The KCCU Blog
How to keep your body and mind stress free
May is Mental Health Month and a huge part of managing your mental health is by managing stress. Long-term stress increases the risk of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, substance use problems, and sleep problems.
Not only does stress affect your mental health, but it also can wreak havoc on your physical health. High blood pressure, heart disease, fatigue and stomach issues are just some of the many health problems attributed to stress.
Taking some “me” time every day can help you relax and clear your mind, so you are better able to take on what life is throwing at you.
Here are some stress-relief activities to get started (as always, check with your doctor if your symptoms are serious or get worse).
Inhale through your nose, feeling your belly rise and then exhale by blowing the air out through your lips. An easy way to remember this is “smell the soup (inhale) cool the soup (exhale).”
Free your mind
Soothe your soul with one of the many meditation and guided imagery videos on YouTube or download the Calm app. If these options don’t work out (or maybe technology and searching is causing you more stress), try your own meditation.
Sit in your backyard, close your eyes and listen to the sounds of nature. Be conscious of your breathing. Starting from your head and neck, tense your muscles, hold for a few seconds and then release as you exhale. Do this all the way down your toes while focusing on your breathing. Slowly open your eyes and become aware of your surroundings before going about your day with a fresh outlook.
Gentle exercise gets your blood moving and is one of the best ways to relieve stress. It’s always more fun if you have a workout partner or walking buddy. Many gyms and senior community centers offer low-impact exercise, or tai chi, classes. Some of them are even offered online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chair yoga not only helps with stress, but also helps with balance. Swimming offers a cardio workout without putting extreme pressure on your joints.
The buddy system
Keep in touch with friends. Whether you’re a texter or like to talk on the phone, share good times and bad while offering your support. You can even send a card or letter the old-fashioned way! You’ll feel good because your friend listened, and the bonus is knowing you probably made your friend smile.
The human touch
Even if you can’t get out to a massage therapist or don’t have a partner living with you who gives a good shoulder rub, there’s no reason you can’t benefit from the positive energy you feel from a massage. Rub your own hands, feet, neck and head to get your blood circulating and loosen up those tight muscles.
Stress can do a number on your body and spirit, but these relaxation techniques can help relieve tension and ease your worried mind.
Cost of Dog Ownership
Love to have a dog, but not sure what kind of expenses to expect with dog ownership? Owning and caring for a dog doesn’t come cheap. But, if you work out the numbers before moving forward, you’ll know what to expect and have an easier time budgeting for these new expenses. Here’s a rundown of what buying and owning a dog can cost.
First, let’s take a look at the larger expenses that you’ll, fortunately, only need to pay once.
If you decide to buy a purebred from a breeder, on average it can run you $500-$2,000. This cost may be offset by lower healthcare expenses, as purebreds from reputable breeders are generally healthier. If you get your dog from a shelter, you can pay as little as $50 or up to $250.
You’ll need to spring for some doggy gear before bringing your pet home, including a bed, a collar and leash, a feeding bowl and some toys, for starters. Combined, these should run you, on average, about $50-$100.
If you want to get your dog trained, you can pay as little as $25 for a single class, or up to $300 for a full course of training, plus resource materials.
Next, is getting your dog spayed or neutered, which can add $20-$300 to your initial costs.
Licensing, vaccinations and a microchip will bring that total up by $110-$360.
Average total one-time costs: $255-$3,000
Once you’ve paid the costs to bring your dog home, you’ll need to consider what it costs to care for your pet each month.
Your four-pawed friend has to eat, but how much is dog food going to run you? That depends on several variables.
First, how much are you able to spend? The cheapest dog food can cost less than a dollar a pound, but if you go gourmet, expect to pay gourmet prices, or up to $1.60/lb.
The size of your dog also plays a role in how much the food will cost. A small 3-pound pup will only need 140 calories a day, or ? cup of food, while a 100-pound beast will need a whopping 1,925 calories a day, or 4½ cups of food.
Finally, consider your dog’s special dietary requirements. A bag of food for dogs with sensitive stomachs can cost as much as $2.60/lb.
Total monthly cost: $20-80
Preventative & routine health care
All dogs will need some medication to prevent common conditions, like heartworms, fleas and ticks. Some vets may recommend vitamins or other supplements and dogs should also have their teeth brushed occasionally. Costs for these preventative measures will vary by the size of the dog and its general health.
Most vets also advise dog owners to bring their pets in for a wellness checkup at least once a year. The cost of this visit will vary by location and practitioner.
Total monthly cost: $20-80
Grooming and bathing
If you’ll be giving doggy baths at home or out in the yard and trimming its claws, you can save hundreds of dollars a year. If you’ll be hiring someone else to do the washing and occasional grooming, these costs can add another $100 to your monthly dog costs.
Total monthly cost: $0-100
Doggy day care, boarding and walking
Here’s where doggy costs can start to skyrocket.
Doggy day care averages $40 a day, while individuals who travel often can expect to add another $100 to their pet costs for every overnight stay. Hiring someone to walk your dog will bring these costs up even more, with professional dog-walking services charging as much as $30 for every half-hour walk.
Total monthly cost: $0-600
So, how much does it cost, in total, to own a dog? After the initial costs, expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $960 a month, depending on how much you choose to spend and how often you’ll need to leave your pet in day care.
That furry friend doesn’t come cheap, but you can’t put a price on the companionship, and boundless love, that a dog will bring you. Be sure to review the costs before bringing your pet home, and to make sure you can comfortably afford these new expenses.
Enjoy your four-legged friend!
Discounts for Older Adults
One of the many perks of advancing in years is scoring great deals on all kinds of purchases and expenses. Here are five places you may not already know about where older adults can save big money:
1. Amazon Prime
Older adults who have valid EBT cards, or are on Medicaid, are eligible for Amazon Prime at just $5.99 a month. Compared to the $12.99 regular cost, that saves you more than half at just $84 annually.
