Members Advantage E-Newsletter
Stay up to date with the latest special offers from our IEA Member Benefits.
Another great discount benefit from NEA Member Benefits! Save money on online purchases of appliances big and small.
GE Appliances is the leader in premium finish choices. Don’t miss out on additional rebate savings on Profile, Café and Monogram brand appliances. Plus, NEA members receive Free Delivery on orders over $399 every day. See the GE Appliances Store for details:
Already registered? Visit the GE Appliances Store at www.shop4ge.com.
Need to register? Visit the Home and Auto Discounts category at www.neamb.com and click the Start Shopping button to register for access to the GE Appliances Store. Once registered, you can login to shop anytime at www.shop4ge.com.
NEA members save money on thousands of brand-name items at Costco every day. From fresh foods and health & beauty items to clothing, electronics and home improvement products, you’ll find everything you need to spruce up your home (and yourself) for spring!
When you join as a new Costco member, you will receive coupons for free products and other savings valued at $60. That could help offset the cost of your first year’s Costco Gold Star Membership at $60!
Become a new member of Costco: go online to www.neamb.com/costco, complete and print the Costco membership invitation and special offers page, and present them at any U.S. Costco location—it’s that simple!
As a member of IEA/NEA you are covered with a free life insurance policy. Coverage is issued by The Prudential Insurance Company of America (Prudential). To help give your family the insurance protection and added peace of mind they deserve, the NEA Members Insurance Trust® offers Complimentary Life Insurance at no extra cost to Active, Staff, Reserve and Life members.
This complimentary coverage includes:
- Up to $1,000 of term life insurance ($200 per year of continuous membership to a maximum of $1000.)
- Up to $5,000 of accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) coverage ($1000 per year of continuous membership to a maximum of $5000.)
- $50,000 of AD&D insurance for any covered accident that occurs on the job or while serving as an Association Leader.
- $150,000 of life insurance for unlawful homicide while on the job.
Who should your coverage be protecting?
Settle this important question today by taking a moment to name one or more beneficiaries. If the worst happens to you, your choice will clear up doubts and cut through delays—speeding up benefit payments for loved ones who need them.
Your complimentary coverage is a great first step. Is it enough?
Many members rely on NEA Complimentary Life Insurance to supplement school district coverage. But the combined benefit may not be enough for family members to remain in your home or pay their bills easily. Our coverage calculator helps you assess their needs.
With this calculator you can determine if you wish to purchase additional life insurance coverage with the several options available from NEA Member Benefits.
A month and a half away brings that pleasant time of the year when we must file our income taxes. Such fun!!
As a member of the IEA/NEA you have certain benefits that will help you save money through certain tax preparation services.
Through NEA Click and Save you can save up to $20 on software products with H&R Block and Turbotax. Check it out at neamb.com/clickandsave. You will have to register to get deeper into the Click and Save site but once you are there look for the “tax services” banner.
Also through the Educator Access Discount Program you can save up to $25 with H&R Block. You can use this service by visiting the IEA Member Benefits website ieamemberbenefits.org and clicking on the picture of the membership card at the bottom of the home page. This will take you to the Access site. Once there you can register by following the prompts using your IEA member ID from your membership card (hint: you will find the same number on the mailing label on your latest NEA Today magazine.) Once you have registered then you can do the search for H&R Block and take advantage of the savings.
Plus, there is one more option for filing your taxes:
MyFreeTaxes.com is a 100% free program aimed at those who qualify.
- Individuals or families that earned $66,000 or less in 2017 can file federal and up to three state taxes for free through an easy, safe platform and save an average of $200 in tax preparation fees.
- MyFreeTaxes is sponsored by United Way and powered by H&R Block.
- Filers can start their taxes online and finish them on their computer, tablet or smart phone. They can even upload their W-2s and other tax forms by taking a picture on their phones.
- The premium software is guaranteed to be 100% accurate and ensures filers get the maximum refund.
- Filers are not solicited, ever.
If you qualify, visit MyFreeTaxes.com or text MyFreeTaxes to 313131 to get started.
Start the second half of your school year strong. Check out neamb.com/newyear for helpful tips on:
- FINANCE: Learn how to keep your New Year’s financial solutions on track, simple ways to build a stress-free budget and more.
- WELLNESS: See how busy educators are fitting fitness into their school day, get tips to help you reduce stress and more.
- TAX PREP: Find out what educator tax deductions you can take, if you qualify for free tax preparation and more.
DON’T MISS THESE USEFUL TIPS, INCLUDING:
- How to reduce your monthly bills
- The secret to reducing debt painlessly
- 6 ways to create a work/life balance
Get the financial and wellness resources you need to make 2018 your best year yet. Visit neamb.com/newyear today!
