Financial Health Guide

Reach for your goals with stability in mind.

April Is Financial Literacy Month

Improving Your Financial Health

At Sno Falls we’re committed to a financially literate future, especially for our nation’s youth. To help promote April as Financial Literacy Month, we’ve put together a few money management tips as well as local community resources who share our mission to increase financial responsibility and education.

Money Management Tips

1. Educate Yourself and Set Goals

Educating yourself on as many financial matters as possible is key to financial literacy. From your findings you can then set realistic goals that apply to you and your specific financial situation.

2. Save Emergency Funds
Emergency funds create a financial buffer that can keep you afloat in a time of need without having to rely on credit cards or high-interest loans. It can be especially important to have an emergency fund if you have debt, because it can help you avoid borrowing more.

3. Avoid Financial Fraud
Fraud is on the rise with more and more opportunities for scammers to take advantage of consumers. Visit our Security Center for quick tips on how to keep your funds and personal information safe. Security Center

4. Minimize and Pay Off Debt 
Having less debt will add more flexibility to your budget while boosting your credit score. As your credit score improves, it can become easier to qualify for better interest rates and other loans, such as mortgages.

5. Build Good Financial Habits
Good financial habits include regularly reviewing and updating your financial plan and setting financial goals that are meaningful. In addition, creating a budget and generating passive income are also considered good financial habits.

Financial Literacy Month Community Resources

• Washington State University’s Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) will explore five April events for Financial Literacy Month.

• Gov. Jay Inslee’s Financial Literacy Month resources.

• Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development Financial Literacy Month resources.

• The Department of Financial Institutions is collaborating with the Pierce County Library System and American Financial Solutions to offer four Financial Fitness Fridays events (one online only, and three in-person).

2024 Tax Preparation

Tax Season Preparation Steps

The first quarter of the year is typically when tax season preparation begins with the goal of creating a return that is accurate and doesn’t hold any financial surprises. To better prepare this year, we recommend undertaking the following steps.

1. Decide where to file
You’ll need to decide whether you’ll file your taxes yourself or use an accounting professional or tax preparer. The more complicated your tax situation, the better it may be to have an experienced tax professional handle your return. If you own a business and have to file both personal and business tax returns, an accountant can help ensure all the information is accurate and filed appropriately with the IRS.

However, if your tax situation is straightforward — for example, if you’re a single filer who works a W-2 job and doesn’t yet own a home or have dependents — it may be easier and less expensive to use tax filing software. Many of these products are good at guiding everyday tax filers through the process, and in some cases, you may be able to pay an additional small fee to have a tax preparer affiliated with the company review your return before it’s filed.

2. Organize your tax paperwork

Documents include:
• A copy of last year’s tax return: This can help you understand what deductions and credits you took last year and remind you about any information you may need to file your next tax return.

• W-2 forms: This form details the income you received from your full or part-time job during the most recent tax year and is typically provided by your employer by the end of January.

• 1099 forms: A form for self-employed persons, given to you by your client detailing how much you were paid. If you haven’t paid quarterly estimated taxes on your self-employment income during the year, you’ll have to do so once you file your return in April.

• Form 1098: A form including information about the amount of mortgage interest you’ve paid during the year.

• Form 1099-DIV: If you own stocks, bonds, a rental property or another type of investment that has generated a profit, you should expect to receive this form. Form 1099-DIV reports any income you’ve received from dividends or distributions related to your investments.

• Form 1098-E: This form is a student loan interest statement and will include information on the amount of student loan interest you paid throughout the year.

• Form 5498: This form details the amount you’ve contributed throughout the year to an individual retirement account (IRA). The bank or brokerage firm that holds your account will send you Form 5498 at the end of the tax year or the following January. The amount you’ve contributed may be tax-deductible as long as your income doesn’t exceed the limit set by the IRS.

• Form 1095-A: Form 1095-A is the Health Insurance Marketplace statement. It includes information that allows individuals who enrolled in a qualified health plan during the year to either get the premium tax credit to offset their healthcare costs or reconcile the credit on their returns with any advance payments they’ve received.

• Information on business expenses: If you’re self-employed or own a small business, you should keep receipts and credit card statements to accurately track your expenses. If you use bookkeeping software that is linked to your account, you can easily export this information and use it to file your return. Otherwise, download your monthly business credit card statements or create a spreadsheet where you list all your annual business expenses. Keeping detailed records throughout the year can help you maximize your business deductions and potentially reduce your tax liability.

3. Understand qualified deductions and credits
It’s important to determine your eligibility for tax deductions and tax credits before you file.
• Deductions can reduce the amount of your income before you calculate the tax you owe.

• Credits can reduce the amount of tax you owe or increase your tax refund.

• Certain credits may give you a refund even if you don’t owe any tax.

Learn more from the IRS.

4. Take advantage of the latest tax laws

Financial New Year Resolutions

New Year New Goals

The new year is a great time to consider setting financial goals such as improving your credit score or making a plan to pay off your credit card debt once and for all.

