Medical Expenses and Tax-Preferred Savings

Medical Expenses and tax preferred savingsBy now everybody knows about tax-preferred Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA), but do you know about a similar account to help pay for certain medical expenses? It’s called a Health Savings Account (HSA). Your community bank wants to help, and can provide more information. Here are the basics:

  • If you are enrolled in only one health insurance plan and it has a high deductible, you probably are eligible to open an HSA.
  • Help you avoid the shock to your finances that a sudden large medical bill can cause. Money can accumulate in the account from year to year. And, expenses related to eligible medical expenses are tax-deductible.

Like any financial instrument, you do well to inform yourself about the pros and cons of an HSA account. They may not be for you, nor may they be to your advantage. Get more information about the advantages and common pitfalls of Health Savings Accounts from the Treasury Department. Many community banks, including Peoples Bank, offer HSAs. Get information about Peoples Bank consumer accounts.

Stay Financially Healthy by Understanding Your Earnings

Stay Financially Healthy by Understanding Your EarningsJust about everybody has made the mistake of overestimating the money they think they have coming in. And then you learn the secret: there are costs that reduce your “take home pay”. Knowing what they are and when they kick-in can save you lots of headache.

To make the most of what you earn, you need to really understand your pay and benefits. It’s not enough to simply know what you get paid; you need to know about the fine print and details of your paycheck. Want to find out how to do a better job of managing your earnings? Learn what actions you can take and get tips and resources from MyMoney.gov’s “Earn” page.

Making the most of your money takes work, and it also takes good thinking. To help people know how to think about their financial health, experts have identified 5 key principles: Earn, Save & Invest, Protect, Spend, and Borrow. Each of these 5 principles are discussed in depth on MyMoney.gov.

The federal government has a vested interest in your financial health. The recent economic trouble caused many federal agencies to join forces to bulk up defenses against consumer financial instability. The result was the Congressionally-charted Federal Financial Literacy and Education Commission and its MyMoney.gov website.

Peoples Voice will be posting brief highlights from this site to help its customers and future customers learn how to make their families economically secure.

Tips to Avoid Identity Theft

Tips to Avoid Identity TheftIf you think you’re safe from identity theft, think again. The bad guys are increasingly successful at obtaining confidential information. The recent news about the Target and Neiman-Marcus security breach illustrates that even competent companies can be vulnerable and divulge personal credit card information. So what can you do to protect yourself and minimize the risk of big-time problems? Here are some tips to help.

There are some precautions that are always good for protecting your personal information: never share your password, never choose a password that anyone who knows you can easily guess (such as the initials of your children or their birth years) and always protect your internet devices (such as smart phone) with a password. Those things will keep the casual trouble-maker from having success.

But there are other more intensive efforts you can make. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has provided a very good resource for Consumers on its website. One of its series on Protecting Your Identity, “How to Keep Your Personal Information Secure” lists ways to:

  • keep your personal information secure offline and online,
  • secure your Social Security Number, and
  • keep your devices (such as computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone or ‘dumb’ phone) secure.

We like the recommendation to safely dispose of personal information by using a shredder and avoid “over-sharing” on social networking sites such as Facebook. And here’s another one: destroy the labels on prescription bottles before you throw them out.

Much has been said about how critically important it is to be discrete and careful with the things that suggest access to confidential information. A passive attitude about identity theft may be your worst enemy! Take your good name seriously, and protect it by paying attention to its threats!

Don’t forget to spring forward

It’s that time again—Daylight Saving Time begins on Sunday, March 9th at 2:00 am. Don’t forget to set your clocks one hour ahead.

A safety reminder: Many fire departments encourage people to change the batteries in their smoke detectors when they change their clocks because it provides a convenient reminder.