenses, develop a spending plan, and repay debts. Counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by telephone and Internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call
866.530.9869 or visit MoneyManagement.org.

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