Cherry Blossom Run 2015

Team NASA Federal lit up the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run on Sunday, April 12, 2015 with its overwhelming enthusiasm. As in years past, the event brought together credit unions from across the country in support of the Children’s Miracle Network. And once again, the highly spirited members of Team NASA Federal were there, making their support for the kids known in a big way.

Cherry Blossom typically raises around $500,000 each year, and 2015 was no exception, bringing the total amount raised to over $7 million since credit unions became the title sponsors in 2002. This year, the event hosted approximately 16,000 runners, of which 29 were NASA Federal employees and family members and 68 were NASA Federal-sponsored members. Runners were, greeted by 63 NASA Federal volunteers, who handed them water and cheered passionately as they passed by the NASA Federal water station.

What’s more, the three NASA-sponsored running teams consisting of members from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center finished first, third and fifth in the Credit Union Team Competition. And, NASA Goddard’s own Alvin Yew of the first team placed 81 out of all runners.

Thanks to all of the NASA Federal employees, volunteers and runners for their dedication and energy. They make the Cherry Blossom Run special year in and year out.

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Stolen Uber Passenger Information for Sale Promising Buyers a Free Ride   

Uber LogoUber passengers are now being advised to change their account passwords immediately.  Reports are appearing claiming that an “unlimited” number of Uber accounts are being offered for sale on underground sites.

The price tag is $5 to receive some personal details and “limited” credit card information, and the event is causing the company to investigate whether or not their network may have been breached. The credit information that is being advertised for sale is reportedly only the last four digits of the card number.

When changing passwords, Uber account holders are advised to use a separate one from any other online account. Duplicate account credentials have been blamed for other recent incidents, such as the “naked celebrity” and Google Gmail stories of last year. New passwords should not include any identifiable information such as birthdate or driver’s license number and should be a minimum of eight characters long. In addition, special characters, numbers, and both upper and lower case letters should be included.

Uber has stated there is no evidence of a breach at this time. However, “vendors” on the site AlphaBay are claiming to have sold over 144 accounts since March 18 and more than 3,000 over all. Below is a screen shot of a site selling the accounts.

To add value to their crime services, purchasers may also buy a guide helping them to avoid getting caught for a mere $1.87 more. Some other vendors of the information are claiming that the supplied email addresses and passwords included in the packages are 100% valid and others are offering to supply account information based on geographic location.

There is little doubt that this will become big news giving scammers the opportunity to go phishing. Beware of any email communication asking you for information or to verify information. Uber does want you to change your password, but they will not send you and email with a link to their site. Go directly to any site you wish to visit, it is best not to click on email links or open attachments. The end result, if the email was from a criminal, will be malware.

One of the sellers, Courvoisier, is well-known in the card stealing arena and is known to have stolen massive amounts of credit card information.

 

©Copyright 2015 Stickley on Security

Tax Season is also IRA Season

If you have not opened a 2014 Individual Retirement Account (IRA), you still have time! The deadline is April 15, 2015.

Contact the Financial Advisors at NASA Federal Credit Union Investment Services, registered through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. (CFS*), for assistance with opening and/or contributing to an IRA, help understanding your IRA options, or to discuss other retirement planning opportunities.

Schedule a complimentary, no-obligation consultation today by calling 1-800-638-8484, extension 314, or send an email to investments@nasafcu.com. We look forward to being of service to you.
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What is an IRA?
An IRA is a personal savings plan that offers specific tax benefits, and is one of the most powerful retirement savings tools available. Even if you are contributing to a 401(k) or other plan at work, you should also consider investing in an IRA.

How much can you contribute?
The maximum IRA contribution amount set by Congress and adjusted for inflation, is $5,500 per year, plus $1,000 per year as a catch-up contribution if you’re 50 or older in the calendar year. These are the limits for calendar years 2014 and 2015.

What types of IRAs are available?
The two major types of IRAs are Traditional and Roth.

