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Share Insurance - Your Money is Safe with a Credit Union11/25/2020

Share Insurance Protects Your Money

Secure Savings

Federal Share Insurance

Safeguarding your hard-earned money is vitally important. That's why Kellogg Community Credit Union has federal share insurance, administered by an independent government agency, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).

How Much is Insured?

The National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF) protects aggregate savings up to at least $250,000 in your checking accounts, all savings accounts, including regular share savings accounts, secondary savings accounts, youth savings accounts and certificates.

IRA Safety

The coverage for individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and Keoghs is also $250,000. Funds in traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs are added together and insured in the aggregate to $250,000. A Keogh account is insured separately up to $250,000 as well. It's important to note that share insurance doesn't cover investment products such as mutual funds and annuities.

Individual & Joint Accounts

Something else about share insurance: It separately insures individual and joint accounts. For example, say you have an individual account containing $250,000, and a joint account with your spouse containing $250,000. Each account is insured separately for a total coverage of $500,000.

So how do you know we're federally insured? All federally insured credit unions–like yours–must post the official NCUA insurance sign in their offices. As do other NCUSIF-insured credit unions, we abide by high standards of safety and soundness. Because of that, NCUSIF is a strong, well-capitalized fund.

So, rest assured, your money is safe. You can count on Kellogg Community Credit Union to take good care of it.

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How to Celebrate Thanksgiving During COVID-1911/18/2020

Celebrating Thanksgiving During COVID-19

Virtual Thanksgiving celebration

It’s turkey season! Here’s how to celebrate Thanksgiving 2020 without compromising the health and safety of you and your family.

Planning a Thanksgiving dinner

The best plan for a safe Thanksgiving this year, is staying home and enjoying the company of your immediate household. If you do plan to host an in-person Thanksgiving dinner this year, take these steps to ensure your day is as safe as possible

  • Keep it outside.  Moving Thanksgiving dinner outdoors greatly reduces spreading coronavirus, according to the CDC. If that’s not possible, keep your home well-ventilated during Thanksgiving dinner by opening some windows and doors.
  • Limit attendees. The CDC cautions that larger gatherings, by default, pose a greater risk of spread. It's best to limit you gathering to only one other household, if possible.
  • Keep it local - It’s also important to consider your guests’ hometowns when drawing up an invite list. The CDC recommends keeping Thanksgiving dinners to local guests only this year.
  • Short and sweet. The CDC warns that longer gatherings pose a greater risk than shorter dinners. You can cut down on the hours your guests linger around the table by adding a finish time to your invitations.

Attending and hosting a dinner

Whether attending a Thanksgiving dinner or welcoming dinner guests into your own home, follow the CDC’s general guidelines for reducing the risk of contagion.

  • Set up sanitizing station. Have guests sanitize upon arrival or offer to bring one to your host’s home.
  • Space seating. Aim to space guest with several feet between each chair.
  • Follow basic hygiene practices. Follow practices, such as coughing and sneezing into the bend of your elbow.

Going virtual - the best option for 2020

According to the CDC, anyone who’s been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not met the criteria for when it is safe to be near others, currently has symptoms of COVID-19, is waiting for COVID-19 test results, may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days or is considered high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should not attend any in-person holiday celebrations.

With cases of COVID-19 on the rise, the best option for safe Thanksgiving celebration is a virtual Thanksgiving.  It's hard not to be sitting at the dining table next our loved ones during the holidays, but it's important to be safe so those loved ones can be with us for many holidays to come. 

How to plan a festive virtual celebration:

  • Plan a shared dinner experience in advance. This can include a shared menu and lighting the same scented candles.
  • Prep your dinners together on a video chat.
  • Drop off a basket of Thanksgiving treats at each of your virtual guests’ doorsteps.
  • Video chat your “shared” Thanksgiving dinners.
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Managing Your Finances During the COVID-19 Pandemic11/12/2020

Manage Your Money During COVID-19

Woman on laptop 

The COVID-19 pandemic is not only causing fear and uncertainty about our health, but our livelihood as well. Many wonder “What happens to me and my family if my employer has to lay off people or my hours are cut?”

Track Your Expenses

Now more than ever, it’s important to keep track of your expenses to make sure you’re not spending more than you make or increasing your credit card debt. If you feel like you live paycheck to paycheck, then now is definitely time to take a hard look at your expenses, see where you can make adjustments, and take firm control.

Create a Budget

To get control, you need to know exactly what you’re dealing with – how much money is coming in each month and how much is going out. To get a clear picture, create a budget. There are many apps and online templates you can choose from. Many of them provide visual images, like pie charts, that help you see how big of a chunk each expense is taking from your take-home pay.

A budget will tell you if you’re setting aside enough money for the essentials (rent, utilities, food) and how much is being eaten up by non-essentials (like concerts, eating out, cable, or gym membership). If money is tight, cancel non-essential subscription services temporarily. You can always restart them when things get better. The silver lining of this pandemic is that since most of us are practicing social distancing to minimize contagion, you may already be saving money by not going out.

Avoid High-Interest Cards

A Platinum credit card from Kellogg Community Credit Union offers many ways to save. Learn more about the great low rates and member benefits off KCCU’s Edge and Elite credit cards. Transfer the balance from the highest card to a lower interest card and pay more than the minimum whenever possible. Also, until you have paid off the debt, only use your credit card for emergencies.

Emergency Savings

Another important task is to beef up your emergency savings or start an emergency savings account if you haven’t done so. Ideally, you want to save at least 3 months of your take-home pay. You can start with as little as $5 a week. Simply save $5 consistently each week and when you think you can add a little more, increase your deposit. To make this easier, set up an automatic transfer from your checking account. It’s easy to do within Online Banking.

Know that KCCU is always by your side and we will do everything in our power to help you get through this crisis. If you need help, give us a call at 269-968-9251 or apply for Financial Relief Assistance

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Beware of the Pending Package Scam11/5/2020

Pending Package Scam

package scam_woman on laptpop

Everyone loves a surprise package, and scammers are taking the excitement out of that experience by using bogus packages as a cover for a scam that tricks victims into sharing personal information. Here’s all you need to know about the pending package scam.

How the scam plays out

In the pending package scam, the victim receives a text message from a contact who is an alleged mail carrier or represents a package-delivery service. The contact tells them that they were unable to deliver a package to the victim’s home. The victim is asked to reply to confirm their identity; however, as soon as they engage with the scammer, they are asked to share personal information or credit card details for scheduling delivery. This, of course, places the victim at risk for identity theft.

Red flags

There are two primary red flags that can warn you about the pending package scam.

First, the original text or email will generally not inform the victim of the identity of the company they represent. The scammer will only claim to be an employee of a mail or package-delivery service, but will not verify if they work for UPS, FedEx or another legitimate organization.

Second, the scammers don’t always check if the victim actually has a package in transit. They’ll either assume the victim has recently ordered something online or they’ll claim a friend or family member has sent a surprise gift. If you know that neither of these is true, you can be on the alert for a possible scam.

Don’t get scammed!

Take these precautions to avoid being the next victim of a pending package scam:

  • Be wary of unsolicited communications. Your mail carrier and package delivery services will never contact you via text message. If a package cannot be delivered for any reason, they will usually leave a note on the door.
  • Track all incoming packages. After placing an order for an item, record the tracking number for the package so you can easily verify its whereabouts. This way, you can quickly confirm the authenticity of any suspicious texts, emails or phone calls about your package.
  • Never share personal information with an unverified contact. Be super-wary when asked to share sensitive information via text. If you suspect fraud, end the conversation immediately and do not engage further.
  • Never click on links in unsolicited text messages. Links in text messages can download malware onto your computer or device.

