All posts by USAgencies

The Money Talk with Kids

National Credit Union Youth Month is here, keeping your kids educated about saving and spending money is crucial for their financial success. Are you looking for ideas to start the money talk? We’ve got some conversation starters for you!

Saving Smart

For the responsible adult who thinks about being prepared for the future, savings are a fixed expense that is built into the monthly budget just like car payments and insurance. For most people, though, this habit does not come naturally. It needs to be acquired and practiced. Teach your kids those saving smarts now when they’re young to help make it a lifetime habit they’ve already mastered by the time they hit their 20s.

Give your kids a clear understanding of why saving is crucial to financial wellness and how to make it happen. Here are some points to cover:

  • Why putting money aside each month is crucial
  • How interest and compound interest work
  • Long-term vs. short-term saving
  • Reasons to save

Conversation starters (For kids under age 9):

  • Let’s say you’ve only got $15 and you want to buy a drone that costs $65. You get $5 a week as your allowance. How can you buy that drone?
  • When did you wait for something and find that it was more enjoyable because you waited for it?
  • Can you think of some things that Mom or Dad saves up for?
  • If you earn 10 cents for every dollar you save, how much money will you earn by putting away $5?

Conversation starters (For kids over age 9):

  • Are you saving up for anything important?
  • Can you think of some things that Mom or Dad saves up for?
  • Have you ever had to pay for something unexpected? How did you come up with the money?
  • Some things we save for are short-term goals, and others are long-term goals. Can you name some of each kind of goal? How will we save differently for each kind?
  • Do you think it’s smart for Mom and Dad to keep money they’re saving under the mattress? Why or why not?

Working It Out

One of the most fundamental financial lessons your kids are going to have to learn is about how you work for your money.

Do your kids understand that every time you pull out a wad of bills or swipe a card to pay for a purchase, that money is directly linked to time you put in at the office? Do they realize all of your money is earned through hard work?

Here’s how to make sure your kids — at any age level — understand this concept.

Goal: Teach your children that money for purchases, whether it’s paid through cash or a card, is earned through hard work. Here are some points to cover:

  • Money is earned through work.
  • Every dollar spent is time you spend working.
  • Any method used to pay for purchases comes from the same source.

Conversation starters (For kids under age 9):

  • What do you think mom/dad does all day at their job?
  • We work to do what our bosses want and need. How do you think our bosses reward us?
  • When we spend money for pizza, groceries, toys or movies, where do you think that money is coming from?
  • This is mom/dad’s paycheck from work. When we give it to USAgencies Credit Union, we have money to spend. Why do you think we put the paycheck in our account at USAgencies Credit Union?
  • When I swipe my credit/debit card, how does that pay the store owner? Where is the money coming from?

Conversation starters (For kids over age 9):

  • Why do you think people work?
  • Do you think people who work harder for their money spend it more carefully?
  • Would you still want that (article of clothing/toy/gadget) if you had to work for it?
  • If you had the choice to work 16-hour days for double the salary of an 8-hour day, would you take it? Why or why not?

We’ve also got a few fun activity pages for your kids to complete.

Youth_activity_pages preview
Download printable worksheets

Youth_activity_pages preview
Download printable worksheets

Youth_activity_pages3
Download printable worksheets


Do you encourage your kids to save money? How do they spend their allowance, chore money and money they earn from odd jobs as soon as they have it?

Connect with us to help get your children ready for their first savings or checking account to establish healthy financial habits. Call us at 503-275-0300 Option 4, or email info@usacu.org. Everyone deserves a better banking experience. Get it here.

Spring Cleaning Hacks

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming — and your cluttered closets are calling. Time to roll up your sleeves and whip your home into shape. And yes, this means you! It’s been a long winter and you’ve let the clutter grow, all over your garage, across your basement and up into your attic crawl space. And your bedroom closets? We’re not even going there.

As always, USAgencies Credit Union is here to help! Use this handy list of creative cleaning hacks to banish those dust bunnies without spending a fortune on organizers and cleaning solutions. Plus, you’ll be doing your part to help keep the planet green by skipping over those toxic cleansers this year.

Let’s get cleaning!

