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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.

Veterans Who Received Disability Severance Owed Refunds

USAgencies Credit Union is the only Oregon credit union open to all Oregon Veterans, and we want to ensure all eligible veterans receive this important information regarding available tax refunds brought to you by our friends at the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

 

The Internal Revenue Service is advising certain Veterans who received disability severance payments after Jan. 17, 1991, and included that payment as income, that they should file Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to claim a credit or refund of the over payment attributable to the disability severance payment.

This is a result of the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act passed in 2016.

Most Veterans who received a one-time lump-sum disability severance payment when they separated from their military service will receive a letter from the Department of Defense with information explaining how to claim tax refunds they are entitled to; the letters include an explanation of a simplified method for making the claim. The IRS has worked closely with the DoD to produce these letters, explaining how Veterans should claim the related tax refunds.

Statute of Limitations

The amount of time for claiming these tax refunds is limited. However, the law grants Veterans an alternative timeframe – one year from the date of the letter from DoD. Veterans making these claims have the normal limitations period for claiming a refund or one year from the date of their letter from the DoD, whichever expires later. As taxpayers can usually only claim tax refunds within 3 years from the due date of the return, this alternative time frame is especially important since some of the claims may be for refunds of taxes paid as far back as 1991.

Amount to Claim

Veterans can submit a claim based on the actual amount of their disability severance payment by completing Form 1040X, carefully following the instructions. However, there is a simplified method. Veterans can choose instead to claim a standard refund amount based on the calendar year (an individual’s tax year) in which they received the severance payment. Write “Disability Severance Payment” on line 15 of Form 1040X and enter on lines 15 and 22 the standard refund amount listed below that applies:

  • $1,750 for tax years 1991 – 2005
  • $2,400 for tax years 2006 – 2010
  • $3,200 for tax years 2011 – 2016

Claiming the standard refund amount is the easiest way for Veterans to claim a refund, because they do not need to access the original tax return from the year of their lump-sum disability severance payment.

Special Instructions
All Veterans claiming refunds for over payments attributable to their lump-sum disability severance payments should write either “Veteran Disability Severance” or “St. Clair Claim” across the top of the front page of the Form 1040X that they file. Because all amended returns are filed on paper, Veterans should mail their completed Form 1040X, with a copy of the DoD letter, to:

Internal Revenue Service

333 W. Pershing Street, Stop 6503, P5

Kansas City, MO  64108

Veterans eligible for a refund who did not receive a letter from DoD may still file Form 1040X to claim a refund but must include both of the following to verify the disability severance payment:

  • A copy of documentation showing the exact amount of and reason for the disability severance payment, such as a letter from the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) explaining the severance payment at the time of the payment or a Form DD-214, and
  • A copy of either the VA determination letter confirming the Veteran’s disability or a determination that the Veteran’s injury or sickness was either incurred as a direct result of armed conflict, while in extra-hazardous service, or in simulated war exercises, or was caused by an instrumentality of war.

Veterans who did not receive the DoD letter and who do not have the required documentation showing the exact amount of and reason for their disability severance payment will need to obtain the necessary proof by contacting the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS).


For additional information, or to read the original article head over to the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs page HERE. Questions about USAgencies Credit Union? Contact us at 503.275.0300 Option 3 or stop in today!

Save the Date : New Website, Online and Mobile Banking coming 08.21

In our efforts to bring you the best possible online and mobile banking experience, we are upgrading our Website, Online and Mobile Banking solutions. The new system will be available August 21, 2018 for an even better banking experience!

Here are a few of the new features and enhancements:

  • The New Online Banking system will feature innovative solutions. This includes tools that allow you to track your spending habits, set a budget, create goals and more.
  • The New Mobile Banking will feature Fingerprint ID login on mobile devices, Bill Pay and more.
  • Customization of your new Online Banking will allow you to hide, show, and sort accounts any way you want, giving you full control of how you want to view your accounts within the new Online Banking system.
  • Text Message Banking is coming and it will allow you to get quick account information via any mobile device.
  • Live Chat will now be available during business hours giving you more ways to get in touch with us! Our live chat feature is available in both Online and Mobile Banking.

What steps should you take now to get prepared for the upgrade?

  • You will need to register for the new system, so make sure you know your member number.
  • Make sure that we have your current contact information. This includes your address, phone number and email. We want to make sure you do not miss any important reminders or notifications we will be sending out in the coming weeks leading up to the launch!
  • Bill Pay access will be unavailable from 08.17 to 08.20. Your scheduled bill payments and transfers will continue as usual during this. Be sure to make any necessary changes prior to 08.17.

Want to stay updated? Bookmark our Save the Date webpage as we will update the information periodically to keep you informed. Do not hesitate to contact us with any questions!

Save to Win, Family-Style

What are the odds?…

Husband and wife members, Tina and Matt Rea, both won our Save to Win drawing in the same month!

Matt and Tina shared that they’ve had a great experience with Save to Win so far, and that it’s really helped keep saving top of mind. “Every time I get some extra money I think- I should put that in my Save to Win account,” said Matt. They’re both looking forward to possible future wins… and hoping to hit it big with the national drawing.

Save to Win, which has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and on PBS and NPR, was developed by the Doorways to Dreams Fund, the Filene Research Institute and the Michigan Credit Union league. Michigan was the first state to offer the Save to Win program in 2009. Since then, several other states joined this prize-linked savings program, which include Connecticut, Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington & Oregon. To date, the program has awarded more than $17 million in prizes and has helped credit union members save more than $100 million nationwide.

To learn more about Save to Win at USAgencies Credit Union, visit https://www.usacu.org/savetowin.

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