If you’ve been targeted

If you believe you’ve been targeted by a pending package scam, it’s important not to engage with the scammer. Delete any suspicious text messages and block the number of the contact. You can also report the scam at FTC.gov .

 

 

 

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Millennials Hit Hardest by Coronavirus Recession10/21/2020

Millennials and the Coronavirus Recession

Millennials Hit Hard

The coronavirus recession hasn’t been easy on anyone, but millennials may have been hit hardest.

According to many economic experts, the 73 million millennials in the U.S. could experience financial setbacks from COVID-19 that have a longer-reaching impact than those experienced by any other age group.

Here’s why the coronavirus pandemic has been especially hard for those in 25- to 39-year-old age bracket.

Another recession for millennials

Economic recessions are nothing new for this demographic. They already lived through the Great Recession of 2008, and for many, the impact of the last recession is still being felt today.

The Great Recession hit millennials when they were still in college or just starting out on their career paths. For some, it meant the choices for their first post-college job were very slim. For others, it meant dropping out of college when there was no longer a guarantee of a degree netting them a higher-paying job. Regardless of how they were impacted, many millennials are still playing catch-up from the recession of 2008.

“For this cohort, already indebted and a step behind on the career ladder, this second pummeling could keep them from accruing the wealth of older generations,” says Gray Kimbrough, Washington, D.C. economist and American University professor.

Job losses across the board

More than 40 million workers in the U.S. have filed for unemployment since the beginning of the pandemic, but this is another area where millennials have been hit harder than most.

 

According to a recent report by Data for Progress, 52% of respondents under age 45 have lost jobs, been furloughed or had their work hours cut due to COVID-19. In contrast, just 26% of respondents over age 45 have suffered a job loss of some kind during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Millions of millennials have lost jobs that are impossible to do while adhering to social distancing mandates. At the height of the economic lockdowns in April, the economy shed a staggering 20.5 million jobs. Of these jobs, 7.7 million were in the leisure and hospitality sector — a sector that is dominated by millennials. An additional 1.4 million lost jobs were in health care, primarily in ambulatory services — another field that employs a disproportionately large number of millennials.

 

No nest egg

Many millennials who are still on the rebound from the Great Recession are carrying piles of debt and have minimal savings — or none at all.

According to surveys conducted in 2018 by the Federal Reserve, 1 in 4 millennial families have a negative net worth, or debts that outweigh their assets. One in six millennials would not be able to find the funds to cover a $400 emergency. For these young employees, a relatively mild setback from the coronavirus can be devastating to their finances.

Millennials also tend to neglect their retirements. A recent report by the National Institute on Retirement Security found that 66% of millennials in the workforce have nothing put away for their retirement.

Can millennials recover?

Millennials had still not fully recovered from the Great Recession of 2008 when the coronavirus pummeled the economy. They have shouldered a large share of job losses and have little or no savings to fall back on.

But there is hope. Millennials may not be as young as they were during the Great Recession, but they still have time to bounce back. They can use the unique challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to reevaluate their career track and move onward toward a brighter future.

This age group, also known as Gen Y, is famous for its resilience and can-do attitude. They’ve gotten through the Great Recession of 2008 and they’ll beat the coronavirus recession, too. With hard work, perseverance and small steps toward a better future, millennials can pull themselves up and regain their financial health.

If you’re experiencing financial difficulties, we can help. Call, click or stop by Kellogg Community Credit Union to speak to a member service representative today.

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When Does it Make Sense to Pay a Bill with a Credit Card?10/14/2020

When to Pay a Bill with a Credit Card?

When to use a credit card to pay a bill

Credit cards and debit cards both offer incredible convenience. With just a quick swipe or a linked account, a payment can be instantly processed. It seems like a no-brainer to use that convenience for taking the hassle out of paying bills. But, is it a smart idea to pay monthly bills with a credit card or debit card?

Choosing to pay a bill with a card can have a significant impact on your general financial wellness — for better or for worse. That’s why it’s important to consider the many variables of this decision before going ahead with it.

Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of paying monthly bills with a credit card or debit card.

The advantages of paying bills with a credit card or debit card

There are many reasons you may want to pay your monthly bills with a credit or debit card when possible. Here are just a few of the advantages of paying with plastic:

  • Automate monthly payments - Setting up automatic payments for monthly bills through a credit card or debit card will help ensure payments are always on time.
  • Build credit with a consistent monthly payment - Using a credit card for a monthly bill is a great way to amp up a credit score without running the risk of overspending. Just be sure to pay the bill in full and on time every time.
  • Earn rewards - Using a credit card that offers rewards for a bill that needs to be paid anyway will help to accumulate those rewards points and even cash back without overspending.
  • Consumer protection - Paying with plastic offers the consumer the advantages of purchase protection, zero or minimal liability in case of fraud, guaranteed returns and more.
  • Pay your bills quickly -  With a credit or debit card, paying a bill only takes a few clicks or phone prompts, and you avoid the hassle of writing out checks and using snail mail.
  • Budget easily - Paying with a credit or debit card makes for easy tracking of monthly spending.
  • Payments post promptly - Bill payments made via credit or debit card will generally post within one or two business days. Contrast that with a check that needs to be mailed out, delivered to the correct party and then deposited and cleared until the payment is finally processed.

The disadvantages of paying bills with credit or debit cards

Here’s the flip side of paying bills with plastic:

  • Fees - There may be fees for paying the bill with a credit card. Pay close attention to the payment options on every bill; some service providers charge a processing fee for paying with a debit or credit card.
  • It can make a difficult financial situation worse - For consumers who are already carrying a sizable amount of debt, it may not be the best idea to charge a monthly bill to a credit card. Similarly, it isn’t responsible to set up an automatic monthly payment through a debit card that is linked to an account that may not have enough money to cover the charge each month.
  • Credit utilization may cross the threshold to an undesirable rate -  One of the key components of an excellent credit score is a low credit utilization rate. For consumers with a minimal amount of available credit, charging too many bills to a credit card can cause their score to plunge.
  • Interest may accrue - Consumers who cannot pay their entire credit card bill each month would be saddled with more accrued interest than they can afford if they choose to pay their monthly bills with a credit card.

 

Which of my bills can I pay with a credit or debit card?

Fees May Apply

These monthly bills can usually be paid with a credit card, but you may need to pay a fee to do so:

  • Car insurance
  • Home insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Taxes

Usually Fee-Free

The following monthly bills usually allow you to pay with a credit card or debit card, and without a fee:

  • Subscription services
  • Phone bills
  • Utility bills
  • Internet providers
  • Cable providers

Likely Not Able to Pay with Card

You will likely not be able to pay the following monthly bills with a credit or debit card:

  • Mortgage
  • Rent
  • Car payments

Before deciding whether to pay a specific bill with a credit or debit card, it’s best to check with your provider to find out if this is a viable option and if there will be a fee attached for paying with plastic.

The bottom line

Sometimes, paying bills with a credit card or debit card makes perfect financial sense, but it sometimes does not. Before deciding which way to go on any particular bill, consider all the relevant factors detailed above to be sure you’re making the responsible choice.

