Member Benefits E-Direct
Designed specifically to keep NYSUT members informed
It’s tax time again... what’s your plan? Inside this issue: Don’t Put Your Home at Risk!............pg 5 6 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft .......pg 6 Senior Fitness Tips...........................pg 8 Baby On The Way? ...........................pg 9
800 Troy-Schenectady Road Latham, NY 12110 800-626-8101 M-F 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. memberbenefits.nysut.org
NYSUT Member Benefits Trust NYSUT Member Benefits Corporation ©Copyright 2013
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Table of Contents
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From the Director........................................................................................................................................ 3
Director Lynette Metz gives you the scoop on the year that was along with updates regarding some of our newest endorsed programs. It’s tax time again... what’s your plan?................................................................................. 4 Find out if it makes more sense to hire a professional to do your taxes or do them yourself. Don’t put your home at risk! ......................................................................................................5 Are you regularly updating your inventory of household possessions?
6 ways to prevent identity theft................................................................................................6 Check out our suggestions to help better protect yourself against this threat.
Knowing is half the battle ...........................................................................................................7 Learn why regular monitoring of your credit report is so important.
Fit at 50... and beyond! ................................................................................................................8 We’ve got some great ways to look and feel your best at any age.
Kids Korner: Get ready for that baby......................................................................................9 Five tips to help you keep your composure during this exciting time.
Are you protecting your smile? ...............................................................................................10 Do you know which foods will keep your smile sparkling and which ones will wreak havoc on it?
Member Benefits E-Direct is a quarterly publication produced by NYSUT Member Benefits designed to educate NYSUT members about a variety of topics and issues of importance to them and their families. The goal of this e-newsletter is to serve as an educational and informative piece that helps our hardworking members to make better informed decisions in their lives. For information about any of our programs or about contractual endorsement arrangements with providers of endorsed programs, please contact NYSUT Member Benefits at 800-626-8101 or visit memberbenefits.nysut.org. Agency fee payers to NYSUT are eligible to participate in NYSUT Member Benefits-endorsed programs.
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From the Director Happy New Year from your friends at NYSUT Member Benefits, and welcome to the Winter 2013 issue of Member Benefits E-Direct! As we celebrate our 30th anniversary, we’d like to take the time to thank all NYSUT members for your continued support over the years. 2012 was quite a busy year for Member Benefits and we’re showing no signs of slowing down in the New Year! We know that our members love discount programs so we are continually working to expand our offerings. We’re currently piloting a number of exciting new discount programs. With the cold temperatures out there, it’s a great time to hit the slopes. Well, you’re in luck! We recently began offering discount ski tickets for a variety of locations throughout the Northeast. NYSUT members and their families can purchase all-day passes for Killington Resort, Pico Mountain, Gore Mountain, Belleayre Mountain, Jiminy Peak, Whiteface Mountain, Willard Mountain, and West Mountain. Our newly-endorsed 1800Flowers.com program has quickly hit the ground running and accumulated more than $23,000 in sales in just the first two months since its launch. Meanwhile, GE Capital Retail Bank (a subsidiary of GE’s finance unit, GE Capital) recently finalized its deal to assume approximately $6.5 billion in deposits from MetLife Bank, including the NYSUT Member Benefits Corporation-endorsed Preferred Savings Plus accounts.
We have received word from GE Capital Retail Bank that it is very interested in growing this program and will be looking to provide excellent interest rates to our members. As we quickly approach tax season, now is a great time to ensure that your legal and financial matters are in place. Don’t forget that NYSUT members can get quality legal and financial assistance for themselves and their families by purchasing the Member Benefits Trustendorsed Legal Service Plan or Member Benefits Corporation-endorsed Financial Counseling Program. Both of these low-cost programs provide great opportunities to get the unbiased legal or financial advice that you need. Best of all, there is the opportunity for even further savings by using our payroll or pension deduction payment options – providing both convenience AND savings! And while you’re getting ready for tax season, be sure to check out our feature story this issue as we tackle that ancient question – “Should I hire a professional to do my taxes or do them myself?” We offer some interesting points from both sides of the fence to help better inform you before you make your decision this tax season. This issue of Member Benefits E-Direct also features a variety of other articles that we think you’ll find both interesting and useful. We encourage you to call us at 800-626-8101 or visit memberbenefits.nysut.org to learn more about the endorsed programs and services that we offer. Thanks again for your continued support! -- Lynette A. Metz Director, NYSUT Member Benefits Trust CEO, NYSUT Member Benefits Corporation
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It’s tax time again... what’s your plan?