2. Auto insurance
Many auto insurance providers reward years of safe driving with discounts for policyholders who are age 55-plus. Be sure to shop around for the best deal or to ask your current provider if you qualify for a discount.
3. Dining out
Dozens of national restaurant chains offer discounts, or even freebies, for older adults. Why pay full price when dining out (or ordering takeout, in the era of COVID) when you don’t have to?
Chains with discounts
Here are just a few chains that offer discounts:
- Applebee’s: 15% off with Golden Apple Card (60-plus)
- Arby’s: 10% off (55-plus)
- Burger King: 10% off (60-plus)
- Chili’s: 10% off (55-plus)
- Denny’s: varies by location, most provide 15% off for AARP members
- Dunkin’ Donuts: 10% off or free donut with coffee purchase (55-plus)
- IHOP: 10% off (55-plus)
- KFC: Free small drink with any meal (55-plus)
- Krispy Kreme: 10% off (50-plus)
- McDonald’s: Varies by location; most provide discounted beverages (55-plus)
- Subway: 10% off (60-plus)
- Taco Bell: 5% off; free beverages (65-plus)
- Village Inn: 10% off (55-plus)
- Waffle House: 10% off every Monday (60-plus)
- Wendy’s: 10% off (55-plus)
- White Castle: 10% off (62-plus)
4. Cellphone plans
From basic phones to the latest in smartphone technology, if you’ve lived through bell-bottoms and Beatlemania, you can get your cell phone plan for less!
Verizon offers its 55+ Senior Phone Plan https://www.verizon.com/plans/55plus/ with unlimited talk, text and data for up to two lines, at just $60 for one line and $80 for two lines. T-Mobile offers a similar Unlimited 55+ Discount Plan https://www.t-mobile.com/cell-phone-plans/unlimited-55-senior-discount-plans starting at just $27.50 per line per month, and AT&T offers its famous bare-bones Senior Nation https://www.att.com/support/article/wireless/KM1009134/ plan at $29.99 a month for adults aged 65-plus.
5. Discounts at apparel stores
Whether you’re spending the afternoon at the mall or browsing the new season’s selections from the comfort of your couch, don’t forget the discount!
- Banana Republic Discounts: 10% off (50-plus)
- Dressbarn: 10% off Tues. and/or Wed. (varies by location – 55-plus)
- Kohl’s: 15% off on Wednesdays (60-plus)
6. Grocery Stores
- Hardings Friendly Marketplace: Wednesdays save 5% off your grocery purchase (60-plus)
- Family Fare: Wednesdays save 10% on regularly priced item. (55-plus)
Reaching the other side of 50 can come with fringe benefits like grandchildren, a relaxed pace of life, and of course, lots of great discounts. Don’t forget to cash in on your special savings the next time you shop.
Celebrate Earth Day
Plant a garden
Earth Day is April 22, 2021, and it’s also the perfect time to plant that garden you’ve always wanted. Garden centers and home improvement stores are still open around the country, with many offering curbside pickup. Add a burst of color to your property with a row of flowers, try your hand at planting a vegetable garden or plant a tree!
Learn about recycling
Celebrate Earth Day by learning about local recycling rules and refreshing your knowledge about what happens to the things we recycle. If you have children at home share this information with them so they can get in the habit and help you with recycle at home.
explore the world - electronically
Use the My Disney Experience app to explore the world of nature from home. Check out the “Wilderness Explorers at Home” feature on the app for a virtual tour of nature’s wonders.
Get to know your plants
Learn about the plants in your neighborhood. Bring your daily walk around the neighborhood up a notch on Earth Day by looking out for plants in your area. You can use the Native Plant Finder website to find out which plants are native to your ZIP code. See how many of these plants you can find on your walk!
Watch a documentary
Watch a documentary about our planet. Celebrate Earth Day by watching a fascinating documentary about the Earth. Netflix is running “Our Planet,” an incredible docuseries hosted by David Attenborough featuring beautiful footage from around the world. You can also check out Disney+ for Disneynature’s “Elephant” and “Dolphin Reef,” which conveniently offer downloadable activity packets for kids.
The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City is airing an all-day “Earthfest” on Thursday. The live-streamed event will feature a full day of activities and educational opportunities to explore.
How to Downsize
Quiet. Calm. Clean.
These are just a few of the adjectives that may come to mind when you return home after your youngest child leaves the nest. It’s the beginning of a new stage in life and your home may feel completely different.
No longer are you constantly kicking aside stray sneakers and picking up a trail of school papers. No longer are you sharing your living space with soccer gear and your freezer with boxes of frozen pizza and ice pops. You may even get the TV remote to yourself!
Now that the house has emptied out, it’s a great time to sift through the “stuff” that has piled up over the years. Maybe you’ve even decided to move to a new and smaller home. Whether you’re decluttering because your home has grown emptier or you need to get rid of half your belongings before you relocate, downsizing can be a daunting task.
Here are some tips to help you downsize as an empty nester.
Allow yourself to grieve, but stay positive
It isn’t easy to let go of precious mementos, give away the adorable baby outfits your oldest wore as an infant or say goodbye to the home that watched your family grow. Make these goodbyes a little easier by acknowledging your grief but putting a positive spin on your new stage. Yes, you are saying goodbye to playdates and PTA meetings, but you are entering a phase in life that will open up new vistas and opportunities you’ve never had before.
Clear out your closets
If your closets have not been purged since AOL CDs cluttered mailboxes, you might be looking at a mountain of outdated clothing to sort through and organize. Here’s how to make this job easy.