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Discounts you can take advantage of to lower your auto insurance cost during COVID-1910/7/2020

How can I save on car insurance during the COVID-19?

auto insurance

With less time on the road, there are opportunities to save. Between self-isolation, working and schooling from home, and less recreational travel, you may find yourself driving less. And with less time on the road, there’s potential to save your auto insurance policy.

4 Ways to Save

Here are four ways you may be able to reduce your auto insurance premium during the COVID-19 pandemic.                                        

Low Mileage

Customers that were previously unable to may now be able to qualify for lower mileage discounts, due to stay-at-home orders or remote work.           

Self Storage

If a car is safely stored with no intention of driving it and you do not have a loan on your vehicle, you can decrease or pause coverage on your vehicle.           

Refunds & Rebates

For the months April through June, most auto insurances distributed refunds and rebates. Although these have begun to stop, it still doesn’t hurt to check in with your carrier.

Retro- Pay

Some carriers have indicated that they may retroactively give back more of their savings from 2020 through COVID-related discounts of 10% or so that will be available later this year.

Other ways to save

You may be eligible for one or more of the many auto insurance discounts out there. You could save money for being a safe driver, multiple household vehicles, or for even just having an alarm system in your vehicle.

Opportunities that some carriers offer

Multi-Car

Multiple household vehicles insured with the same company can usually get a discount of between 8-25%. 
                                      

Car Safety

Safety equipment like anti-lock brakes, air bags, and daytime running lights – can be a discount of up to 40% off of medical payments or personal injury protection coverage.

Anti-Theft

 Having anti-theft features can get you 5-25% off your comprehensive auto insurance.     

New Car

Available for cars less than three years old.

Good Driver

If you have not any incidents (accidents or moving violations), you could qualify for a discount of 10-40%.                                        

Outside Your Insurance

Occupational, alumni associations and professional organizations can even provide discounts.

Discounts may be limited if the policy holder qualifies for more than one discount and discounts are not all applied automatically. Call KCCU Insurance Agency today and one of our agents can determine if your policy qualifies for any discounts.    

KCCU Insurance Agency - 800-632-9609 or visit us online 

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IRS Reveals List of Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 20209/30/2020

Tax Scams for 2020

Tax Scams to look out for

Each year, the IRS publishes the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of tax scams most prevalent during that year’s tax season. This year, with COVID-19 pushing off the federal tax deadline to July 15, the IRS held off publishing the list until early July, and of course it’s loaded with COVID-19-related scams.

Whether you’ve filed for an extension, you’ve had your taxes filed for months or you’ve gotten them in just in time at the mid-July deadline, be on the lookout for the Dirty Dozen of 2020, which continues spreading for months after Tax Day.

1. Phishing. Fake emails or websites impersonate the IRS while trying to steal information about refunds or Economic Impact Payments (EIPs).

2. Fake charities: Criminals exploit the fear surrounding the pandemic to set up bogus charities and then rob innocent victims who believe they’re helping the unfortunate.

3. Threatening impersonator phone calls: An alleged IRS agent threatens arrest, deportation or license revocation if taxes are not paid immediately by gift card or wire transfer.

4. Social media scams: Scammers use information found on social media platforms for a variety of scams.

5. EIP or refund theft: Scammers steal taxpayers’ identities, file false tax returns in their names and pocket the refunds and their EIPs.

6. Senior fraud: Scammers, or long-term caregivers of the elderly, file tax returns on their behalf and pocket the refunds and EIPs.

7. Scams targeting non-English speakers: Scammers impersonate IRS agents and threaten jail time, deportation or revocation of driver’s license if an immediate payment is not made.

8. Unscrupulous return preparers: Alleged tax preparers will offer their services and then file a tax return on the victim’s behalf and pocket the refund.

9. Offer in Compromise scams: Bogus tax debt resolution companies make false claims about settling tax debts for “pennies on the dollar” through an Offer in Compromise (OIC) in exchange for a steep fee.

10. Fake payments with repayment demands: A scammer files a fake tax return on a victim’s behalf and has the refund deposited into the taxpayer’s checking account. The scammer then impersonates the IRS, telling the victim that the refund was mistakenly inflated and the victim must return the extra funds via gift card or wire transfer.

11. Payroll and HR scams: Scammers steal W-2s and other tax information. They then impersonate employees, asking HR staff to change direct deposit information for their paychecks.

12. Ransomware: Malware infects a victim’s computer, network or server. Sensitive data is encrypted and locked. The scammer demands a ransom payment in return for the victim’s information.

 

Protect yourself

Remember these basic rules and information to stay safe:

  • The IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers via email.
  • The IRS will never insist on a specific means of payment.
  • The IRS will not threaten taxpayers over the phone or insist upon immediate payment.
  • Refund checks will never be deposited in a taxpayer’s account if they have not filed taxes.
  • Taxpayers can search for legitimate charities using the IRS’s charity search tool.
  • Taxpayers can use the IRS’s OIC tool to see if they qualify for an authentic offer.
  • Legitimate tax preparers will have a preparer Tax Identification Number (TIN).
  • Personal information should never be shared online with an unverified contact.
  • Links embedded in emails from unverified sources should never be clicked.
  • Tax software should not be downloaded unless it features multi-factor authentication.

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All You Need to Know About Selling Your Home During COVID-199/23/2020

Sell Your Home

Selling Your Home During COVID-19

Selling a home is a move people generally plan years in advance, and 2020 was no different. For many homeowners, the hot real estate market of spring and summer of 2020 was going to be the season they put their homes up for sale. And then came the coronavirus — and the world turned upside down. With people struggling just to get by financially, and health and safety paramount, selling a home seemed like a dream from another lifetime.

 

Real Estate Highs and Lows

March & April

Records of home sales in the U.S. from the beginning of the outbreak reflect these feelings, with a sharp decline of 21% in total homes sold in March, and another decrease of 17.8% in April, according to data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) .

Current Market

tNow, though, the U.S. real estate market is looking very different. As the economy limps toward a recovery, many buyers are searching for a new place to call home and the housing market is thriving. In fact, national home sales climbed a record 20.7 percent in June compared with home sales from a year ago, global pandemic notwithstanding

Declining Rates

One crucial factor driving the surge in home sales is the declining mortgage rates. In the beginning of March, mortgage rates plunged to a record low of 3.13 percent. Since then, the market has seen several smaller increases and decreases. On Aug. 6, history was made when the national average mortgage rate hit 2.88%, the lowest rate on record of all time.

Despite the flourishing housing market, many homeowners who’ve planned to sell their homes this year are still reluctant to take that leap. And it’s no wonder, with restrictions still in place and so much uncertainty still surrounding the economy.

If you’ve been thinking of selling your home, you still can. Here’s all you need to know about selling your house during the COVID-19 crisis.

Are you really ready to sell?

Before putting your home on the market, it’s important to consider all the variables involved in this step, and be sure it’s a financially responsible move.

With the pandemic causing a slowdown of the economy, life circumstances you may have relied on, such as a steady job and salary, may not be dependable anymore. Before calling a real estate agent, it’s a good idea to review all the relevant numbers to be sure that selling your home now is in your best interest.

Stage your home to sell

Anyone selling their home knows they need to showcase it in the best possible light, and never has this been truer than now. With restrictions still in place in many states and lots of people stuck home in quarantine, many buyers will be doing their touring virtually. For sellers, this means that staging and photographing a home well is more important than ever.

