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Don’t Let These Financial Blunders Leave Your Wallet Empty PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Thursday, 26 March 2015 13:02

Financial Literacy Month Is A Good Time To Get Your Fiscal House In Order

To err is human, but when mistakes affect your pocketbook it’s not exactly divine.

Don’t feel alone if you’ve committed a financial blunder, though. Two-thirds of Americans have made a significant money mistake somewhere along the way, says Jim Chilton, founder and chief executive officer of the non-profit Society for Financial Awareness (www.sofausa.org).

Since April is National Financial Literacy Month, this is a good time for anyone to pledge to do a better job handling money, says Chilton, whose organization’s mission is to “eliminate financial illiteracy, one community at a time.”

SOFA does that by conducting free workshops and seminars for corporations, small businesses, government agencies, community colleges, libraries, churches or organizations.

“One thing I always tell people is that you can’t let your emotions get in the way when you are trying to meet your financial goals,” Chilton says. “When it comes to finances, there is always going to be at least a little uncertainty.”

But he says people can go a long way toward financial stability if they avoid these common blunders:

•  Living without a ‘net.’ Bad things happen in life, even to the best people who are trying to do the right things. That’s why you need to set aside savings that will serve as an emergency fund in case you suddenly have major medical problems or lose your job, Chilton says. He recommends a six to 12-month cushion that would cover your mortgage, groceries, utilities and the other necessities of day-to-day living.

•  Failing to check credit reports. More than 70 percent of credit reports contain some sort of error, Chilton says. Meanwhile, identity theft is on the rise. You should check your credit reports annually to make sure you are not a victim.

•  Giving little thought to retirement. Many people fail to properly prepare for retirement. If you think Social Security will take care of you, think again. Social Security is designed as supplemental income, not something that can replace your entire paycheck, Chilton says. You need to plan and save to make sure you can lead the lifestyle you want in your later years.

•  Racking up credit card debt. Credit seems to rule, but cash should be your real king, Chilton says. Americans are carrying more than $800 billion in credit card debt, he says. Making a conscious effort to use cash will help wean you off your reliance on plastic. “If you are struggling with credit card debt, you need to start making a plan to get rid of that debt,” he says.

•  Seeking advice in the wrong places. Uncle Felix may mean well, but he’s not necessarily the ideal person to offer you advice on the stock market. A trained professional is your best bet, Chilton says. Sure, word of mouth can be helpful, but it can be equally hurtful. Before you pick someone to help you with investments, though, do your homework because you want someone with a good reputation, Chilton says. Check with the Better Business Bureau and do a Google search to see what else you can learn.

•  Trying to do too much, too quickly. Financial problems that took years to create aren’t going to be fixed overnight, Chilton says. So ease into your new financial plan. Instead of a dramatic overhaul that could leave you frustrated, try to make small changes that will lead to larger commitments.

“Even as we get older and presumably know more, we are still bound to make a misstep here or there,” Chilton says. “We simply can’t know it all, especially when it comes to our finances.

“But if we realize our limitations, we can at least learn to make fewer mistakes and do a better job of setting and meeting the goals we have for our money.”

About Jim Chilton

Jim Chilton is the founder and chief executive officer for the Society for Financial Awareness, or SOFA (www.sofausa.org), a non-profit public benefit corporation with a mission to provide financial education across America. SOFA conducts free financial workshops and seminars to individuals, companies, and organizations on such topics as “Getting Fiscally Fit,” “Financial Blunders,” “Exploring Your Options for a Quality Retirement” and “Solving Debt.” Chilton is a San Diego, Calif., native and alumnus of San Diego State University. After college, he became a high school teacher and coach, but later joined the financial services industry. After achieving a desirable level of success, Chilton felt the need to do more for the community and in 1993 founded SOFA.