  • Traditional IRA: Practically anyone can open and contribute to a Traditional IRA. The only requirements are that you must have taxable compensation and be under age 70 1/2. Your contributions to a Traditional IRA may be tax deductible on your federal income tax return, which may lower your taxable income for the year (please consult your tax advisor for details).
  • Roth IRA: When you meet certain conditions, your withdrawals from a Roth IRA will be completely income tax free, including both contributions and investment earnings. Contributions to a Roth IRA, however, are not tax deductible, and you can only invest after-tax dollars. With a Roth IRA, there are no required distributions after age 70 1/2 or at any time during your life. You can put off taking distributions until you need the income, or leave the entire balance to your beneficiary without ever taking a distribution.

*Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. (“CFS”), a registered broker-dealer (member FINRA/SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS: are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are registered through CFS. NASA Federal Credit Union has contracted with CFS to make non-deposit investment products and services available to credit union members.

Couples’ Involvement in Finances

A recent study by Fidelity Investments showed many people want to be more involved with their finances. Among women, 92% wanted to learn more about their finances, while 86% wanted to take a more active role in managing them. It’s very easy to get caught in a routine with bill paying, checking and spending. The person who was doing so when you started cohabiting just continues to do so exactly the same way they always have.

What’s more, those conversations are really difficult to initiate. Even with close friends, 56% of survey respondents say finances are “too personal” to discuss. Of those survey respondents, 43% were willing to talk about their health issues, but only 17% would talk about investments. About half of respondents would willingly talk about the strange things their bodies are doing, but talking about where they save their money is considered “too personal.”

Intimate partner relationships aren’t a safer space for conversations about money, either. Only 66% of respondents talk about investments or salary with their spouses or partners. In one out of every three relationships, finances are not a common topic of conversation between people who likely share a checking account!

If you’d like to change that dynamic in your relationship, there are a couple of approaches you might consider. No matter what you do, make sure you’re approaching this sensitive topic from a place of love. Fights over money occur when one partner feels put on the defensive about budgeting or spending. Take care and try these three techniques!

1.) Talk about a common goal

If you and your partner have been trying to plan a summer getaway, save for a new car or put a down payment on a house, this can be an excellent place to start a conversation. It’s best to begin on broad notes. Ask about hotel choice or means of transportation. From there, it can be easy to talk about making a budget for the occasion. Once you and your partner are talking about dollar amounts, it can spill over into a more general conversation about finance.

If you ask about saving for this project, it’s important to have suggestions or ideas. Come to the conversation prepared to make a small sacrifice to contribute to saving for the project or have some cost-saving strategy to make the process easier. This encourages a feeling of joint struggle as opposed to you “checking up on” or “managing” your partner.

2.) Set guidelines for spending

Spending is the biggest cause of fights between couples. In general, people tend to see their decisions as rational and the choices they disagree with as irrational or impulsive. In relationships, it’s tempting and gratifying to think of yourself as the sensible one and your partner as the reckless one.

Your partner likely feels the same way. For instance, you may enjoy a daily coffee drink while your partner might consider that to be frivolous spending because they don’t know the joy and satisfaction you derive from that little indulgence. Conversely, your partner’s enthusiasm for home electronics might make you see a top-of-the-line stereo system as an extravagance, while your partner sees it as a way for the two of you to spend more time together at home.

The best way to avoid resentment while still keeping your spending under control is to set personal allowances for you and your partner. You can spend so much each week or month without consulting your partner. Major purchases that go over that limit require consultation. Try to avoid bringing up recent or specific purchases and focus on planning for the future rather than placing blame for the past. This will keep the conversation from feeling accusatory.

3.) Dream about the future

Retirement planning is a difficult subject to broach. Many people don’t want to do it on their own because the prospect of saving that much money is frightening. Add in the stress of talking about money in a relationship and this can be a conversation filled with dread.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Many couples find retirement to be a time of great relationship strength and bonding. If you and your partner didn’t have to work, you could spend a lot more time together, enjoying your mutual interests and each others’ company. Instead of beginning a retirement planning conversation with a dollar amount, begin it with a dream.

