Winter Driving Checklists: Be Prepared and Arrive Safely

Did you know that the leading cause of deaths during winter storms are transportation accidents? Preparing your vehicle for the winter season and knowing how to react if stranded or lost on the road are the keys to safe winter driving.

Before a winter storm, make sure you have a mechanic check the following items on your car:

  • Battery
  • Antifreeze
  • Wipers and windshield washer fluid
  • Ignition system
  • Thermostat
  • Lights
  • Flashing hazard lights
  • Exhaust system
  • Heater Brakes
  • Defroster
  • Oil level

You also want to make sure you tires have adequate tread. All weather tires are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some state jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs. You may also take note of a few of these helpful tips:

  • Keep a windshield scraper and small broom for ice and snow removal
  • Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season
  • Listen to the radio or call the state highway patrol for the latest road conditions. Always travel during daylight and, if possible, take at least one other person
  • If you must go out during a winter storm, use public transportation
  • Always dress warmly but wear layers of loose fitting, layered, lightweight clothing
  • Store a supply of high energy “munchies” and several bottles of water

Another couple things you should keep in mind when traveling long distance in the winter months is to make sure you car is stocked with a few essential items that will help you in case a problem arises. Here are some suggestions:

  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • First aid kit with pocket knife
  • Necessary medications
  • Several blankets
  • Sleeping bags
  • Extra newspapers for insulation
  • Plastic bags
  • Matches
  • Extra set of mittens, socks, and a wool cap
  • Rain gear and extra clothes
  • Small shovel
  • Small tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver)
  • Booster cables
  • Set of tire chains or traction mats
  • Cards, games, and puzzles
  • Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag
  • Canned fruit and nuts
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Bottled water

 Stay safe and warm this winter!

Article Source: NJ State Police

10 IRA Tax Tips

Knowing these 10 IRA tax tips can help you when saving for retirement. When preparing taxes and setting up retirement accounts, it’s important to know how your IRA or individual retirement arrangement affects your tax return. Being knowledgeable will allow you to make smart decisions when contributing to an IRA and how to handle the account in the future until you request disbursement at retirement.

Use these ten IRA tax tips to make smart decisions regarding your retirement future:

  1. Money contributed to a traditional IRA is not taxed until disbursement. Not including Roth IRAs, the person who owns a traditional IRA is not taxed until they request money from the IRA during retirement. Usually, the person’s tax bracket is lower during retirement, saving the person money by waiting to pay taxes until they are retired.
  2. IRAs can only be owned by one person. When the person owning the IRA dies, a beneficiary can be awarded any portion of the monies in an IRA that remains.
  3. Use the correct form. When making nondeductible contributions to a traditional IRA, the taxpayer has to use Form 8606, Nondeductible IRA’s.
  4. Know if you are eligible for a tax credit. Use form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions to find out whether you qualify for a tax credit.
  5. Persons can contribute to a traditional IRA up to the age of 70 years old.  If you are 70 1/2 years or more old at the end of a tax year, you may not contribute to a traditional IRA that year.
  6. To be eligible to contribute to a traditional IRA, the person who takes out the IRA or their spouse must have taxable income from specific sources. Income can come from a salary, wages, self-employment income, tips, commissions, or bonuses. Also included are taxable alimony and maintenance payments that the owner of the IRA received during the tax year. Income that does qualify includes deferred compensation, rental property income, pension or annuity compensation, and dividend and interest income.
  7. Contributions to an IRA can be made up till the tax filing date. You can contribute for the applicable tax year (the previous year) until April 15.
  8. Funds withdrawn from an IRA are taxable the same year they are withdrawn. Withdrawals of only deductible contributions are fully taxable.
  9. Early withdrawal may be taxable. Owners of traditional IRAs who withdraw monies before they are 59-1/2 years old may have to pay an additional ten percent tax.
  10. Late withdrawal may be taxable. Owners of traditional IRAs who do not withdraw the minimum amount after they turn 70-1/2 may owe an excise tax.

