“On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”
Fact: Most Americans wonder how the current wave of tax reform will affect them. This article by Kimberly Amadeo summarizes how the Act changes the amount of income tax that both individuals and businesses pay.
Significant changes in the Act for individuals include
- Lower tax rates (highest rate in 2017 was 39.6 percent drops to 37 percent in 2018) could mean an increase in the amount individuals take home each payday.
- Personal exemptions ($4,150 in 2017) per person are eliminated.
- The standard deduction almost doubles for a single person ($6,350 in 2017) to $12,000. For married and joint filers the standard deduction ($12,700 in 2017) is now $24,000.
- More taxpayers will opt to take the standard deduction instead of itemizing deductions.
- For those taxpayers who choose to itemize, many itemized deductions that were previously allowed have been eliminated.
- Taxpayers who itemize can still deduct charitable contributions, most mortgage interest, retirement savings, and student loan interest.
- Taxpayers who itemize can still deduct up to $10,000 in state and local taxes.
For businesses, the largest and most signification change is lowering the maximum corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent beginning in 2018.
The article does provides more specific information about how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act affects both individuals and businesses.
For more information, click here.
You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to
- Discuss how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will affect a single college student or a typical American family.
- Explore how lower corporate taxes could impact economic growth, worker salaries, unemployment rates, job creation, and other factors that impact both the nation and individuals.
- Given the information contained in this article and other reports, do you think the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is good for you? Explain your answer.
- For an individual, what effect does lower taxes have on your spending, savings and investments, and retirement planning?
Are you looking forward to getting your tax refund in the New Year? Tax identity thieves may be looking forward to getting your refund too. That’s why the Federal Trade Commission has designated January 29-February 2, 2018 as Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.
Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number (SSN) to get a tax refund or a job. You might find out it’s happened when you e-file your tax return and discover that a return already has been filed using your SSN. Or, the IRS may send you a letter saying more than one return was filed in your name, or that IRS records show you have wages from an employer you don’t know.
Learn to protect yourself from tax identity theft and IRS imposter scams, and what to do if someone you know becomes a victim. The FTC and partners including the IRS, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration will be co-hosting free webinars and Twitter chats during Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. Visit ftc.gov/taxidtheft for details about the events and how to participate.
For more information, click here.
- Ask students if filing early may avoid e-file tax identity theft fraud if someone files before they do.
- Ask students what steps should they take if their identity is stolen?
- How can one protect from tax identity theft and IRS imposter scams?
- What can you do if you or someone else you know becomes a victim of identity theft?
The Internet has made our lives easier in so many ways. However, you need to know how you can protect your privacy and avoid fraud. Remember, not only can people be defrauded when using the Internet for investing; the fraudsters use information online to send bogus materials, solicit or phish.
Here’s what you can do to protect yourself when using social media:
Privacy Settings: Always check the default privacy settings when opening an account on a social media website.
Biographical Information: Consider customizing your privacy settings to minimize the amount of biographical information others can view on the website.
Account Information: Never give account information, Social Security numbers, bank information or other sensitive financial information on a social media website.
Friends/Contacts: Decide whether it is appropriate to accept a “friend” or other membership request from a financial service provider, such as a financial adviser or broker-dealer.
Site Features: Familiarize yourself with the functionality of the social media website before broadcasting messages on the site. Who will be able to see your messages — only specified recipients, or all users?
For More Information, click here.
- Ask students to make a list of their social media accounts. How do they protect their accounts from fraudsters?
- Why do many social media websites require biographical information to open an account?
- Why is it important to limit the information made available to other social media users?
- Is there an obligation to accept a “friend” request of a service provider or anyone you don’t know or do not know well?
- Why be extra careful before clicking on a link sent to you even if by a friend?
Nearly everyone has minor stumbles in a job interview. However, these flaws can be overcome with actions to engage the interviewer. Some ways to make yourself memorable in an interview include:
- Start the interview with a question or comment that reflects your preparation about the company.
