Idea for February
Financial Foundation Center

Filing Your First Income Tax Return

It may sound frightening, but it not as bad as it may sound. Filing income tax returns is something that everyone has been doing since 1913 and it is something you will be doing for the rest of your life. You may decide to use a professional to prepare your return or prepare it yourself with or without the help of income tax software. In any case, there are some things you should know to make the whole process easier.


Worksheets to organize your finances
Balance Sheet Budget
Home Ownership Tax Information
Insurance Info Retirement Info
Household Items Personal Contacts

Calculators to evaluate your alternatives
Present Value Future Value
Present Value of an Annuity Future Value of an Annuity
Mortgage Payment Mortgage Refinancing
College Costs Auto Loan
Savings Accumulation Save for Any Reason
Save for Vacation Fund Your IRA
Home Equity Loan Reduce Mortgage Payments

Return to
Forest Bluff
Financial Services

Reaching a point of financial security is a process that takes time, takes effort and may take some sacrifices. By starting early, you can put time on your side. By doing a few things right from the beginning, you can make that process easier and minimize the sacrifices you may be forced to make later. Read more ...

Build Your Financial Foundation
Getting started in the right way
Dealing with new life events
Thinking about short term and long term issues
Have a financial strategy First Apartment Defining a good financial life
Develop good financial habits First Job Planning for purchases
Build a solid credit history First Budget Marriage and money
Have an organized financial system First Financial Relationship Having children and money
Fundamentals of insurance First Credit Card Divorce and money
Fundamentals of borrowing First Car Considering starting a business
Fundamentals of investing First Investments Beginning to think about college funding
Fundamentals of taxes First House Beginning to think about retirement
Fundamentals of retirement planning First Income Tax Return Beginning to think about estate planning
Measure your financial progress First Job Change Building your financial literacy
  Student Loans  
Library of Financial Articles
Learn more about the financial issues
you care about
General Financial Articles Home & Residence
Insurance Investing
Retirement Taxes & Estate Planning
Issues Facing Parents Small Business


Disclaimer - The information and articles in this Financial Foundation Center are meant to be educational in nature. Each person must consider his or her objectives, risk tolerances and level of comfort when making financial decisions. In many cases, seeking the advice of competent professional advisors can ensure the decisions you make will be best suited for your situation.

Financial Library

General Financial Articles

Keeping Your Financial Life Simple - Unless you are very different from most other people, you do not want to spend lots of time handling your finances, you do not want to worry about your finances and you do not want to make your financial life any more complex that it has to be. Keeping your financial life simple can save time and reduce stress. This article offers ten ideas for consideration.

Today's Low Interest Rates - Interest rates are at historic lows. While that is good news for borrowers, it can be bad news for savers. Putting today's rates into perspective may help you identify some steps to consider.

Take Actions on Your Finances - Uncertainty over the economic future should not be a reason to delay or avoid handling your finances more effectively. Learn some of the things to consider in any economy.

Choosing the Right Accounts for Your Cash - Too often the convenience of a checking account causes individuals to earn less than they should on their cash balances. A little time spent looking at the alternatives can make your money work harder for you.

Direct Deposit of Payroll and Government Checks - Learn why having your checks sent directly into your account is a smart and safe thing to do.

Ten Reasons to Consider Online Banking - The Internet continues to change the way we live. Online banking provides many cost and time saving opportunities. Check them out.

Building a Savings Cushion - Saving money for unexpected expenses is never easy. Here are five ideas that can help make saving easier.

Building a Ladder of Savings Certificates - Choosing the length of savings certificates is important. Longer maturities usually provide higher rates, but with less liquidity. Building a "ladder" of maturities can result in higher rates without the loss of the liquidity you want.

Use Automatic Savings Programs to Reach Your Financial Goals - One of the simplest and most effective tools to use to reach any savings goal is an automatic savings program. Making the savings decision once and then letting it work every month can help you save for retirement, for college expenses, a major purchase or any other goal.

Developing and Using a Wise Borrowing Strategy -The sensible use of credit is part of a total financial strategy. Using credit can provide benefits, but also can have drawbacks. A few guidelines can help you feel comfortable with your credit use.

Preparing to Borrow - Having an understanding of what a lender considers when making a loan approval decision can help relieve some of the anxiety of applying for a loan. This article also describes some actions to take before applying to improve your chances of approval.