Average time it takes to prepare and file a Form 1040 on your own: 23 hours.
e all know the eternal question that pops up each year right around this very time: “Should I hire a professional to do my taxes or should I do them myself?” Philosophers (and tax professionals) have debated this topic for centuries... going all the way back to the days of Socrates and Aristotle. It all comes down to comfort level. Yes, you may be great with math and might save a little money doing your own taxes... but have there been any changes in your life in the past year?
• Maybe you got married or divorced?
• Bought or sold a home?
• Had a child?
These are all important questions to consider when making this important decision. That’s why we have compiled a number of points from both sides of the fence to help you decide what is best for you.
When to hire a tax professional
When to file your own tax return
You don’t want to make a mistake or overlook an important deduction. The right tax professional can help you find all of the deductions that apply to you – saving you even more money (Source: lifehacker.com).
You’re a numbers person who keeps meticulous track of financial information such as transactions, receipts, etc. If this is the case and you feel comfortable doing your own taxes, go for it! (Source: Bankrate.com).
You recently got married, divorced or had a child. If this is the case, you probably want some assistance finding the best filing status for that year (Source: Careful Cents).
Your tax situation has not changed from the previous year (Source: Careful Cents).
You own property or investments or recently started a new business. It can be difficult to stay up-to-date with the various laws regarding acquiring property, investments or retirement accounts. Consider hiring a professional if this is the case (Source: Careful Cents).
You rent your residence, don’t own a home or other vacation property, and don’t have any children or other dependents (Source: Financial Planning Association). You don’t want other people to know your financial situation (Source: Bankrate.com).
“Average cost of hiring a tax professional to prepare a Federal & state return: $229” (Source: National Society of Accountants)
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Don’t put your home at risk! With a new year upon us, you may have a number of goals that you’re looking to achieve. Well, one that you may not be thinking about could be the most important – updating your inventory of household possessions. A home inventory is your master record of all your possessions in the event that a fire, theft or natural disaster should occur. Your insurance claim is based on that record and helps you create your proof of loss; so if it isn’t up-to-date, you may not be fully protected.
4 steps to get you started #1: Get valuables appraised – Make sure to have high-value belongings such as jewelry, collectibles and art professionally appraised to document their worth. If you received antiques or family heirlooms as gifts, be sure to get those appraised as well.
#2: Update your digital inventory – Take photos of your new belongings and label each with important details about the gift. You also could shoot a video and narrate this information as you’re recording.
#3: Update your written inventory – Add all of your new possessions to your current home inventory – no matter how small. Write down a general description of each item, and list specifics such as cost, brand, model, and serial number.
#4: Keep your inventory in a safe place – Store a copy of your inventory away from your home in a safe-deposit box or with a trusted friend or family member. Back up digital files to a CD or external hard drive, and keep those copies in a secure off-site location as well. And when you’re conducting your home inventory, make sure to protect family heirlooms that cannot be easily replaced such as family photos. Keep these important items in a safe or use a secure off-site location if possible. For more information or to request a free homeowners insurance quote, contact MetLife Auto & Home toll-free at 866-NYSUT-22 (866-697-8822). Special thanks to MetLife Auto & Home for providing the content for this article.
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6 ways to prevent
identity theft Identity theft continues to be a major problem for the general public, affecting hundreds of thousands of people each year. Scammers are constantly inventing new ways to trick us into disclosing valuable information that can lead to disastrous consequences. Keep the following tips in mind to help better protect yourself against this threat:
Less is more – Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse, and never have the number printed on your checks. Consider removing your home address from your printed checks as well.
