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5 Ways to Prepare For This Year’s Tax Season

By law, employers must issue all W-2 statements by the end of January. Many people are waiting for these documents so that they can file their taxes. Most will scramble looking for papers to help claim those coveted deductions. However, it’s best to prepare during the year to ensure that there is no mad rush to file. To get a jump start on the 2018 taxes, here are some things to help speed up the process:

Get Organized

The best place to start is by finding out what forms are necessary to file. Some users file a 1040 A while others with uncomplicated taxes can file a 1040 EZ. Find out what deductions can be claimed, and make sure to have the receipts to document these itemizations.

Keep all the tax documents in one location. It’s advisable to retain about seven years’ worth of tax returns. Having everything in one location makes things easy to locate

Add Up the Deductions

Has anything changed in the past year? Buying a house, adopting a child, and putting in an energy efficient heating system can make a big difference to the bottom line. The government allows write-offs for things that help improve energy consumption and the economy. Missing just one important deduction can cost thousands in write-offs.

One of the most missed deduction is those made to a charity. Things like dropping off clothes to the local thrift shop, making cash donations to a church or other charitable organization, and other acts of kindness can add up quickly. Make sure to have receipts to back up these claims as the government likes to audit those who have higher charitable deductions than the average.

Tax Professional or On Your Own

With the computer programs and internet options that are available today, many people can file their taxes without the use of an accountant. Small businesses and other complicated taxes should consider using a professional. Depending on your personal preference, either option can work for you…

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Budgeting A Paycheck

Financial discipline is a key factor in helping one keep a healthy financial lifestyle. Budgeting for your income is the first step to achieving such discipline. When creating a personal budget, emphasis should be kept on maintaining a balance between the essential items and the non-essential ones. One should also focus on short-term and long-term expenditures and make a proper balance thereof. Here are some important tips on how to budget a paycheck.

Apply the 50/20/30 Rule

The 50/20/30 method of budgeting takes into consideration 3 essential categories including the essential costs, financial goals, and lifestyle costs. A properly balanced 50/20/30 rule allocates 50% of the income on essential costs. These are costs related to the basic day-to-day needs that one should meet to live a comfortable life. They include expenses on utilities, rent, mortgage payments, transport, and food.

Financial goals, on the other hand, consume 20% of an individual’s paycheck. The financial goals include expenditures that go into saving for emergencies, retirement savings, as well as saving for future goals and personal ambitions.

Lifestyle costs, on the other hand, should be allocated 30% of the paycheck. This caters for expenditures that go into items that are not essential for day-to-day survival. Expenditures such as eating out, going out for concerts, and shopping sprees come under this category and should only be budgeted for on a case-by-case basis.

Keep Track of Expenses

After setting the first budget, it is important to regularly evaluate how suitable the budget is towards achieving an individual’s financial goals. The evaluation should focus on, among other things, tracking of expenses and evaluating particular needs that are not being sufficiently met. It should also focus on determining areas where one is spending money irregularly for reconsiderations to be made…

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Teaching Kids About Philanthropy & Giving Back

As parents, one of the most important jobs you can have is teaching your children about different ways of life.  How to be kind. How to be generous. How to be helpful. The list goes on. Teaching children generosity and kindness is essential in their early stages of development, as it will help shape them into well-rounded adults. While children may not fully understand what it means to give back to others, teaching them best practices over time is a great way to start.  

During early life stages, children are capable of developing a sense of empathy for others. As adults setting an example of what it means to serve and help others can be looked upon as a model for doing what is right. Providing children with an environment where they have the opportunity to see that volunteering and giving are encouraged can spark an interest for them in the area of philanthropy.

Even the most simple involvement such as making a donation to a charity or setting up a charity box to collect donations is an excellent way to get kids involved. In order for children to gain a clearer picture of philanthropy, it requires the adult to use a better means of understanding. In a child’s mind toys are one of the highlights of their entire day because they interact and play with them. Having a child gather up old toys that they no longer play with to donate to a foundation for boys and girls who are less fortunate is the perfect chance to get them involved hands-on, and can really get them excited about making another child happy….

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Saving For Your Child’s Education

Having a child may be a rewarding moment for many parents, but this also means taking on heavy financial responsibility. One of the most important long-term investments you can make for your children is saving up for their college education. Unfortunately, many college students who graduate carry a heavy student loan debt burden they carry with them. Without the adequate out-of-pocket funds to pay their way through school, they are forced to borrow thousands of dollars that can cripple their future, with more added on in interest. Because college has become increasingly expensive, it is wise to start saving for your child’s education from the moment they are born. Here is how you can effectively save some money starting today.