Schedule smart

Create a physical list of every part of your home you plan on attacking. Next, divide the chores according to the amount of time you estimate it will take to clean them. Make smaller sub-lists of 3-hour jobs, 1-hour jobs and 15-minute jobs. Post your lists in a place you’ll often see. This way, when you have spare time, you can find the right big or small job to tackle at a glance.

DIY cleansers

Why blow your budget on pricey, toxic cleansers when you can make your own for so much less at home? Try these DIY solutions and hacks for all those hard-to-clean places around your home:

Use a lemon for cleaning stainless steel sinks and faucets. Slice a lemon in half, and rub the fruit against hard water stains and rust spots in your kitchen and bathroom. You can also sprinkle on some baking soda for the really stubborn marks. The stains should now easily lift.

Steam-clean your microwave. Fill a microwave-safe bowl with 1-2 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, plus a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Nuke it for five minutes and then wipe those stains right off!

Use coffee filters for your monitors and screens. Let the gentle fibers in coffee filters leave your screens squeaky-clean!

Clean your shower heads with white vinegar. Fill a sandwich bag with white vinegar and use a rubber band to secure it around your shower head. Let it soak overnight and the water stains or calcium buildup should wash right off.

Tips and tricks

Cleaning is easy with these helpful hacks!

Use a lint roller to dust. Run a lint roller over your light fixtures and shelves. It’ll pick up those dust particles and leave you with clean surfaces in minutes!

Use your dishwasher for more than dishes. Load up your dishwasher with plastic toys, hair brushes, pet dishes, refrigerator shelves, tweezers and drawer knobs. When the cycle is through, clean your dishwasher by placing a cup of white vinegar on the top shelf and running it through its hottest cycle.

Use a window squeegee to scrape pet hair off your carpet. The rubber edge of the squeegee is perfect for gripping and removing pet hair from your rugs and carpet.

Use a hair dryer to get rid of water rings. Blast a hair dryer over the water rings until they disappear. You can also rub some olive oil over the area to return the wood to its original shine.

Let’s get organized!

Banish the clutter for good with these tips.

Create a space for clutter. Create a place for every bit of clutter that passes through your door. You can pick up organizers and storage bins at the dollar store.

Use Velcro to keep drawer organizers in place. Fasten strips of Velcro to the bottom of your organizers to keep them in place.


Happy cleaning from all of us here at USAgencies Credit Union!

Financial Resources Available for Veterans

We owe the strength and security of our country to our heroic veterans. These brave men and women sacrifice the comforts of home, time with family and often their physical well-being to protect us. Unfortunately, though, many veterans are struggling to make ends meet and to support their families.

If you are a veteran, you likely already know about VA loans, which are no-money-down home loans just for veterans. But did you know there are many other ways the government and charitable organizations can help you get back on your feet?

Here’s a list of financial resources created especially for veterans. Having served our country, you deserve all this and more.

USA Cares Emergency Assistance Program

If you’re a retired service person who is struggling to cover your basic monthly bills, including rent and utilities, you may be eligible for a grant from this organization. The exact amount awarded varies with each case, but the average grant size is $650. You can apply for a grant from the USA Cares Emergency Assistance Program.

The American Legion Temporary Financial Assistance

This organization helps veterans who are also parents of young children to create a stable home life for their families. It offers cash grants to help qualifying veterans pay for expenses like housing, utilities, food and medical costs. You can read up on the eligibility requirements and apply for a grant.

Operation Family Fund

Veterans who were severely disabled while serving in Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom may be eligible for grants to help cover their medical bills, emergency transportation, vehicle repair and housing. Review the eligibility requirements and apply for an Operation Family Fund grant.

Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes

This organization provides financial assistance to veterans who were severely wounded while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Click here to apply for assistance.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Aid & Attendance and Housebound Assistance

If you are a veteran receiving a VA pension, you may be eligible to increase your monthly amount through Aid & Attendance and Housebound Assistance. If you are bedridden or you need the services of an aide to help you with everyday activities, you can apply for assistance here.

Operation First Response

This organization offers financial assistance for wounded veterans and their families while they are in the midst of the VA claim process, which can stretch on for a year or more. Qualifying veterans can use the funds to cover immediate needs like housing, transportation, utilities, groceries, clothing and more. You can review the eligibility requirements and apply for assistance.

