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Help for Difficult Financial Times

If you’re having financial struggles, consider looking into government programs that may help.

To guide you, we’ve highlighted some resources on our page Help for Difficult Financial Times, including information on: 
 

  • Housing counseling and mortgage relief
  • Grants, loans, and financial aid
  • Free or low-cost health insurance
  • Education and training opportunities
  • Food assistance programs

How Can the Government Help You?

Six weeks ago, we launched Help for Difficult Financial Times to highlight government resources that can make your life easier during tough times.

As part of this effort, we ran a poll asking: What helps you most when money is tight? 5,352 of you responded:

  • Savings 44%
  • Family 21%
  • Credit cards/loans 20%
  • Government assistance 15%

With 64 percent of you stating that savings, credit cards, and loans are the resources you turn to in tough times, we know we need to continue providing information on those topics.

Given that only 15 percent of you turn to government assistance in tough times, we want to make sure you know about benefits that could help you.

Government assistance comes in different forms—from unemployment checks and food assistance to credit counseling and medical treatment. The resources we’ve highlighted on our Help for Difficult Financial Times page are meant to guide you in finding such assistance. These are some of the most popular resources:

Although our six-week campaign to highlight Help for Difficult Financial Times has ended, we know that your struggles may continue. We will keep updating the tools and information we provide to help you get back on your feet.

Find Answers to Your Questions About Dealing with Difficult Times

If you’re looking for answers or resources to help in times of need, the Ask program from USDA eXtension may be able to help.

The Ask program lets you submit a specific question and then find answers that could help. If you can’t find an answer in the extensive database of frequently asked questions, you can submit your question to an expert and receive an answer within 48 hours.

Experts are available to answer your questions on a variety of topics including:

  • Financial issues
  • Childcare
  • Military families needs
  • Personal finance and more

See all the topics eXtension experts can help you with or submit your own questions.

To learn about other free resources to help you no matter what your financial situation, visit our page.

Take These Easy Steps Now to Avoid Tax Headaches Later

Most of the time we think about taxes only at the end of the year as we prepare to file last year’s taxes. By taking some time now, you can complete some of those tax to-do list action items without the stress.

Retirement Accounts

Taxpayers have until April 15 of the following year to contribute to their Individual Retirement Arrangements, but if you have the financial stability to contribute now, it might make financial sense to do so. Not only do you avoid the rush, but your investments have more time to compound and grow.

Flex Spending Accounts

Flex spending accounts, offered by employers, allow employees to use pretax dollars to pay for eligible health care and dependent care expenses. However, any money left in these accounts at the end of the benefit period is forfeited (generally March 15 of the following year for a health FSA but may vary). This can encourage employees with positive FSA balances near the the end of the benefit period to schedule medical visits and bunch together expenses.

Instead of rushing to see the doctor at the end of the benefit period, consider making an appointment in the late summer or early fall. A medical checkup now will also allow you to better understand what health expenses you might face in the coming year and better plan for what amount you should have deducted for your FSA in the coming year.

Withholding and Life Events

If you find yourself always facing a balance due or always getting a refund when you file your taxes, you might want to change your withholding. If you didn’t make the changes immediately after you filed your return, take the time to make the changes now.

If you had a life event in the first half of the year, (birth, death, marriage, etc.) take some time in the second half to adjust your withholding so that you either do not have a large tax bill or a large tax refund. The IRS has an online calculator to help determine what your W-4 should show. If you’ve had a complicated January-June, you might want to meet with someone knowledgeable about taxes before making withholding changes.

To change your withholding allowances, submit a W-4 to your employer.

For more information about financial education visit our main page at Extension.org or our Facebook page. You can also visit USDA.gov to learn more about Extension and find the Extension service in your state.

To learn about other free resources to help you no matter what your financial situation visit our page.

Get Help With Your Finances - Order Your Free Copy of the Consumer Action Handbook

If you’re feeling uncertain about your finances, the Consumer Action Handbook is the place to find answers to your questions about credit cards, bank accounts and managing debt. Learn to create a smart money management plan, get a handle on your finances, and successfully file a complaint with a company.

You can order FREE copies of the Consumer Action Handbook and its Spanish-language counterpart, the Guia del Consumidor, or you can read the handbook online as a PDF.