Get help from a Pro

Consider hiring a professional home-staging and photography service to truly present your home in the best way possible. If your furniture is shabby or your home is too cluttered to be attractively displayed, you can also invest in virtual staging software or hire a team of professional virtual stagers to help you update the furniture and clean out the clutter with just a few clicks. Either option can cost you upward of $75 an image, but the NAR report from 2019 shows that on average, sellers see about a 5% return on this investment.

Staging Tips from the Pros

Here are some general tips to follow when staging and photographing your home, as shared by Buddy Mountcastle, a real estate photographer based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.:

  • Clean up the outside. Curb appeal is the first selling point for any home. Make sure there are no weeds, overgrown grass or kids’ toys ruining the first impression of your home
  • Let the sunshine in. Aim to shoot mid-day. Scrub your windows clean, open the curtains and let the natural sunshine brighten up every room.
  • Undo the lived-in look. Remove all personal effects from your home before going camera-crazy. This includes stray shoes, family photos, piles of magazines, small kitchen appliances and more.
  • Shoot from the right spot. When capturing a room on camera, try to get as much of the space in the frame. Aim to include three walls, which can mean shooting from the corner or doorway. It’s also important to shoot straight and from chest height so as not to distort the room.

Virtual Tour

To make it easier for buyers to view your home, you can post a virtual tour on your online listing, and offer the option of scheduling a live tour with an agent through FaceTime or Zoom.

Play it safe

If you will be allowing potential buyers into your home, don’t forget to play it safe. Set up a box of disposable masks, shoe covers and sanitizing wipes at the door for all visitors who will be tramping through your home. If you will be hosting an open house, it’s best to allow a limited number of people inside at a time to make social distancing possible.

Price it right

Fewer homeowners are putting their houses up for sale this year, but the pool of buyers is also smaller than usual. This means you won’t be able to jack up the price of your home for way more than it’s worth. Work with an agent to look at comparable home sales in the area and to determine a fair asking price. Also, as always, list a selling price a bit higher than your actual desired price to allow for negotiations.

Closing during COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic will likely affect every aspect of selling your home, up until the closing. With many workers in the home-selling industry, from professional home inspectors, to mortgage lenders, to movers working with a smaller team now, be prepared for various steps of the home-selling process to be delayed.

Be Patient

It’s best to be patient and to anticipate that things may take longer than usual. This is true with lenders, as low mortgage rates are triggering a spike in refinance applications across the country and lenders are busier than ever.

COVID-19 has wrecked all sorts of plans, but selling your home does not have to be one of them. With some adjustments and altered expectations, you can successfully sell your home during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Best Way to Use a Home Equity Loan9/16/2020

Home Equity Loan

What’s the Best Way to Use a Home Equity Loan?

Q: With interest rates falling and home prices rising, it seems like a great time to tap into my home’s equity using a home equity loan. What’s the best way to use these funds?

A: A home equity loan can be a fantastic way to source extra funds during a falling-rates environment. Tapping into your home’s equity, or the positive difference between what is owed on a home and its current value, will give you the funds you need for a large expense with no additional strings attached.

With interest rates on a Kellogg Community Credit Union Home Equity Loan as low as 4.250% APR*, the repayment plan is always affordable. If approved, you’ll receive the funds in one lump sum.

Here are three forward-thinking uses for a home equity loan:

1. Home improvements

One of the most popular uses for home equity is for . These can be as major as adding a 1,000-square-foot extension to your home, as minor as replacing old carpet with new hardwood flooring or anything in between.

Using your home’s equity for home improvement projects is a smart choice. For one, the money you put into the renovations acts as an investment. If you choose improvements that increase your home’s value, you can make back the money you spent or even see a return when you sell your home.

It’s best to go for improvements that add lasting value to your home instead of blowing big bucks on superficial remodeling projects that may look dated just a few years down the line.

2. Debt consolidation

Another popular use for a home equity loan is to consolidate high-interest debt. Paying off multiple debts at high interest rates can be cumbersome and difficult to manage. Worse, the heavy interest rates mean more of the borrower’s money goes toward the lender and less goes toward paying down the principal of the debts. Using a home equity loan to consolidate debt to a single and no-interest or low-interest loan can slash a pile of debt by several thousands of dollars and help shorten repayment time by several years.

3. College education

When interest rates are falling, funding a college education through a home equity loan instead of a high-interest student loan can be a smart choice. Similarly, homeowners struggling to meet their student debt payments without defaulting on the loan might want to use their home’s equity to pay off the debt quickly and replace it with a more manageable low-interest loan. It’s important to note that paying off a federal student loan with home equity might not be the best choice, as these loans are sometimes eligible for partial or complete forgiveness..

Before you take out a home equity loan

A home equity loan can provide homeowners with the funds they need for a home improvement project, to get their debt under control, pay for their college education or other expenses and large purchases. However, before taking out a home equity loan  it’s important to run the numbers so you are sure you can easily meet the regular loan payments. Otherwise, you risk defaulting on the loan and losing your home.

If you’re ready to take out a home equity loan, look no further than Kellogg Community Credit Union. Our rates and terms are always competitive. Visit us online or give us a call at 269-968-9251 to get started on your loan application today.

* APR = Annual Percentage Rate and is valid as of 9/2/20. Rates are subject to change without notice. Subject to credit approval and other conditions. Rates may vary based on term. Equal Housing Opportunity.

 

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How to Recognize and Protect Yourself from Scams9/3/2020

online scammers

Protect Yourself from Scams

Here at Kellogg Community Credit Union, our biggest priority is your financial wellness. To help keep you safe, we’ve made this guide about recognizing and protecting yourself from scams.

Five ways to spot a scammer

1.They ask for detailed information before agreeing to process an application.
2. They insist on a specific method of payment.
3. They send a check for an inflated amount to a seller or “employee,” and then ask the victim to mail them the extra money. Of course, the original check will not clear.
4. You can’t find any information about the company the caller allegedly represents.
5. You’re pressured to act now.

Who are the targets?

Here are some of the most common targets of scams:

  • The unemployed. If you’re job-hunting, don’t respond to emails offering you a “dream position” you never applied to have.
  • The aging. Older people often spend lots of time online. They can also be less aware of the dangers lurking there.
  • Children. Children will more readily share information with strangers, which can then be used to steal their identity.

What do scams look like?

These are some of the most common scams:

  • Cyberhacking. Hackers gain remote access to your computer-and personal information.
  • Phishing scams. Scammers bait you into sharing personal information, which they use to hack your accounts or steal your identity.
  • Mystery shopper. A bogus company will “hire” you to purchase an item in a store and then report back on the experience. Before you get started, though, you’ll have to pay a hefty fee, which you’ll never see again.
  • Job offers. Scammers “hire” you for a position and then scam you by sending you an inflated check, as detailed above.
  • Sweetheart scams. A scammer pretending to be an online lover will con you into sending them money and gifts or sharing personal information.
  • Fraudulent investments. Scammers reach out to victims with information about lucrative investments that don’t exist.

