Author: Bruce Lund

A home is often considered a person’s most valuable asset. But what happens to your home after you die? Estate planning is an important and often overlooked process that can greatly benefit you and your loved ones once you’ve passed away. Here is a checklist to help: Itemize your inventory Follow with non-physical assets Assemble …

Getting Started with Estate Planning

A home is often considered a person’s most valuable asset. But what happens to your home after you die? Estate planning is an important and often overlooked process that can greatly benefit you and your loved ones once you’ve passed away. Here is a checklist to help:

  • Itemize your inventory
  • Follow with non-physical assets
  • Assemble a list of debts
  • Make a list of memberships
  • Make copies of your lists
  • Review your retirement accounts
  • Update your insurance
  • Assign transfer on death designations
  • Select a responsible estate administrator
  • Draft a will
  • Regularly review your documents
  • Visit an estate attorney and/or financial planner
  • Simplify your finances
  • Complete other important documents
    • Power of attorney
    • Healthcare proxy
    • Living will/Trust
  • Take advantage of college funding accounts for your grandchildren

Estate planning is never easy and often overwhelming. However, it’s best not to put this off. Set time aside to tackle this so you will have the peace of mind knowing you are prepared.

June 15 – National Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Every year, scammers prey on senior Americans with all kinds of fraudulent schemes.

Be wary of emails requesting personal information. Scammers send bogus emails that look like they come from a company you recognize. They include the company’s branding and logo so you think it’s legitimate. These scams are designed to trick you into providing your username and password. Do not click on any links in the email. Contact the company directly through their website by typing the web address yourself. You can also call the phone number that you have on file or the number listed on their website.

Crooks like to create fake websites that look genuine. They can be very impressive to deceive you into thinking it’s real. Then, they try and trick you into providing your debit/credit card number or your username and password. The best thing to do is go directly to the website by typing the web address yourself rather than from the link. Look at the website address and make sure it matches the site you’re trying to access.

Tip: Scammers usually misspell or add an extra letter to the website address. An example is Amazon becoming “Amazone” or “Amazne.”

Fraudsters con people every year. It can be difficult for some to admit they may have been victimized. Here are several telltale signs to watch for:

  1. Money and valuables are disappearing for no good reason.
  2. Bills aren’t paid, and a parent seems confused about finances.
  3. They are being secretive about money and asking for more. There may be strange credit card charges.
  4. A family member won’t answer questions about your parent’s money.
  5. Someone new befriends your parent and manages to take joint title to accounts and property.

To help keep our seniors safe, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has created some free materials at www.consumerfinance.gov.

For additional tips, visit https://compassccu.org/securitytips/

Budgeting for Childcare

Childcare is not cheap. Right behind a mortgage, student loans are often said to be the largest source of consumer debt. However, the average annual cost of full-time childcare is higher than the average cost of in-state college tuition. Whether you aspire to have children in the future or have already started a family, factoring childcare into your budget can help you avoid piling up debt. Here are some steps that can help:

Educate Yourself on Care Costs

Whether you’re looking into a day care center, a nanny, or you’re even considering being a stay-at-home parent, you should have sense of how much childcare will cost you every month. Do some research and reach out to any care options that are of interest to you. Make sure that you know exactly what the price will be, so that you can factor in the expense when you start putting together your budget. If your yearly salary is at all comparable to the cost of your child’s care, you might even consider leaving work to stay at home. If the cost of a nanny exceeds your budget, explore nanny-sharing. You can split the costs of care with another family and know that your little one will have a friend to socialize with. And possible, accept help from friends and family if they offer. Not only will you be saving money, but you’ll know your child is in good hands.

Track Your Current Spending

Start tracking where all your money is going now – before kids. You can either keep track using good old’ pen and paper or use a free app. Tracking your spending and comparing it to your income can give you an idea of how much you’ll be able to spend on childcare. If you discover that you won’t be able to spend much, it might be time to start looking into a higher-paying job or cutting some spending, which is a perfect segue to the next step.

Find Places to Cut Spending

The great part about tracking your spending is that you have a clear understanding of where your money is going. Look at all of your discretionary spending to see where you can start making cuts. It might be time to finally cut your cable, brew at home rather than stopping for coffee every day, and carpool to save on gas. You don’t want to be borrowing money from your emergency fund or contributing less to your 401(k).

Monitor Changes Over Time

Stay open to the idea that the costs associated with having children will change over time. While your salary may increase, so might the cost at the day care center. You might have another child, doubling the cost of the care. Childcare costs vary by age, with infants being the most expensive. Your child will someday grow old enough that paying for childcare is no longer necessary. Instead of childcare, you might have to fund their activities and interests. Don’t get caught sticking to the same outdated budget. Make sure that you’re sitting down and evaluating your budget every year to stay on track.

Happy parenting!

Watch out for Charity Fraud

According to the Giving USA Foundation’s annual report on U.S. philanthropy, Americans contributed nearly $485 billion to charity in 2021. Unfortunately, this willingness to donate money opens a door for scammers, who capitalize on donor’s goodwill to steal money. Charity fraud scammers succeed by mimicking the real thing.

This fraud is an example of Relationship and Trust Fraud under the Fed’s FraudClassifer model.

