Monday, December 28, 2009

Getting Financially Fit for 2010


Nan Jensen, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent
The year 2010 is right around the corner and many of us are considering our resolutions for the year ahead. After two years of recession and the high unemployment rate, it seems that a resolution that includes rethinking where you are financially and where you would like to be should be on the list.
Here are some important priorities to consider for the year ahead.

Develop a spending plan that allows you to live within your means. Simply, spend less than you earn. There are many ways you can budget your money. Buy in bulk (if it’s cheaper), shop sales, cook at home more often, and use coupons if you can. Eat out only on special occasions.
Take small steps to help you get your spending under control. On a weekly basis, try to find a simpler and less expensive way to do the same thing. If you’re going out to lunch with co-workers every day, enjoy lunch out just once a week and brown bag it the rest of the time. Bring your own beverages and snacks to work instead of making daily visits to the vending machine. Adjust the thermostat on the air conditioner in the summer a couple of degrees higher. Think about small things you can do to cut back.

Find a way to track your expenses. Cut and paste the link below into your browser to access an Excel spreadsheet to help you with your plan.

Pay off debt. The average American has more than $9,000 in credit card debt. Then there is the mortgage and a car loan. School loan debt is high among recent graduates. The first step in getting out of debt is to stop borrowing.
If you have debts on more than one credit card, either pay off the card with the highest interest rate first and work your way down to the card with the lowest rate, or pay off the smallest loan first and work your way up to the largest. Power Pay can help.
Remember to make payments on time. Paying on time, over time, is the best way to improve your credit history.

Pay yourself first. Each month, set aside a specific amount of money for savings. It could be $50 or $500. Savings as little as $50 a month can add up over time. See what how the miracle of compounding works at

For more information on getting in good financial shape for the new year join me for a webinar entitled “Get in Good Financial Shape for the New Year” on January 13. Go to the Pinellas County Extension website at and click on the on-line registration button.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Choosing a Financial Planner


By Karen Saley, Extension Specialist, Pinellas County Extension

Securing your financial future can sometimes seem a little complicated. There is a lot of information available to you in books, magazines, classes and of course on the internet that can help you with a financial plan. Still with all that knowledge at your fingertips there are times you may feel you need to talk with a professional. Choosing a reputable financial planner is key when it comes to finding the right person to help you get to where you want to go. Here are some questions you should ask any professional.

  • How many years have you been in practice?
  • What are your qualifications?
  • Will there be a written contract?
  • How do you calculate your fees?
  • How long should the work take to complete?
  • Will you be delegating any of the work?
  • May I have referenced to contact?

There is little regulation of the financial planning industry and many people claiming to be experts simply are not. Interview several financial planners, get references from friends and family and check with professional organizations before you sign on with a financial planner.

For more information:
National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA)

Financial Planning Association (FPA)

Society of Financial Service Professionals

Monday, December 7, 2009

Homebuyer Credit Expanded and Extended


By Karen Saley, Extension Specialist
Now may be a great time to purchase that new home. The $8,000 tax credit that was to expire at the end of December has been extended through April 2010. Here are some of the old and new requirements.

The rules that remain the same:

  • Applies only to homes used as your principal residence.
  • Reduces your tax bill or increases your refund, dollar for dollar.
  • Is fully refundable, meaning the credit will be paid out even if you owe no tax or the credit is more than the tax owed.
The new rules:
  • Under the new law, you must buy, or enter into a binding contract to buy, a home that will be your principal residence on or before April 30, 2010 and close on the home by June 30, 2010.
  • You will have the option of claiming the credit on either your 2009 or 2010 return.
  • Homeowners who buy a replacement home that will be the principal residence may also claim a homebuyer credit of up to $6,500. You must have lived in the same home for any five-consecutive year period during the eight-year period that ended on the date the replacement home is purchased.
  • The new law raises the income limits for people who purchase homes after Nov. 6.
    - The full credit will be available to taxpayers with modified adjusted gross incomes up to $125,000, or $225,000 for joint filers.
    - Those with MAGI between $125,000 and $145,000, or $225,000 and $245,000 for joint filers, are eligible for a reduced credit.
    - Those with higher incomes do not qualify.
For more information click on the link below.,,id=204671,00.html

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Company and product listings do not represent endorsement by either: Pinellas County Extension, Pinellas County or the University of Florida / Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.