Do you make a bunch of resolutions for the new year and by January 14th can barely
remember what they were? Do you make the same resolutions every year, only to fail?
You are not alone! Millions of people make resolutions each year and less than half
of them are able to stick with them for 6 months!
So, how do you make it stick? There are no easy answers, but there are some
guidelines that can improve your likelihood of success.
First recognize resolutions for what they are...goals. (Just like your goal to get
out of debt with CAF!) As with all goals it is important to be SMART. Setting SMART
goals improves the probability you will achieve success. Each SMART goal (or resolution)
includes 5 points of reference to consider as you set your goals.
Specific- Using positive language, a goal should be easily understood and
include a definite expected result. (Which is more specific? - ‘I will follow
my budget’; or ‘I will develop my financial skills to be better able
to stick to my budget and make informed credit choices that support my long term
Measurable—A SMART goal is measurable. The SMART goal utilizes targets to
curb or redirect efforts as necessary to ensure final results meet your specific
expectations. (For example: ‘I will become debt free’; or ‘I will
become debt free by consistently making my monthly payments to Credit Advisors Foundation
and monitoring my progress on a monthly basis by reviewing my creditor and CAF statements’.)
Attainable—Although goals may present a challenge, goals must not be out
of reach or unrealistic. (Let’s face it; if you have never run a marathon
before and you do not intend to train, odds are you will not be able to attain your
goal of winning the New York Marathon. But you can get out of debt!)
Relevant—A SMART goal needs to be relevant. Goals must maintain and support
personal values. SMART goals will strengthen your dreams and purpose. (‘I
intend to use all my resources to be debt free at the end of 2004 by accelerating
my debt management program with CAF’.)
Timely—While timelines need to be realistic, they also ensure that targets
are met without delays and final results are appropriate and beneficial. What other
tips do professional goal setters suggest? First, you can make a resolution anytime,
not just January 1st.
Keep track of your goals, tape reminders on your mirror (or better yet, in your
wallet) and plan ahead to handle obstacles.
Have a strong initial commitment to make a change, and be persistent. If your first
attempt does not succeed — do not give up—give it another go! Never give up on your
goal because of one slip in your progress. If it is important enough to have made
a goal about, it is important enough to try again.
While you don’t have to explain the details of your plan, sharing the anticipated
goal result with those around you, can provide support and encourage your efforts,
as well as, assist you to stay motivated and focused. Form a support team. Find
like minded goal-setters and ask them to share their techniques for success. (Remember
those people you referred to CAF?)
Reward yourself! Small rewards at target points along the way, and a final reward
for accomplishing your goal are also great motivators. Remember, rewards don’t have
to cost a lot or anything at all, for that matter, to be effective. Lastly, keep
your sense of humor!
Sometimes the only way we can keep striving to achieve a goal is to be able to laugh
at ourselves and all the different ways we have learned that don’t work.
Yikes! Tax time looms! Headaches, indigestion, and sleeplessness…it doesn’t
have to be that way! Why not avoid the extra stress and start now?
Begin by organizing your paperwork. Collect and review your documentation if you
itemize. Keep in mind, your contributions to CAF may be tax deductible. Consult
with your tax preparer. (If you haven’t been diligent about saving and filing paperwork,
start looking now and make contacts for duplicate statements for expense verification,
if you can get them.)
Watch your mail for your W-2’s and 1099’s. Keep everything together.
You’ll want to decide if you will prepare your taxes or if you will make use
of a tax preparer. Be aware that there are different ways that tax preparers will
determine the charge for their services. Some will have a set standard charge; some
may work by a ‘form per line’ system. Especially convenient, some tax
preparers will come to your home or office for no additional charge.
You’ll also want to decide how you will file . You can file by mail, electronically,
or in some cases by phone. (If you’d like to file electronically but do not have
a computer, don’t forget about public access computers, found for example, at your
public library. If you prepare your own taxes, set a date on the calendar (or more
than one if you want to break the task into comfortable sessions). If you use a
tax preparer, make your appointment now, before the rush, so it is also convenient
Whether you are a do-it-yourselfer or you use a tax preparer, file electronically
or by mail, here are some things to remember:
* Review your completed return before signing.
* If you received a tax booklet from the IRS, use the peel-off address label on
*Choose (check mark) only one filing status.
*Check the exemption boxes.
*Include all social security numbers (your’s, spouse’s, and dependents).
*Double-check all calculations on the form—mathematical errors, which slow down
the processing of your return, are the most common problem.
*Double check that all necessary forms are included (W-2’s, 1099’s to
the front of the return, the rest—tax forms and schedules—in order of the attachment
*Authenticate all deductions (Check you documentation. Can you prove your claims?)
*Add appropriate forms or schedules to explain any discrepancies on your documentation.
