Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Traveling abroad? The increase in debit card fraud has caused us to block all debit card transactions originating outside the U.S. You'll need to make arrangements if you plan to use your debit card while traveling. Learn how.
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Personal Financial Record Retention
Working at a bank, I have often heard and discussed record retention. What records do we have to keep and how long do we have to keep them? It is something that I have also considered in my personal life. How long do I have to keep my tax returns? How long do I have to keep my cancelled checks?
One of my relatives has often mentioned that he has every bank statement he ever received since he first opened a bank account back in the 1940's. Is that really necessary? I did a little research online and here is what I discovered.
First off, let me say that I am not a financial advisor or consultant. Retention periods may be longer or shorter based on your own personal financial situation. If you are unsure about throwing something away, ask your financial advisor or attorney. One further clarification, when I say "throw away" what I really mean is "shred." In this day and age, one cannot be too careful. If it contains an account number, social security number, date of birth, maiden name, or other personal financial information, shred it!
Federal tax laws require you to retain records that support items on a tax return for as long as the IRS can assess additional tax based on that return. This time frame is generally six years, if you underreported your income by more than 25%. However, if the IRS suspects fraud, the time frame is unlimited.
Keeping the previous two paragraphs in mind, the following are some general guidelines for retaining important financial information.
Home-Related Records: Purchase, Sale, Renovation, Improvement
Credit Card Receipts and Statements
Deposit /ATM /Debit Card Receipts and Bank Statements
These are just some general guidelines for retaining your personal financial information. Again, your needs may be different based on your individual financial circumstances. More information on tax regulations is available on the IRS web site. For specific warranty or insurance information, review the information provided with the product and/or your policy.
Vacation Off the Beaten Track
While the solstice doesn't occur until June 21st, Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of the summer season. The school year is winding to a close. These signs can only point to one thing.
It's time to plan the family vacation.
The economic downturn of the past few years gave rise to a new version of the traditional vacation. More and more families opted for a staycation. With money tight, they opted to enjoy whatever treasures their locale had to offer. And keep whatever cash they spent in their own community.
With a rosier economic outlook this year, vacations are back on the summer agenda.
But unless you've already booked your airline ticket, the cost of travel may still be out of reach for a lot of people. Airfare is predicted to rise anywhere from 15 to 25 percent according to forecasters. Staggering fuel costs are to blame. Factor in fuel surcharges, baggage fees and whatever miscellaneous charge a particular airline may assess and the price continues to grow.
It may be a good time to discover some unique attractions that the good ole' U.S.A. has to offer.
Mysterious creatures roam the corridors of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine. Find Bigfoot, mermaids and more within their walls. You may even encounter the Jersey Devil!
Museum buffs may also want to catch the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum in Alexandria, Virginia. Or travel a bit further for a taste of the old west at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
While you're out west, stop in Roswell, New Mexico's UFO Museum and Research Center. Or celebrate the history of firefighting at the Hall of Flame in Phoenix, Arizona.
Satisfy your sweet tooth at the Pez Museum in Burlingame, California.
Plan your route to coincide with food festivals for a taste of regional delicacies you won't find in your neighborhood. This can be one instance where you want to leave home hungry!
Start with Newport, Rhode Island's Great Chowder Cook-Off. Venture west to the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. Top it off with the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival, or the Ice Cream Festival in Toms River.
If you're traveling through the Midwest, you can opt for the World's Largest Brat Fest in Madison, Wisconsin. Or the Taste of Chicago, said to be the world's largest food festival.
The National Hamburger Festival in Akron, Ohio might be a good stop after touring the National Football League Hall of Fame in nearby Canton. Schedule your trip to Kansas City, Missouri around the American Royal Barbecue, considered the World Series of Barbecue.
Scarf down a few tacos in Scottsdale, Arizona with a side of all the corn you can eat in Olathe, Colorado and sweet potatoes in Darlington, South Carolina. Top it off with a little Kentucky bourbon.
For those with a taste for the wilder side, don't miss Marlinton, West Virginia's Roadkill Cook-Off.
A quick web search will give you the details on each of these attractions and festivals.
As usual, the economic indicators and reports are not giving a clear signal of economic change. The Wall Street Journal reported today that "Economists Downgrade Prospects for Growth," noting that the economy was projected by the Federal Reserve "to grow between 3.1 percent to 3.5 percent in 2011 and 3.5 percent and 4.2 percent in 2012." GDP (gross domestic product) was only 1.8 percent at the end of the first quarter. Economic growth is, of course, needed to fuel job growth - which in turn fuels the economy. Indeed, this prediction continues the mantra of slow growth.
Supporting this, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that personal income continued to grow in April by .4 percent and 4.4 percent over the last twelve months. Consumer spending kept pace growing .4 percent for the month and 4.8 percent year over year. However, inflation kept this growth in check as real disposable income, which is adjusted for price changes, dropped by less than .1 percent.
On a positive note, an annual survey by American Express revealed that Chief Financial Officers worldwide foresee economic growth over the next 12 months. Therefore, many project more hiring as well as merger activity. Borrowing is not seen as a problem this year, allowing that growth to happen if possible. This spending will indeed fuel the economy should it come to pass!
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