Read this before you file your tax return. NEA Member Benefits will help you claim your educator deductions so you can get back as much money as possible.
Legislation passed late in 2015 ended the annual ritual of “tax extenders” that kept everyone on tenterhooks regarding certain educator tax benefits. But now the tax reform bill passed in late December 2017 has muddied the picture.
Keep in mind the new tax reform only kicks in for 2018 and does not apply to your 2017 tax returns. The good news is that it does keep the $250 above-the-line deduction for classroom supplies. However, the tuition and fees deduction expired at the end of 2016 and was not renewed retroactively for 2017 or for future tax years.
The NEA and its members pushed legislators for many years to make the extension permanent, and following the outcry after the House’s original proposal called for the elimination of the deduction, the bill that ultimately passed left the above-the-line $250 classroom supplies deduction intact.
The $250 deduction is particularly advantageous because it is an above-the-line deduction on Schedule A, which means you don’t have to itemize to take it and it reduces your overall adjusted gross income (AGI). This will become even more important under the new tax reform because it virtually doubles the standard deduction, setting the threshold even higher for choosing to itemize. The 2015 legislation indexed the amount to inflation—though it is unchanged at $250 for 2017—and allows professional development expenses to be included in the deduction.
Educators may also still benefit from the state and local sales tax deduction (an alternative for states with no state income tax to deduct from federal taxes) even though those breaks don’t target them specifically. However, you must itemize in order to claim these deductions. For the 2017 tax year, the deduction can be unlimited and the standard deduction remains at the lower threshold. For 2018 and beyond, the deduction for state and local taxes, including property taxes, will be capped at $10,000 and the threshold for itemizing will be much higher with the increased standard deduction.
Many provisions of the tax code have income caps and phase-outs and other wrinkles that may affect your actual tax liability. Be sure to work with a tax advisor or reliable tax software that clearly addresses your situation, especially if you are in the higher income brackets. And keeping receipts or a careful log is critical for the classroom supplies deduction and other tax benefits.
Other situations faced by educators preparing their taxes include:
Income from outside work, such as a summer job or tutoring
If there is no additional withholding on this outside work, you want to be sure to avoid a penalty for under-withholding—i.e., when your overall tax liability exceeds the amount of tax you had withheld by certain margins.
If this is the first year you have had extra income, there won’t be any penalty, because your withholding at work will cover 100% of your previous year’s income. If you regularly have extra income, your best option is to specify a certain additional amount on your W-4 to be withheld. (Previously, it was possible to adjust your withholding by reducing the number of personal exemptions but these have now been removed in the tax reform.) The other remaining option is make quarterly payments of estimated tax on the additional income.
The outside income should be reported on a Schedule C, where you can also deduct any expenses associated with the outside job. You are also liable for “payroll” taxes (these are the contributions to Social Security and Medicare) on the extra income, which is calculated on a Schedule SE.
Other unreimbursed employment expenses
You can deduct expenses for classroom supplies beyond $250 as unreimbursed employment expenses, which are defined as expenses that help you conduct your job even if they are not required.
However, these additional deductions are subject to the 2% limit on itemized deductions—this means you can only deduct the amount that exceeds 2% of your AGI.
If your AGI is $50,000, for instance, you could only deduct expenses that exceed $1,000, even if you are already itemizing deductions for mortgage interest or other reasons. This is a hard threshold to meet and will be even harder to justify when the new higher standard deduction discourages itemizing.
The same applies for expenses such as dues to unions and professional associations or subscriptions to publications.
Rules for deducting expenses for a home office are fairly strict (as well as for equipment such as computers). The home office space must be used exclusively for work purposes, which is a tough criterion.
Congress failed to renew the deduction and fees for college tuition for 2017, eliminating one of the options for a tax break if you take courses that you pay for yourself, whether or not they are required for certification. The remaining option, which is a permanent part of the tax code, is the Lifetime Learning Credit for 20% of education expenses up to $2,000. This is a credit, so it is taken off your tax liability dollar for dollar. However, it is nonrefundable, which means you have to have some tax liability for it to count against.
(NEA Member Benefits provides a discount program for this insurance!)
One of our best health allies is often just a tail wag or purr away. They bring us back from the brink of tears, join in when we feel like cheering and possess uncanny abilities to tame our daily stress.
It goes without saying that we embrace dogs, cats and other companion animals as full-fledged family members. Many of us scrutinize pet food labels to pick healthy choices, scour the pet supply store for just the right bed and delight in treating them to oodles of toys. Yet, according to the latest American Pet Products Association’s Pet Owners Survey, only 4% of dog owners and 1% of cat owners carry pet insurance policies.