(Your return may be flagged for an audit if the numbers don’t match.
*After reviewing your return don’t forget to sign and date it. (Your spouse
*Most importantly, file by April 15th.
If you are receiving a refund:
Consider the direct deposit option rather than waiting for a check from the IRS.
If you choose to file electronically you can expect to receive your refund in approximately
A note of caution on the 3 day rapid refunds process—The rapid refund is actually
a loan. Your return is filed. The refund amount is lent to you in 3 days. Your actual
tax refund is then used to pay off your loan. What could go wrong? Plenty! If you
owe funds from previous tax years, have defaulted on a student loan, owe back child
support, and so on. In these situations your refund is ‘set aside’ to
repay these obligations and your rapid refund loan is not repaid. Now the lender
will pursue you to repay this debt also. By the time that happens, if you are like
many people, the funds you received from the rapid refund have most likely been
spent. (Believe it or not, this is not an unusual scenario.)
If you have to pay:
All is not lost! The number one thing you need to remember? File your return by
the deadline. Save yourself the stress and cost of a late filing penalty. That late
filing penalty is 5 percent per month of the balance due. So file on time! If that
is not possible, the IRS does offer form 4868 to be completed to receive an extension
to file your return. (However you must pay 90% of your eventual tax bill when you
file for the extension and you will owe interest on the balance.) The IRS also offers
the ability to pay your taxes using your credit card. The IRS through specific service
providers (who also charge you) accepts American Express, MasterCard, Visa and Discover.
Ordinarily, when reviewing this option, you would consider the interest rate offered
by your credit card company. As a participant in a DMP, your creditors have asked
you not to increase your debt load, and as you well know, may drop you from benefits
if you do!
So, what options remain?
Payment arrangements! Yes, the IRS does offer payment arrangements. The IRS rules
ask that you file form 9465 and pay what you can with your return. Form 9465 should
include the amount you propose to pay monthly and the date you wish to make your
payment each month. If you need assistance to determine the amount and date, contact
CAF Client Care as soon as possible. CAF may be able to incorporate this debt into
Finally, regardless of if you must pay or are receiving a refund, keep in mind the
most important points: start early, get organized, review your options and most
of all, file on time!
Creating and achieving your resolutions can be a challenge, and sometimes our goals
are not so much dreams as responsibilities (like filing taxes on time). When SMART
goals are used, we are well on our way to accomplishing both. This month Word Search
for the following:
When did you first learn about taxes? After you got your first summer job? After
college? Was the information you had accurate and complete? How can we better inform
our children about taxes today?
Like most things, learning about taxes needs to start young. If you give your child
an allowance, explain the impact of taxes by requiring them to put a portion of
the allowance into ‘the family tax jar’. Funds from this jar can be
used for community efforts, like your local homeless shelter , food bank, or park
clean up. Explain to your kids that the taxes you pay are used for these kind of
things in the community.
One member of the CAF Board of Directors brings this into focus every time her children
want to buy something, like a toy or book, with their own money.
“I tell them they have to save the amount 3 times. So if the toy costs $10
I make them save $30. $10 for the book, $10 for college and $10 for taxes. The taxes
part covers the sales tax which, granted, is less than $10, but getting them used
to the fact that taxes take up to 1/3 of your earnings is the lesson I want them
For more structured learning go to www.irs.gov, click on ‘individuals’,
‘students’, and ‘understanding taxes’. This program has
both a teacher and student version and includes themes, lessons and activities to
improve tax knowledge and understanding for children.
You’ve probably noticed in the grocery and on the news that the cost of beef
has been rising. This month we give you another option in the kitchen to stretch
your food budget. Don’t let the list of ingredients frighten you away from
making this dish; it can be on the table in 45 minutes and while it serves an army
of hungry people, the test-kitchen crew (all beef and potato eaters from the mid-west)
chose it as a favorite.
In an 8-quart stock pot, heat the oil over medium-high, add the sausages, and cook
until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the celery, bell pepper, onion,
garlic, thyme, bay leaf, oregano, cayenne, basil, and black pepper and cook for
5 minutes, stirring frequently so the spices don’t burn. Add the tomatoes
and continue to cook for another 3 minutes, until some juice is absorbed.
Add the soup mix and water and bring to a boil. (At this point, you may cool the
mixture and refrigerate it for up to 2 days. When you are ready to serve the jambalaya,
bring the sauce to a simmer and continue with the recipe.)
Stir in the rice and cook it for 17 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook them until
they have turned pink, another 3 to 4 minutes. Serve the dish garnished with the
(Serves 8 to 10, at $1.17 per serving) If you need to expand the servings, add more
rice—for each 1/2 cup of rice, add an additional cup of water. Enjoy!