Review Your Credit Report - A solid credit history can make borrowing easier and cheaper. Learn where to get a copy of your credit report.

Reducing Your Debt Burdens - Taking control of your borrowing can help relieve financial anxiety. Learn some ways to pay down, consolidate and control your debt.

Evaluating Credit Cards - If you are like many, your mailbox is often filled with credit card offers from dozens of issuers. Choosing the right card should be based on your needs, how you use your card, rates, fees and the company issuing the card.

Guidelines for First Time Credit Card Users - Getting a first credit card can be intimidating and tempting. This article reviews some of the decisions credit card users should make and offers some guidelines for the prudent use of this financial convenience.

Pay More Than The Credit Card Minimum - Every month you have the choice of how much to pay on your credit card. This article demonstrates why paying more than what is required can save you money in the short and long terms.

Planning For Your Financial Life Stages - Your financial goals and situation change over time. So should your financial strategies. Learn some of the ways to make sure your strategies match your life stage.

Preparing for Major Financial Events - Every individual encounters or anticipates major financial events and milestones. Some preparation for these events can reduce the associated anxiety and make decision making easier.

Preparing a Personal Balance Sheet - Monitoring your financial progress should be part of your financial management. This worksheet helps you break your assets into categories so you monitor your asset allocation too.

Monitoring Your Monthly Spending - Household budgets can be a chore to create and follow. Here is a worksheet to make the process easier.

Tips for Organizing Important Papers - Knowing how long and where to keep tax records and other important papers can help individuals better manage their finances.

ATM Security and You - Automatic Teller Machines have become integral for many individuals. Learn a few tips to use them wisely and carefully.

Don't Let Anyone Steal Your Credit Identity - When someone uses your credit identity the costs and aggravation can add up. Learn some tips to keep your credit identity secure.

Return to Library Index

Home and Residence Articles

Renting an Apartment - Learn what to look for (and look out for) when leasing an apartment. There are also a few tips you may be able to use to get a break on your rent.

Before Buying Your First House - Buying your first house is a big step in your financial life. Be sure to understand some of the pros and cons of home ownership.

Accumulating a Down Payment on a Home - This article includes a table showing what your monthly payments would be for different size mortgages at different interest rates. There are also nine suggested ways of building the funds needed for your down payment.

Evaluating Mortgage Types - Choosing a mortgage doesn't have to be complicated. The right type of mortgage can help you afford the house you want and manage your long-term finances.

Income Tax Implications of Home Ownership - Owning your own home can provide some tax deductions and potentially a reduction in your annual income tax bill. This article explores some of the favorable tax treatments homeowners can enjoy.

Should You Refinance Your Home Mortgage - The ever-changing interest rate environment means you should periodically evaluate whether you should refinance your mortgage. Here are some suggestions and worksheets for you to use.

Home Equity Loans - The equity in your home can be a powerful financial tool. Learn how these loans work and why they can be an attractive form of "tax advantaged" borrowing for you.

Return to Library Index

Insurance Articles

Have an Insurance Strategy - Insurance provides protection against the unknown. This article provides issues to consider for each of seven types of insurance most individuals should have.

What to Look For in a Homeowners or Renters Insurance Policy - Selecting the right amounts of coverage and deductibles will determine your insurance premiums. Be sure to understand the components of policies that cover your home and your belongings.

Understanding Auto Insurance - It is critical to have auto insurance and most state require it. Choosing the right levels of protection should be part of your total financial strategy.

Review Your Insurance Deductibles - Be sure to have the insurance you need, but don't pay for insurance you don't really want. This article includes a simple worksheet to help you evaluate how you may save money with different levels of insurance deductibles.

Understanding and Evaluating Life Insurance - Different types of policies can serve different functions at different times in your life. Learn whether whole life policies are best for you or whether you should "buy term and invest the difference."

Getting the Life Insurance You Need - Life insurance can be an important part of a solid financial plan. Along with what type of policy to buy, you must decide how much coverage to buy. This article offers some guidelines.

Consider a Life Insurance Trust - Life insurance trusts can be used to keep insurance proceeds out of your taxable estate and save large amounts of estate taxes. As you review your estate plan, speak with your attorney about this powerful and useful technique of owning life insurance policies.

Umbrella Insurance Policies - Auto and homeowner insurance policies usually provide some level of liability protection. But, in an age of large jury awards and rising medical costs, you may want some additional protection.

