Category Archives: Educational

Summer Vacation Safety Tips

It’s almost summer! Right now, you probably have beaches on the brain or you’re thinking about that long-planned trip abroad. Before you head out, take steps to help keep your dream vacation from becoming a nightmare:

Do some research — and then carefully read the details on travel offers.

  • Look up travel companies, hotels, rentals and agents with the words “scam,” “review,” or “complaint.”
  • Look for extra costs. Resort fees (also known as destination, facility and amenity fees) can add $50 or more to your nightly cost.
  • Ask about taxes, which may be significant in many locations.
  • Review the cancellation and refund policies before you pay, and keep a copy.
  • If you’re buying travel insurance, be sure the agency is licensed.
  • Bring copies of any confirmation details that show the rate and amenities you were promised. This also helps if the hotel or host says your reservation is “lost.”

Don’t pay for “prize” vacations. No legitimate company will ask you to pay for a prize. Also, look for catches to resort or timeshare offers. They may come with taxes and fees to pay, timeshare presentations to attend, and high-pressure sales pitches to endure.

Don’t sign anything until you know the terms of the deal. Say “no thanks” to anyone who tries to rush you, without giving you time to consider the offer.

Use a credit card, if possible, for your travel spending. This gives you more protection than paying by cash or debit card — and it may be easier to dispute unauthorized charges.

Protect your identity and account information while you’re traveling.

  • Take only the IDs, credit cards and debit cards you need. Make copies so, if someone steals your bag, you’ll know exactly what was lost.
  • Make a copy of your insurance card to take with you.
  • Leave all other important documents safe at home.
  • Learn how to protect your mobile devices and personal information from hackers and malware.

And while we hope it doesn’t happen to you, report identity theft and any other fraud you experience.


Don’t forget to let us know if you are traveling this summer! Connect with us at 503-275-0300 Option 3 so we can ensure your accounts are ready for your travel fun. You can also visit us at 95 SW Taylor St., Portland, OR 97204

Mortgage Closing Scams : How to protect yourself

Closing on a new home can be one of your most memorable life moments. It’s the final and one of the most critical stages in the home-buying journey, but with the exchange of key paperwork and a sizable down payment, it can also be a stressful experience, especially for first-time home buyers.

The FBI has reported that scammers are increasingly taking advantage of home buyers during the closing process. Through a sophisticated phishing scam, they attempt to divert your closing costs and down payment into a fraudulent account by confirming or suggesting last-minute changes to your wiring instructions. In fact, reports of these attempts have risen 1,100 percent between 2015 and 2017, and in 2017 alone, there was an estimated loss of nearly $1 billion in real estate transaction costs.

While it’s easy to think you may not fall for this kind of scam, these schemes are complex and often appear as legitimate conversations with your real estate or settlement agent. The ultimate cost to victims could be the loss of their life savings.

Here’s what you should know and how to avoid it happening to you.

How it works

Scammers are increasingly targeting real estate professionals, seeking to comprise their email in order to monitor email correspondences with clients and identify upcoming real estate transactions. During the closing process, scammers send spoofed emails to home buyers – posing as the real estate agent, settlement agent, legal representative or another trusted individuals – with false instructions for wiring closing funds.

How to avoid a mortgage phishing scam

  • Identify two trusted individuals to confirm the closing process and payment instructions. Ahead of your mortgage closing, discuss in person, or by phone, the closing process and money transfer protocols with these trusted individuals (realtor, settlement agent, etc.). Be cautious about exchanging any details about your closing over email. You may want to use this opportunity to also create a code phrase, known only by these trusted parties, if you need a secure way to confirm their identities in the future.
  • Write down their names and contact information. Use the Mortgage Closing Checklist created by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to list these individuals and their primary phone numbers.
  • Before wiring money, always confirm instructions with your trusted representatives. Never follow instructions contained in an email. Verify the closing instructions, including the account name and number, with your trusted representatives either in person or by using the phone number you previously agreed to.
  • Avoid using phone numbers or links in an email. Again, scammers can closely replicate the email address, phone number and format of an exchange from your agents. Avoid clicking on any links or downloading attachments without first confirming with your trusted representatives.
  • Do NOT email financial information. Email is never a secure way to send financial information.
  • Be mindful of phone conversations. It may be difficult to identify whether a phone call is fraudulent or legitimate. Scammers may call and ask you to verify your personal or financial information. When in doubt, always refer back to your trusted professionals to confirm whether it’s legitimate.

What to do if it happens to you

  • Contact your credit union or wire-transfer company immediately. Reporting the error as soon as possible can increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to recover your money.
  • File a complaint with the FBI. Contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov .

While it can be easy to think you’ll never fall for a scam of this nature, the reality is that it’s becoming more and more common, and the results can be disastrous for eager homeowners. By being mindful and taking a few important steps ahead of your closing, you can protect yourself and your loved ones.

Brought to you by our friends at the Consumer Financial Bureau


Buying or Refinancing? Talk to us first – we are here to help! Connect with our Lending Specialists at 503-275-0300 Option 2 or by visiting our Branch located at 95 SW Taylor St., Portland, OR.