10 ways to protect yourself from scams

  1. Never share personal information online
  2. Don’t open unsolicited emails. If you do, do not click on any links in them.
  3. Never send money by insecure methods to an unknown party.
  4. Protect your devices by using the most current operating systems, choosing two-factor authentication and using strong, unique passwords for every account.
  5. Choose the strongest privacy settings for your social media accounts.
  6. Keep yourself in the know about the latest scams
  7.  Educate your kids about basic computer safety and privacy
  8. If you have elderly parents, talk to them about common scams and teach them to protect themselves.
  9. If a government agency or a company calls and asks you to share personal information, tell them you’ll contact them on your own.
  10. Never accept a job or pay for a purchase or service without researching the company involved.
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The Back to School Guide for These Unconventional Times9/2/2020

Back to School During Covid-19

Covid-19 Back to School Guide

This year, back-to-school season is all about getting ready for a school year that promises to be unlike any other. Here’s our guide to helping your child prepare for the new school year in these unconventional times.

Talk to your child about what to expect

The more your child knows about the dynamics of the upcoming school year, the better off they’ll be. As the situation evolves, and you learn more details about the year’s schooling, speak to your child about what to expect.

Create a back-from-school protocol to keep your home safe

If your child will be going back to school full-time, or even partially, it’s important to establish a sanitizing ritual for them to adhere to when they walk through the front door after school each day.

“When children return from school, they should immediately wash their hands,” advises board-certified pediatrician Dr. Candice W. Jones. “Once at home, at the very least, they should remove clothes/shoes and place them in the laundry, or in a designated safe place for disinfecting. A shower would be great but is not absolutely necessary.”

 

Zoom in on remote schooling

Dr. Linda Carling, an associate research scientist at Johns Hopkins University, shares these tips for helping children succeed at remote learning:

  • Encourage movement. Squeeze in some stretching breaks throughout the school day and pencil in larger chunks of time for longer exercises.
  • Reduce distractions. Create a distraction-free zone for your child’s learning to help boost their focus.
  • Adjust your schedule as needed. If possible, adjust your own schedule so you can be on hand to help your child with their remote learning as necessary.
  • Provide immediate positive feedback. Each time your child successfully follows instructions, provide immediate and positive feedback.

 

Prepare for Mask-Wearing

Help your child prepare for face mask wearing while at school,
  • Modele positivity. Though you may find it difficult to wear a mask yourself, you can help your child build up a positive attitude about mask-wearing by talking to them about how your mask is keeping you and others safe.
  • Practice mask-wearing at home. This will help your child grow accustomed to wearing a mask and help to ensure your child is wearing it correctly.
  • Find the Right Fit. Make mask-wearing easier for the sensory child by finding the most comfortable style, whether that’s a classic ear-loop mask, a bandanna-style covering or a neck gaiter. Extenders or button headbands can also be a welcome relief for irritated ears.
  • Make if Fun. Make masks enjoyable by choosing a child-friendly pattern. You can go with these adorable bear face masks from Amazon, have your child design their own mask on Etsy, choose an extra breathable and lightweight mask from Athleta or pick out a mask featuring your child’s favorite movie character from Disney.
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Scam Alert - Counterfeit Bills8/20/2020

How to Spot Counterfeit Cash

How to Spot a Counterfeit Bill

Printers and software have gotten better, so counterfeit money has gotten harder to spot. Here are eight simple ways to detect it along with what to if you find some!

Counterfeiting is on the rise

The coronavirus pandemic has brought with it a wave of scams, with no signs of slowing down. These scams are also producing a surge of counterfeit bills into circulation. Using cutting-edge technology, scammers create bills that look just like the real thing to the untrained eye.
Unfortunately, once counterfeit bills are passed, their new owner can become liable for passing them on to someone else.


In an effort to combat the reach of counterfeit bills, the Secret Service and the U.S. Treasury have added several identifying features to legitimate dollar bills to help citizens and business owners determine whether they are authentic.

The Real Deal - 8 Things to Look For

Here are eight things to check for when determining if a bill is the real deal.

1. A hologram of the face image on the bill

When held up to the light, the hologram on the bill should match the face on the front of the bill. Scammers will often bleach a lower denomination bill and try to pass it off as a bill of a higher denomination — but they can’t change the interior hologram. So, if the $100 bill is really a counterfeit bill created from a $5 one, holding the bill up to the light will reveal the face of Abraham Lincoln, and not Benjamin Franklin, who appears on authentic $100s.

2. A thin vertical strip of text spelling out the bill’s denomination

Holding the note up to the light will also display this sign of authenticity on genuine bills.

3. Color-shifting ink

All new-series bills, except for fivers, were designed with this trick: If you tilt the bill back and forth, the numeral in the lower right hand corner will shift from green to black and back to green again.

4. Watermark

The watermark of the bill can be seen in an unprinted space to the right of the portrait when the bill is held up to the light.

5. Security thread

Also apparent when the bill is held up to light, the security thread is a thin strip running from the top of the face on the bill until its bottom. The security strip is positioned to the right of the portrait on $10 and $50 bills, and to the left of the portrait on $5s, $20s and $100s.

6. Ultraviolet glow

You’ll need an ultraviolet light for this to work, but it’s an instant reveal about the bill’s authenticity. When held up to an ultraviolet light, $5 bills glow blue, $10 bills glow orange, $20 bills glow green, $50 bills glow yellow, and $100 bills glow red.

7. Microprinting

For yet another sign of a bill’s authenticity, you can look for tiny microprinting on the bill’s security thread, which spells out its denomination in all-caps text.

8. Fine line printing patterns

Look for very fine lines behind the portrait and on the other side of the bill as well.

What to do if you’ve been passed a counterfeit bill?

If a note you’ve been passed does not hold up to the authenticity test, and you believe it’s a
counterfeit bill, the U.S. Treasury advises the following course of action:

  • Do not put yourself in a position of danger.
  • You can also mail it to your nearest Secret Service office.
  • Do not return the bill to the passer.
  • If possible, delay the passer with an excuse.
  • Take note of the passer’s physical appearance and record their vehicle license plate if possible.
  • Contact your local police department or call your local Secret Service office.
  • Write your initials and date in the white border area of the suspected counterfeit note.
  • Do not handle the counterfeit note. Place it inside a protective cover, a plastic bag or an envelope until you can pass it on to an identified Secret Service Special agent. 


Counterfeit cash can be harder to spot than you think. Don’t get stuck holding the bag! If you think you’ve been passed a counterfeit bill, and the note is missing the signs listed above, follow the advice of the U.S. Treasury to keep your hands clean.

 

Resources

Click on the thumbnail to view each resource.
 
know your money  - Counterfeit Money Guide
Know your money Key
 
4 simple ways to spot counterfeit currency

Sources:


 
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4 Back-to-School Apps for Parents and Students8/20/2020

A+ Back to School Apps

The new school year is starting soon! Whether your kids are getting ready for another round of remote schooling via Zoom or they’re packing their backpacks with face coverings and hand sanitizer for in-person schooling COVID-style, there’s at least one app to help get the year off to a great start.

Here’s a rundown of some of the most likely candidates:

myhomework

myHomework (iOS, Android)

It’s not easy to keep up with assignments, projects and scheduled tests from so many different classes. Help your child stay on top of their work this year with the myHomework app. With color-coded classes to keep things organized and automatic reminders before looming due dates, the app is super-easy to use. The free version of the app includes assignment tracking, due date reminders, syncing between classes and homework widgets, while the paid version, at just $4.99 a year, offers an ad-free upgrade with file attachment support, enhanced app widgets, external calendar access, a homework import feature and more.

Lala lunch box app icon

LaLa Lunchbox (iOS)

This adorable app makes meal planning fun again! No more arguments and frustrations about what to prepare for lunch; with your child on board, it’s easy as pie. Let your child set up a profile with a selected monster avatar, and choose a virtual meal from the LaLa Lunchbox’s food library by dropping their chosen foods into the monster’s mouth. The app will tell the parents what to buy in the grocery store so they can prepare the lunch their kid wants. Parents can also customize the food options for specific diets, and all the choices are preselected by a dietician. Meal planning, done!