- As appropriate, answer the questions you are asked with a question. This approach is usually only valid when talking with operating staff, but not with a human resources person.
- Remember to emphasize your awareness and potential contributions to the needs of the company, including ideas for addressing current concerns and market opportunities. Rather than a specific solution, communicate your sensitivity and awareness of their problems.
- Show your humanness through humor, openness, and vulnerability.
- Prepare with strong research on the company that allows you to better answer expected questions and to interact as you discuss your experiences and potential organizational contributions.
- Think and talk like a consultant to communicate confidence and competency.
For additional information on strong interview impression, click here.
- Have students role play situations interview situations that they might encounter when applying for a job.
- Have students create responses to potential interview questions based on the suggestions in this article.
- How might the advice offered in this article be used when you are in an interview situation?
- Describe some common mistakes people might make in interviews. Explain actions to overcome these mistakes.
The Personal Financial Satisfaction Index (PFSi), reported by the AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) is at an all-time high. This quarterly economic indicator measures the financial situation of average Americans. PFSI is the difference between (1) the Personal Financial Pleasure Index, measuring the growth of assets and opportunities, and (2) the Personal Financial Pain Index, which is based on lost assets and opportunities. The most recent report had a Pleasure Index 68.1 in contrast to a Pain Index of 42.1, resulting in a positive reading of 25.9, the highest since 1994.
While the stock market is high, unemployment is declining, and inflation is low, remember the economy is cyclical. Be sure to consider and plan for your long-term goals. Stay aware and position your financial plan appropriately to safeguard finances when the economy is in a downturn. Also, analyze your cash flow to an attempt to increase savings, including an appropriate emergency fund.
For additional information on financial satisfaction, click here.
- Have students create an action plan for situations that might be encountered in times of economic difficulty.
- Have students create a team presentation with suggestions to take when faced with economic difficulties.
- What are examples of opportunities that create increased personal financial satisfaction?
- Describe actions a person might take when faced with economic difficulties.
Youngsters learn money management attitudes and behaviors by watching family members and others. To help guide their financial literacy development, involve children in the shopping process using these steps:
- Have children help in the creation of the shopping list. Sit down together with paper or an app to list what you need. Talk through your list with your kids noting items that are low on in the household as well as things bought regularly. Have children check cabinets and refrigerator to determine things they use.
- While making your list, talk about a budget. Explain the need to keep track of how much is spent on groceries so there is enough money for household expenses. Make clear that a grocery list helps make sure you don’t overspend.
- Talk while shopping to explain brands you prefer and how sale prices or coupons might affect purchases. Also communicate why you choose certain stores for your shopping. As you select items explain why you’re buying that one instead of a similar item. Older children can be asked to comparison shop among different brands.
- While shopping, refer back to your budget. This will help you decide to buy an item now or wait until a later time.
- Provide explanations of buying choices. To avoid surprises, estimate your total before going to the cash register. Also explain different payment methods, such as a debit card, which subtracts money from your bank account right away.
Discussion of various decision-making elements will help kids learn shopping and money management skills they will need. Thinking out loud can clarify what you’re doing and why when in the store, paying bills, or shopping online.
For additional information on teaching money skills to children, go to:
Grocery Shopping Tips
Money skills, by age.
- Have students visit stores and explain to friends why they buy certain items and brands.
- Have students create a visual presentation (using computer software or a poster) to communicate learning experiences for teaching wise buying to others.
- What experiences did you have growing up that helped you learn financial literacy and wise money management skills?
- Describe other methods that might be used to teach shopping and money management skills to young people and others who might lack these abilities.
Ring, ring. “This is Equifax calling to verify your account information.” Stop. Don’t tell them anything. They’re not from Equifax. It’s a scam. Equifax will not call you out of the blue.
That’s just one scam you might see after Equifax’s recent data breach. Other calls might try to trick you into giving your personal information. Here are some tips for recognizing and preventing phone scams and imposter scams:
- Don’t give personal information. Don’t provide any personal or financial information unless you’ve initiated the call and it’s to a phone number you know is correct.