Tip #2: Trust your instincts – Never answer any emails, letters or phone calls asking for your Social Security number, bank accounts or personal information even if it appears to be from an entity such as the IRS.
Prepare for trouble – Make a list of all the toll-free numbers for your credit card companies in case notification of a lost or stolen credit card is required.
Don’t take a chance – Keep a copy of your passport with you when you travel in case it gets lost or stolen.
Tip #5: Use your four-digit number – Never put your credit card account number on the memo line of checks that you use to pay your credit card bill. You only need to insert the last four digits of the account number; the same is true when paying your mortgage.
Tip #6: Contact authorities immediately – It is advisable to file a police report immediately in the area where the loss occurred. The same is true for a lost or stolen cell phone.
The Member Benefits-endorsed Legal Service Plan can offer advice on identity theft prevention and assistance for identity theft victims. In addition, the Member Benefits-endorsed Equifax Credit Watch Gold program helps to prevent identity theft by acting before serious damage can be done. For more information about either of these programs, please call 800-626-8101 or visit memberbenefits.nysut.org. Special thanks to Herb Kramer, Esq. of Feldman, Kramer & Monaco, P.C. for providing the content for this article.
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Knowing is 1/2 the battle... Your credit report is your unique thumbprint and an essential way to find out where your credit currently stands and what you need to do to improve it. We always hear that we should be checking our credit report, but do you know why regular monitoring of it is so important? Checking your report on a routine basis lets you know your credit score and helps safeguard against identity theft by making you aware of any suspicious activity on it. And, with the three main credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – each offering one free credit report per year to consumers, there’s no excuse not to take advantage of this offer. You can visit each credit bureau’s respective website directly to obtain your credit report or use a site such as annualcreditreport.com for a free view of your report from each of these three bureaus. Inaccuracies are often reported to the credit bureaus and can have a significant impact on your credit rating – making it essential to review your report from all three major credit bureaus at least once per year.
If you find something that you believe to be inaccurate on your report, use the disputes section for each occurrence. Don’t skip this step as you don’t want an undeserved error to stay on your report! If the creditor is not able to provide proof or respond to the dispute within 60 days, the item in question will be removed from your credit report. Make sure to dispute any inaccuracies with all three credit bureaus, as disputing with just one of them will not cause a change in the others. Member Benefits has endorsed relationships with both ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions and Equifax Credit Watch Gold – providing a variety of opportunities to ensure that your credit report remains free of errors and protected from thieves. For more information about either of these programs, please call 800-626-8101 or visit memberbenefits.nysut.org.
Special thanks to ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions for providing the content for this article.
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Fit at 50... and beyond! We all know the importance of regular exercise and the benefits that it provides to the body. Whether you are 25 years old or 85 years old, a regular workout regimen is essential for building muscle, keeping dangerous fat at bay and safeguarding against the numerous illnesses associated with obesity.
Check out the following tips from Livestrong.com to help you look and feel your best during your golden years: #1: Plan an exercise
#4: Watch for pains and shortness of breath
regimen – Make sure to include endurance training, strength training, balance, and stretching in your workout regimen. Exercises such as walking, biking, jogging, and swimming can help to increase your stamina and heart rate.
– If you ever develop tightness or pain in your chest while exercising, stop immediately. It’s normal to have some shortness of breath during exercise as your heart rate increases, but stop the activity if you can’t catch your breath.
#2: Explore new pursuits – There are a variety of activities that seniors can take part in to stay in shape and feel great. Yoga, pilates and tai chi are just a few options that can improve balance, flexibility and strength.
#3: Proper form is essential – It’s always important to use safe and stable exercise equipment. If you’re working out at home, make sure you know how to do each of the exercises that you’re attempting. If you’re at a gym, ask one of the staff members of the facility for assistance if necessary.
#5: Find a partner – It’s a smart idea to find a friend or family member to exercise with. Not only can you motivate each other, but you’ll also have someone nearby in the event of a problem. If you don’t have someone to join you, let a family member or friend know where you’ll be. And if you’re exercising by yourself outside or at home, keep a phone with you to be safe. Remember to always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
Mobile Device Users: Member Benefits has an endorsement relationship with Philips Lifeline that offers NYSUT members and their families a variety of products and services to improve their daily lives. One such service from Philips Lifeline is a brand new app for iPhone and Android users called CarePartners Mobile. This free resource enables caregivers to more easily coordinate the care of their loved ones. Click here for more information.
