America Saves Blog
Tips, advice, and the latest news from the savings world.
New Financial Education Guide for VITA Programs and Their Clients
December 23, 2011
By to Leigh Tivol, Director of Savings & Financial Security at CFED
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is one of the nation’s largest anti-poverty programs. The EITC reduces the tax burden on workers, supplements wages, helps low-income families build assets and reduces income inequality. Annually, the EITC helps 6.6 million Americans move out of poverty; half of these are children. In 2010, over 26 million workers received nearly $59 billion in EITC. The average credit was $2,100, but can be as much as $5,751, depending on the worker’s income, marital status and whether they have children.
Awareness is critical. Only four out of every five eligible taxpayers claim and receive the EITC. Ideally, all eligible taxpayers would claim their EITC. The IRS, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) and countless other nonprofit and community-based organizations have mounted campaigns to make sure that eligible taxpayers know they can claim this credit.
Making sure that affordable tax assistance is available to these families is equally important. The IRS, numerous foundations and community organizations also support programs that provide free tax assistance to low- and moderate-income families. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs, for instance, offer a valuable service to working Americans by helping them keep more of their hard earned money, especially if they quality for the EITC.
December 22, 2011
By Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program President Ben Pierce
When deciding which charities to support at year-end, Vanguard Charitable's Ben Pierce recommends that donors look out for five things: Transparency, access, evidence of impact, a long track record, and a sustainable plan for the future.
"Giving money to charity is not necessarily as easy as it might seem," he said. "Before making a last-minute charitable gift, ask questions, research the charity's website, check who is on their board and their financials, call the organization, or simply try out the charity with an initial gift. Ten minutes of analysis may open a door to a lifetime of rewarding giving."
To assist donors in researching, analyzing, and reviewing the health of the organization, good charities will share information about themselves, such as their IRS Form 990. This document provides key financial information, such as the contributions the charity has received and how they spend their money. "If you cannot find an I-990 form on a charity's website, be skeptical," Mr. Pierce cautions.
December 20, 2011
By Katie Bryan, America Saves Communications Manager
Buy a Savings Bond – The U.S. Treasury will end over-the-counter sales of paper savings bonds on December 31, 2011. You will still be able to get savings bonds online through TreasuryDirect.gov but that system makes it difficult to buy savings bonds as a gift. Visit your local financial institution to buy a paper bond for someone you care about before December 31st.
Open a Savings Account – Opening a savings account for a child or teen can instill smart financial habits. Establishing a savings account will introduce them to banking concepts, such as interest and how compounding helps money grow.
Open a 529 – Help someone save for college by opening a 529. Student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt. Saving early (or helping someone save) will reduce the amount of debt a child or friend will take later in life for education. Click here for more information on 529 accounts.
Make a Payment on a Loan – Do you have a friend or family member in debt? Instead of buying them a gift they may not need, give them the gift of a debt payment. Giving them an extra payment will go a long way. Making an extra payment on a debt will reduce the amount of interest paid and the term of the loan.
December 15, 2011
By Katie Bryan, Communications Manager
Some of the best, and most innovative, tips we get come from you the reader. That’s why for your weekly dose of motivation to Kick Start Your Savings we are sharing your tips. Whether it’s from our American Saver newsletter, on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter page, you are always willing to share your tips to help each other out. Keep it up! Together we can start small to save big.
I make sure every time I get a new prescription to look at the drug company's website. More and more companies offer consumers substantial out of pocket savings. Some have a onetime use coupon, while others offer a yearly discount. I saved 70% in out of pocket payments last year just by looking on the internet! Harvey Kivel, Tucson, AZ
I met a woman in a grocery store parking lot who was driving my dream car. She told me to put every $5 dollar bill I got in a box and said I would be amazed at how much I could accumulate. Not every $5 bill made it to the box, but I never took any out. Recently, I had some additional monthly bills and needed money quickly. I made the decision to use the money saved in my $5 box. I had been saving for about a year and was stunned to find that my box held over $500 dollars! Diane S. McCorkle, Columbus, Ohio