Archive for the ‘Saving and Investing’ Category

Credit for Your Retirement Savings Contributions

You may be eligible for a tax credit if you make contributions to an employer-sponsored retirement plan or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

A tax credit directly reduces the amount of federal income tax that you are required to pay. Example: Federal income tax liability is $600 and you’re eligible for a $200 Savers Credit. Your tax liability is decreased to $400. In this example you could receive a $200 boost in your refund or a $200 deduction in the amount you need to pay when you file your tax return.

Savers Credit Eligibility Requirements
You are eligible for the credit if you’re age 18 or older, not a full-time student, not claimed as someone’s dependent, and within the income limits.

2017 Income Limits:
-Single, married filing separately, or qualifying widow(er), with income up to $31,000.

-Head of Household with income up to $46,500.

– Married Filing Jointly, with incomes up to $62,000.

The amount of the credit is 50%, 20% or 10% of your retirement plan or IRA contributions up to $2,000 ($4,000 if married filing jointly), depending on your adjusted gross income.

Example: Married couple and they file a joint return. Their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) in 2017 is $55,000. (AGI is less than taxable income and is on the last line of page 1 of your 1040 tax return form).  If they contribute $1,000 to an IRA, the government will give them a $100 credit.

For more information about income limits and credit amounts visit


Upcoming Personal Webinars: Live, Interactive, Online Classes

Hillsborough County Extension invites you to participate in these online personal finance classes. Register using the links below. All are free.

Time for all is 12:00pm – 1:00pm EST.

What: Managing Student Loan Debt
When: Wednesday, Feb 15, 2017
Description: We will discuss and compare payment options, demonstrate tools to estimate payments, and provide information about Public Loan Forgiveness.

What: Saving is a Family Affair Webinar
When: Tuesday, Feb 28, 2017 from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EST
Description: Whether you are single, married, married with children, a grandparent, an aunt or an uncle – saving for the future is important. We will discuss how everyone in the family can make and contribute to financial goals such as education, independent living, or other future goals.

This webinar is presented by University of Florida/IFAS Extension in partnership with Hillsborough County Extension and Seminole County Extension. This webinar is a partnership of the Tampa Bay Saves and Florida Saves campaigns.

What: Spring Clean Your Finances
When: Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Description: Discussion will include essential documents, how to long to keep, consolidating accounts, reducing fees and organizing financial papers.

Florida Master Money Mentor Training


Hillsborough County Extension is offering training to those interested in becoming  a Florida Master Money Mentor volunteer. The program is an opportunity for participants to learn more about personal finance and then share that knowledge with others.

The four-week training is scheduled February 2, 9, 16 and 23 from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the County Extension office, 5339 County Road 579 in Seffner. Participants must attend all four classes and complete some at-home study. Early Bird registration -register before January 13- is $18.00. Regular registration cost is $25.00 and registration deadline is January 26.

No previous financial education or background in financial services is required to be a Florida Master Money Mentor. Training topics include effective communication strategies, cash flow management, credit, debt management, and saving and investing for future goals.

Mentors are asked to commit to volunteering at least three hours per week, and follow guidelines in regards to reporting, client confidentiality, and providing research-based unbiased information.

Individuals who promote, sell, or endorse financial products or services are not eligible to be volunteers. But they can attend the training to increase their personal financial knowledge.

Register online at . Seating is limited so register early to reserve a spot.

For more information, contact Lisa Leslie, Hillsborough County Extension Services at (813) 744-5519 ext. 54143 or

The University of Florida Extension provides the infrastructure for this program throughout the state of Florida, thanks to a gift from Bank of America. #


Did you hear about the fiduciary rule & retirement plans?

A fiduciary is someone who has a legal obligation to put a client’s interest ahead of their own. A financial professional with a fiduciary obligation must recommend investment products that are in your best interest.

Some financial professionals have this legal obligation and some do not. For instance, brokers do not have fiduciary responsibility, a Registered Investment Advisor does. A broker is required to recommend products that are suitable for their clients. But they may also legally sell products with substantial fees and commissions that can conflict with a client’s best interests.

The debate as to which financial professionals should carry fiduciary responsibility has been going for years. On April 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor released a Fiduciary Final Rule that said any financial advisors who provide advice regarding retirement plans must meet the fiduciary standard. The rule was proposed for transitional roll out from April 17, 2017 to January 1, 2018. Financial industry groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have filed lawsuits challenging the rule.

The take-home for investors is to understand how their advisor is compensated and any conflicts of interest. Be aware of the fees and commissions you are paying. If it is recommended that you roll money from a workplace retirement plan into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) weigh the costs and benefits. Steer clear of an advisor who says company match for your retirement account is not as good as an IRA. Understand that fees and commissions can significantly impact investment returns.

Use the FINRA BrokerCheck to find out about a broker’s history

Personal Finance Benchmarks: Do You Know Your Numbers?

