Todd Pietzsch

Todd Pietzsch
Todd Pietzsch
Todd has over 20 years of financial industry experience and has worked at Washington State's leading credit union, BECU, since 2000. Todd endorses simple financial education as the key to financial success.

Recent stories by Todd Pietzsch

Money Matters How to Save Money and Purchase a HomePath Home Sponsored: How to Save Money and Purchase a HomePath Home
Are you currently considering buying your first home or perhaps your first, second or even third investment property? If so you may want to consider Fannie Mae’s HomePath program.

Who’s Fannie Mae

Fannie Mae is a government-sponsored enterprise chartered by Congress to keep money flowing to mortgage lenders. They do not make loans directly but rather buy loans from lenders. Unfortunately, due to the housing crisis, they now own homes that they must sell.

To minimize the impact to the neighborhoods in which they reside, they have created the HomePath program and special HomePath financing. If the property is in need of light to moderate renovation the HomePath Renovation Mortgage may be available on your selected property.

What is a HomePath Mortgage?

A HomePath Mortgage allows you to finance a Fannie Mae-owned property with no minimum loan amount, a low down payment, flexible mortgage terms, no lender-requested appraisal and no mortgage insurance; ask us for cost details on loans without mortgage insurance.

What is a HomePath Renovation Mortgage?

In addition to the above HomePath Mortgages, we are also offering HomePath Renovation Mortgages. This program allows you to purchase and finance a Fannie Mae home that needs light to moderate renovation—the loan amount includes the purchase of the home and the renovation. The funds for renovation can be less than or equal to 35% of the “as completed” value, but no more than $35,000.

What are the benefits?

· Low down payment and flexible mortgage terms—fixed-rate or adjustable rate

· Down payment (at least 3%) can be funded by your own savings, a gift, a grant or a loan from a nonprofit organization, state or local government, or employer

· No mortgage insurance

· Expanded seller contribution for closing costs allowed

· HomePath and HomePath Renovation Mortgages are available for primary residences, second homes and investment properties

· Many condo project requirements are waived

· For the renovation mortgage, the renovation amount is based on an “as completed” appraised value

BECU is an approved lender bringing HomePath and HomePath Renovation Mortgages to homebuyers locally around the Puget Sound region and all of the states where BECU lends. To learn more about HomePath, visit www.homepath.com.
Money Matters Borrowing from a 401K Sponsored: Borrowing from a 401K
We work hard to contribute money to a 401(k) in the hopes of using that money for a nice retirement. But life happens and you may find yourself in the position of asking—should you take out a loan against your 401(k) to buy a home or pay down debt?

As long as you can handle the payments, taking out a loan against your 401(k) is usually a less expensive option than a straight withdrawal where you may have to pay income taxes and a 10% penalty; however, there are pitfalls that you must take into account.

Most plans will give you only five years to repay the loan.

If you borrow a large amount the payment could be substantial. If you fail to make the payments or leave your company you may be required to pay back the outstanding balance within 60 days or be forced to take it as a hardship withdrawal. This means you’ll be hit with taxes and penalties on the amount you still owe.

Get help to make the right decision.

Before you decide if a 401(k) loan is the right choice for you just make sure you understand all of the consequences. Financial Advisors with BECU Investment Services can help you make a good decision for your financial situation. Schedule a free consultation to get started. Visit www.becu.org/investments.
Money Matters Claim Your Full State Sales Tax Deduction Sponsored: Claim Your Full State Sales Tax Deduction
It’s tax season and the most important thing that we all can do is be prepared. If you itemize your deductions on your tax return, don’t forget to claim the full deduction for the Washington State Sales Tax.

The IRS provides tables that show how much residents of Washington State can deduct, based on their income and state and local sales tax rates. But the tables aren't the last word—if you purchased a vehicle, boat or airplane, or homebuilding materials you may add the sales tax you paid on these big-ticket item to the amount shown in the IRS table for your state.

These add-on items are easy to overlook, but could make the sales-tax deduction even bigger.

If you forgot the deduction for this year or the last three years you can file an amended return to get your full refund.