The Armed Forces Foundation

The Armed Forces Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing comfort and financial relief to members of the military community through career counseling, housing assistance, recreational therapy programs and financial support. These programs are available for service members who are on active duty as well as those who are retired. You can read up on the assistance offered by The Armed Forces Foundation and apply for aid.

Hope for the Warriors

The mission of this noble organization is to enhance the quality of life for members of the military and their families who have been affected by physical injuries or death in the line of duty. Its programs include financial assistance for immediate needs, as well as a special “Warrior’s Wish” program for families.

Operation Homefront

This wonderful organization provides financial assistance for the immediate family members of the wounded, ill, injured or deployed. Exact criteria for assistance varies by location. Visit Operation Home Front, click on “Get Assistance,” input your ZIP code and an application for assistance through your local chapter will be available for download.

Semper Fi Fund

The Semper Fi Fund (SFF) provides financial relief for any needs that may arise during the hospitalization and recovery of a service member due to an injury sustained while serving in the line of duty. Programs under the SFF include Service Member and Family Support, Specialized & Adaptive Equipment, Adaptive Housing, Adaptive Transportation, Education and Career Transition Assistance, Therapeutic Arts and Team Semper Fi.  Assistance is available for all post 9-11 Marines and sailors, as well as members of the Army, Air Force or Coast Guard who serve in support of Marine forces. Apply here.

If you or anyone you know is an active or retired service member who is struggling to make ends meet, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Use the resources listed above, and connect with us if you could use further assistance in basic money management. We’re here to help!


Have we missed any major financial resources for veterans? Let us know in the comments.

Questions about USAgencies Credit Union? Contact us at 503.275.0300 Option 4.

What Should Be on My Financial To-Do List This Spring?

Q: Spring is here, and I’d love to review my finances to improve them however possible. What should be on my financial to-do list this spring?

A: It’s wonderful that you’re using the season to take a deep look at your finances. Let’s review some ways to improve your finances and general money management this time of year.

De-clutter your finances

As you sift through the “stuff” piled up around your home and throw out useless clutter until each closet would make Marie Kondo proud, it’s a good idea to do the same for your finances.

Review your monthly budget and cut out extra expenses that may be cluttering it up. Think about things like subscriptions you don’t use anymore or upgraded apps and services you don’t really need. Next, simplify your monthly bill-paying by moving all due dates to the same day and setting up an automatic payment so you’re never late.

Clean up your finances by using Money Management to budget and keep track of your spending with minimal effort. Finally, simplify your savings by setting up an automatic monthly transfer between your USAgencies Credit Union Checking Account and USAgencies Credit Union Savings Account.

Review your W-4 

Post-tax season is the perfect time to look over your W-4 to determine if you’re withholding too much money — or too little. Remember: A generous tax refund might seem like good news, but what it really means is that you’ve been giving the government an interest-free loan throughout the year. You don’t want to withhold too little money and end up with a big tax bill to pay at the end of the year, either. To find that perfect sweet spot, work out the numbers using the IRS’ withholding calculator; use tax software like TurboTax; or ask a professional accountant to help. Don’t forget to submit a new W-4 to your workplace with your new withholding amount in place.

Protect your personal information 

Now that you’ve paid your taxes, it’s a good time to get rid of any documents that can compromise your safety. In today’s digital world, there are very few hard-copy documents you’ll need to hold onto. You can safely shred account statements, credit card bills, utility bills, insurance bills and more. Make sure to keep a copy of anything that requires your signature, such as the deed of your home and your car title, and hold onto unpaid loan statements and your tax returns. Keep these papers, as well as your most important sensitive documents, like your Social Security card, birth certificate and marriage certificate, in a fireproof box or in a locked file cabinet.

It’s also a good idea to clean up your computer and phone, deleting any downloaded documents that can compromise your privacy and deactivating your accounts on websites you no longer frequent. You may want to let your devices “forget” your password and payment history on retail sites as well. The less of your life you have online, the lower the risk of your personal information being compromised if any of these sites is hacked.

Throw away a debt

Did you resolve to work aggressively toward paying down your debts this year? Dust off that New Year’s resolution and take a hard look at your progress this spring. Is the debt going anywhere, or are you still trapped in the cycle of making just minimum payments that mostly go toward interest?

