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Telling Tips is a series of articles from local experts to help you save money, make better decisions and plan for a better future.

Make sure to put these helpful summer reminders on your financial “to do” list.

Reminder #1: Due Diligence

Having a BBQ? Party? Take precautions. Use common sense. How many people can your deck support? BBQ’ing away from people? Fire extinguisher and first-aid kit nearby? Monitoring drinking? Watching the children? Tools and ladders away? You might want to check out ‘host liability’ insurance with your carrier.

Reminder #2: Have You Updated Your Will?

No? A foster home for your children might include friends he never would have met and English as a second language — skills learned for a lifetime, including lock-picking and car-jacking. It can be a whole new world. Have you updated your will?

What happens when a person doesn’t have a will in the State of New York. It’s worth checking out MyStateWill.

Reminder #3: Will Your Pet End Up in a Shelter? Is Your Pet A Part Of Your Family?

Only 17 percent of you have taken steps to provide for their care in an emergency, or after your death. Many pets end up in shelters. An inexpensive way is a Pet Protection Agreement through LegalZoom.com, for just $80. This serves as a contract between you and a designated guardian.

Reminder #4: Big Refund Or Payment in April?

Adjust your withholdings now. The IRS does not pay interest on your refund, but you are subject to interest (and/or penalty) if you owe too much in April. Not sure what to do? Call me. If you received a big refund, and your work and tax circumstances are about the same, adjust your withholding at work so you have use of your money now.

Reminder #5: Organize

Set up folders now for your tax and business receipts. Remember, a journey of a thousand deduction$, begins with one folder (or two). Start now to track your medical, workplace, and other expenses. Don’t lose your money by trying to remember just before your tax appointment.

Reminder #6: Charity

Your gift is just as important now as it is at year end. Remember though, the IRS is very strict, so get that detailed receipt, and file it in that new folder.

Reminder #7: Do You Have An Emergency Fund?

If so, add to it. If not, consider setting up an automatic transfer into your savings account each pay period. Not only are you saving, but you’ll have money in case of an unexpected expense, or to pay bills if you lose your job. Suggestion: Once you pay off a loan or similar obligation, have that amount now transferred to your emergency fund as you are already use to that deduction. An emergency fund can help you avoid relying on credit, or withdrawing from a retirement fund.

Reminder #8: Laptop Security

Thousands of laptops are lost at U.S. airports every week, with most not being returned; more than half contained confidential information, and most had no security.

  • Keep a record of the serial number and model of the laptop and immediately report to the authorities if yours is missing
  • Use encryption (hardware or software solutions)
  • Track your laptop (use a tracking device)
  • Be protected through a service plan for damage from breakage, spills, or other events.

Reminder #9: IRS Or State Correspondence

NEVER ignore a notice or correspondence from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or a state tax agency. If you receive a notice from the IRS, email, fax, or mail it to me or your tax preparer immediately. If you prepared your own return and do not understand the notice, consult a tax professional.

Emails from the IRS: NEVER respond to an unsolicited email from the IRS. If the IRS sends you a notice via email, the IRS did not send it. The IRS does not send notices via email. If you receive an email allegedly from the IRS, delete it unopened. Don’t click any of the links – the link will either try to collect your bank information or it will dump malware on your computer.

Reminder #10: Never Assume

Never assume that a notice or billing from the IRS or a state tax agency is correct. Do not automatically pay it. More often than not the notice is wrong. To repeat: If you receive a notice, e-mail, fax, or mail it to me (or your tax preparer) immediately. If you prepared your own return and do not understand the notice consult a tax professional.

Reminder #11: Child Starting College?

For New York State residents:

  1. Open a New York State 529 plan today. You are allowed a contribution of up to $5,000 from each parent for the year.
  2. As soon as your check clears, make a withdrawal from the plan.
  3. Get an extra $800 to $1,000 refund on your 2013 tax return.
  4. Repeat every year your child is in college.

Reminder #12: College Just Completed?

If you don’t already have credit, apply — but don’t be a kid in the candy store. Applying for too much credit at once can send the wrong signal to a lender. Also too many inquiries can have a negative impact on your credit score. Start slowly, but steadily.

Reminder #13: Estimated Taxes Due Next Month

Call by the end of this month. Don’t be penalized!

Quip

“There is more selfishness and less principle among members of Congress than I had any conception of, before I became President of the U.S.” – James K Polk (11th President, 1845-1849)

I guess not much has changed over the years.

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