News From Our Blog

Meet the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Logo of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Logo of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

This week is National Consumer Protection Week, and Elizabeth Warren has written a great post on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) blog about how she and the CFPB are working to help citizens understand the costs of borrowing money.

From the blog post:

Too many families that work hard and play by the rules are stretched to the breaking point. They have taken on debt to pay for college, a home, and other needs. The latest economic crisis is just one more blow in an increasingly dangerous economic world.

There was a time when the basic terms governing consumer financial products were pretty easy to see. But that has changed. Today, too many lenders hide complex terms among pages and pages of fine print in credit agreements, making it hard for borrowers to compare one product to two or three others.

The CFPB is working to change that. When prices and risks are clear up front, consumers can make the choices that are best for themselves and their families. In other words, we want a credit market that works for consumers.

Read the rest of the post or learn more about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at ConsumerFinance.gov

Get Ready for Spring Floods

Map of the United States, highlighting areas with a high flood risk according to the National Weather Service

From the National Weather Service:

A large swath of the North Central United States is at risk of moderate to major flooding this spring. This area extends from northeastern Montana through western Wisconsin and along the Mississippi River south to St. Louis. For the third consecutive year, forecasters predictmajor flooding along the Red River of the North, which forms the state line between eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota.

Some advice to prepare for spring flooding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) blog:

  • Make a plan – Your family may not be together when a flood hits, so it’s important to know how you will contact one another, how you will meet up in a safe place and what you will do in case of an emergency. Not sure where to start? Ready.gov has a great checklist for making your family emergency plan.
  • Get a kit – An emergency kit can be your life line after an emergency. It should sustain yourself and your family for up to three days. For flood prone areas, keeping your important documents in a sealed, airtight container will keep them safe from water damage. See other tips on getting your emergency kit in tip-top shape.
  • Know your risk – One of the most important steps of being prepared is to find out if your home is at risk for flooding. After you know you risk, check out this tool to estimate the financial impact a flood could have your home.
  • Protect your property – A final step to make sure you’re prepared for flooding is to purchase flood insurance. Unfortunately, most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. Talk to your insurance provider about your policy and consider flood insurance coverage.

Flood policies typically take 30 days to become effective, so make sure to purchase flood insurance as a way to prepare before potential flooding.

E-file Your Taxes This Year

Do you file your federal taxes electronically, or are you still using the paper forms? The IRS (Internal Revenue Service) says that almost 100 million taxpayers e-filed their taxes last year. Even I’m surprised that many of us e-file.

There are three ways to e-file:

  • Free File – You can go to IRS.gov and use the Free File program if your income was $58,000 or less. If you’re the type of person that prefers to fill in the forms yourself, you can do that online too with the Free File Fillable Forms program. With fillable forms, you choose the forms you need, fill them in, sign electronically and e-file your return.
  • e-file – You can do it yourself and buy tax preparation software, prepare your own return, and press “send to e-file.”
  • Find a tax preparer that is an authorized IRS e-file provider and have your tax preparer e-file for you. Nearly all tax preparers use e-file, and many are now required by law to e-file.

E-filing can even help you avoid the processing delay caused by the tax legislation enacted late last year. If you’re somebody who claims itemized deductions on Schedule A, the higher education tuition and fees deduction on Form 8917, or the educator expenses deduction, you can e-file and get a head start because many major software providers have announced they will accept these impacted returns immediately. The software providers will hold onto the returns and then electronically submit them after the IRS systems open on Feb. 14.

This year you can even track your refund with your smartphone! The free IRS2Go app is available in the Apple App Store and the Android Marketplace.