529 College Plan

The 529 college savings plan is offered by at least 30 states in the country and is one of the most popular methods of saving money for college. You invest money you earn after taxes, and withdraw it when you need to it pay for school-related expenses such as tuition, books or other needed supplies. You can start to invest small increments of money from when the child is small, and when the time comes to withdraw the funds, you can do just that. Be advised that you may be liable to pay some penalties if the child ends up not attending college.

Recommend Your Child Pitch In

Getting your child to help pay for college can be a great way to not only relieve some of the burdens you may have of putting away all the money but teaching them financial responsibility. If your child is able to find a summer job, devise a plan where they can devote a portion of their paycheck, no matter how big or small, towards their college funds. Every dollar counts…

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How to Best Manage Student Loans

Students are taught the ins and outs of applying for student loans, but are often never told how to manage these loans. Upon graduation, these students find themselves left wondering how to handle re-paying these loans.

Best Practices for Student Loan Management
There are a few things every former student should do to manage their student loans. However, they aren’t always common knowledge. Keep reading for key strategies every student loan holder should know.

Know Your Loans
A borrower that is familiar with all the details regarding their loans will be able to better manage them. Details like the balance, repayment status, and lender are all pertinent information. For a better look into specific loans, students should visit studentloans.gov. This will allow them to see the loan amount, repayment status, and lender.

Know When the Grace Period Ends
Grace periods typically end six to nine months after a student graduates. Depending on the type of loan they received, they may have more or less time in their grace period. It’s essential to know the dates that these grace periods end so that the first payment isn’t missed.

Get in Touch with the Lender
While some people end up canceling calls and ripping up letters from their lender, this isn’t the best way to manage one’s student loans. Instead of avoiding the situation, make it a point to get in touch with the lender as soon as possible. Lenders try to work with their borrowers, so they’ll generally be able to work out an individual repayment plan to accommodate specific situations.

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Organizing a Successful Fundraising Event

The duties of active philanthropists can differ depending on the cause they’re supporting and what their personal goals and beliefs are.  Some philanthropists stick to making regular donations, while others actively volunteer to help those in need. Another great way to exercise your philanthropic efforts is to organize or assist in organizing a fundraising event for a cause that has meaning to you.  Today, we see many different types of fundraising events, from online “GoFundMe” pages to extravagant galas that donate all proceeds to a specific cause. If you’re looking for a great way to raise money and awareness for a cause that means a lot to you, follow some of these short steps to organizing a successful fundraising event.   

Find a Purpose

Before anything else is planned, you’ll need to decide what purpose you want your event to focus on.  Whether you’re looking to strictly raise money, raise awareness, network, or a combination of everything; you’ll want to make sure your purpose is clear, so you know where exactly to focus your efforts.  Fundraising events can serve multiple purposes if needed.  Find out what works best for your cause and mission.

Set a Goal

Once you’ve figured out the purpose of your event, you’ll need to set the goal of your fundraiser.  This will likely be based on the specific amount of money you want to raise for your cause. Setting a goal helps attendees and those making a donation know what you’re trying to reach.  Generally, the amount you set should be what you hope to net, after the deduction of expenses.

Create a Financial Plan & Expense Budget

Fundraising events should always have a complete budget listing of any expenses that would be required to hold the event; generally, this can vary depending on where you’re holding the event, it’s size, and staff, catering, and entertainment expenses, to mention a few.  As previously mentioned, your budget should be based on your overall fundraising goal, so you can account for exactly what you want to raise for your cause. Additionally, it’s always wise to leave a little extra budget room for any unexpected or unforeseen costs…

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The Importance of Volunteering

When you think about the benefits of volunteering, you probably consider the impact you make in the lives of the less fortunate. However, volunteering can also contribute positively to your life. Although everyone ought to give without expecting anything in return, the truth is that serving rewards you in many unexpected ways.

Build New Connections

During volunteer events, you are likely to meet like-minded people, from where you can develop lasting friendships. A volunteer connects with the community and makes it a better place for everyone. If you attend the events with a friend, you will have time to strengthen your relationships. Volunteering allows you an opportunity to develop and practice your social skills, which is a striking advantage for shy individuals.

Develop Communication & Networking Skills

For one to volunteer, they must have or develop specific skills, such as teamwork, project planning, organization, communication, task management, and task management. You are likely to be comfortable taking up some job opportunities when you are sure that the skills you have earned are adequate. During your experience as a volunteering experience, it is possible to meet people working in your area of interest..

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