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Kids Corner: Get ready for that baby!
What’s that you say? You’re getting ready to bring home a new baby?
Congratulations on this joyous moment! But are mom and dad ready for their new little one? And what about grandma and grandpa (yes, we know you’re old hats at this but there have been just a few changes to child care in the past 20 or 30 years)? Are you ready for this special time in your lives? Check out the following tips from the Mayo Clinic to help keep your composure during this new chapter in your life:
#1: Be careful with that new
#3: Don’t forget about
baby – Don’t become a catchall for family and friends unloading their “precious gems” on you. Yes, grandma and grandpa’s stroller in the basement may have been state-of-the-art in 1974... but does it really sound like a good idea to use it today? Safety regulations for strollers, cribs and other baby items change on a regular basis so be careful with what you’re using for your little one.
you – You’re going to need a lot of energy to care for your new child so make sure to take care of yourself. Maintain a healthy diet, drink plenty of water and rest when you can. If you get sick, who’s going to care for the baby?
#2: Keep an eye on the weather – This is especially important during the bitter cold winter months. Your baby can’t communicate whether he or she is hot or cold very well so make sure to keep little Sammy or Sally bundled up if you’re heading outside. And don’t forget to put a hat on their little head!
#4: Everyone is different – Keep this in mind as conflicting advice pours in from all sides. Your family and friends may “have all the answers,” but you need to do what works for you and your baby.
#5: Set the household rules – Now is the time to set rules for the many, many visitors (both family and friends) that are going to want to see your newborn. Don’t be afraid to ask visitors to wash their hands before holding the baby and ask anyone who’s sick to stay home until they’re healthy again.
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Are you protecting your smile? Do you know how much sugar and starch are in the foods that you eat and drink? Did you ever wonder why we never see or hear an advertisement for a “delicious sugary beverage” or “comforting starchy food?” The answer is simple: who would want to eat or drink that? But, as a consumer, you need to watch what you’re eating... not just for the calories but also for what’s in the product that could damage your teeth or gums. And while some foods invite tooth decay, others help combat plaque buildup and keep teeth and gums healthy. Learn more about the foods to seek out (and those to avoid) to help keep your smile sparkling.
Four good guys... 1. Fiber-rich fruits & vegetables – Crisp fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots and celery not only stimulate saliva flow, but also help clean plaque from teeth and freshen breath. 2. Sugarless chewing gum – Chewing sugarfree gum (key word: sugar-free!) after meals and snacks can rinse harmful acid off your teeth and preserve tooth enamel. 3. Green & black teas – Tea contains compounds that interact with plaque and either kill or suppress bacteria, preventing them from growing or producing toothattacking acid. 4. Water – It’s important to have flouride in your drinking water. Bottled water may not contain as much fluoride as tap water, so make sure to use fluoridated toothpaste and ask your dentist about fluoride supplementation if this is your main source of water.
And three bad guys... 1. Sugary candies & sweets – If you do eat sweets, stick to those that clear out of your mouth quickly. Those that stick around like lollipops, caramels, jelly beans, and hard candies make it difficult for saliva to wash the sugar away. 2. Starchy, refined carbohydrates – We all know that foods such as chips, bread and pasta can be detrimental to our waistline... but did you know they can affect your teeth as well? Bacteria feed on the simple sugars in these foods and produce acid, causing tooth decay. 3. Fruit juices – Although fruit is an important part of a healthy diet, fruit juices can cause major problems for your teeth. Like soda, fruit juices often have a ton of sugar added to them and can wreak havoc on your smile (and waistline).
Special thanks to Delta Dental for providing the content for this article.
For more information about the Member Benefits-endorsed Dental Plan, please call 800-626-8101 or visit memberbenefits.nysut.org.
E-newsletter Winter 2013