Contact the First Financial’s Investment and Retirement Center to set up a no-cost consultation at 866.750.0100 or visit our website for more information.

Article Source: Made Manual, Instructions for Life http://www.mademan.com/mm/10-ira-tax-tips.html#vply=0

A CD or a CD-Type Annuity? How they Compare and Why Annuities are so Attractive

If you’re a conservative investor, you may be wondering what fixed-rate alternatives you have to certificates of deposit. Have you ever looked at fixed annuities? Specifically, fixed “CD type” annuities? Right now, they look a lot better than CDs do.

Yes, CDs are FDIC-insured. But fixed annuities come with a guarantee as well, and often a better rate of return – plus the opportunity for tax-deferred growth and compounding.

The drawbacks of CDs. The interest rate on CDs today is often disappointingly low – often well below 5%. Besides the pitiful return, you have another disadvantage: the interest your CD earns is fully taxable.1 (And FDIC or no FDIC, do you really want your money in a bank right now with the hassles bank customers are going through?)

But you have an alternative.

The appeal of the “CD type” fixed annuity. Just like a CD, a “CD type” fixed annuity is designed to grow your money over a specified term until maturity – usually five or ten years. Right now, some of these annuities are earning well over 5% interest.2 (The interest rate is locked in for the whole term of the annuity, unlike some fixed annuities where the interest rate is only guaranteed for one year.)

Unlike a CD, a “CD type” fixed annuity gives you tax-deferred growth. The earnings aren’t taxed until withdrawal.3

With five- and ten-year terms, these annuities are particularly appealing to people in their fifties who are seeking a conservative retirement savings vehicle.

Learn more. If you think of yourself as a risk-averse investor, you might want to examine the range of options in fixed “CD style” annuities. Before you make a decision, make sure you talk to a qualified insurance agent or financial advisor who can explain the terms and conditions of these annuity contracts.

If you would like to set up a no-cost consultation with the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial, contact them at 866.750.0100 or visit our website for more information.

Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Nondeposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members.

Citations.

1 streetauthority.com/terms/c/cd.asp [8/08]

2 annuityadvantage.com/annuitydata.htm [8/22/08]

3 investopedia.com/terms/d/deferredannuity.asp [8/08]

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Classroom Grant Winner Sincerely Thanks First Financial Foundation

Back in December 2012 we announced four $500 classroom grant winners for the 2012-2013 school year awarded by the First Financial Foundation. Brick Educational Enrichment Center Teacher Sally Flannery, a resident of Wall, NJ, was ecstatic when we surprised her with a $500 grant to help fund her classroom needs.

Ms. Flannery submitted her grant application in order to purchase drop-proof iPad cases to protect the devices she uses to teach preschool children with special needs.

“The iPad is single handedly helping our children access a world they’ve never had access to before,” said Flannery. ”However, there’s one tiny, little glitch. Preschoolers drop things. Often, children on the autistic spectrum and children with behavior disorders throw things, and they are not able to differentiate between the cost of a stuffed dinosaur and a $500 iPad. The drop-proof cases will help protect our equipment and ensure our children have access to the world at their fingertips.”

Brick EEC Grant Money Put to Use

Pictured above: Sally Flannery (far right) along with the other teachers of Brick Educational Enrichment Center.

Recently, Ms. Flannery contacted us with a sincere testimonial, “Recently, a student accidentally dropped one of the iPads.  If it didn’t have the protective case the First Financial Foundation funded, it would have been ruined. This was the first accident, and I’m sure they’ll be many more to come. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and from all of us at the Educational Enrichment Center.”

Knowing that the small things we do can help make a difference in someone’s life is the foundation we built our institution on and we will continue to build upon this value to help and support our surrounding communities.

Know the Facts: 0% Financing on Auto Loans

The Truth Behind 0%

When it comes to getting an auto loan, take the time to carefully look at all your options. What you initially think is a great offer, may end up costing you more money in the long run.

