SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL:Saving Money — Through an Innovative Program or on Your Tax Return

Saving Money– programs and tax returns
SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL:Saving Money — Through an Innovative Program or on Your Tax Return

Cookie Jar Savings

For some business owners, it’s a surprise how many of their employees are living paycheck to paycheck. And it’s not just entry-level employees who are struggling to save: The Federal Reserve’s annual survey finds that — year after year — half of Americans have less than $400 in savings.

For a lot of employees, a large medical or other emergency expense has put them in this vulnerable position and they haven’t been able to rebuild. Many others are still struggling with college debt.

What can business executives do to reduce the impact of financial distress on productivity, job turnover and quality of life for their employees? Some are turning to a new employer-sponsored savings program called Cookie Jar.

Cookie Jar helps people save for special goals and financial emergencies, or to simply stash money away for when they need it.

“Employers are looking for effective ways to attract new employees and retain veteran employees. Cookie Jar is a very attractive, new benefit that gets to the heart of the savings problem,” says Zach Blumenfeld, Cookie Jar’s director of sales. “It’s a simple and painless way for employees to save money with their employers’ help.”

Cookie Jar is a program that turns employees’ spare change from everyday purchases and other checking account transactions into dedicated savings accounts that employees can use for any reason. Unlike a 401(k), funds can be withdrawn at any time, with no fees or penalties.

When employees make purchases with their personal debit cards, Cookie Jar automatically rounds them up to the nearest dollar and puts the difference into their secure Cookie Jar accounts. Then employers can match their employees’ monthly savings automatically, doubling each employee’s savings and creating a big incentive to use the program even more often.

The cost of the program for employers is just $3 per month per employee, with no startup fees. This also makes the program affordable for midsized and startup businesses.

Employees are a company’s biggest asset. Yet research shows that 78 percent of full-time workers say they live paycheck to paycheck.

This isn’t just a personal issue that employers can ignore, Blumenfeld says. Businesses are suffering because employees who are troubled by their finances report considerably higher stress levels at work, more absence and issues with “presenteeism,” he says.

But Blumenfeld says there is hope: “When employees don’t have to stress over their finances, they are more productive and engaged at work. This leads to a positive workplace culture that takes organizations to the next level.”

Businesses that show their employees they are valued as people can attract and retain talent better than their competitors, Blumenfeld says. “Cookie Jar invests in your employees’ financial and mental well-being right now, today, with immediate benefits,” he says.

SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL:Saving Money — Through an Innovative Program or on Your Tax Return

Boardman Clark: Tax Code Changes

The season for 2018 income tax returns is bringing extra anxiety for many filers as tax code changes come to bear for the first time following the passage of the new federal tax law in December 2017. With uncertainty in the air and the filing deadline looming, tax attorney Chris Schmidt of the Madison law firm Boardman Clark has some timely insight on the current tax landscape.

“The tax code changes were intended to make it easier for most individuals to file, but because the laws are new, many people will not find it easier,” says Schmidt. “And even if it is easier, some people may end up paying more in taxes because they do not understand the changes.”

A survey from NerdWallet found much confusion about the changes contained in the new federal tax law. Half of those polled by the personal finance website said they don’t understand how the tax overhaul affects them.

SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL:Saving Money — Through an Innovative Program or on Your Tax Return

“Understanding the new laws is critical to filing the correct tax return for your situation,” Schmidt says. “You may want to consider consulting a tax professional and ensuring that you and your accountant understand how the new laws impact your return.”
One of the major changes that will impact all filers beginning with their 2018 income tax returns is an increase in the standard deduction: $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for married filing jointly in 2018. At the same time, the personal and dependent exemptions — which filers in prior years could claim for themselves, their spouses and each of their dependents — have been phased out.

In addition to an increase in the standard deduction, the new law limits some itemized deductions, including putting a $10,000 cap on the deduction for state and local taxes. Miscellaneous itemized deductions, such as unreimbursed employee expenses and investment expenses, have been eliminated.

For families with children, the new tax law has doubled the child tax credit to $2,000 for each child under 17. The threshold for those who can claim the credit has also increased substantially, with married couples now able to earn up to $400,000 per year before the credit phases out.

“More changes mean more opportunities for missteps,” Schmidt says. He adds that if you are struggling to understand the new tax law or found you made a mistake, you should consult a tax professional. “There is help out there for people who need it,” Schmidt says.

Boardman Clark is a full-service law firm headquartered in Madison with offices in Baraboo, Belleville, Fennimore, Lodi, Poynette and Prairie du Sac.