Disability Insurance - Most individuals need disability insurance to protect against losing the ability to work. It is often available as part of an employee benefit program from employers. Others must buy it themselves. Some of the details on how it works could be important to you.

Long Term Care Insurance - If you are concerned about the rising costs of medical care and what it may do to your financial well-being, you may want to consider long-term care insurance. This article offers some tips to consider as you review your options.

Single Premium Tax Deferred Annuities - Fixed annuity insurance contracts have been used for decades as part of long-term financial strategies. While there are advantages, there can also be fees and restrictions.

Return to Library Index

Investing Articles

Asset Allocation - The way you divide your investments into stocks, bonds and cash investments can have effects on the risks and potential returns on your portfolio. Learn how your time horizons and your risk tolerance should be considered in determining the asset allocation that is right for you.

Financial Market Indicators - What to Watch For - Every investment, and every individual's portfolio is different. But, knowing which market indicators to watch can help you better understand how your investments are doing in relation to the overall market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average - This popular measure of stock market activity has been around for over 100 years. A little history about this average and you will better appreciate how you should view daily changes.

Investment Portfolio Diversification or "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" This old adage applies in the investment world too. Learn what spreading the risk can do for you and how to apply this concept to your investments.

Building a Stock Portfolio - Whether you are just starting to invest or already have a portfolio, reviewing some tried and true portfolio building strategies may be helpful.

Investing in Mutual Funds - Mutual funds have become the investment vehicle of choice for millions of Americans. This article explains some of the reasons for the popularity and provides some tips on what to look for when making a mutual fund choice.

Dollar Cost Averaging - Dollar cost averaging is one way to address the "when to buy" decision. An example shows how this common technique will eliminate the risk of buying at "the top of the market."

Mutual Funds and Income Taxes - While mutual funds offer many conveniences, dealing with the income tax consequences of owning mutual funds is seldom simple. This article will help you understand some of these issues.

Investing in Bonds - Bonds can have a place in many investors' portfolios. There are many issues to consider when evaluating a bond investment strategy. Learn how maturities, ratings and types of bonds can influence your strategy.

Investing in Exchange Traded Funds - ETFs have become a popular way to invest. While they are somewhat like mutual funds, there are many differences you should understand before buying them.

Interest Rate Risk - With interest rates at the current low levels, there are benefits of locking in lower rates on your borrowing. However, locking in low rates on your savings may present problems if interest rates rise.

Comparing Taxable and Tax-free Bond Yields - Interest on most municipal bonds is exempt from federal income tax. To determine whether these tax-free bonds are right for you, you must compare the after-tax returns of similar taxable bonds. A simple chart can help.

Investing in Municipal Bonds - The interest from most bonds issued by states, cities and other municipal organizations is exempt from federal income tax. Learn whether municipal bonds are right for you.

Investing in US Treasuries - Many individuals buy U. S. Treasury obligations as part of their investment strategy for one reason - safety. However, there is more to Treasuries than just safety.

Make Sure Your US Savings Bonds Are Still Paying Interest - Many older US Savings Bonds have stopped paying and earning interest. Learn which ones have stopped and what to do if yours are included among them.

Return to Library Index

Retirement Articles

Four Components of a Financially Secure Retirement - Most people identify a financially secure retirement as on of their primary financial goals. Reaching that goal can be easier by examining the four sources of income you will have during retirement and identifying steps you can take now to increase each of those sources.

An IRA Refresher - Individual retirement accounts are the basis of many individuals retirement planning. Even with a company retirement plan, the right IRA can help business owners accumulate the wealth they desire.

Maximize the Value of Your IRA - The 2001 Tax Law improved an already good financial planning tool. Increased contribution limits and the potential for additional contributions by those ages 50 and over make these accounts better than ever.

IRA or Roth IRA? - Many individuals have the opportunity to convert their traditional IRA to a Roth IRA and enjoy some additional benefits. However, there are restrictions and costs. You should examine this opportunity to see if it is right for you.

Can $5500 IRA Contributions Really Add Up? - A wise person once said that humans tend to over-estimate what they can accomplish in the short-term and under-estimate what they can accomplish in the long-term. This holds very true for IRA contributions.