Maybe you’d like to travel the world together and see exotic sights. Maybe you want to build furniture out of your home. Maybe you want to become active in the leadership of your church. Beginning with such dreams in mind, as opposed to how much they’re going to cost, can help you and your partner better share the stress involved in saving and planning.

However you broach the conversation about money, it’s important to do so. Secrets about finances in a relationship can lead to stress, interfere with honest communication and produce relationship-ending fights. On the other hand, couples who talk openly and honestly about their financial situation can use that transparency to build stronger, more straightforward communication strategies about other topics. As many people have found, the couple who saves together, stays together!

Tax Refund Expectation Management

3 Reasons Your Refund Might Not Be As Big As You’re Expecting  

Everyone tells you not to plan on having a tax refund. If you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, though, you know where every dollar is going. You might be counting on that money to give you the breathing space you need.

Even if you’re a little further ahead than that, you may still have made plans for your tax refund. You might be planning to pay off a credit card from the holidays or hoping to put a down payment on a car. You might just be hoping to take a little vacation over spring break!

Whatever your plans for the money, it’s a good idea to temper your expectations. Unfortunately, you can’t count on the same tax refund you got last year. Here are 3 possible reasons why:

1.) Student loan garnishments

If you’re behind on your student loans, you might not see much of your refund. If you don’t have much of an income, it’s easy to get behind and it’s hard to catch up. One of the reasons lenders love these loans is that they’re very difficult to get rid of. If you’re in default or declare bankruptcy, those lenders are still trying to get their money.

Student loan companies know that, for people with minimal income, tax refunds are a source of a big chunk of money. Also, since it’s not a regular source of income, the rules regarding garnishment are more lenient. Ordinarily, creditors are only allowed to take 15% of your discretionary income if you have one loan, or 25% if you have multiple loans. For a tax refund, the Department of Education can instruct the IRS to apply the full amount of any tax refund you’re due to the balance of your loan.

Even if you’re paid off in full, it might be wise to check with your spouse. This process can also apply to your refund for his or her defaulted student loans. As far as the IRS is concerned, you’re one taxpayer with one set of obligations.

This process can apply to federal student loans, federally subsidized loans and some private loans. You’ll receive a notice of proposed offset from the IRS. You have 65 days from receipt of the notice to object to the offset. Deferments can be provided for up to 3 years for economic hardship and unemployment. They may be provided indefinitely for individuals seeking an advanced degree or for people with disabilities.

It’s also possible the “loan” may just be a paperwork error. If you’ve unenrolled from classes but haven’t yet received a repayment from the school, for instance, you might get your refund back with a short letter. The notice of referral will provide you instructions to request a review.

2.) You made more money

Usually, getting a raise is something to celebrate. If you got one this year, that’s good news for your career future. It’s less good news for your refund.

The refund is the difference between what you paid in taxes and what you ended up owing. Your taxes are withheld from your paychecks assuming they stay the same all year. If you got a raise in June, then you were effectively under-withholding for the first half of the year.

Beyond the difference in payment, you may find your raise puts you just above the threshold for credit programs. Credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) have income eligibility requirements. If you made more money this year than you did last year, you may not qualify. The same is true for subsidized insurance premiums through the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). If your income changed after you obtained coverage, you may have to hand back a part of that subsidy.

The EITC is fairly significant, particularly if you have kids. It may be worth your time to look for other deductions you can take to get your gross income under the threshold. Consider working with a professional tax preparer, too.

3.) You were the victim of identity theft

The past few years have seen an increase in tax returns filed fraudulently on behalf of victims of identity theft. A crook uses your Social Security number and fabricates financial information to get a hefty tax refund, then cashes the check. You’re not only out your tax refund, but also may be facing criminal charges for the phony info on “your” return.