Set up four boxes near your closet. Mark one “giveaways,” one “keepers,” one “sell” and the last “dump.” As you sort through grunge tops from the ‘90s and neon jeans from the ‘80s, consider each item: Can you donate this, keep it, sell it or is it destined for the dump? Place each item in its designated box until you’ve gone through the entire pile.
When you’ve finished sorting through all your clothing, return the items in the “keepers” box to the closet, toss the junk, bring the giveaways to a clothing donation drop-off spot and sell what’s left at second hand stores or online on sites like Poshmark.
Sell your spare furniture
Whether you’re relocating or staying put for now, your furniture needs will change when the kids have left home. Create space and earn some extra pocket money by hosting a garage sale for your unused furniture pieces. You can also sell spare drawer chests, desks and more online.
Sift through your files
In the world before everything was digitized, important papers in a household could pile up like snow in a blizzard. The good news is you likely don’t need most of the papers you’ve been saving all these years. It’s time to clear out the pile!
Each of your files will likely fall into one of three categories.
The important paperwork includes personally identifying info and sensitive documents, such as birth certificates and Social Security cards for each child. Of course, you’ll need to save the original copies of these documents in a safe place.
On the other end of the spectrum are saved files that serve no purpose now, such as electricity bills from 1995 and pay stubs from your first post-college job. These can go straight into the shredder.
Finally, you’ll have documents that fall somewhere in between these two categories, such as medical records, tax returns and your children’s report cards. You can choose to keep some of these, or, if you’re short on space, scan each document and upload it to cloud storage.
Rethink your bedrooms
With all the kids out of the house, you can rethink the way you use your bedrooms. Have you always dreamed of a designated sewing room? How about using the space to indulge in your model train hobby? You can finally have that hobby room you’ve always wanted when the kids were growing up!
If you need to save some sleeping room for the kids when they come home to visit, you can keep a daybed in any converted bedroom for that purpose.
It’s a new stage in life, and it’s time to sift through the piles of stuff that have accumulated over the years. Follow our tips for downsizing made easy!
Don’t Fall for Money Mule Scams
What is a money mule?
A money mule, also sometimes referred to as a "smurfer," is a person who transfers money acquired illegally (stolen or fraud) in person, through a courier service, or electronically, on behalf of others. Typically, the mule is paid for services with a small part of the money transferred.
How money mule scams work
Money mule scams happen several ways. Someone might offer you a job, or say you’ve won a sweepstakes, or even start an online relationship with you. Whatever the story, next they want to send you money – and then ask you to send it on to someone else. They often say to wire the money or use gift cards.
But that money is stolen. And there never was a job, a prize, or a relationship – only a scam. That scammer was trying to get you to be a money mule.
Transferring money / valuables on behalf of others only benefits criminals and may lead to serious consequences for you. If you deposit a scammer’s check, it might clear, then when the bank discovers it’s a fake check, you’ll have to repay the bank. Also, if you help a scammer move stolen money – even if you didn’t know it was stolen – you could find yourself in legal trouble.
Avoid money mule scams
- Don’t engage in financial transactions with strangers
- Don’t take a job that promises easy money and involves sending or receiving money or packages
- Check any work-from-home opportunity or money transferring offer with a trusted family member or friend. You can also contact your Better Business Bureau chapter or access the state’s corporation directory to help verify if the business is legitimate.
- Report money mule activity/ scams as soon as possible
If you suspect a money mule scam
If you think you might be involved in a money mule or money transfer scam, stop transferring money. Notify your financial institution, the wire transfer service, or any gift card companies involved. Then, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
Protect Your House When on Vacation
Are you planning a Spring Break road trip or other future getaway? When preparing to leave for a vacation, it’s easy to overlook basic home safety precautions. There are a number of hazards that could affect your home while you’re away, including lightning, theft, and flooding.
Home Safety Tips
In order to keep your property safe while you’re on vacation, consider the following:
- Unplug small appliances and electronic devices.
- Stop the newspaper and mail. To do this online, visit the U.S. Postal Service’s website.
- Lock all windows and doors.
- Arrange to have your lawn mowed or snow shoveled while you’re away.
- Have a neighbor keep an eye on your home throughout your trip.
- Remove any house keys you keep outside your home, even if you think they’re in a safe place.
- Set timers on inside lights. Install a motion-activated sensor on outdoor floodlights.
- Consider turning off your home’s water.
- Avoid posting photos of your trip on social media until after you return home.
- Program your thermostat or turn the system off completely. This ensures that you aren’t paying to cool or heat your home while you’re away.
Taking the proper precautions before you go on vacation can make all the difference when it comes to preventing damage to your home. However, accidents can still occur, and it’s important to ensure you have adequate insurance coverage. Contact KCCU Insurance Agency to discuss what kind of home owners insurance is appropriate for you.
Try-Before-You-Buy Car Payment
You already know that car loans cost less when you can pay a portion of a vehicle’s purchase price upfront in cash. Makes sense—you borrow less when you have a down payment.
But coming up with that down payment can be a challenge. And then, once you have a car loan, that monthly payment could be a tight fit in your budget if you haven’t planned for it.
How to Get Started
Below is a tactic that will help you save for your down payment and it gives you a chance to “try on” your car payment on a trial basis, no strings attached.
Save what you expect to pay
Just save what you expect your car payment will be for several months in your down payment fund.
Build Your Down Payment
Find a Comfortable Payment
You get to audition your car payment, with the luxury of stopping that “payment” if it really is too much for your budget. If you find the payment is too high, then you can adjust the payment to something that fits your budget more comfortably.
There’s no down side. You can stop payments at any time, without penalty, because you’re making the payments to yourself.
This tryout can serve as a reality check for your plans to buy a car. You might have the pleasant experience of realizing that you can handle a car loan without too much pressure—or you might learn that you need to wait a bit longer, save a bit more, or plan to buy a less expensive car.
