Tag Archives: GreenPath Financial Wellness

Tax Return Not What You Expected?

In collaboration with our friends at Greenpath

Are you hoping to get a refund from your 2018 tax return? Many people intend to use their refund as a “forced savings plan” (essentially withholding extra taxes on purpose so that they get a larger refund at the end of the year, instead of being tempted to spend it during the year).  However, 42% of taxpayers who file their tax returns early end up using their funds to cover things like rent, food and utilities – catching up on expenses, rather than putting money away for savings.

How you plan for your taxes and what you do with your refund can give you a boost in your overall financial health. On the flip side, if you don’t receive the refund you expected, or if you find yourself owing taxes, it can cause a lot of stress. Our financial counselors offer a few tips for putting your tax return to work for your financial health.

1. Get a Clear Picture of Your Financial Situation

If you didn’t have a specific plan for the funds but typically depend on them for breathing room or extra cash, take a step back and work to get a clear picture of your financial situation. A great place to start is by using Money Management to track your income and expenses, which can help highlight the areas you may need to make adjustments. Our certified financial counselor can also provide free financial counseling and can assist you with setting your budget and figuring out next steps based on your individual situation.

2. Address Past-due Bills

If your plan for your tax return was to catch up on past-due bills, consider how you still might be able to address the issue. See if you can trim expenses in another area to free up money so that you can get current on your bills, and open a dialogue with your lender/creditor. They may be willing to consider your situation and find flexible solutions for temporary relief or even permanent refinancing options to help the debt fit better into your budget. Getting ahead of a problem you are anticipating is key. You may be surprised at how willing a lender will be to work with you.

Another way to stay on top of your bills, is by setting them up for automatic payment with free Bill Pay. You can pay virtually anyone, anytime in the United States, saving you time and money from having to remember several logins for different payees.

3.  Pay Off Debts to Save Money and Find Breathing Room

If you did get a refund, it can be an extra boost on your journey to financial health.

Often, addressing highest-interest debt is the first step. By paying off debts faster, you save money on interest, and as you pay it off, you free up more money to devote to savings. If you’re all caught up on debt, a great next step is to build an emergency fund that will protect you if you have an unexpected loss of income or unplanned expense.

What to Do If You Can’t Afford to Pay Your Tax Bill

If you did not anticipate having to pay taxes at the end of the year but now have a bill, you still have options. The IRS has pre-set guidelines on options that are available to filers that may not be able to foot the entire bill at once. Flexible options like deferred payments or long-term payment plans allow a restructuring of an existing repayment plan, depending on the circumstances.

While there are typically some additional fees associated with these options, this may be a  more affordable way to address the tax debt, as opposed to borrowing from high-interest sources like credit cards, cash advances, or payday loans.

Get Ahead of Next Year: Adjust Your Withholding if Needed

If you owed taxes in 2018, you may need to increase your withholdings (the amount that your employer deducts from each paycheck for taxes). Paying a little more in each check so that you don’t have to pay a large tax bill at the end of the year, can be a much more appealing alternative. Consult with your company’s Human Resources department, or the equivalent, for more information on this. Consulting with a tax professional can also be a helpful experience in determining what the best course of action would be.


Questions? We are here to help. Connect with us at 503-275-0300 or by visiting our branch located at 95 SW Taylor St., Portland, OR 97204.

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.

Introducing… GreenPath

USAgencies is pleased to announce our newest member benefit – GreenPath Financial Wellness.

As a valued member of USAgencies, we are committed to serving you.  And as a benefit to you, we are providing you with free access to money management and financial education services.

USAgencies has teamed up with GreenPath to bring you GreenPath Financial Wellness, a financial education and counseling program.  Through comprehensive education and exceptional service, GreenPath has been assisting individuals for more than 50 years.

As a member of USAgencies, you can receive assistance from GreenPath with:

  • Personal and family budgeting
  • Understanding your personal credit report and how to improve your score
  • Personal money management
  • Debt repayment (fees may apply)
  • Avoiding bankruptcy, foreclosure, and repossession

GreenPath can give personalized answers to your individual needs.  For issues ranging from developing a proactive savings plan to preventing home foreclosure, advice is only a phone call or click away.

To learn more about this new service, simply call 1-877-337-3399 or visit USACU.org/education.