Couples start marriages in debt—then argue about it. How can you avoid financial fighting?

It’s not uncommon for couples to stress about money. According to an Ohio Credit Union League 2019 consumer survey, 38 percent of Ohioans say finances have been a main cause of stress in their romantic relationship.

According to a study published in the scientific journal Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 50 percent of divorced couples interviewed listed financial problems as a major factor that contributed to their divorce. That puts financial problems third on a list of 11 contributing factors—behind only “too much fighting” and “lack of commitment.”

Couples struggling with debt have a higher propensity to argue about money than those who aren’t. According to a study by Ramsey Solutions, 41 percent of couples who have consumer debt say most of their arguments center around money. By comparison, 25 percent of couples who are debt-free say they argue about financial matters.

In fact, money doesn’t make the top-five list of things in which debt-free couples argue.

Unfortunately, an increasing number of American couples are beginning their marriages in debt—and doing it, willingly. The OCUL 2019 consumer survey shows that 57 percent of Ohioans believe finances should be combined when a couple marries. That leads to more income and assets, but also more debt. According to the Ramsey Solutions study, 86 percent of couples married five years or less reported starting their marital lives with debt. That’s compared to only 43 percent of couples married more than 25 years ago.

However, there’s good news for those couples living in the Buckeye state—Ohio couples fair better than any other state. According to a Value Penguin study, the average Ohio household has only $5,446 of credit card debt—the least of any state.

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Managing Money as a New Couple

Did you find “the one” and have decided to get married? Congratulations! Here’s a little financial advice to help your marriage start off on a good footing.

Hopefully, you’ve already talked about your respective finances and how you usually handle your money. Does one of you pay your bills on time and the other often get late fees? See where you differ and where you agree. Find a compromise you can both agree upon. Incompatible views on how to handle money are a leading cause of discord among couples, so to avoid trouble in your future, have these discussions now.

The following tips should also help you and your spouse stay on solid ground financially:
1. Write down your goals. Write down your lists separately and then compare them. See where you can compromise and work toward common goals.

2. Decide whether to open a joint account. Some couples like to share one account, others like having their own personal account and another account for joint expenses, like rent, utilities, etc. Discuss which way you and your spouse want to handle your finances.

3. Divide financial responsibilities. Which of you is better at paying bills on time? How much should each of you pay for your joint expenses? Make sure each of you is clear on what you’re responsible for and how much you must pay.

4. Create an emergency fund. This should be a non-negotiable subject. Everyone should have an emergency fund to deal with unexpected expenses. Cars break down, laptops die, or one of you could lose your job. Relying on credit cards to cover the unexpected will only put you into more debt, so start an emergency fund now. Feed it a little each month until you have enough to cover at least 3 months of household expenses.

5. Save for retirement. If both of you have a 401(k), then pat yourselves on the back. If you don’t, then look into starting some kind of retirement fund, like an IRA. The younger you are when you start a retirement fund, the more you’ll earn through compound interest. Your credit union can help you find a product that works best for you.

6. Have regular meetings to discuss finances. Check in with each other on a weekly or monthly basis to go over expenses and discuss how you’re doing with your financial goals.

Copyright 2019 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.

The Best Things to Buy in March

If you’re looking for deals this month, here is a list of the items that typically go on sale during the month of March:

Jewelry and Perfume — Now that Valentine’s Day is behind us, demand for these items are slowing down. It’s a good time to buy presents for upcoming birthdays or even for yourself!

Chocolate – Stores that overstocked their supplies of Valentine’s Day chocolate will be trying to clear out their remaining inventory. Check their clearance sections for deep discounts on all Valentine’s sweets.

Exercise Equipment – Burn off those excess chocolate calories with new exercise equipment. Since the weather is improving, more people will go outside for their exercise. Retailers will begin discounting indoor equipment, like treadmills, hand weights, and yoga mats to move out old inventory.

Frozen foods – March is National Frozen Food month. Many brands like Dole, Green Giant, and Tyson will be offering discounts on their products. Look for multi-buys sales that require you to purchasing two or more of an item to get a discount.

Seasonal Produce – It’s time to harvest artichokes, oranges, spinach, avocados, grapefruit and carrots. Shop for these fruits and vegetables now when they’ll be at the peak of freshness and up to 50% cheaper than the rest of the year.

Craft Supplies – March is also National Craft Month. Look for sales, special events and classes at your favorite craft stores.

Cruises – Travel agents like to refer to the period from January through March as the Wave Season. That’s when you’ll find the best deals of the year.