“It’s puzzling why we are a nation so in love with our pets, yet so slow to embrace the concept of pet insurance,” says Kristen Lynch, executive director of the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), the consortium representing the voice for this pet industry.
But when a pet medical emergency strikes, just how financially prepared are you? Carrie Powers, a school guidance counselor from Burke, VA, had to coax her husband, Bill, into agreeing to purchase a Pets Best Insurance plan when they adopted a Shih Tzu puppy they named Cooper nearly 6 years ago. In February, their always-energetic dog sat frozen in the driveway, unable to move. Veterinarians at the emergency clinic diagnosed a ruptured disc in Cooper’s vertebrae. He required life-saving surgery that night and extensive post-surgical care that lasted several weeks.
The bill totaled $6,913. Within 3 days, Pets Best reimbursed the Coopers $5,476.
“No one is ready for a $7,000 pet emergency bill,” says Bill Cooper. “We got Cooper after a failed adoption. To say he is spoiled is an understatement. But Pets Best came through and I’m happy to say Cooper is back to his old playful self.”
Jack Stephens, DVM, who founded the pet insurance industry in the United States nearly 30 years ago and now heads Pets Best, offers these reasons why buying pet insurance is a smart move:
- Allows you to pick your veterinarian. Unlike human health insurance policies that may require you to use a specific health care provider, pet insurance policies allow you to obtain care from the veterinarian of your choosing. You simply provide the veterinary bill to the insurance company for reimbursement of qualified expenses.
- Does not discriminate against any breed or age of pet. While it is advisable to obtain pet insurance as soon as you adopt your pet to obtain lower premiums, you can also insure your pet years later.
- Delivers peace of mind. Having pet insurance allows you to choose treatments for your ailing or injured pet based on the best medical option available and not restricted based on family finances. Most pet insurance policies reimburse up to 80% of costs after deductibles.
- Provides an easy way to budget pet care costs. Pet insurance policies can be paid monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually. You decide which payment plan works best for you. Most plans offer discounts for additional pets in the household.
- Prevents dipping into the family’s emergency fund. True, you can set up a pet savings account, but it can be tough to discipline one’s self from dipping into this designated account when you face pricey car repairs, household renovations or other major unexpected expenses.
And, most important, pet insurance coverage could save—and extend—the life of your pet by enabling you to authorize the medical treatment your pet needs should he develop cancer or require surgery, as was the case with Cooper.
“I admit I was skeptical about getting pet insurance at first,” says Bill Cooper. “Our premiums are $34 a month and we never really had to use it until this year when Cooper ruptured his disc. He means the world to us. I tell my pet-loving friends that you wouldn’t think of not insuring yourself or your child. Cooper is the first pet for both of us and he has become our kid.”
Protect yourself from would-be identity thieves.
By Lisa Gerstner
Chances are, you may have been swindled at some point in your life, or you know someone who has. Nearly half of consumers surveyed recently by Stanford University’s Center on Longevity and the Finra Investor Education Foundation reported being a victim of financial fraud in the previous year—a far higher tally than earlier surveys indicated. No socioeconomic or demographic group is immune. “Men and women, college students and retirees, rich and poor—all are potential targets,” the report’s authors found. Nearly 40% of victims never told anyone about the fraud.
Estimates are problematic, but Americans are thought to lose some $50 billion a year to financial scams. And there are indirect costs: bounced checks, late fees, trouble meeting monthly expenses and even bankruptcy. So, it’s not surprising that the emotional cost of fraud is also high, with 50% of victims reporting severe stress and more than one-third citing depression. The toll is compounded for senior victims, who have little time to make up for lost resources. “When elderly people lose their life savings, they lose hope,” says Ricky Locklar, an investment fraud investigator at the Alabama Securities Commission. “To me, those crimes are worse than someone robbing the corner drugstore at gunpoint.”
Here’s how to keep your data secure:
- Play it safe at the ATM. Cover the keyboard with your hand when you enter your PIN—a camera may be recording your keystrokes, which thieves can later match with your payment-card data.
- Check bank and credit card accounts. At least once a week, look for suspicious charges. Sign up to receive alerts when your bank account balance falls below a threshold you specify, say, or when a charge higher than a certain amount goes through on your card.
- Head off ID thieves. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com to get free yearly reports from each of the three major credit bureaus. Check for accounts you don’t recognize and other red flags. Or enroll in a service that monitors your credit reports. If you’re worried about a breach, consider placing a freeze on your reports with each bureau. New creditors will be unable to view them, minimizing the chances that thieves will be able to open new credit accounts in your name.