Doing your taxes is rarely fun. Here are a few helpful tips to help get you through this tax season:

1. Gather your records…asap! It’s never too early to start gathering any documents or forms you’ll need when filing your taxes: receipts, canceled checks, and other documents that support your income or a deduction you are taking on your return. Also, be on the lookout for W-2s and 1099s, coming soon from your employer.

2. Take your time. Rushing to get your return filed at the last minute increases the chance you will make a mistake.

3. Double-check your return. Mistakes will slow down the processing of your return. In particular, make sure all Social Security Numbers and math calculations are correct as these are the most common errors made.

4. Save time and money by filing your taxes online. TurboTax is a step-by-step online tax-filing system that asks simple questions and automatically places your answers onto IRS-approved forms. TurboTax double-checks your return for accuracy and files it electronically. Direct deposit refunds are typically received in 7-15 days.

5. Consider Direct Deposit. If you elect to have your refund directly deposited into your bank account, you’ll receive it faster than waiting for a check by mail.

6. Relax. There’s no need to panic. We all have to go through this every year. There are plenty of tax resources available for you when you access TurboTax online.
Money Matters Avoid Losing Your Home Loan Pre-Qualification Sponsored: Avoid Losing Your Home Loan Pre-Qualification
When purchasing a home or refinancing your existing home, the last thing that you want to happen is to find out that upon closing you are no longer qualified. Applying for a home loan is not the time to change jobs, become self-employed, or take on new debt such as buying a car or originating new inquiries on your credit report.

When you apply for a mortgage, the lender is looking at a number of factors:

· Income

· Credit score

· Job history

· Debt levels

· Money for a down payment and reserves

When you get to closing your lender is going to check to make sure that the assumptions on which the loan was originally approved are still valid. Because of this it is important that you make sure you do not make big changes. If you do make changes just make sure that they will be favorable in the eyes of your lender.

BECU offers free educational resources on the home buying process, to learn more visit www.becu.org/seminars.
Money Matters Do You Need Help Keeping Your Home? Sponsored: Do You Need Help Keeping Your Home?
If you currently own a home but are having problems making your payments, familiarize yourself with the many options that may be available to you. As time passes, your option grow fewer -- so you should act as quickly as possible.

Notify your lender as soon as you know your payment will be late and present your circumstances with a plan of action. If you need assistance, start by calling the Washington Homeownership Resource Center.

Reach Out for Help

The Washington Homeownership Resource Center is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) agency that can help you navigate this challenging time and connect you with a HUD approved housing counselor who may be able to help you develop a household budget, or negotiate with lenders on workout strategies.

Don’t fall for scams that make promises. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You can reach the Washington Homeownership Resource Center at 877-894-4663 or visit their website at www.homeownership-wa.org.
Money Matters What to Do When You Can't Pay Your Tax Bill Sponsored: What to Do When You Can't Pay Your Tax Bill
It's April 15, you've just finished your income tax return and you owe more money than you can pay. Maybe you had unexpected income during the year that wasn't subject to withholding. Maybe your W-4 doesn't accurately reflect your current tax situation. Maybe you underestimated tip income or royalties.

Whatever the reason, you can't pay what you owe. Don't panic, many people find themselves in this unenviable position and manage to find a solution. The most important thing for you to do is file your return on time (there are substantial penalties for not filing -- usually five percent of your tax liability per month up to a maximum of 25 percent) and figure out exactly how you're going to pay your bill.
Money Matters Do You Need Help Keeping Your Home? Sponsored: Do You Need Help Keeping Your Home?
If you currently own a home but are having problems making your payments, familiarize yourself with the many options that may be available to you. As time passes, your option grow fewer -- so you should act as quickly as possible.

Notify your lender as soon as you know your payment will be late and present your circumstances with a plan of action. If you need assistance, start by calling the Washington Homeownership Resource Center.

Reach Out for Help

The Washington Homeownership Resource Center is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) agency that can help you navigate this challenging time and connect you with a HUD approved housing counselor who may be able to help you develop a household budget, or negotiate with lenders on workout strategies.