Winter Sporting Gear – 
Prices on last season’s styles will start to fall, so if you want to have many choices at a discount, March is a good time to shop for skis, snowboards, and all the related gear.

Also, look for discounts on St. Patrick’s Day. Restaurants will be offering free items (likely colored green) on their menus. Check out amusement parks like Six Flags for special St. Patty’s Day discounts on their admission prices.

Copyright 2019 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.

Sticking to Financial Resolutions

Ohioans, like most Americans, entered 2019 hoping to better their finances, but many have likely already fallen off track.

In an Ohio Credit Union League 2019 consumer survey, 69 percent said their New Year’s resolution was to get on a budget.

That statistic isn’t surprising; many Americans looked critically at their financial situations as they headed into 2019. Statista, a platform providing statistical data on a variety of topics, polled 2,000 people about their New Year’s resolutions in early January. The survey found financial goals were the fourth most-popular New Year’s resolution, falling just behind dieting, exercising, and losing weight.

Americans had good intentions to get their finances in order in 2019, but that doesn’t mean they’ve necessarily stuck to their new budgets. According to research commissioned by GuideVine, a service that matches people with financial advisers, 70 percent of Americans with a budget struggle to stick to it.

And it’s not likely that making your budget a New Year’s resolution will make keeping with it any easier. According to the Ohio Credit Union League survey, 79 percent of Ohioans make incremental improvements toward keeping their resolutions each year, but fall short of keeping them. Another 14 percent have never kept a New Year’s resolution.

The average American doesn’t fare much better. According to a study of 1,450 Americans by Vitagene, 88.6 percent reported they’d likely keep their resolutions for a year or less. Another 36.6 percent of respondents said they usually keep their resolutions for a month or less, meaning they’d be off track by February.

Although your train may have gone off track, all hope is not lost. Here are some tips to help you attain your resolution of getting down to business, paying off bills, buying a house, opening an IRA for retirement, or getting on a path to better financial stability.

  • Use a budgeting tool. A successful budget must be recorded Many websites, including Consumer.gov, NerdWallet, and Mint, offer free Excel spreadsheet templates to help with recording budgets. If you’re looking for more mobile options, consider budgeting apps such as EveryDollar and YouNeedABudget.
  • Be realistic about spending and saving. Don’t set goals you can’t realistically achieve with your budget. Trying to spend too little or save too much each month could create frustration, which will increase the likelihood you’ll dump your budget altogether. Instead, map out incremental changes you can make that will add up to big financial gains over time.
  • Keep goals in mind. Reminding yourself how you’d ultimately like your money to work for you can help with exercising control over impulsive spending habits. If you have a hard time picturing your long-term goals when you’re tempted to splurge, consider making those goals visual. Try keeping a picture of your ideal retirement in your wallet or a list of all the reasons you want that new car stuck to the fridge.
  • Reward yourself. It is important to keep long-term goals in mind, but rewarding yourself for small budgeting wins along the way will keep you feeling positive about your budget. The more positively you feel toward a task, the more likely you are to continue performing it. After you reach certain budgeting goals, treat yourself to a small splurge. You earned it!
  • Seek help. If you’re struggling to stick with a budget, consider asking for help. Sometimes, aid can come in the form of a family member who shares household finances. Other times, however, you may require an expert opinion. Credit unions often offer free financial counseling to members and are happy to aid with budget set-up and maintenance. To find a credit union near you, visit YourMoneyFurther.com

Income Tax Filing Tips for January

Although income tax returns are not due until April 15, it’s always good idea to plan ahead and file early, especially if you expect to get a tax refund. Here are six steps to take now:

1. Get ready for the arrival of records. If you don’t already have a Tax file, select a single location (even if it’s just a large envelope) to collect your W-2s, statements, and other tax-related documents as they arrive. If you receive records electronically, create a “2018 taxes” folder or subdirectory.

2. Contribute to an individual retirement account (IRA). Most Americans can contribute $5,500 to a Roth or traditional IRA for 2018 ($6,500 for those age 50 and older) until the tax filing date.

3. Decide how you want to do your taxes. Do you like to do it yourself or do you want to hire a pro? Do you prefer pen and paper or a computer? Now’s the time to decide.

4. Find your forms. If you file by paper, you can get forms from a public library or at IRS.gov. If you file electronically, get your software.

5. Consider electronic filing. Taxes filed electronically are processed faster than paper ones, and refunds are issued within 3 weeks. Alternatively, if you file your tax return on paper, it will take 6 to 8 weeks to receive your refund. This filing season, taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $66,000 or less in 2018 can file Federal taxes for free via the IRS program.

