Category Archives: Educational

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. 

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

How the Grinch Steals From the Elderly

From our friends at CUinsight.com

As many plan how to get the best holiday deals, thieves also plotting how to exploit the elderly.

According to the Better Business Bureau, seniors are the most targeted demographic for scams and fraud. They range from money transfer and cash for gift card requests, to being named a sweepstakes winner. Efforts particularly ramp up leading into the holidays.

As we head into the holidays, be on alert for a few of these BBB top senior scams. Please share this article with your parents, grandparents or a vulnerable friend or neighbor.

Free trials: Often these pop-up online with promises of a “free trial” asking consumers to provide credit card information “simply to cover shipping fees.” Unfortunately, that leads to unsuspecting victims being charged for products that are part of a program they “enrolled” in. Trying to cancel is often a nightmare.

Charity scams: With so many natural disasters in 2018, who wouldn’t want to open their wallet to help? Retirees have available savings, big hearts and it can be hard to distinguish legitimate causes. Do your research and ask as many questions as possible. Research sites like give.org to see if a charity site is real. Don’t respond to charity solicitations on the phone until you do your homework.

Fake websites: Make sure the website is secure and legit. Scammers have gotten very sophisticated in creating sites that piggyback off the reputation and name of well-known companies. If it’s the first time you are buying from a particular website, check with BBB before sharing any credit card information.

Family emergency scams:  The scammers claim to be calling on behalf of a family member who has been arrested or in an accident. They play on grandparents’ emotions to ask for money to be sent quickly. Don’t be quick to give any financial information or commitment over the phone. After hanging up, reach out to your loved ones to find out if the emergency actually happened.


We want our members to be aware of fraud schemes are out there. Stay up to date with and how to keep safe by visiting our dedicated Fraud Schemes page on our USAgencies Credit Union web page. Questions? Connect with us at 503-275-0300 Option 3 or visit us at our branch at 95 SW Taylor St., Portland, OR 97204.

International Credit Union Day!

October 18, 2018, will mark the 70th anniversary of International Credit Union Day. This year’s theme is “Find Your Platinum Lining.” It combines the traditional gift of platinum for 70th anniversaries with a play on the saying “every cloud has a silver lining.”

Credit unions all over the world will be celebrating the history and the success of the “People-not-Profit” philosophy. This year’s theme emphasizes the credit union movement’s loyalty to its members and its mission to provide them financial support and guidance.

The movement began in the 1840s as a democratic consumer cooperative by weavers in Rochdale, England. Frustrated by bankers who denied them loans simply because they weren’t wealthy, the weavers and workers decided to pool their incomes and loan money to each other. In time, this cooperation put each member on solid financial ground and encouraged their own businesses to flourish.

The need for equitable financial institutions grew and, in 1971, the World Council of Credit Unions, Inc. (WOCCU) was created to help establish and maintain viable credit union movements. It has become the leading voice for advocacy and governance on behalf of the international credit union community.

Today, over 235 million people are served by credit unions in 109 countries and 6 continents.


Join us at our branch at 95 SW Taylor St., Portland, OR 97204 on Thursday Oct.18 to celebrate International Union Day by enjoying some treats! Questions? Connect with us.

Make a Plan and Save on Your Energy Bills

From our friends at GreenPath Financial Wellness.

October is Financial Planning Month – and there’s nothing better than making a plan to save money. If your utility bills in winter put a crunch on your budget, these tips to reduce energy usage can help.

1. Turn down the thermostat

You can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back seven to 10 degrees for eight hours a day from its normal setting. Those eight hours could be while you are away at work or school, when sunlight is warming your house, or when you’re asleep under a pile of cozy blankets. For every two degrees, you can save an average of three percent on your energy bill. Install a programmable thermostat to automatically turn your heat down so you won’t forget!

2. Seal up your house to keep cold air out, and warm air in

Caulking and weatherstripping help seal your house up, keeping the warm air in. These are affordable DIY ways to improve energy efficiency and can save you about 7.5 percent on your energy bill! About $240 can cover weather stripping all your windows and doors. Check out Energy.gov and YouTube for how-to videos and tips.

Additionally, minimize the air that escapes by closing the damper on your fireplace when it’s not in use, and use bath and kitchen fans sparingly. This can save another 10 percent on your energy bill.

3. Change your furnace filters regularly

Your furnace or heating system is responsible for about half your energy bill. Changing the filters every three months means your furnace doesn’t have to work as hard, saving you energy and money in the long run. A clean filter costs about $20 and can lower energy use by as much as 15 percent according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That means of another 7.5 percent savings on your monthly bills.

4. Get a pro to test your energy efficiency

Many utility companies offer free energy audits, which can help you figure out how much energy your home uses and take steps to increase efficiency. Start by contacting your utility company or find an auditor near you. According to Energy.gov, an energy audit can show you ways to save 5 to 30 percent on your utility bills.

5. Get free heat from the sun

Warm sunshine can heat your home, for free! The more solar heat, the less your furnace has to run. Open curtains on south- and west-facing windows during the day to warm your interior rooms and surfaces. Then close your curtains at night to help keep the heat from escaping. This could help save another one or two percent on your energy bill in colder months.

If you are having trouble keeping up with higher winter utility bills, ask your utility company about a payment plan. Many companies offer a year-round plan that spreads costs out over all 12 months.


Need help staying on track with your budget? As a member of USAgencies Credit Union, you can take advantage of GreenPath Financial Wellness, a free financial education and counseling program. GreenPath can help you understand your situation and make a plan to meet your goals. To use this service, simply call 1-877-337-3399 or visit them on the web at greenpath.usacu.org.