All posts by USAgencies

Affected by the Government Shutdown?

This blog was a combined effort with our friends at GreenPath Financial Wellness.

Over the weekend, the partial government shutdown passed it’s 22nd day, making it the longest shutdown in history. Of the about 800,000 federal employees affected, nearly 380,000 have been furloughed (given a leave of absence) and the remainder continue to work without pay.

While most people affected by the shutdown are located in the Washington D.C. area, workers going without pay can be found nationwide.

For millions of Americans, an unexpected financial setback can make it feel like your world is caving in around you. If you or a loved one has been affected by the government shutdown, it’s important to know that you are not alone and that everything is going to be okay. We offer the steps below to support you in setting a plan for your expenses:

Step 1: List Out and Prioritize Your Expenses

The first thing to do is understand your overall financial situation so you can get an idea of what you need to pay and what you have to work with. Use GreenPath’s budgeting worksheet to list out your expenses and due dates.
When prioritizing which bills you should pay first, begin with basic needs (shelter, food, heat, lights).

Once you’ve taken care of yourself, attend to your debts in order of priority. While threats of a low credit score or calls from a debt collector can be intimidating, it’s important to focus on paying down debts with collateral (something that can be taken from you) such as a house or car payment. After your financial crisis passes, you can work on catching up with unsecured debts like credit cards, internet, and cable bills.

Step 2: Open Lines of Communication

Talk to your lenders or creditors to see if there is anything you can do regarding upcoming bills. Many financial institutions and service providers are offering assistance programs and other freebies to employees experiencing financial hardship during the shutdown, ranging from no-interest loans to refunding normal fees. Many utility companies also offer utility payment plans for people with financial hardships.

Step 3: Look for Ways to Generate Cash, And Cut Spending Where Possible

One additional option for furloughed workers is to apply for unemployment. (Note, those who continue to work through the shutdown are not eligible for unemployment insurance.) It is also important to know that any unemployment compensation given during a shutdown must be repaid once the government reopens. Several federal websites, such as the Office of Personnel Management’s, have FAQs for furloughed workers that include information on how to file for benefits.

In addition to finding additional sources of money, evaluate your current spending habits to see where you may be able to make adjustments to spend less: set a strategy to save money on groceries, see if you can freeze your gym membership, reduce your cable bill, lower your energy usage, and cut any non-essential spending you can such as entertainment and eating out.

Step 4: Call USAgencies Credit Union

Here at USAgencies Credit Union, we pride ourselves on the things we won’t do, and one of those is that we won’t turn our backs to our members when they need us to most. Our hope is to provide our members some peace of mind, however we can. Give us a call at 503-275-0300 so that we can see what we can do to help during this stressful time.

More Head Room for Retirement Plan Contributions

Michael Volk, financial advisor at Lion Financial Advisors, is sharing some updates on IRA contributions.

They don’t happen every year, so we want to note 2019’s increases in the limits for contributions to Individual Retirement Accounts and other tax-advantage retirement plans. The annual limit for IRA contributions jumps from $5,500 to $6,000, its first increase since 2013. Those over 50 can add another $1,000 under “catch-up” provisions.

For participants in 401(k), 403(b), and most 457 plans, the maximum elective salary deferral amount bumps from $18,500 to $19,000. Catch-up for those over 50 adds $6,000 to that limit. The overall cap on the combined (employee + employer) contribution to these plans rises from $55,000 to $56,000. For defined benefit plans, the maximum target benefit rises from $220,000 to $225,000.

The IRS also is adjusting the income ranges that determine how much can be contributed to a Roth IRA. For 2019 that phase-out range shifts up to $122,000-$137,000 of adjusted gross income (AGI) for singles and heads of household, or $193,000-$203,000 for joint filers.

For those who participate in an employer-sponsored plan but might also be able to deduct an IRA contribution, those phase-out ranges ratchet up to the following: $64,000-$74,000 of AGI for singles or $103,000-$123,000 joint. If only one spouse is covered by an employer plan, the other spouse’s ability to deduct an IRA contribution doesn’t phase out until AGI hits the $193,000-$203,000 range.

