HELOISE Stretching paychecks has become a necessity

Dear Readers: Early in the year, I spoke at the national convention of the American Payroll Association. I also had the opportunity to interview Kathy Menda, APA president, and Michael Hall, APA immediate past president, and asked Kathy to please write me a letter so I could share the important hints I learned with you.
Dear Heloise: Stretching the family paycheck has become a necessity in today's economy. The American Payroll Association is a nonprofit association of more than 22,000 payroll professionals. Our members work hard to ensure that paychecks are delivered accurately and on time, every payday. We would like to share these hints to help your readers manage their paychecks and keep more of their hard-earned dollars:
UPay attention to your tax withholding. Many people get a large income-tax refund. But a tax refund is a red flag. It indicates that you are overpaying taxes and making an interest-free loan to the government! Talk to your payroll department and fill out a new Form W-4 properly to get that money in your pocket on payday.
UUse "cafeteria plans." These employee benefits can lower your taxes. You pay for these benefits with pretax dollars, lowering your tax burden and making your paycheck go further. Cafeteria plans can be used to pay for such things as child care, transportation to work, parking and medical expenses.
UUse direct deposit. Americans save less than 5 percent of their annual income. Direct deposit helps you manage your paycheck and save for retirement. Set up automatic allotments to checking and savings accounts to stay on your budget and add to your savings. Plus, you don't have to worry about cashing your check on payday -- the money will already be in your account!
UBe smart about 401(k) and other tax-advantaged retirement plans. If your company offers matching funds for your retirement contributions, contribute the maximum amount possible. Otherwise, you are giving up "free" money.
Your readers will find great tips on ways to get more from their paychecks at www.nationalpayrollweek.com. You can find even more great tips at www.mypaycheck.org. Kathy Menda, CPP, president, American Payroll Association
Dear Kathy: Thank you for sharing this invaluable information that touches everyone who gets a paycheck -- large, medium or small. Heloise
Dear Heloise: My husband and I own a preowned-vehicle dealership. With identity theft rampant these days, we'd like to caution people to avoid leaving paperwork in their vehicles when trading them in or leaving them for servicing. We've shredded receipts with credit-card numbers and even sales contracts revealing Social Security numbers and credit information. Rudy and Susan Hicks, Springfield, Mo.
Dear Heloise: For checks that come three to a page, if the first check at the top of the page has been written and torn out, put a paper clip on the second check to avoid the mistake of filling in the first check on the next page. Carol Rhodes, Houston
XSend a money-saving or timesaving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000, or you can fax it to (210) HELOISE or e-mail it to Heloise@Heloise.com.
King Features Syndicate

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