Don’t fall for scams that make promises. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You can reach the Washington Homeownership Resource Center at 877-894-4663 or visit their website at www.homeownership-wa.org.
Money Matters Sponsored: Tips on Financing Your Next Auto
When purchasing a new or used car, it is important to do your research ahead of time. KellyBlueBook.com is a great resource to get you started. You can compare different makes and models, find out what you should pay for a particular car, and even get an estimate of what it will cost you to own the car over a five year period.

After You Have Done Your Research—Shop Around For Your Loan

Think about paying for your auto before you go to a dealer to negotiate a purchase price. If getting a loan is a part of your plan, credit inquiries made within relatively short period of time will only count as one on your credit report so don’t be afraid to shop around for the best rates and terms.

It pays to compare loan rates from a number of sources with any financing options that a dealer may offer. Remember to focus on the total cost of the car, not just the monthly payments. For example, at the same interest rate, higher monthly payments for a shorter period of time would ultimately cost you less than lower payments for a longer time.

Also remember that it’s okay to finalize the financing at the dealership—just make sure it is the lender you have chosen and not the lender that the dealer wants you to choose.

BECU offers free financial education on buying autos. Visit www.becu.org and select the Education & Resources tab for more information.
Money Matters Sponsored: Finding the Right Credit Counselor for You
Whether it is too much credit card debt or falling behind on auto or mortgage payments, many of us face a financial crisis at some time in our life. But who do you turn to for help?

Fortunately credit counseling agencies are available to help consumers through these tough times as well as provide tools and techniques that will help in the future. But, not all credit counseling agencies are created equal. Promises to eliminate all or a portion of your debt or eliminate legitimate credit items should raise a red flag.

Where to Start:

A good place to start is the National Foundation for Credit Counselors or NFCC. NFCC Members represent non-profit accredited agencies with high standards, ethical practices, certified counselors, and policies which help consumers achieve financial stability. Visit www.NFCC.org to find a non-profit member agency near you as well as other tips and resources.
Money Matters Sponsored: Simplify Your Banking in the New Year
The start of a New Year is a great opportunity to set fresh goals in every area of your life, including your finances. In the same way as you can take steps to be more physically fit, why not begin 2013 with the goal of improving your financial well-being?

As everyone is making resolutions, it’s important to remember that January is also Financial Wellness Month. This is a good time to commit to year-long financial wellness.

Below are a few tips to help you simplify your banking in the New Year:

Do you have multiple bank accounts? The more accounts you have, the harder it is to keep everything organized and the more likely you are to make costly mistakes.

If you find yourself moving money from one account to another, or missing payments because there are so many accounts to track, it's time to simplify your banking.

When was the last time that you looked into all of the services that your financial institution offers you to access your accounts or to conduct your banking? You now may be able to deposit a check using your smart phone set up account alerts or have access to surcharge ATMs that you did not know existed.

To find out about remote banking services at BECU, visit www.becu.org/access.
Money Matters Sponsored: You Can Opt-Out of Credit Card Offers
We have all experienced going to the mailbox and finding it jammed with credit card offers that we never wanted to receive. This isn’t just an annoyance and waste of paper—it has the potential to leave you open to identity theft if it lands in the wrong hands. Scammers steal mail from mailboxes and trash bins hoping to come across one of these credit card offers.

If you are tired of getting these offers and possibly having your identity compromised, the good news is that you can reduce these solicitations by opting out. The Federal Trade Commission provides the following information to help you opt-out:

To opt out for five years: Call toll-free 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com. The phone number and website are operated by the major consumer reporting companies.

To opt out permanently: You may begin the permanent opt-out process online at www.optoutprescreen.com. To complete your request, you must return the signed Permanent Opt-Out Election form, which will be provided after you initiate your online request.

When you call or visit the website, you'll be asked to provide certain personal information, including your home telephone number, name, Social Security number, and date of birth.

While opting out will not stop your financial institution from selling your information, it may reduce the number of solicitations you receive.
Money Matters Sponsored: Your Year-End Financial Housekeeping
The summer is behind us so it's time to do some financial housekeeping that we pushed to the back burner during the Pacific Northwest’s historically rainless summer.