One last item:  The income caps to qualify for the Saver’s Credit are increasing as follows: $64,000 for married couples filing jointly, $48,000 for heads of household, and $32,000 for singles and married individuals filing separately. For those who are just getting started on the long road to retirement, the tax deduction plus the Saver’s Credit can provide a nice boost.


Michael recommends that a qualified tax advisor be consulted before making any decisions about IRA accounts and contributions.

For more information on retirement planning and counseling, connect with Michael Volk at Lion Financial Advisors for a no-obligation consultation via 503.447.6856 or email michael@lionfa.com.

Securities and advisory services offered through KMS Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments Are: NOT NCUA/FDIC INSURED, NO CREDIT UNION GUARANTEE, MAY LOSE VALUE.

Debt Consolidation Loans

What is a Debt Consolidation Loan?

In general, a debt consolidation loan can be defined as a loan that combines multiple debt obligations into one single loan. These loans tend to have lower interest rates than many existing debts. They also allow the borrowers to make only one payment per month instead of many.

Advantages

  • Pays off high-interest credit cards or other debts with low-interest loans
  • One easy monthly payment to make
  • A closed-end loan will result in a set payment schedule
  • May result in lower overall monthly payments
  • Establishes good credit history, if paid back as agreed

Things to be Prepared For

  • Some type of collateral may be required before approval
  • A co-signer on the loan may be required before approval
  • Credit score will be a significant factor

As you can see, there are some important factors to consider. If you are struggling with high credit card debt, you first must strive to change your spending habits and learn to live within your means. Setting a budget is the first step, and with Money Management you can know your accounts, track your budget, and watch your spending all  in one place.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to consider a debt consolidation loan if you will be continuing to incur monthly balances on your credit cards. In the long run, you will end up having a higher overall debt balance if your spending behavior does not change.


Is it time to tackle your post-holiday debt and give your budget a breath of fresh air? Our Debt Consolidation loan offers you that chance. Connect with our Loan Specialist today at 503-275-0300 Option 2 to apply today. 

Holiday Lights in Portland

Lights are going up around the city of Portland and surrounding areas, which can only mean one thing – the holidays are upon us! It is time to layer on those jackets and scarves, and celebrate with your loved ones. Portland and beyond has several classic light displays that are great for continuing, or starting, family traditions. We have compiled a list of family ( and wallet ) friendly places to experience this holiday season to help keep you within your budget.

Fantasy Trail at Wenzel Family Farm

Take a Christmas walk through a lighted, wooded “Fantasy Trail”, decorated with thousands of lights for Christmas enchantment. The trail includes a 40 ft castle with Christmas scenes, a maze, crooked house, suspension bridge and more. You can also warm up by the nightly bonfires, with a warm cup of hot chocolate.

The Grotto’s Christmas Festival of Lights

with sights, sounds and sensations for the holiday season, The Grotto’s Christmas Festival of Lights is the largest Christmas choral festival in the world. Five indoor concerts are schedule each evening. The fun doesn’t end there ; the Grotto’s plaza area also includes outdoor caroling, puppet shoes and a live petting zoo.

Peacock Lane

Each house on this quaint SE block has been decorating their Tudor style homes for decades. Adorned with beautiful lights, nativity scenes and more, this Portland tradition always brings in a crowd.

Winter Wonderland at Portland International Raceway

There are glimmers and glows around every corner as you journey through the Winter Wonderland. With over 250 color light pieces, and many fully animated scenes this will not disappoint. Even better? It is all done from the comfort ( and warmth! ) from your own vehicle.

Miracle of a Million Lights

Head to the decorated 2.5 acres of a million plus twinkling lights! As you tour the house, you will set your eyes on over 20 uniquely decorated trees, with elaborate decorations. Enjoy some of their homemade apple cider, cookies, live music, and Santa! There is something fun and festive around every corner, and you will not be disappointed.