HOW TO IDENTIFY THREAT: Scammers solicit “donations” by contacting victims using the same channels as legitimate charities, such as telemarketing, direct mail, email, door-to-door solicitations, social media, crowdfunding platforms, and cold calls. Scammers may also use natural disasters or other emergencies to commit fraud. For instance, scammers may commit insurance fraud against natural disaster victims, re-victimizing people whose homes or businesses were damaged by the disaster.

HOW TO PROTECT AGAINST THIS THREAT: Real charities will accept donations using any method available to the donor, such as ACH debit, check, or credit/debit card. Scammers will request payments immediately using payment methods that are difficult to trace and provide the scammer guaranteed funds such as cash, gift card, virtual currency, Instant Payment, or wire transfer. Donors should verify the charity’s names and web addresses before donating. Consumers should also keep records of their donations and view their bank accounts regularly to ensure they weren’t charged the incorrect amount or unknowingly signed up for a reoccurring donation. Consumers who find incorrect or unauthorized entries on their accounts can dispute entries with their financial institution.

The Internal Revenue Service maintains an online database where consumers can check whether an organization is a registered charity and whether their donation is tax-deductible. Click here.

A victim of charity fraud can report it to the FTC and the government agency in their state that regulates charities. The consumer can further report a charity fraud to the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or visit www.fbi.gov for more information.

Coaching kids to stretch a buck on spending

By getting your kids more involved with understanding money, many of us could not only reduce expenses but also help our children learn a life lesson. Here are some ways you can involve your kids.

  1. Coach your kids on the concept of budgeting. You might take a couple of dollar bills out of your wallet and explain that spending too much now means there may not be enough later for something else they want (say, a winter trip or summer camp)—a concept a schoolchild of any age can grasp.
  2. Set a budget that encourages them to plan. For example, some parents pay for all academic supplies, then provide each child $100 for other back-to-school needs. The kids are free to stretch the $100 using money they’ve earned or saved. If they’re alarmed about this budget, brainstorm with them about ways they can earn more. (See #5.)
  3. Help them inventory what they already have. Can they reuse backpacks or sports equipment? If there’s peer pressure to have something “new,” how about personalizing those possessions with stickers or stencils?
  4. Ask them to make a list of what they really need. Have their needs really changed? If new clothing is essential, can they mix in clothes from their closet later on?
  5. Hold a yard sale of outgrown or unneeded stuff to raise money. While you’ll probably want to oversee the sale, encourage your kids to get involved in the pricing, set-up, and selling. They’ll value the profits more, having worked for them.
  6. Avoid paying full retail. Start with discount stores and other nearby consignment shops. Teens who like to dress distinctively may find bargains at resale shops, outlet stores, and vintage clothing emporia. If you do need to buy “new,” peruse sale flyers and search for online coupons first. Above all, stick to your shopping list.
  7. Consider sharing with the less fortunate. Many communities have an organization that provides items to truly needy kids. If you come upon a great deal, buy a little extra and donate it. You won’t save money, but you’ll gain rewards of another kind. Your children will, too.

Five simple moves after New Year’s Day can make tax filing easier

There’s nothing fun about paying taxes. But by taking these five steps in January to organize your paperwork, you could avoid getting frustrated, frazzled, and perhaps befuddled come tax time.

1. Make a copy of your 2020 tax return and attachments. With this to guide your 2021 tax prep, you’re less likely to forget a source of income or a deduction.

2. Collect the tax IDs you’ll need. You’ll want your dependents’ Social Security numbers and the SSN of anyone you employed (e.g., a babysitter, housecleaner, or nanny).

3. Start a file folder labeled “Income.” Put in it the following tax forms you’ll receive in January:

  • W-2s and 1099-MISCs from employers
  • 1099-INTs reporting interest income
  • 1099-DIVs reporting mutual fund or stock dividends
  • 1099-Bs reporting brokerage transactions

4. If you itemize, start another folder labeled “Deductions.” Some of the information that goes here will come by mail; the rest you may have to dig up yourself.

  • 1098s reporting interest you paid on mortgages and equity loans (also real estate taxes, if included in your monthly mortgage payment)
  • A receipt for real estate taxes if you paid them yourself
  • A copy of your W-2s showing state and local income taxes you paid
  • A receipt for personal property tax from your town or the taxing authority
  • Receipts for charitable donations and document your mileage
  • Receipts for medical expenses and document mileage
  • Receipts for bills incurred while job-seeking

5. Rev up your retirement saving. There’s still time before April to contribute to a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA. For details, search “IRA Contribution Limits” at www.IRS.gov. Don’t have an IRA yet? Ask us about our insured IRA choices.

Compass has partnered with TurboTax, which guarantees 100% accurate calculations so you can be confident your taxes are done right and get your biggest possible refund. With TurboTax Live, you can even talk with a tax professional onscreen for unlimited advice and a final review of your return. To learn more, visit https://compassccu.org/membership/benefits/

In short, a credit union is a cooperative financial institution where people work together to make everyone’s lives better. Everyone who has an account here is a member. And every member is an owner.

Rather than making profits to send to far-off shareholders, Compass CCU reinvests in our credit union. Which means we reinvest in YOU. That’s why we say that, at Compass Community Credit Union, we guide you to better banking.