- Watch for tax and medical ID theft. Fight tax ID theft by filing your tax return as early as possible. Doing so may block any thieves who want to use your Social Security number to file a return in your name and collect a refund. Signs of medical ID theft include treatments or services you never used appearing on bills or explanations of benefits.
- Don’t fall for phishing expeditions. Be on guard for phone calls or e-mails from fraudsters posing as representatives from your bank, the IRS or other entities. If you’re unsure of an e-mail or text message, don’t click on links within it, which could install malware on your device or lead to a scam website.
© 2018 The Kiplinger Washington Editors
Brought to you by NEA Member Benefits.
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Here are some related links on the NEA Member Benefits website that help with this topic:
- NEA Identity Theft Protection Program powered by LifeLock: https://www.neamb.com/shopping-discounts/nea-identity-theft-protection-program.htm
- How to Protect Yourself from the Latest ID Theft Scams: https://www.neamb.com/shopping-discounts/you-need-to-know-about-the-latest-id-theft-scams.htm
- Mobile Safety Tips: https://www.neamb.com/shopping-discounts/mobile-safety-tips.htm
Experience the magic of Walt Disney World® Resort with this limited time offer from TicketsatWork.com. Buy a 5 Day Park Hopper® or Park Hopper Plus® ticket, and get 2 days FREE! Stay for an entire week!
By selecting the Park Hopper® or Park Hopper Plus® ticket option, enjoy more than one Theme Park per day. With so much to see and do at the Walt Disney World® Resort, you’ll love the ability to come and go from Theme Park to Theme Park on the same day. In addition, your ticket includes MyMagic+ and Disney FASTPASS® service, which allows guests to reserve access to select Disney FASTPASS® attractions and entertainment experiences before you even leave home.
Want to take advantage of this offer for this summer? Go for it.
Through TicketsatWork.com you receive discounts and special access to theme parks and attractions. Besides Disney Word: Universal Studios, Las Vegas and New York City shows and performances, Disneyland, SeaWorld, Six Flags and Cirque de Soleil. Also save on sporting events and other special events.
TicketsatWork.com is a benefit offered by IEA Member Benefits. To take advantage: Go to www.TicketsatWork.com. Click on the “Become a Member” box at the top of the homepage. You will then be prompted to create a username and password, and enter the IEA code. (call IEA Member benefits to get the code – 208-344-8336; 1-800-223-6583.) Once enrolled you will have access to discounts on theme parks and attractions nationwide!
California Casualty, an NEA Member Benefits National Auto and Home Insurance Program, has been a business partner with IEA Member Benefits since 1988. Currently there are over 2,000 IEA member policies in force with the company.
Not only is California Casualty a great company with very competitive premium rates, but they offer other added benefits as well. Examples:
· When you switch from your current company the chances are very good that you will see a premium savings (California Casualty insures only the best population risks: educators, first responders, etc.)
· Premium rates are locked in for a full year, even if you have a claim.
· Pay zero deductible for vandalism or hit and run damage to your car while parked within 500 feet of your school.
· Skip-a-payment option – allows a two-month premium payment deferment – perfect for summer months.
· Free identity theft protection – monitoring and resolution services.
· Get a refund of unused premiums from your current insurance company.
· You are covered in any car – your own, a rental, or a borrowed vehicle.
· Towing and roadside assistance are available for a small additional fee.
· California Casualty enjoys a 99% customer satisfaction on claims with 24/7 claims service and 100% USA based agents.
IEA Members give high marks for their relationship with California Casualty. For a quote call 1-866-531-2605.
The free NEA Works4Me e-newsletter has been a staple of teachers’ professional lives for years, providing ideas and tips for student success across all subjects and grade levels. Every other week, you’ll receive a sampling of the best tips, along with best ideas on classroom management, teaching techniques, curriculum content, peer & student relationships and more. These tips are all archived and are searchable on the NEA Works4Me section of nea.org. The web site contains more than 2,000 tips searchable by topic.
Where do our tips originate? From you and other NEA members, practitioners in the field who choose to share best practices with other educators.
For more information on NEA Works4Me, go to www.nea.org/tools/Works4Me.html.
Open an NEA® Money Market Account through Discover Bank, Member FDIC, and you’ll earn higher-than-average returns. This member benefit also offers you:
Exclusive $20 bonus for each new account type you open each year (excludes IRAs)*
Rates that consistently exceed the National Average
Easy access to your funds by check, debit card or online
No ATM fees at over 60,000 ATMs
Mobile check deposit and bill pay
Open an account starting with $2,500
The safety of FDIC-insurance, up to the maximum allowed by law
Learn more at www.neamb.com > Finance > Savings > NEA Money Market Account.