Cozi App Icon

Cozi Family Organizer (iOS, Android)

Between school schedules, meet-the-teacher nights, after-school activities and more, parents have lots to keep track of at the start of a new school year. The free Cozi app helps keep the entire family organized with a synced family schedule and color-coded calendar that streamlines across multiple devices. Save grocery lists and recipes on the app and keep a running to-do list on Cozi to keep on top of all your errands and chores. You can even manage a family journal on the app for the ultimate in sharing!

Bear Focus App Icon

Bear Focus Timer (iOS, Android)

If you’ve got a little one at home who has trouble focusing on their tasks, the Bear Focus Timer (BFT) app might be just what you need. The no-frills Pomodoro-style timer is created to help the smallest of minds stay focused on their homework, chores or other activities with the help of simple schedules and white noise. You won’t find a lot of bells and whistles on this $1.99 app, but the timer allows the user to customize focus times and break times for the ultimate in productivity.

Back-to-school season can be frenzied as the family adjusts to a new routine and schedule. Let these apps help you keep calm and organized so the entire family can ace the start of the new school year.

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Which Features Should I Look for in a New Car?8/12/2020

New car

Pick the best features for you

Q: How do I decide which features to look for in a new car, and which to skip?

A: Shopping for a car doesn’t have to be complicated. To help you out, we have created a list of key features to consider in your new car, and a list of features you can skip.

Must-have safety features

  • 360-degree camera: This camera gives drivers a bird’s-eye view of the area around the car.
  • Evasive steering: This feature provides additional steering support when you are in danger of colliding with another vehicle, and your own steering efforts are insufficient.
  • Forward collision warning: Drivers get a visual and/or audible alert when their vehicle is heading toward a forward collision.
  • Blind spot alert: This feature alerts the driver when there is an object or pedestrian in direct line of their blind spot.
  • Automatic emergency braking: Stay safe with this feature, which automatically applies the brakes when it senses a vehicle in your car’s way. Some systems include pedestrian detection as well.

Convenient features

  • Automatic keyless entry: This feature automatically unlocks a car’s doors when it senses a nearby fob.
  • Power tailgate: This feature for pickup trucks and SUVs lets you lower and raise your tailgate with the push of a button.
  • Multi-zone climate system: Family road trips are peaceful again with this feature, which allows for different climate controls throughout the car.
  • Speedy USB-charging outlets: No more unbearable waits for your gadgets to power up with this super-speedy USB port.
  • Heated steering wheel and driver’s seat: This one is for those frosty mornings when your car can’t get warm fast enough.
  • Wireless charging pad: Just place your phone on one of these pads and it will start powering up.

Fun-to-have features

  • Home assist device connectivity: Some new cars allow you to use remote voice control with home assist technologies, like Alexa, for your car.
  • Rear entertainment systems: This feature gives the rear seat of your car a completely separate entertainment system.
  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay: These features sync your smartphone’s interface with your car’s infotainment system for easier phone control.

Features you can skip

  • Bigger wheels and thinner tires: The ride will be less comfortable, and your wheels will be more prone to damage from potholes.
  • Built-in navigation systems: You know you’re going to use Waze most of the time anyway. Also, most built-in navigation systems require constant updates.
  • Lane keeping assist: This feature automatically steers or brakes your car when you cross a lane marking without turning on a blinker. In real life, though, it can be annoying as you’ll often need to cross a lane marker for good reason, like moving over for an emergency vehicle.

Before you start shopping, call, click, or stop by Kellogg Community Credit Union to hear all about our auto loans.

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When is the Right Time to Invest8/12/2020

Woman on laptop

“When should I invest?” 

Every investor has asked this question at one time or another.

The answer to this question is twofold … And these two answers might surprise you.

The first answer:

Since you want to buy low and sell high, the best time to invest is when prices are low. Most investors become timid when prices are low because they fear that prices will fall even further. While this is a risk in investing, it’s also good to remember that you don’t want to buy when prices are high. It’s not that different from when you bought your house: You bought it for as low as you could and you took the risk that prices could go lower. But ideally, you bought it low because you wanted the value of your home to rise. Buying when a stock price is low means you can buy more of it inexpensively. So, if it rises, you can earn a higher profit.

The second answer:

The best time to invest is now. Remember the wise saying: “If you want a tree, the best time to plant it was 25 years ago. The second-best time is right now.” Savvy investors rarely regret investing; more often than not, they regret not investing. All too often, inexperienced investors want to “time the market” by waiting for the economy to improve before they put their money into something.

Now it is time to put the answers together: If you want to invest, forget timing the market and waiting for the economy to improve. Instead, carefully choose stocks that are priced low right now but are poised to grow (because they have strong financials and offer a good product or service).

 

 

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Is COVID-19 Causing a Coin Shortage7/27/2020

Coin Shortage

Is there a coin shortage?

The COVID-19 Global pandemic caused an initial panic leaving store shelves empty of face masks and toilet paper. Hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, paper towels and meat followed quickly in what was fast becoming routine for life during COVID-19. And now, the latest commodity to run in short supply is coins.

Got change? Many financial institutions, retailers and private citizens don’t.

Although we are increasingly becoming a cashless society, coins play an integral role in day-to-day commerce, and a dearth in their supply can severely impact small businesses that  are already struggling to survive. There’s more than just pocket change at stake here, and if things don’t improve soon, the effect on the economy can be critical and long-lasting.

Here’s what you need to know about the most recent shortage caused by COVID-19.

What triggered the shortage?

The jangling coins in your wallet were stricken in the U.S. Mint. The Federal Reserve distributes these coins to financial institutions across the country. From there, the coins are purchased by retailers or private citizens, enter the economy and begin circulating. But now, with the pandemic upending the economy and the Mint operating at partial capacity, this chain was disrupted for months at a time.

“The COVID‐19 pandemic has significantly disrupted the supply chain and normal circulation patterns for U.S. coin,” according to a statement  issued by the Federal Reserve. “In the past few months, coin deposits from depository institutions to the Federal Reserve have declined significantly and the U.S. Mint’s production of coin also decreased due to measures put in place to protect its employees.”

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell added that the massive shift to online or contactless transactions has further disrupted the flow of coins through the economy.

Even now, as large segments of the country reopen, the supply of coins is failing to keep pace with demand. Many consumers still shop remotely and those who do shop in physical stores are wary of handling germ-infested dollars and coins and are opting for contactless payment instead.

 The response to the shortage

To help mitigate the fallout of the coin shortage, the Federal Reserve began to ration its coin distribution  on June 15, giving banks and credit unions only part of their requested orders. The total number of rationed coins each bank or credit union will receive is determined by the institution’s history of coin orders and the capacity of the U.S. Mint to fulfill the request. The Reserve has also encouraged banks and credit unions to order only the amount of coins they need to meet short-term member demand.

The Federal Reserve is working together with the Mint to ramp up production of new coins and to lift supply allocations in the near future.

The impact of the shortage on the economy

The severity of the shortage first came to light in mid-June, when banks in Tennessee were notified that they’d only receive a small portion of their weekly coin order from the Federal Reserve.