Home Equity : What It Is and Why It Matters

It is often said that home ownership builds wealth. So, what is home equity, and how can it enhance your net worth?

What is home equity?

Home equity is the current market value of your home, minus what you owe. You’re looking for a positive number. Any gain comes from:

  • Paying down the principal balance on your loan.
  • An increase in market value over time.

How does home equity work?

Building home equity is a bit like investing in a long-term instrument, like bonds. Your money is, for the most part, locked up and not spendable.

There are some ways to tap it, but wealth is created over years as your share of “free and clear” ownership of the house increases.

It seems simple enough, but home equity is not guaranteed. Just ask any homeowner who went through the last housing bust. That’s when home equity fell sharply for many homeowners — and, in some cases, completely disappeared.

As a rule, building home equity is a slow climb, at best. U.S. residential year-over-year home price appreciation averaged 1.89% from 1997 to 2017, adjusted for inflation, according to CoreLogic, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Urban Institute.

However, behind that average are some major year-over-year price swings during the same period, ranging from a gain of 12.6% to a drop of 18.1%, according to the Urban Institute.

When it comes to short-term home appreciation, sometimes it’s more of a bungee jump than a climb.

How do you find out how much equity is in your home?

home equity calculator can give you an idea of what your home is worth and how much equity you may have, if you’re thinking about selling your home or borrowing a chunk of your equity.

An appraisal will really nail down the value of your house.

Why is home equity important?

Home equity can be a long-term strategy for building wealth.

Mortgage payments reduce what you owe while your home gains value, so paying on a house has been called “a forced savings account.”

This is unlike virtually every other asset purchased with a loan, such as vehicles, which lose value while you pay them off.

A growing number of U.S. homeowners are amassing “impressive stockpiles” of home equity wealth, according to Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at Attom Data Solutions.

At the end of the second quarter of 2017, over 14 million U.S. properties were considered “equity rich” — meaning the debt on the property was 50% or less of the home’s current market value.

That’s about 24% of all owner-occupied homes with a mortgage.

Home equity takes time to build

Another nutrient helping to grow home equity wealth is time. Homeowners who stay in their homes longer are more likely to accrue equity.

In the second quarter of 2017, people selling their homes had lived there an average of more than eight years. That was the longest ownership period since Attom began tracking homeownership tenure in 2000. Before the recession, people were staying in their homes an average of about four and a quarter years, Attom data show.

“That’s a paradigm shift — a more conservative approach to homeownership and building wealth through homeownership,” Blomquist says.

Just 10% of homes owned for less than one year are considered equity rich, according to ATTOM.

You don’t have to sell to tap the profit inside your home. Instead, you can borrow against that value with a home equity loan or line of credit. A home equity loan will provide you a lump sum; a HELOC allows you to draw on the available balance as you wish.

Home equity is not a get-rich-quick scheme

Building home equity is definitely a long-term proposition. Blomquist says wise words from one of his relatives may state it best.

“My wife’s great-grandfather — who bought property in Southern California a long time ago — his advice was, ‘You take care of a piece of real estate for 20 years, it’ll take care of you forever.’”

From our friends at Nerd Wallet


Not impressed with your kitchen or bathroom? Dream big with your space! Tackle your next home project with our Home Equity Special — rates as low as 5.21% APR*! Connect with our Loan Specialists today at 503-275-0300 Option 2 or apply online. We can’t wait to help make your dreams come true!

 

*Rate quoted valid for second lien loans only. Available in Oregon, Washington & Idaho. Minimum loan amount is $25,000. Maximum loan amount is $100,000. Maximum loan-to-value is 80%. Rate will vary depending on term, loan-to-value and credit qualifications. 10-year maximum term. Payments: On a $50,000 loan with a 120-month term at 4.99% interest rate (5.21% APR), your monthly payment would be approximately $531.21 or $10.64 per $1,000 financed. Payment approximation does not include taxes or insurance. Offer ends 5/31/2019

Kids and Learning the Value of Money

“Children as young as three to five years of age are developing the basic skills and attitudes that lay the foundation for later financial well-being.” – Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
These skills are known as “executive function” and they lay the groundwork for future decision-making by building our capacity to plan for the future, focus attention, remember information, and manage multiple tasks. Although this sounds complicated, parents can play a pivotal role in facilitating their child’s development by talking with their children about basic money management ideas like earning, saving, planning, and spending that all rely on the elements of executive function.Parents can reinforce these ideas through play as well and “on the job training” so to speak, when they are out and about with their children in the neighborhood and/or the store.Here are some tips to get you started on the path of teaching your child smart money handling.

EARN

Share with your child that the way you get money is by working to earn it.

Describe your job to your child or, as you are out in the neighborhood or community, point out people who are working different jobs and describe what they do.

  • Point out people working like the bus driver, police officer, cashier, and your child’s teacher or caregiver.
  • Share that these individuals earn money for the work they do which helps them to pay for items like homes, food, clothes, etc.
  • Play pretend with your child and ask him or her to imagine working one of these jobs. What would the job be? What would the day-to-day work be? What would the money earned go toward?

SAVE

Once we get money it is important to think about putting some aside for the things we want in the future.