With cuts to the IRS budget this year, its enforcement and investigation of these crimes has dropped. You should contact the IRS immediately if you receive notice that more than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number or if you are issued a W-2 (an income statement report from your employer) by an employer you don’t recognize. These are red flags that someone is fraudulently using your identity.

The FTC recommends you contact the IRS’s Specialized Protection Unit at 1-800-908-4490.  You should also prepare proof of your identity, like a copy of your drivers’ license, Social Security card, or passport. The IRS has a form, IRS ID Theft Affidavit Form 14039, that will start the investigative process. Recovering from this crime will take time, but you will get the refund you’re due.

Saving for the Future Can Save the Day

While American consumers are in a better savings position than they were at the height of the economic crisis in 2007, we still have a long way to go.

Only 64% of households have sufficient emergency funds to cover temporary crises like car repairs, medical bills, job loss or some other serious life change. That number is down 7% from 2010. 68% say they are saving more than they are spending, down from 73% in 2010. It seems as though the lessons of the great recession have been forgotten.

This lack of savings puts individuals at risk of financial ruin, but it also places the economy itself in jeopardy. Declines affecting one industry are bad news for the economy, but they don’t trigger a credit crunch without a number of other problems. Low rates of consumer savings and high lifestyle maintenance debt can make job loss a vicious cycle. Consumers with high debt loads find themselves unable to spend, which slows growth in the rest of the economy. This leads to job loss in other sectors, snowballing throughout the economy.

Savings and low debt represent a way to fight back against this cycle. Reducing debt and increasing savings provides a way for consumers to maintain their lifestyles through career setbacks, which prevents the worst parts of economic crises.

1.) Make a pledge and set a goal

By making a commitment to spend less, save more and get out of debt, you can motivate yourself to do just that. It’s a great first step toward building personal wealth and making yourself a backstop against recession.

Also set a monthly savings goal. If you’re just starting out in trying to get your finances under control, you might set a small goal – such as save $40 a month for 3 months. If you’re a veteran saver looking for a way to keep yourself on track toward a goal, work backward from a vacation budget or loan balance to see how much you need to save each month.

Let NASA Federal Credit Union help with your savings commitment. Sign up for automatic transfers from checking to savings to keep yourself honest to your pledge. You’ll be at your goal in no time!

2.) Show the world what you’re saving for

It’s easy to get discouraged when your goal is something abstract. “Savings” is hard to compare in your head to a new cell phone or a dinner out. That’s why it’s so important to make your goal something concrete. Save for a vacation, or for a new vehicle, or for your education.

Picking a concrete savings goal is step one in keeping yourself motivated. Next, you’ll want to document your goal. Snap a picture of yourself with what you’re saving for. If you want to pay off your mortgage, take a picture of yourself in front of your house. If you want a new car, take a picture of yourself behind the wheel at a dealership. If it’s a tropical vacation you’re after, take a picture of yourself in a swimsuit in front of the giant piles of snow outside. Document your goal so you’ll always have something to look at when you get discouraged.

3.) Stay inspired

There’s a rush of enthusiasm that comes from starting a new project. At first, it’s novel and effortless. Then the days drag on. The novelty starts to wear off. The project becomes just another routine. A missed day turns into a missed week. The enthusiasm that characterized the start of the project just isn’t there.

Make sure this doesn’t happen to you with your savings pledge. Take some time to flip through the inspiring stories, like Mary Brown. A Wisconsin resident, Brown spent 7 years in Milwaukee public housing before saving to her goal of $2,000. Now, she’s finished her B.A. and moved her family into their first home. Stories like these remind us of the power of commitment, discipline, and dedication.

Take time each day to reflect on the progress you’ve made and the challenges you’ve overcome. Take a look at your goal and think about how good you’ll feel once you’ve accomplished it. Thank yourself for helping to keep the economy strong and your career on track. Most importantly, keep saving!