6. Use direct deposit. Regardless of whether you file electronically or on paper, consider having your refund check directly deposited into your credit union account. It’s another way to get your return faster.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was enacted in December 2017 which made changes to tax rates and Federal income tax withholding. To learn about these changes and how it will affect filing, go to the IRS website.

Copyright 2018 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.

Remaining Vigilant During Tax Season

How much do you really know about taxes?

In an Ohio Credit Union League 2019 consumer survey, the majority of respondents, 62 percent, know how much they pay in income taxes each year. But 38 percent of respondents admitted they haven’t been paying attention.

There’s no doubt taxes can be convoluted. A recent NerdWallet study found that almost half, 48 percent, of Americans don’t know in which tax bracket they belong. In fact, the study found that about 1 in 14 Americans don’t understand how tax brackets work.

However, most consumers do know how their finances should look when their withholdings are adjusted correctly. According to a different NerdWallet survey, about 56 percent of Americans know they should adjust their withholdings to get their tax refunds as close to $0 as possible. In the Ohio Credit Union League survey, about 45 percent of respondents said they understood they should strive for that $0 refund.

While the majority of respondents in the Ohio Credit Union League survey, 70 percent, check their withholdings once a year, another 30 percent only check their withholdings every five years or when they start a new job.

Those are the consumers who could suffer in a year with new tax laws. According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, about 73 percent of taxpayers’ employers are over-withholding from their paychecks as a result of the law changes. These taxpayers may receive larger refunds from the IRS come April, but their paychecks throughout the year will be missing money that could have gone toward bills and everyday expenses.

Conversely, the Government Accountability Office reported that 21 percent of taxpayers, about 30 million Americans, are being under-withheld by their employers as a result of the new tax law. These taxpayers could be stuck with an unexpected bill from the IRS in April.

According to the Government Accountability Office, the IRS has recommended that Americans remain diligent about checking their withholdings, especially as the new tax laws take effect.

Failure to understand certain tax nuances can become costly. Here are some tips to help you be successful in the new tax season.

  • Start getting organized now. It might be tempting to wait until the tax deadline looms to start thinking about filing, but you stand a better chance of getting the most out of the system if you file carefully and rationally. As soon as you receive your W-2 from your employer, begin by making sure the information matches your pay stubs. Then, begin gathering relevant documents, including last year’s return, any relevant property data or real estate documentation, proof of charitable donations, and receipts for medical, business, or education expenses.
  • Adjust your exemptions and withholdings. Check your current W-4 form to make sure you’re claiming all the allowances that make sense for you. Also, make sure your employer isn’t over-withholding or under-withholding money from your paycheck. At the end of the year, your goal should be to owe no money and receive no money from the IRS.
  • Understand what money is taxed and what isn’t. Specific accounts in the U.S. are exempt from taxation. For instance, growth and earnings in a Roth IRA aren’t taxed. Neither is money in a flexible spending account, which can be used to pay for medical or childcare expenses, or income from a 529 education plan, which can be used to save for higher education.
  • Understand what you can deduct from taxes. Most taxpayers understand that charitable donations can be deducted from taxes. But, the average consumer typically overlooks a host of other possible deductions throughout the year. For instance, parents may deduct the cost of babysitting if they volunteer at a charitable organization. Comb through your year and don’t be afraid to ask questions that could lead to the right deductions.
  • Always file taxes – no matter what. In the eyes of the IRS, late is better than never. Even if you’re having a difficult time getting the documents together and know you’ll miss the deadline, be sure to file, eventually. There’s no penalty for missing the April 15 deadline if you are owed a refund, you’ll just get your cash back later. If you’re more than three years late, any unclaimed tax refunds are automatically turned over to the U.S. Treasury.
  • Get help. If you’re confused about any portion of your taxes or feel you’re not receiving all the deductions you should, seek help. Free tax return preparation programs are available to people with limited incomes (generally making less than $54,000 a year), people with disabilities, the elderly, and taxpayers who speak limited English. Credit unions can help you find the right tax help for you.

Learn more about how a credit union can help you prepare for a fantastic future by visiting aSmarterChoice.org to find a credit union near you.

I believe in Santa Claus

To the delight of children and adults the jolly friend of many and his wife, Mr. & Mrs. Claus, will be making two more appearances at a Hopewell Federal Credit Union location near you!

Join us tomorrow…
12/21 – Heath Office – 2:30PM-4:00PM
12/21 – Newark Office – 4:15PM-5:45PM

Stop by for a visit, take pictures and tell Santa what you want for Christmas!