 
Why You Shouldn’t Go Cheap When Filing Your Taxes PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Wednesday, 25 March 2015 08:22

Financial Expert Explains Why You Should Hire A Good CPA & Not Part-time Help; Offers Tips

It’s that time of year for part-time help at the local tax-preparation location, when drivers can see seasonal staff standing at busy intersections wearing costumes of the Statue of Liberty or Uncle Sam. But they’re not the only ones who are hired part time, says professional advisor to Certified Public Accountants Gary Marriage, Jr.

“I sometimes ask people, ‘Do you want a guy in a costume to handle your taxes?’ Of course, the guy actually doing the paperwork probably won’t be the guy standing near the traffic, but he’s also not the person you want dealing with your bottom line,” says Marriage, CEO of Nature Coast Financial Advisors (www.naturecoastfinancial.com).

“I know millionaires who go to these pop-up tax firms; they’d rather spend a few hundred dollars on their return than a grand or two with a skilled CPA. But this apparent savings comes at a cost, because a good accountant is likely to find many thousands of dollars in savings in a single tax return, and they are far less liable to make a mistake.”

Marriage offers additional tips for consideration this tax season.

•  Have your records handy, and consider a long-term relationship. Not only is it advantageous to file taxes through a CPA, it’s also smart to have all relevant records readily available at your disposal – no matter who is helping you with your return.

“Not only do I strongly advise you to use a reputable CPA that you can trust, I also think you should try to establish a long-term relationship with him or her,” Marriage says. “Think of a financial professional as similar to a doctor or lawyer – the better they know you, the better off you’ll be. High-net-worth individuals have the most incentive for professional financial services, even if they’ve made a hobby of saving money by doing things their own way.”

•  High-income earners pay the vast majority of income taxes – don’t volunteer more. Taxpayers with incomes exceeding $100,000 earn 60 percent of the country’s income, yet contribute 95.2 percent of the income taxes, according to recent estimates from Congress’sJoint Committee on Taxation. Additionally, those earning more than $100,000 – a bit more than 20 percent of taxpayers – pay for 75.7 percent of total federal taxes, excluding the burden on corporate and investment taxes.

“There are many high-income earners who are passionate about their careers and love what they do; they care more about their work than their income,” he says. “These tend to be the folks who need reminders that there are legal avenues available for protecting their hard-earned money.”

•  High-net-worth individuals should consider CRAT. Many people, financial professionals with years of experience, do not know about Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts, a form of financial protection that Marriage often teaches to CPAs. CRATs are a flexible and effective instrument used in financial and estate planning. A CRAT provides a significant tax shelter for any assets and property placed within it. That allows any assets in a charitable remainder annuity trust to increase in value without being taxed on the increase. A well-constructed CRAT can provide financial security for the annuitants.

“CRATs are surprisingly underutilized, but many CPAs I run into simply don’t know about it,” Marriage says. “It’s worth asking your financial advisor about, and if your advisor is unfamiliar with the structure, encourage him or her to look into it.”

About Gary Marriage

Gary Marriage Jr. is the founder and CEO of Nature Coast Financial Advisors (www.naturecoastfinancial.com), which educates retirees on how to protect their assets, increase their income and reduce their taxes. Marriage is a national speaker, delivering solutions for pre-retirees, business owners and seniors on the areas affecting their retirement and estates. He is an approved member of the National Ethics Bureau, and has been featured in “America’s Top Hometown Financial Advisors 2011” and most recently selected to co-author a book with Steve Forbes titled, “SuccessOnomics: Power Principles.” Marriage is also the founder of Operation Veteran Aid, an advocate for war-time veterans and their families.

 
Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds meets with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, shares progress of Nutrient Reduction Strategy and urges a robust RFS PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Office of the Governor of the State of Iowa   
Wednesday, 25 March 2015 08:12

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)  - Iowa Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds today met with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy and shared Iowa’s efforts in implementing the science-based Nutrient Reduction Strategy and urged the EPA to maintain a strong and robust Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The meeting took place while the lt. governor attended National Lieutenant Governors Association meetings in Washington, D.C.  