1. Save More Money
There are numerous ways to save more in the new year – you can increase your 401(k) contributions, cut back on unnecessary spending and set up automatic transfers. If you’re a Sno Falls Member, we recommend using Smart Invest for automated transfers. This Automated Investment Manager gives you access to

  • Professionally constructed portfolios
  • Personalized goals and risk tolerance
  • Access to monitor and manage your investments in a single view

Start an account today with as little as $200 from your existing Sno Falls checking or savings.

2. Improve Your Credit Score
A healthy credit score is recommended for you to qualify for the lowest interest rates for new loans and lines of credit. If you have an unhealthy credit score (below 670), you can quickly improve it in several ways.

Paying your bills on time and in full is crucial for good credit. A good tool to tackle bill pay is Sno Falls MessagePay. This exclusive Member feature will allow you to quickly make a payment to your Sno Falls loan or credit card from any external account. It’s as easy as responding to a secure text message.

Paying off your credit card debt monthly and keeping your credit utilization rate low can boost your credit score. In addition to these practices, it is also recommended that you limit the number of new credit cards and lines of credit opened. For more information on Sno Falls Credit Cards, click here.

3. Create A Budget
A budget can help you set guidelines for what you can afford to spend and help you identify areas where you could cut back. Having a budget can also contribute to an increase in savings.

Start by writing down all your fixed expenses, such as rent/mortgage, cell phone, groceries and savings. After, you can see how much funds you have left over for flexible expenses, such as groceries, clothing and entertainment costs. Record spending monthly, and make adjustments as needed. Financial institutions often have apps that can help you better monitor transaction history. Download the Sno Falls app today.

How To Avoid Cyber Fraud

Cyber Fraud

Cyber Fraud is on the rise with more and more opportunities for scammers to take advantage of consumers. Here are a few quick tips on how to keep your online accounts safe in 2023.

  1. Use two-factor/multi-factor authentication
    Two-factor/multi-factor authentication, or an authentication system that requires more than one distinct authentication factor for successful authentication1, makes it hard for a scammer to gain access to your accounts. These are the three categories: Something you know (like a password or PIN), something you have (like a smart card/token), or something you are (like your fingerprint/face ID).
  2. Set up unique passwords/usernames
    When you reuse a password for social media profiles, apps, email accounts, online shopping and even medical sites, you are increasing your risk of being hacked. If a scammer finds out one password/username that you use for multiple platforms, they can rapidly gain access to other sites that use the same login information.
  3. Imposter Fraud
    Imposter fraud involves scammers who lie and pretend to be someone else in order to trick you into sending money or sensitive information to them. The FTC reported $2.3 billion lost to imposter fraud in 2021, making it the second most frequent type of fraud behind identity theft.1

    Examples of imposter fraud include:
    • Direct Impersonation
    Scammers may call or text you pretending to be a large retail company such as Amazon in order to obtain money/sensitive information under the guise of giving you a refund for a purchase you may have never made or a prize for a contest that you never entered. Another example includes dishonest persons who impersonate charities like St. Jude while pocketing donations. This type of imposter fraud often occurs during holiday season or following natural disasters. Other scammers even reach out via social media or banking apps like Venmo disguised as your family member/close friend in desperate financial need. Criminals have also been known to pose as the IRS asking for your social security number or other sensitive information, especially throughout tax season.

    • Remote Computer Access
    Imposter fraud includes scammers who contact you asking for remote digital device access in order to perform tasks such as tech repair or bank assistance. Often these hackers are impersonating trusted companies like Apple or your primary financial institution. If the imposter is given access, they can wreak havoc on your personal data. They can access and steal information on the spot or install malware and remotely return to your device for future hacking.

    • Gift Cards/Wire Transfers
    It’s a cause for concern when any online retailer or service provider ask for payment via gift card or wire transfer. Gift card fraud is popular with scammers because gift cards are easy for consumers to find and buy, and they have fewer protections for buyers compared to other payment options. Both gift card and wire transfers are more like cash: once these forms of payment been transferred to the imposter, the money is near impossible to trace and have return.

    Always verify identity before giving out sensitive information or money. Never allow remote access to any device unless the user is authenticated. And finally, consider the implications of scammer activity when choosing your payment option for online purchases.
  4. Do your homework
    Scammers often pose as fake companies or online sellers during the holiday season. If you see a social media ad or website popup that’s too good to be true, we recommend not inquiring with the company or seller. Scammers can also take advantage of consumers by sending suspicious emails asking for login information, offering a free gift or inviting you to claim a prize. If you are familiar with the vendor, visit their website directly to see if the deal is real. In most cases, it is best to go straight to the source when purchasing this holiday season.
  5. Subscription Services
    Watch out for subscription services with fine print indicating an unusually large subscription amount per month after the initial payment. Card companies will often side with the subscription service if fraud is reported due to the contract confirmed on your end.

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