In a virtual hearing  on June 17, Rep. John Rose of Tennessee told Powell that the banks in his district, having received only part of their weekly coin order, would likely run out of change by the end of the week, or might need to round up or down if they run low.

“In a time when pennies are the difference between profitability and loss, it seems like it might be a bigger concern than the announcement from the Fed would indicate that it is,” Rose said.

The shortage can have devastating effects for retailers who won’t receive their complete requested orders of coins from their bank or credit union, Rose said. Without the means to provide adequate change for their customers, small business owners can be forced to round up or down, leading to significant losses in revenue and in customers.

A temporary shortage

The Federal Reserve believes the coin shortage is only temporary and that it will resolve itself in the near future.

“As the economy reopens, we’re seeing coins begin to move around again,” Powell said.

However, the dearth in available coins is still a reality that can be felt in all sectors of the economy. As a consumer, this means that you may feel the impact of the shortage when paying cash at brick and mortar stores; the clerk may not be able to provide you with accurate change.  Kellogg Community Credit Union currently has access coin for our members who need it; however as supply chain changes occur, we may  experience intermittent or temporarily coin shortages.

Finally, if you have spare change lying around at home, you may want to deposit it or exchange it for paper currency to help KCCU close the gap between our coin supply and demand

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How to Travel Safely this Summer7/13/2020

Travel Safe this Summer

Travel Safe this Summer

Summer is here, and many Americans are itching for a vacation. But is it possible to travel safely right now? Is an airplane really a flying Petri dish to be avoided until the pandemic blows over? Can you take a road trip if it means making rest stops in three different states?

So many questions — but we’ve got answers! Here’s how to enjoy your getaway this summer without compromising on your health and safety.

Check your health

Before heading out to any destination, give yourself a mental COVID-19 screening. Have you been running a fever above 100.4? Have you recently experienced shortness of breath or deep coughing? Do you have reason to believe you’ve been exposed to coronavirus in the last week? If you answer yes to any of these questions, the CDC recommends you stay home.

Check local laws at your destination

Even as some states are seeing a decline in new COVID-19 infections, the virus continues to rage across the country and many states are currently peaking. To help curb the spread, some local governments have enacted strict quarantine laws for visitors entering their state from places that are experiencing a surge in new infections. There are also discrepancies among individual states regarding general coronavirus laws, such as those related to face coverings and public gatherings.

Check the local laws at your destination before setting out on your trip. Also recheck them as you travel since the situation is fluid and laws are constantly changing. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the rules at rest stops you’ll visit along the way. You can look up COVID-19 regulations around the country here.

Air travel

At first glance, an airplane can seem like a flying tube of germs, but that’s not entirely true.

“Many people think they get sick on an airplane, but the reality is that the air quality on an airplane is actually really good — high amounts of clean outdoor air and all recirculated air pass through a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter,” says Joe Allen, an assistant professor and director of the Healthy Buildings Program at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

HEPA filters refresh the circulated air every two to three minutes, and can effectively block more than 99% of airborne microbes.

That travelers are more likely to pick up the virus while waiting in line at airport security, at the boarding gate or in front of the luggage carousel, Allen says.

Airports and airlines are taking steps to minimize the risks of contagion with frequent intensive cleaning and sanitizing of common areas. Planes are fogged with electrostatic disinfectant that sticks to surfaces such as seatbelts, Many airlines are now distributing disinfectant wipes to boarding passengers, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has increased the size of hand sanitizer bottles permissible to bring aboard a plane from 3.4 ounces to 12.

Despite these extra measures, it’s best to continue following standard COVID-19 precautions. Face coverings should be worn at all times, as per CDC recommendations, and it’s a good idea to wipe down high-contact surfaces, like tray tables and armrests. As always, proper hand hygiene should be observed.

Hotel stays

Some states — but not all — have lifted restrictions on hotels and vacation rentals, thereby permitting them to welcome guests again; however, many travelers are understandably wary. To reassure them, several big-name hotel chains are rolling out new programs and procedures, such as Hilton Worldwide’s CleanStay   program which features frequent cleaning and contactless check-in. These extra precautions make a hotel stay safer.

If you’re still feeling unsure about spending a night in a hotel or a vacation rental, but your travel plans necessitate an overnight stay, come prepared. Pack a generous supply of cleaning wipes that have an EPA-approved disinfectant, and scrub all high-touch surfaces at the hotel room or rental. This includes all door knobs, faucets, remote controls, light switches, countertops and more.

Rest stops

Lots of vacationing Americans are choosing to travel by car this summer instead of taking to the skies, assuming this mode of transportation is safer than air travel. What many neglect to realize is that by stopping at rest stops in several states, a traveler may come in close contact with hundreds of other travelers while in a germ-infested area.

If you have plans to hit the road, travel safely. Pack lots of disinfectant wipes and an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Mask up at all rest stops, and don’t forget to keep your distance from other travelers. Use toilet seat covers when available, and wipe down other high-touch areas, like sink faucets, before using. When purchasing takeout food, use contactless payment. Wash your hands vigorously when you’ve finished, and scrub them with sanitizer for an extra measure of protection.

Attractions

Once you’ve arrived at your vacation destination, continue to play it safe. The CDC recommends maintaining a 6-foot distance from other visitors while at an attraction, avoiding crowded parks, wearing a face covering at all times and washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after using the restroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.

The open road is calling! Before you head out on your summer getaway, though, don’t forget to pack the face coverings, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Play it safe for a truly memorable summer.

 

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5 COVID-19 Scans to Watch Out For7/7/2020

Covid 19 Scam alerts

COVID Scam Alert

1. The fake cure scam. Scammers are peddling bogus cures and vaccines. If you’re offered a drug or vaccine to fight coronavirus — especially by a company you’ve never heard of — you’re looking at a scam.

2. Phishing emails from the “World Health Organization” (WHO). Scammers are sending out emails which appear to be from the WHO, but are really an attempt to get you to share personal information.

3. Fake charities. Everyone wants to help those stricken by the virus, but be sure to check out the authenticity of a charity before making your donation.

4. Malicious websites. Scammers have set up websites full of information on COVID-19 with the intention of gaining access to your device. Don’t download any links or open attachments from non-reputable sources.

5. Fake funding scams. Criminals invent a “research team” supposedly on the verge of discovering a cure for COVID-19 — they just need your donation. Of course, all funds donated to this alleged team will go directly into the scammers’ pockets. Only donate to verified causes.

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Is it a Good Idea to Open a HELOC Now?7/6/2020

Home Equity Line of Credit

Is it a good time for a HELOC?

If you’re looking for some extra money to use for a home improvement project, debit consolidation, family vacation, college tuition, new appliances, furniture or other major purchases consider tapping into your home’s equity. One great way to do this is by opening a home equity line of credit, or a HELOC. Let’s take a closer look at HELOCs and why they can be an excellent option to get the cash you need.

What is a HELOC?

A HELOC is a revolving credit line allowing homeowners to borrow money against the equity of their home. The HELOC is like a second mortgage on a home; if the borrower owns the entire home, the HELOC is a primary mortgage.

Given that a HELOC is a line of credit and not a fixed loan, borrowers can withdraw money from the HELOC as needed rather than borrowing one lump sum. This allows for more flexibility than a fixed home equity loan and is especially beneficial for borrowers who don’t know exactly how much money they’ll ultimately need.

