Tag Archives: debt consolidation

How Should I Spend My Stimulus Check?

The stimulus checks promised in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act are starting to land in checking accounts and mailboxes around the country. The $1,200 granted to most middle class adults is a welcome relief during these financially trying times.

Many recipients may be wondering: What is the best way to use this money?

To help you determine the most financially responsible course of action to take with your stimulus check, USAgencies Credit Union has compiled a list of advice and tips on how to use this money.

Cover your basic life expenses

First and foremost, make sure you can afford to cover your basic necessities. With millions of Americans out of work and lots of them still waiting for their unemployment insurance to kick in, many people are struggling to put food on their tables. Most financial experts agree that it’s best not to make any long-term plans for stimulus money until you can comfortably cover everyday expenses.

Charlie Bolognino, CFP and owner of Side-by-Side Financial Planning in Plymouth, Minn., says this step may necessitate creating a new budget that fits the times. With unique spending priorities in place, an absent or diminished income and many expenses, like subscriptions and entertainment costs, not being relevant any longer, it can be helpful to reconfigure an existing budget to better suit present needs. As always, basic necessities, such as food and critical bills, should be prioritized.

Build up your emergency fund

If you’ve already got your basic needs covered, start looking at long-term targets for your stimulus money.

Emergency funds should ideally be robust enough to cover 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses. If you already have an emergency fund, it may have been depleted during the pandemic and need some replenishing. If you don’t yet have an emergency fund, or your fund isn’t large enough to cover several months without a steady income, you may want to use some of the stimulus money to build it up so you have a cushion to fall back on during lean times that are likely to come in the months ahead.

Pay down high-interest debts

According to the Federal Reserve Bank, Americans owed a collective $930 billion in credit card debt during the fourth quarter of 2019. Using some of your stimulus check to pay off high-interest debt would be a great way to get a guaranteed return on the money, says Chris Chen, of Insight Financial Strategists in Newton, Mass.

This advice only applies to credit cards and other private, high-interest loans. The federal government put a 6-month freeze on most student loan debts, so they should not be as high a priority right now.

Boost your savings

If your emergency fund is already full and you’ve made headway on your debt, it can be a good idea to use some of the stimulus money to add to your USAgencies Credit Union savings account. The money in your savings can be used to cover long-term financial goals, such as funding a dream vacation or covering the down payment on a new home.

Consider all your options before choosing how to spend your stimulus money. In all likelihood, this will be a one-time payment received during the pandemic.


How are you spending your stimulus check? If you need further assistance, don’t hesitate to connect with us at 503.275.0300 or info@usacu.org. We’ll be happy to help you maintain financial stability during these uncertain times.

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!

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!

7 Reasons to Consider Consolidation

A brand-new year often inspires positive life changes, such as breaking free of debt. One way to help eliminate debt is by consolidating it into a lower interest rate loan, like USACU’s Slim-Down loan, for example.

Here are 7 reasons you might want to consider a loan consolidation:

  1. Save $$. By consolidating higher interest debt (like credit cards) with a lower interest rate loan, you could potentially save hundreds of dollars over the life of your loan. Wait, hundreds? Yes, hundreds! That’s at least worth looking into right?
  2. Save even more $$! Shave 2% off USACU’s already-low consolidation loan rates when you apply for our Slim-Down loan before February 17th. With rates as low as 6.99% APR* and amounts up to $10,000, we make it easy to save even more $$. Plus, for a limited time, there’s no origination fee – even better!
  3. It’s Easy. It couldn’t be more convenient to consolidate debt with help from USACU. Call or click today and we’ll help you get started in just a few quick steps.
  4. One Payment. Instead of several credit card bills and loan statements, you’ll just have to make one loan payment. Easy, right? We like easy.
  5. Pay Debts Faster. A lower interest rate means you could potentially pay your debt down much faster, because you’ll have less debt to pay down overall. Also, with just one payment–instead of multiple minimum payments–you could chip away at that debt by easily making more than the minimum payment each month.
  6. Improve Cash Flow. If your goal is more cash in your wallet at the end of the month, a consolidation loan can help with that too. By making only one payment, instead of several, you could give yourself a bit more of a cash cushion each month.
  7. Prepay and Save. Get a large chunk of cash after you consolidated your debt? Great! You can prepay your loan at any time with us, with no prepayment penalty or fee. Some loans or credit cards charge when you pay off early- USACU won’t.

There are of course many more reasons a consolidation loan might be the right choice for you… these are just a few!

Whatever your aspirations are for the new year–be it debt consolidation, getting a better auto loan rate, or anything in between–know that your credit union is always here to help with education, resources and products to help you reach your financial goals.

*APR=Annual Percentage Rate. Terms and conditions apply. Connect with us for complete details.


Questions?
Contact our lending department:
Local: (503) 275-0300, ext. 2
Toll-free: (800) 452-0915, ext. 2
Email: loans@usacu.org

Ready to apply for a consolidation loan?
Click here (Hint: you want to select “Signature” under “Personal Loans” when applying)