Fisher's Law Office
Welcome to the NEWSLETTER of Fisher’s Law Office, providing you with legal information you can use in your everyday life. If you have questions about what you read in this newsletter, please call us today.
1. TIPS FOR GETTING AHEAD IN 2006
- The average American is over his head in debt. Creditors want their money and often fail to follow the law. Here are a few hints with dealing with creditors:
- Creditors have to be very careful when they communicate with a debtor. They must comply with the new federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA).
- Here are some of the changes under the new law:
- Consumers can place fraud alerts on their credit files to block information caused by identity theft or fraud.
- Practice hint: If you receive a call from a creditor on a debt you do not recognize you have a right to place a fraud alert on your credit file.
- If your credit rating causes you to get a less advantageous interest rate on a loan, the creditor is required to tell you that your credit rating caused this to happen.
- Consumers are allowed to have one free credit report annually from each of the major credit reporting bureaus. You can get your free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com
- You can dispute information and initiate an investigation directly with a creditor who reports to a credit-reporting bureau. If you report identity theft to a creditor that creditor is not allowed to report credit information to a credit-reporting agency.
2. WHAT IF YOU ARE SUED FOR A DEBT?
- Do not ever allow a judgment to be entered against you by a creditor without a fight. Fisher’s Law office has noticed a disturbing trend in which creditors are suing to collect on mortgages that are paid on time.
- The problem? Mortgages change ownership so fast that consumers don’t know where to send mortgage payments!
- Don’t be a victim of the system; fight back if you are sued by a creditor or mortgage lender.
3. 2006: DO THE FOLLOWING WITH YOUR ESTATE/TAX SITUATION EARLY THIS YEAR
- In the place where you keep your will you should have a list of all your assets and liabilities.
- Show your spouse or children where you keep your will.
4. 2006 FORM “W-4” TAX TIPS
- Always review the number of “exemptions” you have on file with your employer on form W-4 annually.
- If you have recently had a child, gotten married, gotten divorced or made other substantial changes of your life, you should fill out a new form W-4.
- Experts say it is always better to owe a small amount of income tax to the government at the end of the year than to have a large tax refund so you don’t give a free loan to Uncle Sam.
- On the other hand if you are not very responsible with money you might want to slightly over-withhold your income taxes on form W-4 by putting less exemptions than your entitled to in order to have a refund each year.
5. 2006 AND 2007: YEAR OF SOLAR CREDIT FOR FLORIDIANS!
- Here are some major changes to help Floridians and the environment now:
- If you have an approved solar hot water system installed at your house in 2006 or 2007 the U.S. government will give you a 30% income tax credit (up to $2000) on the cost of your new hot water system!
- Solar tax credits also apply for electric systems installed in 2006 and 2007.
- Also, if you buy a “hybrid” automobile you can claim an income tax credit for 2006 and 2007.
6. HERE ARE SOME HINTS FOR IMPROVING YOUR CREDIT SCORE IN 2006
- Pay all your credit card bills in full each month if you can afford to do so.
- Never charge any more than you can pay each month.
- If you have a credit card you are not using, consider closing the account.
- If you plan on taking out a loan, don’t fill out applications with too many creditors. (As each creditor makes an inquiry regarding your credit history, your credit score will decline.)
- Practice hint: Having a good credit score can lower the cost of automobile insurance. Insurance companies often use credit scores to determine how responsible a person is when they drive an automobile.
7. HERE ARE SOME TIPS FOR MAXIMIZING RETIREMENT CONTRIBUTIONS IN 2006
- If you are 50 years old or older in 2006 you can contribute up to $5000 into an IRA account.
- If you have a 401k retirement plan at work, always save the maximum amount your employer matches, so your employer helps increase your savings faster.
- Always pay yourself first. Before you pay your bills, save as much as you can in a brokerage or bank account.
- If you are new to saving, always save in a bank account so the money won’t decline if the stock market crashes.
- As you begin saving more money, consider moving some of the money into an investment account after carefully considering all of your options with an investment professional.
- Consider lowering or carrying no balance on your mortgage on your home. Refinancing and taking “cash outs” will increase your loan balance and extend the time it takes to pay back your mortgage.
- Warning: If you increase your loan balance by “cashing out” in a refinance, the cost of your homeowners insurance may go up because the home has a recent appraisal saying it’s worth more!
8. HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON HOME OWNERSHIP IN 2006
- If you have no balance on your mortgage you can legally cancel your homeowners insurance and flood insurance and save hundreds of dollars a month in insurance expense!
- Warning: Fisher’s Law office does not recommend that clients go without homeowners insurance.
9. HOW TO SAVE MONEY AS A CONSUMER IN 2006
- You can save money on gasoline by selling your SUV and replacing it with an economy car or hybrid automobile.
- Your car will get better gas mileage if your tires are properly inflated and your vehicle is regularly maintained.
- You’ll drive slower if you drive with your windows down. This is because the sound of the wind will make you drive slower than normal.
- You will receive less traffic tickets if you drive the speed limit.
- Shop at discount grocery stores that sell food in bulk.
- Ride your bike to work once a week. You’ll stay in shape and save on gasoline.
- Stop smoking and drinking or consider smoking less and drinking less.
10. LEGAL TIPS FOR 2006
- If you are involved in a lawsuit or divorce consider asking your lawyer to set mediation. Many cases settle in mediation and this can save you on the cost of litigation.
- Practice tip: Many cases are not allowed to be brought to trial unless mediation takes place.
11. TIPS FOR YOUR TEENS IN 2006
- Encourage your teen to get a part time job to save money for college.
- Pay the teen an allowance in exchange for saving 100% of her earnings from working. (Monitor your child’s grades to make sure they are not affected by part time work.)
12. MAJOR CHANGES IN THE BANKRUPTCY LAW IN 2006
The law has changed dramatically; here are some of the changes:
- Under old bankruptcy law you were allowed to have an unlimited exemption from seizure of your home by creditors in Florida.
- Now, if you file bankruptcy and you’ve only lived in Florida for 40 months or less you can only claim up to a $125,000 dollar exemption on your homestead.
- Under new bankruptcy law, Chapter 7 – full liquidation bankruptcy is more difficult.
- For example, if you live alone in Florida, and you earn over $35,883 per year; you must file a Chapter 13 (repayment plan) when you file for bankruptcy.
13. CHILD SUPPORT IN 2006 GETS A LITTLE EASIER
- Many U.S. citizens have been denied the right to a passport. This is because they have unpaid child support arrearages. If you have back child support you may not be allowed to renew your passport under the new “passport denial program.”
14. IF YOU RECEIVE AN IRA AS AN INHERITANCE OF 2006 BE EXTREMLY CAUTIOUS
- The law requires that you begin taking minimum IRA distributions and paying tax on the distributions. If you are the beneficiary of an IRA, see a professional immediately as severe penalties for failure to take a mandatory distributions apply under the tax code.
15. 2006 IRA INHERITANCE TIP
- Under the “stretch IRA” rules you are allowed to take the money out of your inherited IRA gradually over your life expectancy
16. SAVING FOR COLLEGE IN 2006
- What is a 529 savings plan? 529 savings plans are one of the most common college saving options. It is a tax advantaged plan that can be used at every college and graduate school in the U.S.
- With a 529-college savings plan, there are no income restrictions on contributors and withdrawals for qualified educational expenses are income tax free. The 529 plans can grow tax-free. Meanwhile, the account holder, not the beneficiary (your child), controls the assets in the account and makes all decisions on how the money is used.