Financial ratios and comparing to general benchmarks are a tool to analyze your financial situation. They can be a good way to determine strengths and weaknesses and can help
develop a realistic financial plan.

Below are some common ratios and benchmarks.  These benchmarks are just a starting place. Your specific situation, goals, budget priorities and stage in the life-cycle need to be considered. Think of these benchmarks as a general guide, not the key to precise happiness.

Emergency Fund: The recommendation is to have enough money in a safe, liquid account so you can cover 3-6 months of non-discretionary expenses. Just how much depends on whether or not you have sick leave, disability  insurance, and income stability. In addition, even 3 months can seem like an overwhelming goal. Start slowly. Saving  $1.50 a day for 2 years will give you a nest egg of $1,095.

Savings to Income Ratio: If a person starts when they are 25-35 and saves & invests 10 – 13% of their income throughout their working years, they have a good chance at a comfortable retirement. A person who starts later in life or who has additional goals such as saving for children’s education will likely need to save and invest more than 10%.

Credit Card Usage Ratio: This is the amount of money charged on credit cards compared to the limits of those cards. This ratio will impact your credit score.
Example: Charge $1,000 a month and total credit card limits are $5,000. Usage ratio = 20%.

Recommended benchmark is to keep usage below 30%. This is true even if you pay the balance in full each month.

Housing Mortgage Ratio: Generally the recommendation is  that no more than 30% of gross income should go for the mortgage. This includes principal, interest, taxes, and insurance (PITI).

Example: Gross income =  $4,000 a month. A monthly payment = $1,200 could be considered affordable. Lenders may allow for 33% ratio. In this example that would  allow for a monthly mortgage payment = $1,320.

Overall Debt: Overall debt includes mortgage debt, student loans, credit cards, and auto loans. The benchmark is 36% or less of gross income.

Example: Gross income  = $4,000. Overall debt goal < $1,440. So with a $1,200 mortgage there is $240 left for other consumer debt payments.

Some lenders will stretch the ratio limit to 42%. In this example that would allow  debt levels  = $1,680.

Assets to Debts: The benchmark for the asset to debt ratio depends on our stage in the lifecycle. Ideally, closer to retirement assets- such as investments and savings- are considerably greater than debts.

Women & Money: Unique Issues

Join us for a program that will provide the motivation and knowledge to help you achieve your financial goals.

Topics will include:
Evaluating Money Decisions
Goal Setting
Cash Flow Management
Saving and Investing

When: April 25 & 27, 2016, 6:15 p.m. – 7:45 p.m.

Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, 1002 East Palm Avenue, Tampa, FL 33605. Registration is required.

Registration: $10 covers both days. No shows and late cancellations will not receive a registration refund. Refreshments will be provided.

Register at:

Registration Deadline: April 18, 2016. Seating is limited.

This is a non-commercial, educational program. No products or services will be sold.

Turn Big Ticket Dreams into Reality

Studio, hands, money, white background, five, ten, one, dollar bill. UF/IFAS Photo: Marisol Amador

Whether you’re saving for an automobile purchase, a special vacation, a new home, or retirement — a little planning and budgeting can turn a fuzzy dream into a reality. Use a step-by-step planning approach, take actions to reach your goal, and then you can sit back and reap the benefits.

Set Your Goal. Name your goal with as much specificity and detail as possible. Consider the advantages of achieving the goal. What will be the effect if the goal is not achieved or achieved at a different level?

Do Your Research. How much is it going to cost? Are there different alternatives? Compare the different costs and alternatives. Which option fits best with your current and  projected lifestyle?

Anticipate Obstacles. Visualize obstacles and strategies to overcome those obstacles.

Name an Amount. Set a realistic dollar amount to your goal. A specific dollar amount can help you measure progress. Remember to consider all the associated costs.

Make a Plan. Compare your current budget to the
allocation needed for your goal. You might need to make some changes to your spending to make savings happen. Again, be realistic; is this goal attainable? Do modifications need to be made?

Set a Target Date. Even if that date is years away, now is the time to start planning and saving. Divide the cost of your goal by the amount you’ll be able to save each pay period. The further out, the less you need to allocate.

Automate Your Savings.  Use direct deposit to send the money directly to the appropriate savings vehicle.

Use an Appropriate Account. If the goal is five years or less away, a savings account is likely the most appropriate savings vehicle. Consider whether it would be helpful to open a separate savings account for goal funding.

For long term goals, such as retirement, consider a tax-advantaged retirement investment account. Start by
investigating workplace retirement plans. If  a workplace plans is not available investigate Individual Retirement
Accounts (IRAs).

Avoid temptation. Set-up an account that is not so easy to access. One strategy is to open an account and don’t keep an ATM card or debit card for that account.

Earmark windfall income. Depending on how long you’ve determined it will take to reach your savings goals, you may want to plan to move any additional non-budgeted income directly into savings. Receiving an end of year bonus? How about a tax refund? Allocate some of that  money for your goal.