And don’t forget a Kellogg Community Credit Union member service representative can help you determine how much car you can afford and can even get you preapproved you for your car loan. Call 269-968-9251 or stop in today to talk about your plans.
Give Your Finances a Refresh
Spring is a great time of year to clear your house of accumulated junk and make it sparkle. Why not do the same for your finances? Junk can accumulate there, too. In fact, some of your money matters may need to be freshened up this season. It is especially true this year, when many Americans are still recovering from the financial fallout of COVID-19, or maybe wondering how to use the latest round of stimulus checks. Whatever your current situation, a thorough spring-cleaning for your finances is a responsible move this time of year.
Ways to spring clean your finances:
Sweep out your budget
It’s time to shake out the dust in your budget! Review your monthly spending and find ways to cut back. Have you been overdoing the takeout food this year? Buying up more shoes than you can possibly wear? Pare down your budget until it’s looking neat and trim.
Freshen up your W-4
Tax season is prime time for revisiting the withholdings on your W-4. If you received an especially large refund this year, you may want to adjust the amount you withhold. The IRS’s tax withholding estimator can be a useful tool to help you determine the perfect number.
Deep clean your accounts
If you’ve switched from one bank or credit union to another, you may have dormant accounts that are still open and may be charging you fees. Or, perhaps they’re holding onto money you’ve forgotten you have! And don’t forget about the 401(k) you may have from an old job. Now may be the time to transfer those funds to your current 401(k).
This spring do a Marie Kondo on your finances and get rid of any accounts you don’t need any longer. A minimalist approach to your finances will make it easier to manage your accounts. It will also give your savings a greater chance at growth, and help you avoid fees for unused accounts.
Toss out your debt
Get ready to kick that debt for good! If you’ve been stuck on the debt cycle for too long, make this spring the season you create a plan to break free.
First, trim your budget or consider a side hustle for earning some pocket money, designating these extra funds for your debts. Next, choose a popular debt-busting approach, such as the avalanche method, in which you pay off debts in order from highest interest rate to lowest, or the snowball method, where you start with the smallest debt and then move up your list as each is paid off. Once you’ve chosen your approach, maximize payments to the first debt on your list, making sure not to neglect the minimum monthly payments on your other debts. Before you know it, that debt will be gone!
Dust off your saving habits
Have you been remembering to pay yourself first? Get into the habit of maximizing your savings this spring with a tangible financial goal. You can also make savings an itemized line in your budget. This way, you’ll have funds set aside for this purpose, instead of savings only happening if there’s money left over at the end of the month. Finally, automate your savings by setting up a monthly transfer from your checking account to your savings account. Never forget to pay yourself first again!
Make your investments sparkle
Whether you’re an experienced investor or you’re just getting your feet wet, it’s time for a spring cleaning of your investments! Check if your allocation strategy is still serving you well, whether you need to adjust your diversification and if your retirement accounts are on track for your estimated retirement timeline.
Make your stimulus count
Don’t let your stimulus payment and tax refund blow through your checking account. Instead create a spending plan for the funds that includes paying down debt, allocating some of the money for long-term and short-term savings and possibly investing another portion of the payment. Don’t feel guilty about using the rest of your stimulus check to splurge on a purchase or experience you’ve been wanting for a while now. The money is being distributed with the hopes that it will help stimulate the economy, and the best way to do that is to spend — just don’t go overboard.
Easy Way to Save – Pack a Lunch
Saving money can be difficult for some people. They feel like there just isn’t enough to spare at the end of the month to put into a savings account. But by making small changes to your spending habits, you’ll see that saving money isn’t really that difficult.
For instance, how often to you buy lunch instead of making your own? Once a week? Every day? If we add up those daily purchases, you may be surprised at the cost per year.
Cost to buy your lunch every day
- There are about 250 work days per year.
- A lunch at a café or restaurant runs about $6.00 to $15.00.
- If you eat lunch out every day, you’re spending between $1,500 to $3,750 per year.
Cost to brown-bag your lunch
Now, let's figure out how much it costs to make your own lunch.
- If you buy lunch meat, bread, and a bag of chips, it will cost you about $10 and last you the whole week.
- $10 ÷ 5 working days = $2.00 per lunch
- $2.00 x 250 working days = $500 per year
- If you packed your lunch every day, you’d save between $1,000 to $3,250 every year!
Put your Savings to Work
Now, let’s say you put the money didn't spend into a savings account every month.
- $4.00 to $13.00 (money saved each day) x 20 working days = $80 to $260 per month.
- If you put those dollars into an account that earns even 1% interest, compounded monthly, you’d have $1,046 to $3,399 saved in 12 months!
What better way to start brown-bagging and saving than National Pack Your Lunch Day! National Pack Your Lunch Day is celebrated on March 10 and encourages everyone across the country to take their lunch to work, school or wherever they’re spending the day. It’s an opportunity to revitalize lunchtime with fresh and healthful meal choices, all while saving a little extra cash.
Baby on the Way? Don’t Panic – Prepare!
Congratulations! You’ve just gotten the positive pregnancy test results and you’re breathless with excitement — and nerves. Or maybe you’re a few months along, and the mild anxiety is growing right along with the baby bump. Regardless, a baby means big changes, and some of those changes bring many new expenses. How will you pay for it all?
Whether you’re only thinking about having a baby, or your due date is fast approaching, there’s no need to stress about finances. By taking the necessary measures today, you can learn to cover these new expenses without falling into debt.
Steps you can take to prepare financially:
Pay down debt
There’s more than just a nursery to set up before your baby’s arrival. It’s best to get your finances in order to make it easier to manage all new expenses and prepare for your child’s future. If this involves getting rid of a mountain of debt, you can choose between these two debt-kicking plans:
The snowball method involves maximizing your payments toward your smallest debt balance first. Once it’s paid off, move on to the next-smallest debt, “snowballing” the payment from your previous debt into this one until it’s paid off, and repeating until you’re completely debt-free.