Christmas Ship Parade

Over the course of 15, a fleet of Christmas Ships will set sail on the Willamette River and Columbia River. Bundle up, grab your thermos and pick your spot to watch the beautiful boats float by!

 

 

 

 

I won $1,000 with Save to Win!

We’re excited to congratulate USAgencies’ biggest Save to Win prize winner in 2018 – Shauna W., who took home $1,000 in a quarterly national drawing this October.

Shauna, a member of USAgencies Credit Union since 2007, has been participating in Save to Win since June 2018. She is very excited about her win and cannot wait to share this program with her friends and family.

“I have been saving money with USAgencies Credit Union for many years. I like saving with the credit union partly because it’s a small office with great customer service. I am having a lot of fun with the Save To Win CD. I have been saving the maximum $250 every month to get the maximum number of entries in the drawing. I have enjoyed getting contacted by the credit union staff telling me I’ve won a drawing. It’s fun and more lucrative than interest has been lately!”

Save to Win was designed to encourage members, who are not in the habit of savings, to start saving money by making deposits as little as $25 a month for a chance to win cash prizes. On top of this great program, we also provide free financial education tools and resources to help our members achieve strong financial futures.


Visit here to learn more about Save to Win at USAgencies Credit Union.

ENGLISH insurance label

 

It is time for the KGW Great Toy Drive!

Benefiting local kids

USAgencies is excited to once again participate in the KGW Great Toy Drive. For more than 30 years, the KGW Great Toy Drive has provided hundreds of thousands of toys to families in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

We invite our members, friends and neighbors to stop by and donate a toy (or toys!) for local families in need. Donate at USAgencies Credit Union by Dec. 14th and we’ll match your donation, toy for toy!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Buy a new, unwrapped toy.
  2. Drop your toy at USAgencies (95 SW Taylor Street, Portland, OR) by Dec. 14th.
  3. USAgencies will match each donation we collect, toy for toy (up to $500)!

Can’t make it to the branch to donate? Give us a call to donate cash towards a toy. We’ll pick one up for you (and match it!).

Questions: info@usacu.org | (503) 275-0300

4 Tips for Preventing Identity Theft During the Holiday

With the help from our friends at cuinsight.com

Some people love taking what doesn’t belong to them. During the holidays this year, be extra careful to make sure that you’re keeping your finances safe from questionable individuals. Here are four tips for protecting your identity during the holiday season.

1. Keep an eye on your credit report. If checking your credit report isn’t something you do regularly, you should change that. If a thief opens an account in your name, this will be an easy red flag to detect. Although it may be a hassle, there are a few sites that provide free credit reports. Do some research and find the one that best suits your needs.

2. Don’t toss it, shred it. When you take your garbage out each week, make sure you are not throwing away that a fraudster could find valuable. Anything that contains account numbers, banking information, or social security numbers would be highly desirable to a thief. Make sure you anything you are not sure of gets put in a shredder before the trash can. Don’t have a shredder? We provide a secure and free shred bin in the lobby of USAgencies Credit Union for all our members! Bring your shred down during business hours, and we are happy to help you safely dispose of documents.

3.Be cautious online. Cybercriminals can get your information a few ways, one of which is phishing. Phishing is when cybercriminals defraud you of sensitive information by posing as a legitimate company that you trust. Don’t click a link in an email that is asking you for personal information. Anything that looks fishy should be verified with the company first. Also, make sure you are not doing sensitive activities like logging into your credit union account from a coffee shop’s unsecured Wi-Fi. Stay up to date with current Fraud Schemes by visiting our dedicated page on our website, designed to keep our members aware.

4.Update your passwords. Password is not a password. Winter123 isn’t either. It is time to make better passwords. Think of a phrase or question like, “How long would it take me to walk 500 miles?” Then use the initials, symbols, and numbers to create your password. That would look like this :”Hlwittw500m?” No one can guess that one. According to howsecureismypassword.net, it would take a computer 63 Thousand years to crack that password.


Questions? Connect with us at 503.275.0300 option 3 or visit us at www.usacu.org