Get serious about getting out of debt by making a list of all debt in order from smallest to largest. Work out a plan for maximizing your payments on this debt, acquiring the necessary funds by pruning an expense category on your monthly budget or taking on some freelance work for extra cash. Once you’ve paid off the smallest debt, work on the next-smallest debt until you’re completely debt-free. As you progress through your list, be sure not to neglect the minimum payments on any of your debts.

Start saving for summer

If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to start putting money away for your summer getaway. Every little bit adds up, and the earlier you start saving, the more money you’ll have to spend on your bucket list.

It’s springtime! As you celebrate the season of renewal, spruce up your finances to help stay on track for the rest of the year.


Questions? Connect with our Member Services Specialists today at 503-275-0300 Option 4, we are here to help!

Member Moment: Janie’s Story

Here at USAgencies Credit Union, we uphold the Credit Union philosophy of “People Helping People”. We constantly look for ways we can make a positive difference in our members’ lives and in our community. USAgencies serves many members who are or have been active in the United States Military and we try our best to provide them with as easy a banking experience as possible with all of the traveling they do. So, when we hear stories like this one from Janie, we can’t resist holding our heads up a little higher!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a U.S. Navy Veteran and a federal employee, with 28 years, I joined USAgencies in early 2003 when I was working in the Portland area. I have since moved several times to several different states because of my job. It is 2019 now, I have never once thought about switching. USAgencies is like part of my family, they treat me like family, countless times when I call I am recognized just by my voice. Everyone’s Professionalism is beyond outstanding, in every department. I always hear a friendly voice, when they ask how are you doing, it is genuine, they really want to know how you are doing and how they can help.

What is your favorite USAgencies’ moment as a member?
Over the years, I have purchased several vehicles (bad habit of mine 😊) and each and every time, they made it happen for me. Even when I would first get financed through the dealership at a higher interest rate, they always worked so hard to ensure they could provide the loan at a much lower interest rate; saving me so much money and more importantly to me piece of mind!!!

Their security measures are outstanding, you can always rely on them to be there protecting you and your finances even if you don’t realize it.

What do you value the most about USAgencies?
If I had to pick one of the many things I love about USAgencies, it is for sure the staff there! They are hands down better than any company or agencies I have ever experienced, remember I am a federal employee and I work with many agencies, federal and state. I only lived in Portland for a couple of years, but I feel like I know the staff just as if I visited in person and they always make me feel as if they have known me for years. That says a lot about their passion, knowledge, professionalism and being genuine.

Thank you for the amazing job you all do! It is greatly appreciated!


Thank you for all you do for our country Janie!

Want to share your USAgencies moment? Submit your story to social@usacu.org or via telephone at 503-275-0300. We’d love to hear from you!

Why Does My Credit Score Matter?

Your credit score affects just about every facet of your life, so knowing what causes it to rise or fall is important.

Your credit score is made up of three numbers, serving as an indicator of your financial history, wellness and responsibility. These three little numbers can spell the difference between approval and rejection for a mortgage, a job, a rental unit and so much more.

We have outlined how your credit score is calculated, why it matters and steps you can take to improve your score.

How is my credit score calculated?

There are three major credit bureaus in the U.S.: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Each one collects and shares information about your credit usage with potential lenders and financial institutions. Most lenders use this information along with the FICO scoring model to calculate your credit worthiness. Some lenders use the VantageScore model instead of FICO.

While there are several slight differences between the FICO and the VantageScore formulas, both scoring models look at the following factors when calculating your score:

  • The age of your credit. How long have you had your oldest credit card? When was your first loan? An older credit history generally boosts your score.
  • The timeliness of your bill payments. Are you paying all of your monthly bills on time? Chronic late payments, particularly loan and credit card payments, can drastically reduce your score.
  • The ratio of your outstanding debt to available credit. The VantageScore formula views consumers with a lot of available credit as a liability, while the FICO formula considers this a point in your favor.
  • The diversity of your credit. Lenders want to see that you have and have had several kinds of open credit. For example, you may be paying down an auto loan, a student loan and using three credit cards.
  • The trajectory of your debt. Are you accumulating new debt each month, or slowly working toward paying down every dollar you owe?
  • Your credit card usage. Financial experts recommend having several open credit cards to help boost your credit score, but this only works if you actually use the cards and pay off your bills each month. It doesn’t help much to have the cards sitting in your wallet.