IRAs for Teens - Many teenagers have income from summer or part-time jobs. Establishing a Roth Individual Retirement Account may be the beginning of a secure financial foundation. It can also help the teen develop some good savings habits.

Taking Money Out of Your IRA - Many people think of an IRA only as a savings tool. Yet, at some point, every dollar in an IRA will be distributed. Learn how different tax rules apply at different times of your life.

Take Full Advantage of Your Employer's 401(k) Plan - This popular type of retirement plan can be a major source of wealth. Understanding more about 410(k) plans will make your decision making easier.

Reviewing Your Options for a Retirement Plan Distribution - If you receive a lump sum distribution from your qualified plan as you change jobs or retire, there are important decisions you must make. The consequences of those decisions can have a very significant impact on your financial future.

Understanding the Social Security System - The Social Security system is the foundation of many individual's financial plan for retirement. This article includes information on benefits and costs of this important part of retirement planning.

Review Your Social Security Record - The Social Security Administration is sending reports titles "Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement." This report shows your history of earnings and benefit estimates. Learn what to look in your report.

What Should You Expect to Receive from Social Security? - Social Security retirement benefits are usually only one source of retirement income. This article describes current average benefit levels.

Rethinking Retirement - The volatility of the stock market often causes many to re-evaluate how to save for retirement, when to retire and how to live after retirement. There are several things to consider as you plan for a financially secure retirement in light of the current stock market.

Add $100,000 to Your Retirement Savings - It is probably safe to assume that you want to accumulate more funds for your retirement. Having more is better than having less. This article demonstrates how starting early and saving regularly can put that additional money within reach.

Return to Library Index

Income Tax and Estate Planning Articles

Understand the Tax Implications of Financial Decisions - Income taxes can be confusing and frightening. All too often, misunderstandings cause people to make financial choices that are not in their best long-term interest. Learn a few basics that will put taxes into the proper perspective.

2013 Tax Uncertainty - The income tax rules are complex and constantly changing. 2013 promises to bring even more changes as many existing tax provisions expire and as the federal government attempts to deal with its large deficit.

Developing an Effective Income Tax Strategy - While it may be too late to reduce last year's tax bill, it is the right time to start planning to reduce your future income taxes. This article offers some ideas that may make every April 15th less taxing.

Year Round Tax Savings Strategies - Income taxes are not something that should only be considered once a year. This article provides several ideas that can be put to work to make your tax bill smaller.

Beware of the Alternative Minimum Tax - The AMT is becoming a problem for millions of taxpayers and many are not aware of its presence. It may be difficult to totally avoid the AMT, but an understanding of what it is and how it works may provide some ideas on how to reduce it.

The Power of Tax Deferred Compounding - No one likes to pay income taxes. Delaying the actual payment of taxes can be satisfying from an emotional and financial point of view. Learn some of the types of investments and types of accounts that can help you delay the final tax bill.

Taxable, Tax Advantaged, Tax Deferred and Tax Free - Certain investments and certain types of accounts can help you reduce, or at least delay, paying income taxes on investment earnings, Learn some of the why's, how's and when's of this important issue.

Charitable Giving Strategies - Americans continue to open their wallets to support their favorite causes. Understanding your options may help you save some additional taxes while you help your favorite charity.

Consider Charitable Contributions of Appreciated Stock - With the recent strong performance of the stock market, many people should consider how giving stock to their favorite charity can further their favorite causes and create an income tax break.

The Basics of Estate Planning - Estate planning is not just the wealthy or the elderly. A few steps can help ensure that your family will be cared for as you intend if tragedy strikes.

Estate Planning is More Than Minimizing Taxes - People often think that estate planning is just for the wealthy and usually undertaken just to avoid or reduce estate taxes. However, there is much more. The proper planning can reduce the stress often associated with choices over medical decisions and financial management for the dying or disabled.

Estate Taxes Under the New Tax Law - The new tax law reduces, eliminates and reinstates estate taxes. Many expect even more changes to the estate tax laws over the next few years. Review some of the recent changes and prepare to discuss your estate plan with your professional advisor.

Making Annual $14,000 Gifts - Many individuals are able to help their families and reduce potential estate taxes by using this popular gifting technique. It can work for anyone and be a critical part of family financial planning.

Revocable Living Trusts - These popular forms of asset ownership are often "touted" as ways to avoid the expense of probating an estate. Learn what they are, how they work, how you may establish one and what to watch out for.

