Archives for April 2016
It’s tax refund time and Americans do get tax refunds. In 2014, the average refund was $3,116, in 2015 it was $2,893, and we are expecting an average this year of $2,900. Last year’s refunds totaled almost $200 billion paid by the Internal Revenue Service to individual taxpayers.
If you are one of those folks who had more held out of your pay than you owe, you just might be receiving a hefty refund. Though it is easy to spend that check when it hits your mailbox, consider that this is an unexpected influx. What can you do with that check to improve your overall financial health? Here are six ways to use that refund to meet long-term and short-term goals.
Pay down your credit card debt. Even if you are meeting the minimum payments, chances are that you will never pay off your debt just paying the minimum amount. Drop that refund on the balance and it will really decrease the debt and the amount of interest you are paying. The average credit card interest rate this week is 15.99 percent. Putting your refund against that debt is like getting almost a 16 percent return on your investment.
Start an emergency fund. Chances are one of the reasons you have that debt on your credit card is that you resorted to your credit card when you didn’t have enough ready cash to meet an obligation. By starting an emergency fund, you’ll have the money needed if the worst option happens. As little as $2,000 will cover the average emergency in the form of a car repair, house repair or health bill.
Make an extra mortgage payment. If you will make one extra mortgage payment each year, you will reduce a 30-year mortgage to a 26-year mortgage. That saves you $22,769 over the life of the loan figuring on a $200,000 note at 4.5 percent.
Build retirement savings or college savings. Though we are more likely to put the money in our child’s college savings, the experts say it is smarter to put it in your own retirement savings. There are loans available for your child’s education, but loans are far rarer and more costly when financing your retirement. Whichever you choose, just put it in some type of long-term savings.
Invest in your home. For many of us, our homes are the place we live, but also the place we hold much of our investment equity. What will $2,900 buy? It may get you a few replacement windows, extra insulation, new cabinet tops, a fresh paint job or most of the cost of an efficient boiler. All these improvements will add to the value of your home and some even pay off in decreased energy use. This also gives you an opportunity to enjoy the improvement rather than waiting until you decide it must be done to sell it.
Prepay vacation. If you are going to take a vacation, pay for the plane tickets, cruise tickets or even the hotel bill. Paying ahead means that you will be able to enjoy the time when it rolls around and not worry about the charges on your credit card. I learned recently that by prepaying for a car rental I could save several hundred dollars on a weeklong trip. The prepayment option only works on the company’s website and the amount of the savings depends on the length of rental and type of car rented and, I suppose, the number of rentals that are reserved and not picked up at a given location.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 907-474-7201.
This is part three in a seven-part series on building your kit. It seems that lots of folks don’t know where to start or what items to include in their kit. How about sitting down with your family and make a list of what you would need if you couldn’t go to the store or get to the bank for several days? Then go to work and bit by bit, build your kit. It can be a fun family project that has an added benefit of offering a greater piece of mind when a disaster does strike. Besides, everyone is invested in the project.
Building a kit following this seven-part, step-by-step plan will give you the basics. You will have a 72 hour kit. It is my experience that most kits expand over time and eventually you will want to have a 14 day kit on hand, but this is a good beginning.
Things to buy for Week Three:
- Dust filter masks. Look for the ones rated “N95”, they are designed to keep out airborne dust, pollen and possibly protection from disease.
- Whistle to signal for help.
- Finish buying water, at least one gallon per person per day.
- Cash. Set aside as much as you can reasonably afford. Small bills are best. During a widespread power outage your debit card is of no value. Neither is the money you have stashed in a savings account.
- Make copies of your important family documents. You can scan them to a flash drive and store in either a “go bag” or other safe location away from your home. These documents may include copies of insurance policies, deeds, passports, birth certificates and titles to your vehicles.
- Regular, unscented, household bleach for purifying water. Also pick up an eyedropper. Experts recommend 16 drops of bleach to purify one gallon of water.
- Juice. Get the single-servings as refrigeration may not be available
- Nutrition/high energy bars
Plan and discuss how you would evacuate your home in the event of a sudden emergency.
Tap water may need to be purified with bleach in the event of a disaster. Consider purchasing or building a stand-alone water filter. (Email me for a free set of plans to build an effective, low-cost filter.)
Plan to have at least one can of meat or meat entrée for each family member per day.
Select two places to meet with your family after an emergency or disaster-one near your home and one outside of your neighborhood in case its not safe to return.
As always send your questions and comments to email@example.com. Previous columns are on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com. Dave Robinson is the Postmaster in Bandon, Oregon, and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available at barnesandnoble.com and other online booksellers.
Over 100 people participated in the 2nd annual Extension Week in Delta March 21-25.
In all there were twenty classes scheduled Monday through Friday.
There was strong community interest with several people signed up for multiple classes, and in spite of the warm sunny days we had good participation. It was wonderful.
We are grateful to our extension support from Fairbanks: Darcy Etcheverry, Glen Holt, Marla Lowder, Roxie Rogers Dinstel, and Steven Seefeldt, and Delta’s CES IPM technician Nellie Troit. Thank You, your programs were very well received, and we continue to hear wonderful comments about the classes that were offered. Thanks to our local Salcha-Delta SWCD employees: Colin Barnard, Tammie Kovalenko, Lene Meghan, and Jeff Mason who presented on a wide variety of topics that drew good crowds. We had two presenters from Fairbanks that sparked a considerable amount of interest with their talks, one on Chaga by Paul Heflinger, and the other Mushrooms by Sveta and Igor Pasternak. Local producers Jan and Bryce Wrigley of the “Alaska Flour Company” hosted a class on Barley, which was very well received and judged, “delicious” by all who attended. Ellie Mason, Alaska Department of Fish and Game Delta, won the class over with her bee knowledge and passion for honey.
It was an amazing week, and we are thankful for all the support of the Delta Career Advancement Center, the continued support of our extension professionals, and our community.
Christina M. Roden
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Cooperative Extension Service