The biennial budget proposed by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Reynolds recommends $57 million for water quality efforts. After discussing Iowa’s efforts with McCarthy, Reynolds said, “The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is an innovative, science-based collaborative effort to advance Iowa’s quality water. There are no better stewards of the land than Iowa farmers, and with support from the state, industry and producers, we believe Iowa can be a model for the states in terms of improving water quality.” 

Reynolds has been a vocal proponent of the RFS in her time in office. When the EPA proposed gutting the RFS last year, she attended events and helped organize the “Hearing in the Heartland” after the EPA declined to hold a public meeting on the matter in the Midwest – the region that would have been affected the most. 

 

“I was pleased to be able to share the successes of a robust Renewable Fuel Standard with Administrator McCarthy,” said Reynolds. “We Iowans have seen first-hand that a strong Renewable Fuel Standard creates jobs, increases family incomes, reduces transportation emissions and our dependence on foreign oil, provides consumers more choices at the pump and opens new market opportunities for agricultural products.”

 

A photo of the meeting between Reynolds and McCarthy can be found here.

 

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Loebsack Statement on Pastor Max Villatoro PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Joe Hand   
Monday, 23 March 2015 11:26

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement today on the situation regarding the possible deportation of Iowa City Pastor Max Villatoro.  

 

“When talking about immigration reform, which Congress has continually kicked down the road, many numbers and statistics are thrown around. The situation involving Max Villatoro puts a human face on these numbers and amplifies the need for action on comprehensive immigration reform. I feel there must be a realistic and pragmatic but tough system that enforces the rule of law and ensures accountability while not tearing apart families who have been here for many years. Mr. Villatoro is a loving husband and father, model employee and a dedicated member of our community. As a compassionate country, we cannot allow Mr. Villatoro’s family to be torn apart.”

 
MORE THAN 1,200 GIRLS TO EXPLORE WORLD IN FOUR HOURS THIS WEEKEND PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Shelley Skuster   
Friday, 20 March 2015 09:45

DAVENPORT - The Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois, in collaboration with John Deere, Black Hawk College, Tyson Foods, Inc. and the Stanley Foundation, will host its largest council-wide event, Journey the World, this Saturday, March 21, at The RiverCenter in Davenport.

More than 1,220 girls in grades K-12 have registered for their passport to travel through The RiverCenter and learn about cultures from more than 40 countries.

Activities include a community service project to coincide with the council’s Year of Service campaign will engage girls of all ages to learn about people and cultures outside of the U.S. by visiting interactive booths hosted by Girl Scout troops and community members.

“Each interactive booth represents a different country. It’s an awesome way to open up the world for girls who may not have the resources to literally travel the world,” said Emily Droessler, Leadership Experience Manager at Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois.

The schedule of events for Saturday is as follows:

11:30 a.m. – Doors open; popular all-girl band Serendipity performs

12:15 p.m. – Opening flag ceremony

12:30 p.m. – Kalanjali Dance Academy performance

1:00 p.m. – Clogustana performance

1:30 p.m. – WAGGGS Trefoil ceremony

1:40 p.m. – Derek Grant performance (bag pipes)

2:00 p.m. – Mayer School of Irish Dancing performance

2:30 p.m. – Teranga Drum Circle performance

3:00 p.m. – QC Motion Belly Dancing performance

3:45 p.m. – Serendipity concert

4:30 p.m. – Booths close

Girls can register for the event through this Tuesday, March 17, here: http://girlscoutstoday.org/event/journey-the-world-making-it-a-better-place.

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About Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois: Girl Scouts is the premier leadership development program for girls where girls can have fun, make new friends and learn new things in a safe all-girl setting. Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois serves approximately 18,000 girls in 38 counties. For more information, visit GirlScoutsToday.com or call your local Girl Scout Leadership Center at 800-798-0833.

 
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