(Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

My grandmother Big Mama hated being late. She paid her bills well in advance of the due dates. She left for appointments super early.

“If you’re on time, you’re late,” Big Mama would say.

So for you on-time folks, take note, the IRS says the official start of the 2018 tax season is Jan. 29. If you’re a procrastinator, you have two extra days to file. Returns are not due until April 17.

The agency said it expects to get nearly 155 million individual tax returns this year. There is good reason to not procrastinate in filing your tax return. You don’t want identity thieves to beat you to it.

Read: Why you should file your taxes ASAP

The IRS has been working with state revenue departments and the tax preparation industry as part of an initiative to tax related identity theft.

Read: Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft

Don’t forget that more than 145.5 million Americans had their Social Security numbers and other key personal information stolen when credit bureau Equifax was hacked last year.

“Even those who haven’t been directly affected by the Equifax breach could be a victim of tax identity theft,” reported Maryalene LaPonsie of U.S. News & World Report. Prior security breaches have occurred at Target, Yahoo and LinkedIn, among other places. Paul Gevertzman, partner with accounting firm Anchin, Block and Anchin in New York City told LaPonsie, “You can just assume your information has been compromised.”

Eva Velasquez, chief executive and president, Identity Theft Resource Center said on CNBC: “Our motto is, file first and beat the crooks. It does have an impact. You are not giving them an open window.”

Here’s something to consider writes CNBC Kelli Grant: Having a credit freeze or other monitoring in place does not prevent tax-related identity theft. Crooks mostly just need your Social Security number, not information in your credit file, to submit a bogus tax return.

Read more: Your next worry after the Equifax breach: Fake tax returns

Also: Senators want ‘massive’ fines for data breaches at Equifax and other credit reporting firms

Color of Money question of the week
Are you planning to file earlier than you usually do because of concerns about identity theft? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and state.

Live chat today
Let’s talk retirement. My guest today will be Jean C. Setzfand, senior vice president of AARP programs that produce interactive educational programming designed to address health, wealth and personal enrichment concerns for people over 50.

Join the live discussion from noon to 1 p.m. Here’s the link to participate in the chat.

Who do you want to teach your children about money?
For last week’s question I asked: Who taught you the most about money?

Ellen Rittenhouse of Kent, Minn., wrote, “As a child growing up in the ’40s and ’50s my parents were my role models for money management. Living in a rural community I saw my mother raise a big garden and store food for the winter, raise chickens for meat and eggs to sell to cover the cost of basics such as flour, sugar, etc. It was only when I left for college that I realized that we were ‘poor’ in the money sense. I had learned how to survive quite well with the little money I earned with part-time work. When I married, I was blessed with a husband who had also learned the value of money so we managed quite well on meager income and were able to model good money management skills for our children. It was also my experience that schools did not provide an education in money management other than basic math. Now in my senior years, I still rely on the example I learned in childhood.”

“My best money manager was my daddy,” wrote frequent commentor Lorna Gilkey of Alexandria, Va. “He is the epitome of financial responsibility. As a teenager, when I would complain about wanting something frivolous, he’d say, ‘When I’m dead and gone, you’ll be glad I saved my money.’ Well, I thank God daily that he isn’t dead and gone. And also that he’s 76 and living well and does as he pleases because he was responsible with his money in preparing for retirement. I didn’t always do as well until four years ago when I got your book (‘Power to Prosper’) and did the 21-day fast. That fast hurt my feelings but also got me on track so I’ve done it again each year. Now I’m debt free, paying a ‘car note’ to my savings, still tithing and preparing to be like my daddy when I retire. And, I’m setting an example for my sons to do the same (I hope).”

Evelyn Bonds in Tennessee wrote, “I had the privilege of having two parents who were opposite in their attitude about money and their ideas about spending and saving. My father was the more generous of the two. He was not a spendthrift; he was just more willing to spend money on purchases such as a car or furnishings. He was also more generous with us kids. Our mother on the other hand, was quite a bit stingier and seemed unwilling to spend money on anything. They were both products of the Depression era, so you would think that both of them would have approached spending and saving in a similar manner. But my mother seemed to be rather stuck in that mind-set, and this colored all of her financial decisions. I came out of this environment with what I think is the best features of each parent. I have never been one to spend every last penny, but I do make purchases that allow me to live comfortably and travel when I desire to. I, along with my husband, try to have a good balance of saving and spending, and we are both generous with our time and money for charitable causes, including our churches.”

Jean L. Potuchek of Poland, Maine, wrote, “When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, my father was paid each week on Thursday. He would stop at the bank on the way home to cash his paycheck and then spend much of the evening sitting at the dining room table distributing the cash into budget envelopes. The last step in this weekly budgeting process was to put out the piles of coins for each of the children’s allowances. I don’t know if he did it this way to ensure that we children were glued to his side through the entire process and learned how to budget, but that was the effect!”

Color of Money columns this week
Knowledge isn’t power. The right knowledge is power.

Stay informed about your money.

In addition to this newsletter, read and share my weekly personal finance columns.

The great Social Security benefits debate: Take it early or wait?

If college is ahead, so are hard choices

Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more Color of Money columns, go here.

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