Consider a Life Insurance Trust - Life insurance trusts can be used to keep insurance proceeds out of your taxable estate and save large amounts of estate taxes. As you review your estate plan, speak with your attorney about this powerful and useful technique of owning life insurance policies.

Return to Library Index

Issues Facing Parents Articles

Custodial Accounts for Children - Transferring funds to children with UGMA or UTMA accounts serves many purposes. Children can learn about finances and there may be some tax advantages. However, ultimately the children take control of the assets.

The Kiddie Tax or How Children Are Taxed - Children are taxpayers just like adults, almost. This article explains how the IRS provides some tax breaks for children and how they prevent some parents from reducing the overall level of family tax.

College Funding Options - The 2001 Tax Law made several changes in ways to save for college costs. The changes were all good. If funding a college education for a child, or grandchild, is in your future, you should be aware of these changes.

Dealing with College Costs - The costs of college have risen considerably in the past and are expected to continue to rise. Understanding some of the ways to save for those costs can make meeting those costs less problematic.

Saving Early for a College Education - Starting early to save for a child's college education makes the process easier. College costs are continuing to rise faster than the general inflation rate. That's why taking steps now can enable your child to attend the college of choice.

Investing College Funds - Learn how a changing mix of equity and fixed income investments can help you take advantage of the historical higher returns of equities and have the funds available for college costs.

IRAs for Teens - Many teenagers have income from summer or part-time jobs. Establishing a Roth Individual Retirement Account may be the beginning of a secure financial foundation. It can also help the teen develop some good savings habits.

Guidelines for First Time Credit Card Users - Getting a first credit card can be intimidating and tempting. This article reviews some of the decisions credit card users should make and offers some guidelines for the prudent use of this financial convenience.

Return to Library Index

Issues Facing Small Businesses

Choosing the Right Form for Your Business - Choosing the appropriate legal form for a business is one of the first issues most entrepreneurs face. It is an important decision at the formation stage and also as a business grows.

Developing a Business Plan - Having a business plan can make running your business easier. Your advisors, creditors and others will better understand your business after reviewing your plan.

Getting Ready to Borrow - At some point, almost every business will need to borrow money. Being prepared for the loan application and approval process can make the whole experience less stressful.

Developing a Marketing Plan - Having a written marketing plan can make everyday decision making easier and save you time. Here are some ideas to use when creating a plan.

Giving Customers the Respect They Want and Deserve - Keeping existing customers, as well as finding new ones, is more critical than ever. Better understanding the customer relationship from the customer's point of view can help you strengthen, lengthen and leverage one of your most valuable business assets - your customer relationships.

Marketing With Direct Mail - Marketing through the mail is effective for some and not for others. Learn some of the ways to evaluate and use this marketing tactic.

Marketing With Newsletters - Finding ways to stay in touch with customers and prospects is critical for the success of your business. Newsletters provide "a reason and a means" to communicate. Learn why many companies use newsletters to keep interested parties informed.

Trade Show Marketing - Industry gatherings and conferences can be an ideal way of getting your marketing messages in front of potential buyers. This article helps identify what types of shows may be best and how to use your attendance or exhibiting more effectively.

The Science and Art of Generating Referrals - Asking for referrals can be uncomfortable. Learn some of the when's and how's to make the process more effective and easier.

Using the Trade Press to Generate Results - Trade publications you and your customers read are an ideal way to spread the word about your company. Following a few steps can help you take advantage of this "free" advertising.

Preparing a Business Speech - Opportunities to speak in front of customers and others should be seized and capitalized on. Many business managers let the anxiety of public speaking prevent them from taking full advantage of these opportunities.

The Importance of Job Descriptions - Giving employees an understanding of what is expected will help them perform better. It can also help in the evaluation, promotion or termination of the employee.

Interviewing Job Applicants - Good employees are critical for the success of any business. Asking the right questions during a job interview can help you make the right employee decisions.

Evaluating Your Employees - While performance evaluations are seldom looked forward to, they can be a critical and valuable step in effectively managing your business.

Terminating Employees - No matter how carefully you hire employees, there will be a time when you must terminate an employee. If you do it carefully, you can reduce the risk of any legal action and maybe learn something that will help in running your business.

Retirement Plan Options - You have many choices for a retirement plan for your business. Be sure to consider all the costs and your objectives.

Return to Library Index