Your 401(k)

Let’s start with your 401(k). If you are not contributing the maximum amount allowed on your 401(k) plan, consider increasing your contribution. Not only will you be saving more for retirement, it will also help you lower your tax obligation.

Your Will

How about your will? When was the last time you updated it and checked the beneficiaries on your accounts?

Your Insurance

Insurance can be one of your larger expenses—make sure you have suitable coverage and you aren't paying too much in premiums

Your Flexible Spending Account

Do you have a flexible spending account? Remember that if you don't use up the tax-free money by year end, you lose it.

Your Charitable Donations

Lastly, don’t’ forget to get make your charitable donation by year end. .



If you wish to speak with someone regarding your housekeeping options, visit www.becu.org/wealthmanagement.
Money Matters Sponsored: Consider This Before Canceling A Credit Card
Do you have a credit card that you no longer use and are wondering if you should cancel it or not? Before you do, it is important to understand the complete impact it may have on your current and future credit.

Here are four things to take into consideration:

- Your credit score takes into account your average length of credit as well as what is known as utilization or your credit card balance in relation to your available credit—canceling it could have an impact on your credit score at least in the short term.
- If you plan to apply for a loan in the near future, it is best that you do not cancel the card as this may impact your credit rating.
- If your card has annual fees, ask the financial institution if they can put you on another program that does not have the fees.
- To avoid your financial institution canceling your card due to inactivity, make sure to use your card periodically for small purchases—just make sure to pay it off in full to avoid finance charges.


For more information on debit and credit, visit the Education and Resources section of www.becu.org.
Money Matters Sponsored: Raising Money-Smart Kids
Teaching your child about money is a valuable tool that will serve and empower them throughout their life. Kids look to their parents for money matters, but oftentimes parents are at a loss knowing what to teach their kids or how to go about it.

Here are some helpful tips that will make saving fun and rewarding for your child.

Communicate with your child your values concerning money – how and why you save, choices you’ve made to make your money grow, and how you spend it wisely. A good example of this is when you’re in the grocery store and you choose items on sale versus regular priced items. Or choosing generic brands instead of the more expensive brands.

Help your child learn the difference between wants and needs – this is really key for teaching your kids good decision making. Needs are those things that support your life (home, electricity, food, etc.) and wants are things we would like to have but can live without (fancy cars and restaurants, the latest in electronic gadgets, etc.)

Set Goals with Your Child – Help your child set goals for things they want or might need. Help them consider something to save for, like a bike or Xbox game, or their own spending money for an upcoming trip. Instill the idea that they always want to leave money in their savings account for other things that come up that they haven’t thought of. When your child asks you to buy something for them, use it as an opportunity to teach them how they can buy it by setting a goal and saving their money.

Consider encouraging your child to save by matching the amount they save, or telling them if they save for the whole amount, you will pay for half so the other half can stay in their savings account. This helps them stay on track and also creates excitement.

Open a Savings Account for Your Child – and be sure to take them with you when you do! It makes them feel important and empowered.

Teach Your Child to Save, Share and Spend – One of the joys of money is that you can share it by donating to charity or causes. By teaching your child to share they will have a balanced view of money and its ability to help others plus they’ll feel good about themself. When you open a BECU Early Saver Savings Account for your child, they will receive a Savertooth Money Box that is ideal for this. It has three compartments: saving, sharing, and spending.

Allowance and Decision Making – If your child receives an allowance, pay it in smaller bills to encourage and make it easier for them to save a portion of the allowance. For example, if the amount is $5, give five $1 bills so some of the money can be set aside for savings. This way your child can easily set aside $1 for savings and have $4 to share and spend. A good rule of thumb is to save at least 10%. That rules applies to adults too!

Spending Decisions – Let your child learn from their spending choices, good or poor. Before spending takes place you can initiate an open discussion of spending pros and cons. One way to do this is to provide your child with alternative choices when they want to buy something. For example, if your child wants to buy a football for $20, you could also point out to them that the same $20 could buy movie tickets and popcorn, or a helmet for their bicycle. This teaches your child to think about choices and how to make decisions.