The avalanche method involves maximizing payments toward the debt with the highest interest rate and then moving on to the one with the second-highest interest rate until all debts are paid off.
Adjust your monthly budget
Babies don’t come cheap. When your little one arrives, you’ll need to spring for baby gear and furniture, a new wardrobe, diapers and possibly childcare as well. According to the USDA’s most recent report on the cost of raising a child, the average middle-income family will spend approximately $12,350-$13,900 on child-related expenses before their baby’s first birthday.
Most of these expenses will be ongoing, and it’s best to make room in your budget for these new items before the baby is born. Spend some time reviewing your monthly budget to look for ways to cut back on spending and give you that wiggle room to cover baby-related expenses.
Set up a baby account
All those baby expenses can be overwhelming, but if you break them down into bite-sized pieces, they’ll be easier to manage. You can do this by putting away some money for baby costs as soon as you plan on having a baby or find out you’re expecting. Consider setting up a new savings account at Kellogg Community Credit Union for all baby expenses to keep this money separate from other savings. You may also want to automate these savings by setting up a monthly transfer from your payroll or checking account to your “baby account.”
Estimate prenatal care and delivery costs
While exact amounts vary by state and by insurance provider, prenatal care and delivery can cost thousands of dollars. This includes out-of-pocket expenses, co-pays and insurance deductibles. Be sure to prepare for these expenses by saving up for them or by allocating a large windfall, such as a tax refund or generous work bonus, to be used for paying for prenatal care and delivery.
Start saving for college
Hard as it may be to believe, your little one will one day be all grown up and ready to go to college. With college tuition now averaging $35,087 at private colleges, $9,687 for state residents at public colleges and $21,184 for out-of-state students at state schools, according to data reported by U.S. News and World Report, this can mean paying a small fortune to give your child an education. In addition to spreading the costs over nearly two decades, starting to save for your child’s college education now will give those savings the best chance at growth.
Consider opening a 529 plan before your child is born where your college savings can grow tax-free. If you have questions on 529s you can reach out to KCCU Investment Services for assistance.
Write a will
No one wants to think about their own death when preparing for a birth, but writing a will — and purchasing life insurance if you haven’t already done so — can be the best gift for your child in case the unthinkable happens.
Beware of Banking Scams
There’s been a recent uptick in banking scams. In these scams, criminals pose as representatives of the victim’s financial institution. They might “spoof” KCCU’s number, so the caller ID may even look like it’s really us on the phone. The scammers may then state there’s a problem with the victim’s checking account that needs immediate attention. Sometimes, they’ll claim they can help lower interest rates on credit cards.
All they need to “help” the victim, they say, is the member’s confidential information, including account numbers and passwords. The scammers then use this information to empty the victim’s accounts and disappear.
Avoid Being a Victim
Here’s what you need to know about spoofing calls and banking scams.
We will never ask you to share confidential information through insecure channels. If you’re on guard, you’ll spot those fakers easily. Is a representative claiming there are problems with your account when everything seems to be in order? Are they asking for passwords over the phone? If things don’t add up, hang up.
Don’t Pick Up
Don't answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer the phone and the caller - or a recording - asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, just hang up. Scammers often use this ploy to identify potential targets.
Don’t Respond to Questions
Do not respond to questions, especially those that can be answered with "Yes" or "No."
Use a Voicemail Password
If you have a voice mail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voice mail if you do not set a password.
Talk to your phone carrier about call blocking tools and check into apps that you can download to your mobile device. The FCC allows phone companies to block robocalls by default based on reasonable analytics. More information about robocall blocking is available at www.fcc.gov/robocalls
Safeguard account details
Never share account information without being certain you’re talking to the real entity.
Use good password hygiene
Create and use complex passwords and change them frequently. Use different passwords for each of your accounts.
Choose extra protection
Opt for two-factor identification when logging into your accounts.
Monitor your accounts
Check your accounts on a regular basis and look specifically for any suspicious or unrecognized activity.
Choose to receive an email or a text message when transactions on your account exceed your typical level of spending. Learn more about eAlerts or watch our eAlerts Video to see how easy it is to set them up.
Reach out to us
It can sometimes be difficult to determine if the people you’re talking to are the real thing. If you think you’re dealing with KCCU, but things seem fishy, hang up or log out and call KCCU yourself. You can always reach us at 269.968.9251 / 800.854.5421 Be sure to call this number and never use another number suggested by a suspicious-acting “member representative.”
In case of fraud, take action
If you suspect you’ve been taken for a ride, let us know as soon as possible. The sooner you catch and report a scam, the better. It’s also a good idea to let the FTC know about the scam. Contact them at FTC.gov.
Random Acts of Kindness
Sometimes it’s the smallest act that makes the biggest impact – something as simple as a smile, has the power to turn a day around. Random Acts of Kindness Day is celebrated annually on February 17. Random Acts of Kindness Day encourages people all over the country to be altruistic to friends, coworkers, and even strangers. We should all use this day to bring a smile to someone’s face without expecting anything in return.
Here are some ideas to help you show kindness on Random Acts of Kindness Day, or any day of the year to bring cheer to others! A little kindness goes a long way.
What you can do
Anonymous act of goodwill
You can stick a quarter into a parking meter that is nearing expiration, shovel a neighbors sidewalk or driveway, leave treats on your neighbors or friends door step, or leave a note on someone’s windshield at the grocery store or where you work telling them to have a nice day.
Thank the teacher
Call your child’s teacher to thank them for all they do for your son or daughter.