  • Start a piggy bank or saving jar with your child, have them help you decorate and label it, and put is someplace out in plain sight.
  • Practice sorting change with your child so that they start learning the names and values of coins and cash. Have them sort into categories of things you need to buy every day and things you want to save for in the future i.e. food, housing (now), vacation, large purchase (later).
  • When they receive money ask them to put all or part of it in the piggy bank or jar and have them tell you what they are saving for.

PLAN

It helps to pay attention, remember, and adjust.

  • Games help build skills that might not seem related to money management – but they form an important foundation.
  • Playing musical chairs or Simon Says help your child pay attention and make quick decisions.
  • Guessing games like 20 Questions or I Spy can help your child exercise his or her memory and think creatively.

SHOP

You need money to buy things and spending money always means making a choice.

  • As recommended above, help your child sort out change into their different denominations and help them to identify different coins and their value.
  • Encourage them to put some of them away in their piggy bank or savings jar and then talk about what they would like to spend the rest on.
  • When you are at the store or in the neighborhood point out to your child items that cost money, such as food, clothes, pets, cars, etc.
  • Talk about how your family decides what to buy and what to pass up and let him or her practice, too.
  • Give your child a few dollars and let him or her choose what to buy with what they have.

In collaboration with Money Smart Week


Ready to get your child a savings account? Connect with a Member Relationship Specialist today to get started at 503-275-0300 Option 3 or info@usacu.org. You and your child can also visit our branch located at 95 SW Taylor St., Portland, OR 97204. We cannot wait to see you!

Eco-Friendly Ways to Save Money

Today is Earth Day, so we wanted to not only bring you positive ways you can impact the planet, but how those changes can impact your savings account as well. We came up with 11 ways to save money all while going green.

1. Use the Sun to Save Money

You don’t need expensive equipment to do a little solar heating. Just open the curtains on the south side of the house during winter days to let the sun shine in. And open the drapes on east-facing windows in the morning (if they’re not shaded).

Of course, the opposite is true when you need to keep the house cool.

2. Drink Tap Water

Not only can a bottled water habit get expensive, it takes it toll on the environment as well. The Water Project says:

  • It takes three liters of water to package one liter of bottled water.
  • Water bottles can take 1,000 years to biodegrade, and if incinerated they produce toxic fumes.
  • Making water bottles for U.S. demand alone takes more than 1.5 million barrels of oil.

We know not every state has access to drinkable tap water, so if you can, drink from the tap.

4. Develop Green Laundry Habits

There are a number of ways to save money doing your laundry — and almost all of them are also environmentally friendly.

Here are some of the best green and frugal habits, according to these various sources, along with the potential annual savings:

  • Wash in cold water ($40)
  • Use less detergent ($80)
  • Line-dry your clothes ($85)
  • Skip the fabric softener ($65)
  • Replace the old washer ($55)
  • Run full loads (savings vary)
  • Keep the dryer lint trap clean (savings vary)

5. Hunt Down and Put an End to Energy Vampires

The U.S. Department of Energy says energy vampires — electronics and appliances that keep using power when turned off — can add 10% to your electrical bill.

For example, phone chargers keep sucking down power even when you’re not charging, and a digital cable box can add more than $40 per year to your bill if you don’t unplug it between uses.

But who wants to run around unplugging things all the time? Instead, plug electronics into power strips that have an on/off button so you can easily cut the power to the TV and DVD player with a flip of a switch.

6. Walk and Bicycle More

If the store is nearby and you only need to carry a few things, walk or take your bike. 

Depending on how many places are within reasonable walking and biking distance, you can significantly reduce your car-related expenses — and you’ll put a lot less pollution into the air.

7. Use Public Transportation

Even if you own a car, you can save money using public transportation. Take the bus or train on longer cross-town trips that would eat up more gas, or to avoid paying for parking.

Here in Portland, Tri-Met is always looking for ways to do more for the environment. Choosing public transit in Portland eliminates over 200,000 daily car trips, which reduces carbon emissions by over 60%.

8. Get an Energy Audit

A home energy audit can identify easy-to-correct energy waste issues in your home, and many utility companies offer them for free or a small charge.

If the cost of a professional audit or assessment is too high for you, just do it yourself. The U.S. Department of Energy has a video to walk you through the process.

10. Stop Those Water Leaks

Leaky faucets and showers are bad enough, but constantly running toilets can be really expensive. A moderately leaky flapper can cost you $70 per month!

Given the potentially high cost of this wasted water, it’s probably worth $5 or so to buy and install a new flapper if you ever hear the toilet running in the middle of the night.

11. Vacation Closer to Home

Of course, this green habit can also save you a lot of money.

12. Dress Warmer

One of the easiest ways to save on your heating bill is to simply turn down the thermostat. You can knock $10 per month off your winter heating bill for each degree you lower the setting.

To do so comfortably, you may have to start another new habit and wear warmer clothes around the house.


Want to get a savings account started for all the money you are about to save? Connect with a Member Relationship Specialist today to find the one that fits your needs best by calling 503-275-0300 Option 3. You can also stop by our branch located at 95 SW Taylor St., Portland, OR 97204.

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