Keep Good Money Records – Another important skill for kids to learn is to keep track of their money! Teach your child to keep receipts so they can see what they have been able to purchase with their money. Review their savings account statements with them, show them how they are earning interest, and show them how to add deposits and subtract withdrawals in their savings register.
Money Matters Sponsored: Should you buy or lease your next car?
Most experts would advise that in the long run buying is more economical than leasing. When you lease a car you are essentially paying for depreciation and financing the difference between what the car cost now, and what it is expected to be worth at the end of the lease—you won’t build equity.

And, when you turn the car in at the end of the lease you may be responsible for wear and tear or excessive mileage charges. You might want to take this in to consideration if you are chauffeuring kids to and from muddy soccer practices.

Weigh the Difference

Leasing Advantages:



- No or low down payment
- Lower monthly payments
- Manufacturer's warranty usually covers lease term


Leasing Disadvantages:



- No end to monthly payments
- Wear-and-tear charges
- Mileage limitations
- You do not build equity








Buying Advantages:



- Pride of ownership
- No mileage limitations
- Monthly payments have an end
- Flexibility to change cars when you want
- You build equity over time


Buying Disadvantages



- Higher down payment and monthly payment
- Repair costs once warranty expires








If getting a new car every few years is important to you, leasing may be something to consider, however, be careful and pay attention to the realities of leasing. You don’t want to be surprised when your lease expires.
Money Matters Sponsored: Have you done a wallet audit?
We all hear the distressing stories of identity theft. Fraudsters are getting cleverer but there are some simple things that you can do to help protect yourself.
What fraud-friendly information are you carrying in your wallet?

One of the most important things that you can do to protect your finances and your identity is to audit your wallet. Here are some key tips to help you keep your personal information safe and out of the hands of fraudsters:

- If you have your social security card or number in your wallet, remove it immediately. It is just the ticket for identity thieves.
- Make a list of all the items in your wallet. For debit and credit cards don’t include card numbers, rather just the name and phone number of the financial institution. If you have automatic payments associated with a card make a note of that as well.
- Keep the list in a safe place at home. If your wallet or purse gets lost or stolen you now have a list of everything that you need to cancel and replace what was lost.
- Don’t wait to cancel your lost or stolen card—most financial institutions have a 24-hour phone number just for reporting a lost or stolen card. You definitely want to do this before the fraudsters wipe out your accounts.


Prevent, Detect and Restore

BECU members have access to reliable identity theft services and resources. To learn more, visit www.becu.org/learn-and-plan/articles.aspx and select Security and Fraud.
Money Matters Sponsored: Build Credit Responsibly with a Secured Loan
We’ve all heard the importance of good credit—a good credit report can help you get the things you need: a mortgage, a credit card, a loan, better terms on the money you borrow, an apartment, automobile, or even a new job. But, if you are just starting out in life and do not have an established credit history or need to rebuild your credit from financial hard times, building your credit can seem like a daunting task.
Money Matters Sponsored: Pay for College with a 529 Plan
According to a 2011 report from The College Board® the average tuition and fees for a public in-state university for four years is $33,300 and in 18 years that cost is projected to rise to $95,000. If you have young children or you are thinking about having children, now is the time to start thinking about how you and your child will cover these expenses when they are ready for higher learning.
Money Matters Sponsored: Too Many Transactions from Savings Account?
Linking a savings account to your checking account can be an effective way to avoid an overdraft fee; however, there are some pitfalls that we all need to be aware of.

Under Federal Regulation D, we are only permitted up to 6 TOTAL monthly transfers or pre-authorized withdrawals from a savings account. If you exceed the limit you are most likely going to incur unwanted fees.
Money Matters Sponsored: Paying for College vs. Paying for Retirement
Since the economy has been so uncertain over the past few years, many parents have had to make tough decisions when it comes to paying for the kids’ college expenses. Many parents have found it very tempting to tap into their retirement accounts or reduce future retirement contributions to help pay for college. Doing so puts retirement savings at risk. And, it’s important to think about who is going to help you out in retirement?
Money Matters Sponsored: Still Have Time on Your Side
If you still have time on your side, consider opening a 529 plan for your child. A 529 Plan is an education savings plan operated by a state or educational institution designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs. It is named after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code which created these types of savings plans in 1996.