Take a shift at the local soup kitchen for the day, animal shelter, senior center. There are even volunteer positions you can do virtually, such as reading to children via zoom! Search for volunteer opportunities near you with volunteermatch.org
Thank a community worker
Have you told your mail carrier how much you appreciate their hard work? Show your appreciation with a warm drink, a homemade pastry or just a sincere thank you.
Call a relative
Pick up the phone and let someone know how much they mean to you.
How much did you spend on your dinner today? Donate a matching amount to your favorite charity.
Donate canned goods to your local food bank or gently used items to Salvation Army, Goodwill, or other charitable organizations.
By providing your life-saving blood can help trauma victims, surgery patients, premature babies, and people with anemia right in your own community.
Do something special for your family
Charity begins at home. Have a family game night, bake a special dessert, or spend time just listening to a loved one without judgement.
Pay it Forward
Pick up the tab for the person behind you in the coffee or fast-food drive thru. Let someone go ahead of you in line at the grocery store.
Call your parents
Let your parents know you appreciate them.
Write to a soldier
Write a letter to a deployed member of the military through Operation Gratitude.
Compliment a stranger.
It's always nice to give and receive kind words.
Smile at everyone you meet
Never underestimate the power a smile can have to turn someone's day around!
Elder Financial Exploitation
To con artists, down-on-their-luck relatives, or opportunistic acquaintances, are gold mines. Individuals over the age of 50 control 70% of the country’s wealth, and seniors between the ages of 65 and 74, with an average net worth of $1.06 million, have more assets than any other age group. “That’s where the money is,” says Jay Haapala, AARP associate state director of community outreach in Minnesota. “If college kids had a bunch of disposable income lying around, criminals would be trying to figure out how to scam college kids.” Dementia, disability, and decline can make it even easier for criminals to take advantage of the elderly. All told, it is a problem that costs American seniors billions of dollars every year.
Common forms of exploitation
There are myriad scams, unethical businesses, and unscrupulous individuals preying on seniors all the time. While the details vary, there are a few familiar scenarios.
Breach of trust
The vast majority of elder financial abuse—as much as 90%, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association—is committed by caregivers or close family members. A son is added to a checking account to help manage Mom’s bills and then starts using the account to pay off gambling debts. Or Grandpa gives valuables to the housekeeper and eventually—at her suggestion—names her in the will.
Someone calls, supposedly from the IRS, saying that an individual has a tax bill that is going to be charged with interest and fees unless paid immediately. Or someone calls with news that there is a problem with a credit card and they need a Social Security number and birth date to access account information to clear things up.
How to stay safe
So, how do you protect yourself and your loved ones from elder financial abuse? Sign up on the Do Not Call Registry, this prevents businesses from contacting you. When online don’t click on links in your email if you don’t know the person or if you are not expecting the information.
Haapala also reminds seniors to conduct their personal business within the financial services system. If you receive a call or email from someone saying there is a problem with your debit or credit card, or your account, you should hang up and call the credit union back directly on their main phone number so you can verify that you are speaking to a credit union representative and not a criminal. Also, it is important to monitor your accounts closely so you can watch for any unwanted activity.
If you ever have any questions or suspect potential fraud contact Kellogg Community Credit Union immediately so we can help.
Credit Unions Offer the Best Auto Loans
The average cost of a new vehicle today is around $37,000.
The purchase of a car will likely be the second largest expenditure you have, second only to the purchase of a home. Whether you desire the shiny, brand new car, or if you are content with finding a reliable used one, we want to help you to get the most for your money.
why get an auto loan from KCCU
Here are five reasons it makes more sense to get your loan through KCCU.
Better chance of approval
With KCCU, you have a better chance of getting your loan approved. Even though the loan application process is the same and the underwriting process is similar, the credit union may make some adjustments that a bank would not. We listen to our members’ needs and unique situations.
A five-year term is the most common loan term for a new or used car, KCCU offers extended terms to help keep your payment low! Plus, rates at a credit union are typically much lower than the average rate at a bank. The savings in interest alone is a major reason to consider financing with KCCU. Just think of what you can do with the money you save.
Credit unions are non-profit organizations and work to provide members with high-quality customer service. Since we are locally owned and operated all decisions are made right here in your neighborhood at KCCU. You can openly discuss your loan, talk about flexible repayment options, and review your financial situation with a lending specialist. This can alleviate some of the pressure of applying and securing financing for your vehicle and you can be more confident that the credit union is working with your best interest in mind.
Extra resources & guidance
We offer educational resources and guidance. We can provide information such as financing options and how to make the best decisions when assessing the value of your car purchase. If you’re a first-time car buyer and apprehensive about the loan process, you can turn to KCCU for unbiased answers.
We offer a non-sales approach. Unlike commercial banks, which often give their lenders bonuses or some type of compensation for the loans they get approved, credit unions, as not-for-profit financial institutions, work for their members and do not try to sell you something you don’t need.
We are also happy to get you pre-qualified before you shop so you know exactly what your monthly payments will be. At KCCU, we are always happy to help!
Knowing When to Shop is Key
Stores and manufacturers like to offer deep discounts on certain popular products at specific times of the year. If you love a good sale (and who doesn’t?), time your purchases so you can take full advantage of these traditions. The following list shows the best month to find the best prices on popular items:
Sales revolve around New Year’s resolutions about getting in shape, or people looking for items to keep their home’s interior cozy during the cold winter.
- Fitness products
- TVs & electronics
- Bedding and linens
Comfy interiors continue to be high priorities on everyone’s To-Do list. People in the Northern states also need to deal with ice and snow.
- Interior paint
- Snow blowers
- Winter apparel
- Sporting equipment
Many are planning kitchen renovations. It’s also time to introduce new models for digital cameras. Summer recreation vehicles are also on sale this time of year as people are planning their summer.