- Don’t trust caller ID. Scammers can spoof their numbers so it looks like they are calling from a particular company, even when they’re not.
- If you get a robocall, hang up. Don’t press 1 to speak to a live operator or any other key to take your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robocalls.
For more information about the Equifax breach, go to Equifax’s website.
- Ask students if they know someone who has received such a call. If so, how the victim responded to the imposter?
- What advice can you provide to a victim of a scam?
- What should you do, if you have already received a call that you think is fake?
- What must you do if you gave personal information to an imposter?
- What can you do to protect yourself from such scams?
Know someone who’s behind on their bills? Maybe debt collectors are calling for payment? The Federal Trade Commission’s new debt collection video can help you understand your legal rights – and may lower your stress level. In the video, you’ll see how bad debt collectors try to get you to pay up. Bad debt collectors will say anything to get you to pay – and they’ll make it feel urgent to get you to pay immediately. But there are laws to protect you. Debt collectors:
- Can’t call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Can’t use profanity, threaten violence or harass you to pay
- May not lie or pretend to be someone they’re not
- Cannot ask you to pay a debt that doesn’t even exist
- Can’t threaten you with arrest or deportation
- Cannot tell anyone – except your spouse or attorney – about your debt
If a debt collector calls and uses any of these tactics, hang up and report it to the FTC. Remember: you have the right to be treated fairly – no matter what.
For more information go to: consumer.gov/debt.
To view the video, click here.
- Ask students to summarize the steps they may take if a debt collector calls.
- Let students make a list of danger signals of potential debt problems.
- Which federal law regulates debt collection activities and protects consumers from abusive collection practices?
- Does the law erase the legitimate debts consumers owe?
Every day American consumers report tens of thousands of illegal robocalls to the Federal Trade Commission, and now the FTC is helping put that information to work boosting industry efforts to stop unwanted calls before they reach consumers.
Under a new initiative announced by the FTC, when consumers report Do Not Call or robocall violations to the agency, the robocaller phone numbers consumers provide will be released each day to telecommunications carriers and other industry partners that are implementing call-blocking solutions.
Unwanted and illegal robocalls are the FTC’s number-one complaint category, with more than 1.9 million complaints filed in the first five months of 2017 alone. By reporting illegal robocalls, consumers help law enforcement efforts to stop the violators behind these calls. In addition, under the initiative announced today, the FTC is now taking steps to provide more data, more often to help power the industry solutions that block illegal calls.
For more information, click here.
- Ask students if they have received robocalls and what was their response to such illegal calls?
- Let students debate the issue of whether robocalls should be outlawed.
- Why is the consumer complaint data so crucial for the FTC to call-blocking solutions?
- How will the FTC attempt to stop unwanted robocalls before they reach consumers?
Many people have had very sensitive personal information exposed in the Equifax breach — Social Security numbers, account numbers, even drivers’ license numbers. Equifax is offering free credit freezes until November 21, 2017.
If you’re thinking of placing a freeze, consider the following:
- A freeze means that no one (including you) can access your credit file until you unfreeze it, using a PIN or passphrase. That makes it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.
- To be effective, you must place a freeze with all three credit reporting agencies — Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.
- A freeze can cost you money every time you freeze and unfreeze your file- at a cost of $5 to $10 per agency each time, depending on your state’s law.
Fraud alerts are free. With a fraud alert, creditors must try to verify your identity before extending new credit. The alert lasts for 90 days, You can renew it but you will need to remind yourself or it will expire automatically. Identity theft victims, however, are entitled to an extended fraud alert which lasts seven years. To place an alert, contact any one of the three major credit reporting agencies, either by phone or online.
For more information, click here.
- Ask students if they are willing to pay about $5 to $10 each time they freeze or unfreeze their accounts with each credit agency.
- Let students debate the issue: “A fraud alert is better than a credit freeze.”
- What are the differences between a fraud alert and a credit freeze?
- Should you consider a fraud alert or credit freeze if you become a victim of an identity theft? Why or why not?