How does my credit score affect my life?

Your credit score serves as a gauge for your financial wellness to anybody who is looking to get a better idea of how responsible you are with your financial commitments.

Here are just some ways your credit score can affect your day-to-day life:

  • Loan eligibility. This is easily the most common use for your credit score. Lenders check your score to determine whether you will be eligible for a loan. The larger the loan, the stricter the requirements. A poor credit score can hold you back from buying a house, a car, or getting a personal loan at USAgencies Credit Union.
  • Interest rates on loans. Here too, your credit score plays a large role in your financial reality. A higher score can get you a lower interest rate on your loan, and a poor score can mean paying thousands of extra dollars in interest over the life of the loan.
  • Employment. A study by the Society for Human Resources Management found that 47 percent of employers look at the credit scores of potential employees as part of the hiring process.
  • Renting. Many landlords run credit checks on new tenants before signing a lease agreement. A poor credit score can prevent you from landing that dream apartment or it can prompt your landlord to demand you make a higher deposit before moving in.
  • Insurance coverage. Most insurers will check your credit before agreeing to provide you with coverage. Consumer Reports writes that a lower score can mean paying hundreds of dollars more for auto coverage each year.

How to improve your credit score

If you’re planning on taking out a large loan in the near future, applying for a new job, renting a new unit or you just want to improve your score, follow these steps:

  • Pay your bills on time. If you have the income to cover it but find getting things paid on time to be a challenge, consider using automatic payments.
  • Pay more than the minimum payment on your credit cards. Your credit score takes the trajectory of your debt into account. By paying more than just the minimum payment on your credit cards, you can show you’re working on paying down your debt and help improve your score.
  • Pay your credit card bills before they’re due. If you can, it’s best to pay your credit card bills early. This way, more of your money will go toward paying down your outstanding balance instead of interest.
  • Find out if you have any outstanding medical bills. You may have an unpaid medical bill you’ve forgotten about. These can significantly drag down your credit score, so be sure to settle any outstanding medical bills as quickly as possible.
  • Consider debt consolidation. If you’re paying interest on multiple outstanding debts each month, you may benefit from paying off your debt from taking out a personal loan at USAgencies Credit Union. This way, you’ll only have one low-interest payment to make each month. (Note: If you’ll be applying for a large loan within the next few months, it’s better not to open any new cards.)

It’s crucial that you make the effort to improve and maintain your credit score. It’s more than just a number; it will impact your financial wellness for years to come.


As a member of USAgencies Credit Union, you have free access to your credit score and credit report through our Online and Mobile Banking.

Do you have questions about membership or your USAgencies accounts? Connect with us at 503-275-0300 Option 4, or visit our branch at 95 SW Taylor St., Portland, OR. We look forward to hearing from you!

Letter from the CEO: Enhancements coming your way

At USAgencies we are constantly looking for ways to improve our financial cooperative in order to better live out our mission to provide solutions to improve each member’s financial life. We find ourselves in a time where people are busier than ever, so as your credit union, we have come up with some great solutions to make it as easy as possible for you to connect with us.

In February, we are excited to have rolled out an improved secure messaging system within our online and mobile banking. This updated platform allows us to securely and safely communicate with any member, no matter the need. We can safely pass information and provide prompt service to you. In addition, you can quickly locate frequently asked questions in our updated knowledge base.

The second communication enhancement is our text solution. We will soon have the capability to serve our members via text messaging. This is a great solution if you are out and about or too busy to hop on a phone call, you will be able to text us during business hours to get your banking needs taken care of, from balance transfers to finalizing an application, convenience is just a few text messages away.

The last solution I want to mention is our free Credit Score service within online and mobile banking. You now can monitor the all-important credit score, which is more critical to your finances than ever! Having a strong score not only helps you get better interest rates on loans, but also helps you get discounted insurance rates as well as get approved to rent an apartment. If you ever have questions on how to improve your score, connect with us and we would be more than happy to walk you through steps to improve your score.

Thank you for choosing USAgencies Credit Union for your financial needs, and we look forward to hearing from you!

Justin Olson, President/CEO, USACU
Justin Olson
President/CEO
USAgencies Credit Union