- Space heaters
- Digital cameras
- Boats and RVs
Spring cleaning is on everyone’s mind, for the interiors and exteriors of their homes.
- Vacuum cleaners
- Lawn mowers
- Air purifiers
Time to begin sprucing up the exterior of homes and after a hard-day’s work, enjoy a good barbeque!
- Decking materials
- Gas grills
- Patio furniture
Summer begins, and many people can now really work on the exterior of their homes.
- Pressure washers
- Cordless drills
- String trimmers
Hot and humid, so you’ll find appliances to keep yourself dry, cool, and clean.
- Laundry machines
- Dish washers
It’s Back-to-School season, so you’ll find the best prices for pricier school supplies.
You’ll find items to help to clean up your house, inside and out.
- Leaf blowers
Time to check or replace smoke detectors and get ready for winter.
- Smoke detectors
- Snow blowers
- Interior paint
A favorite month for Shopaholics because the biggest discounts are offered, starting with Veteran’s Day and ending with Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
- Coffee makers
- Fitness trackers
The biggest gift-giving season heralds multiple sales on nearly everything through the entire month. It’s also when car dealerships try to meet their end-of-year sales quotas.
- Wireless speakers
- Fitness trackers
- Cordless drills
Reasons we overspend & how to avoid them
We’ve all been there. Maybe it’s that I-gotta-have-it urge that overtakes us when we see a pair of designer jeans. Maybe it’s that shrug as we reach for the $6 cup of overrated coffee that says, “I deserve this.” Or maybe it’s that helpless feeling as the end of the month draws near and we realize we’ve outspent our budget — again.
5 Common Reasons
What makes us overspend? Let’s take a look at five common reasons and how we can overcome them.
1. To keep up with the Joneses
Humans are naturally social creatures who want to blend in with their surroundings. When people who seem to be in the same financial bracket as we are can seemingly afford another pair of designer shoes for each outfit, we should be able to afford them, too, right?
The obvious flaw in this line of thinking is that nobody knows what’s really going on at the Joneses’ house. Maybe Mrs. Jones’ expensive taste in shoes has landed the family deeply in debt and they are in danger of losing their home. Maybe her Great Aunt Bertha passed and left her a six-digit inheritance. Maybe all her Louboutins are cheap knockoffs she bought online for $23 each.
Break the cycle: Learn to keep your eyes on your own wallet and to ignore how your friends or peers choose to spend their money. Develop a self-image that is independent of material possessions. Adapt this meme as your tagline when you feel that urge to overspend as a means to fit in: Let the Joneses keep up with me!
2. We don’t have a budget
A recent survey shows that 65% of Americans don’t know how they spent their money last month.
When all of our spending is just a guessing game, it can be challenging not to overspend. We can easily assure ourselves that we can afford another dinner out, a new top and a new pair of boots — until the truth hits and we realize we’ve overspent again.
Break the cycle: Create a monthly budget covering all your needs and some of your wants. If you’d rather not track every dollar, you can give yourself a general budget for all non-fixed expenses and then spend it as you please.
3. To get a high
Retail therapy is a real thing. Research shows that shopping and spending money releases feel-good dopamine in the brain, just like recreational drugs. David Sulzer, professor of neurobiology at Columbia, explains that the neurotransmitter surges when people anticipate a reward — like a shopper anticipating a new purchase. And when we encounter an unforeseen benefit, like a discount, the dopamine really spikes!
“This chemical response is commonly called ‘shopper’s high,’” Sulzer says, likening it to the rush that can come with drinking or gambling.
This explains the addictive quality of shopping that can be hard to fight. When life gets stressful, or we just want to feel good, we hit the shops or start adding items to our virtual carts.
Break the cycle: There’s nothing wrong with spending money to feel good, so long as you don’t go overboard. It’s best to put some “just for fun” money into your budget so you can make that feel-good purchase when you need to without letting it put you into debt.
4. Misuse of credit
Credit cards offer incredible convenience and an easy way to track spending. But they also offer a gateway into deep debt. Research shows that consumers spend up to 18% more when they pay with plastic over cash.
Break the cycle: When shopping in places where you tend to overspend, use cash and you’ll be forced to stick to your budget. You can also use a debit card with a careful budget so you know how much you want to spend.
5. Lack of self-discipline
Sometimes, there’s no deep reason or poor money management behind our spending. Sometimes, we just can’t tell ourselves — or our children — “no.”
Scott Butler, a retirement income planner at the wealth management firm Klauenberg Retirement Solutions in Laurel, MD, explains that it takes tremendous willpower to say no to something we want now.
“One of the big reasons people overspend is that they don’t think ahead,” Butler says.
Too often, we allow our immediate needs to take precedence over more important needs that won’t be relevant for years — such as a retirement fund or our children’s college education. We simply lack the discipline to not exchange immediate gratification for long-term benefit.
Break the cycle: Define your long-term financial goals. Create a plan for reaching these goals with small and measurable steps. While working through your plan, assign an amount to save each month. Before giving in to an impulse purchase or an indulgence you can’t really afford, remind yourself of your long-term goals and how much longer your timeframe will need to be if you spend this money now.
Recover from a Financial Disaster
As we sail into 2021, many Americans are struggling with the aftershocks of financial disaster. Whether it’s due to a layoff, a smaller workload, medical expenses or a change in family circumstances, the financial fallout of COVID-19 has been devastating for people in every sector of the economy.
Recovering from a financial disaster, due to a pandemic or any other reason, is never easy; however, with hard work and the ability to look forward, it can be done. Here’s how.
Step 1: Assess the damage
Take a step back to evaluate exactly how much financial recovery you need to do. Are you thousands of dollars in debt? Do you need to find a new job? Do you have new ongoing costs you will have to cover each month? Are there any other long-term financial implications of the recent disaster, including alimony and IRS liens?