Take a look at the chart below to see some common myths…

mythsabout0%

Research Your Options

As a credit union member you are already aware of the many benefits First Financial offers, including low interest auto loans and great service tailored to your needs. By researching your auto financing options before you visit a dealership, you may find that when using First Financial’s low percentage rate you are still allowed to use any rebates offered by the manufacturer. This could be your best deal! Refer to our auto loans page for information and details about the loan, preferred dealers, links to apply online and our most recent rates and promotions. If you have any additional questions about our auto loans or refinancing options, contact us at 866.750.0100, e-mail us at info@firstffcu.com, or stop into any one of our branches.

Don’t forget to use our FREE online car buying and research tool, AutoSMART! This tool allows you to look up new and pre-owned cars based on model, make, year, mileage, color and so much more. Buying and selling a car has never been easier, be sure to download the AutoSMART app for your Android or iPhone today!

*Click here to view the article source.

 

How Much is Your Habit Costing You?

bad-habits-resized-600We all have little habits that tend to drain our finances. Perhaps it’s soda, online games, cigarettes, magazine subscriptions, gambling, wine, or movies. No matter what your poison, if it costs you time or money, it should be examined closely.

Health and moral concerns aside, the wise consumer will examine his or her habits to determine if the benefits outweigh the costs, or if cutbacks are necessary to restore a healthy balance in one’s budget. One of the first steps in this process is to determine what you get (the benefits) out of your habits, and try to place a monetary value on those benefits.

For example, if you like to get a weekly massage, you can list several potential benefits from this activity, like so:

  • Health benefits: Many medical professionals recommend massage to reduce stress, increase circulation, and improve lymph drainage. If your health is compromised, or if you experience a lot of stress in your personal or work life, the monetary health benefits can be extraordinary. Let’s say four massages a week replaces a prescription muscle relaxer. In this case, we could say your monthly massages are worth $80 a month in health benefits.
  • Productivity benefits: In our example, we could imagine weekly massages increase your work performance by reducing stress, allowing you to complete two extra projects a month. The productivity benefits could total $400 a month.
  • Happiness benefits: If your massages bring you immense joy, you are less likely to spend money on other pursuits of happiness, and you can also place a monetary value on how your habit makes you feel. What’s your habit worth to you? How much would you pay to continue it? For our massage example, we could say our happiness value for this habit is about as pleasant as mowing the lawn is unpleasant. If we pay a lawn service $30 an hour, our massages would be worth $30 an hour in happiness, or $120 a month.

That’s a total estimated monetary benefit of $600 a month.

The next step is to calculate what your habit costs you. Not only will you have to determine your out-of-pocket expense (in this case, the cost we pay for the massages), but also such things as the cost of managing negative health impacts, transportation and maintenance costs, and the effect your habit has on your relationships.

  • Out-of-Pocket Expenses: For our massage example, let’s say the cost of a weekly massage is $65 plus tip, equaling $308 a month.
  • Transportation: If we travel 20 miles round-trip to the spa, we’ll estimate it costs you $0.74 per mile to maintain and operate your vehicle, equaling $59.20 per month in travel costs to our support our massage habit.
  • Time: The time you invest in your habit is also considered a deduction. Our massage habit takes up four hours a week, plus two hours of travel time each month. If your time is worth $40 an hour, you’re losing $240 worth of time every month.

For our massage habit example, our total cost is $607.20.

Our conclusion is a weekly massage habit costs us $7.20 a month. Is it worth it? That’s where you need to decide if cutbacks are necessary. If you don’t want to drop your habit, try finding ways to reduce the impact of the overall cost to make your habit a wise choice.

Do you have questions about any of your financial habits or would you like to make an appointment with a financial representative to discuss your financial plans?

Contact a Financial Representative

Article Source: http://moneyning.com/life-style/how-much-is-your-habit-costing-you/

* First Financial is not responsible for the content listed on any external websites.