Borrowers withdraw funds (aka “draws” or “advances”) from the HELOC during a set amount of time that is known as the “draw period”. At Kellogg Community Credit Union, we allow borrowers to draw from their HELOC for the first 5 years. The first 5 years will be interest-only payments. There is no set amount that has to be withdrawn every time; however, the first advance has a minimum of $500.

How do I repay my HELOC?

When the draw period ends, some lenders will allow borrowers to renew the credit line and continue withdrawing money. Other lenders require borrowers to pay back the entire balance due, also known as a “balloon payment.” Still others allow borrowers to pay back the loan in monthly installments over another set amount of time, known as the “repayment period.” Repayment periods are generous, lasting as long as 20 years.

KCCU offers all those options:

  1. Renew the credit line
  2. Pay back the entire balance
  3. Pay back during the “repayment period”.

How can borrowers spend the money?

While home improvement projects are popular uses for HELOCs, borrowers are free to spend the money however they please. Some other uses for HELOCs include debt consolidation, funding a wedding, dream vacation or paying for large purchases and even paying for college expenses.

Is everyone eligible for a HELOC?

Like every loan and line of credit, HELOCs have eligibility requirements, which help lenders determine the applicant’s financial wellness and responsibility. Most notably, the borrower must have a minimal amount of equity in the home. You can contact a member service representative at KCCU to help you determine your HELOC eligibility.

How much can I borrow with a HELOC?

HELOC amounts vary along with three criteria: the value of your home, the percentage of that value the lender allows you to borrow against and the outstanding amount on an existing mortgage.

For example, if you have a $300,000 home with a mortgage balance of $175,000 and your lender allows you to borrow against 85% of your home’s value, multiply your home’s value by 85%, or 0.85. This will give you $255,000. Subtract the amount you still owe on your mortgage ($175,000), and you’ll have the maximum amount you can borrow using a HELOC, which is $80,000.

What are the disadvantages of a HELOC?

A HELOC is secured by your home’s equity, which places your home at risk of foreclosure if the HELOC is not repaid. Before opening a HELOC, it’s a good idea to run the numbers to get an idea of what your monthly payments will look like and whether you can easily afford to meet them.

If you don’t plan to stay in your home for long, a HELOC may not be the right choice for you. When you sell your home, you’ll need to pay off the full balance of the HELOC.

A HELOC can be a great option now

HELOCs have variable interest rates, which means the interest on the loan can fluctuate over the life of the loan. This variable is based on a publicly available index, such as the U.S. Treasury Bill rate, and will rise or fall along with this index, which is currently near historic lows. The low rates make it an excellent time to take out a HELOC with manageable payback terms

Are you looking to tap into your home’s equity with a HELOC? Call, click, or stop by Kellogg Community Credit Union today to get started. Our low rates and generous terms make a Kellogg Community Credit Union HELOC a great choice to get the money you need.

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What's the Home's Value4/20/2020

House in the clouds

Home Appraisal is Key

Each party in a home sale transaction has an agenda. The seller, naturally, wants to sell the house for as much as possible. But the buyer hopes to negotiate a lower price. Individual needs skew each person's perception of what a property is worth.

Enter the real estate appraiser—a professional who can determine the value of the property, but who has no vested interest in the sales transaction. The hallmark of a good appraisal is that it's independent, objective, and impartial.

In a real estate transaction, the lender hires the appraiser. The appraiser's task is to determine whether the property has sufficient value to secure a loan.

Confusion sometimes surrounds the roles of appraisers and home inspectors, which are totally different functions. An inspector, hired by the prospective home buyer, scrutinizes a house inside and out, from the roof to the basement floor, to search for any structural or mechanical problems.

An appraiser, hired by the lender, aims to develop an overall impression of a property and its market value. The appraiser walks through a property, looking at it through the eyes of a typical prospective buyer.

The final step that goes into an appraisal is to compare the property with similar ones in the neighborhood that recently have sold. What did these get in the marketplace?

A seller or buyer who feels the appraiser's evaluation missed the mark can ask that the appraiser reconsider. The seller would go through the real estate agent to make that request; the buyer would approach the lender.

But anyone questioning an appraiser's opinion ought to have hard facts to back up his or her argument. After all, the appraiser is the one who is likely to be the most objective about the property's value. All parties benefit when appraisers are allowed to do their job, without interference.

If you're considering purchasing a house, Kellogg Community Credit Union can help. Stop by or call 800-854-5421 today. Or, visit us on the Web at kelloggccu.org.   Looking for a real estate agent?  Consider one of our preferred realty partners

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All You Need to Know About Student Loan Changes During COVID-191/20/2020

College student holding book

Student Loan Changes During COVID-19

With unemployment levels rising and many employers cutting work hours, lots of college grads are now struggling to meet their student loan payments. Thankfully, the federal government has passed legislation to ease this burden. Unfortunately, though, many borrowers are confused about the terms and conditions of these changes.

Here’s all you need to know about the changes to student loan debt during the coronavirus pandemic.

All federal student loan payments are automatically suspended for six months

As part of The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) signed into law on March 27 all federal student loan payments are suspended, interest-free, through Sept. 30, 2020. If borrowers continue making payments, the full amount will be applied to the principal of the loan. The suspension applies to all federal student loans owned by the Department of Education as well as some Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) and some Perkins loans. Students do not have to take any action or pay any fees for the suspension to take effect.

Additionally, during the suspension period, the CARES Act does not allow student loan servicers to report to the credit bureaus borrower nonpayments as missed payments. Therefore, the suspension should not have a negative effect on borrowers’ credit scores.

If you’re not sure whether your student loan is federally owned, you can look it up on the Federal Student Aid (FSA) website. Be sure to have your FSA ID handy so you can sign in and look up your loans. You can also call your loan servicer directly to clear up any confusion.

Contact information for federal student loan servicers:

Suspended payments count toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness and loan rehabilitation. 

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a federal program allowing borrowers to have their student loans forgiven, tax-free, with the stipulation that they work in the public sector and make 120 qualifying monthly payments. A disruption of these 120 payments can disqualify a borrower from the program.

According to the CARES Act, suspended payments will be treated as regular payments toward PSLF. This ensures that borrowers who have been working toward these programs will not lose the progress they’ve made toward loan forgiveness.

The same rule applies to individuals participating in student loan rehabilitation, during which borrowers with defaulted student loans must make nine out of 10 consecutive monthly payments to pull their loans out of default. The U.S. Department of Education will consider the six-month suspension on payments as if regular payments were made toward rehabilitation.

Some states and private lenders are offering student loan aid for struggling borrowers.

If your student loan is not federally owned and you are struggling to meet your payments, there may still be options available, such as loan deferment or forbearance. If you are in need of such assistance, contact your lender directly to discuss your options.

Consider an income-driven repayment plan.

If you have an FFEL that is ineligible for suspension, you can lower your monthly payments by enrolling in an income-based repayment plan, which adjusts your monthly student loan payment amount according to your discretionary income. Other lenders offer similar plans, often referred to as income-driven repayment plans. If your salary was cut as a result of COVID-19, or you are currently unemployed, these plans can provide relief by making your monthly payments more manageable.

Employers can contribute toward employees’ student loan debt for temporary tax relief

The federal government offered temporary tax relief for employers contributing up to $5,350 toward their employees’ student loan payments. This benefit is in effect until Jan. 1, 2021 and it can be used for any kind of student debt, whether federal or private.

If you don’t qualify for the student loan payment suspension, you can try speaking with the human resources department at your workplace to find out how they can help you with your student loan debt at this time.

 

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