It’s also a good idea to review your overall financial picture at this point, including your current income and ongoing expenses. Crunching the numbers and putting it all on paper will make it easier to take concrete steps toward recovery.
Step 2: Accept your new reality and stay calm
Shock and denial are valid stages of grief for any major loss or disaster, but in order for recovery to be possible, it’s important to reach a place of acceptance about your new reality. You can vent to a close friend or your life partner, express your feelings in an online journal or a paper-and-pen version, de-stress with your favorite low-cost hobby and then let go. Revisiting the past and constantly harping on what could have been will only drain you of the energy you need to move on.
Tim Essman, a financial professional with West Coast Wealth Strategies and Insurance Solutions in San Diego, also stresses the importance of remaining calm during an economic downturn. Don’t make any rash moves out of panic and fear, he cautions, as the best move in a financial crisis is to keep things stable until you can evaluate the situation and make rational decisions.
Step 3: Outline your goals
Before you get started on the actual recovery steps, define your primary objectives. Are you looking to rebuild a depleted emergency fund? Find gainful employment that will help bring your income back to its previous level? Pay down your medical bills? Outlining your goals will make it easier to move ahead.
As you work through this step, remember to choose goals that are SMART:
Specific — The goal should be clearly defined.
Measureable — It’s best if there’s a way for you to measure the goal, such as dollar amounts, credit score numbers, etc.
Attainable — Set a goal that challenges you, but is possible to achieve.
Realistic — Your goal should not be completely out of reach.
Timely — A goal without a deadline is just a wish.
Step 4: Create a Plan
You’re now ready to create a full-blown plan to help you reach your goal. Your plan should consist of consecutive steps that lead to a life of complete financial wellness.
Here are some steps you may want to include in your plan:
Trim your spending until you can consistently spend less than you earn.
- Build a small emergency fund to help get you through an unexpected expense.
- Seek new employment or new income streams, as necessary. Consider moonlighting, blogging or selling stuff online for extra cash.
- Start paying down debts. You may want to consolidate your debts with an unsecured loan to make this step easier.
- Save more aggressively, with an eye toward your retirement and another toward a large emergency fund with up to six months’ of living expenses.
Step 5: Make it Happen
It’s time to put your plan into action. If you were careful to set goals that are SMART, you should be able to take the first steps in your plan immediately. Be sure to review your plan occasionally and adjust it if any changes are needed. Times are hard, but with a forward-thinking attitude and the willingness to work hard, we can all recover.
Watch Out for COVID-19 Scams
The new COVID-19 vaccine is bringing hope for the end of the pandemic and normalcy for our everyday lives in 2021. Unfortunately, it also brings new coronavirus related schemes for fraudsters to try to steal your personal, medical, or financial information.
Scammers are using telemarketing calls, text messages, social media platforms, and door-to-door visits to perpetrate COVID-19-related scams.
During the pandemic we’ve seen scams offering COVID-19 tests, Health & Human Services (HHS) grants, and Medicare prescription cards in exchange for personal details, including Medicare information. We are now seeing ploys promising enhanced ranking to receive the vaccine. All of these services are unapproved and illegitimate.
These scammers use the coronavirus pandemic to benefit themselves, and beneficiaries face potential harm. The personal information collected can be used to fraudulently bill federal health care programs and commit medical identity theft.
Protect Yourself From COVID Scams
Protect your personal information by being aware of the scams and how to avoid falling for them.
Be vigilant and protect yourself from potential fraud concerning COVID-19 vaccines. You will not be asked for money to enhance your ranking for vaccine eligibility. Government and State officials will not call you to obtain personal information in order to receive the vaccine, and you will not be solicited door to door to receive the vaccine.
Medicare Beneficiary Scams
Beneficiaries should be cautious of unsolicited requests for their personal, medical, and financial information. Medicare will not call beneficiaries to offer COVID-19 related products, services, or benefit review.
COVID Test & Supply Scams
Be suspicious of any unexpected calls or visitors offering COVID-19 tests or supplies. If you receive a suspicious call, hang up immediately.
Do not respond to, or open hyperlinks in, text messages about COVID-19 from unknown individuals.
Ignore offers or advertisements for COVID-19 testing or treatments on social media sites. If you make an appointment for a COVID-19 test online, make sure the location is an official testing site.
HHS Grant Scams
Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone claiming to offer HHS Health & Human Services grants related to COVID-19.
Contact Tracing Scams
Be aware of scammers pretending to be COVID-19 contact tracers. Legitimate contact tracers will never ask for your Medicare number, financial information, or attempt to set up a COVID-19 test for you and collect payment information for the test.
What to do if You suspect Fraud
If you suspect COVID-19 health care fraud, report it immediately online or call 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).
Why Use Mobile Payments
Why fumble for your wallet at checkout when you can just pay by using your phone?
With more than 81% of Americans owning smartphones, contactless payments by digital wallet and mobile payment apps are now more popular than ever. Contactless payment is also becoming increasingly available at checkout counters across the country, with six in every 10 retailers accepting digital payments, according to research by the National Retail Federation.
Switching over to paying for your daily purchases with a digital wallet is simple. You’ll need to choose between popular mobile payment apps, like Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. All of these apps are similar, but Google Pay is your app of choice for all Android phones, Apple Pay works with recent Apple devices, and Samsung Pay offers the widest acceptance of all digital wallet apps. KCCU’s mobile wallet supports all three of these mobile payment apps. Once you’ve downloaded your preferred app, you can load your KCCU credit union credit and debit card information and then finish setting up the app with your personal authentication process. When this step is complete, your app is ready for use.
Benefits of using mobile payments.
The biggest and most obvious draw of mobile payments is their incredible convenience. No more pawing through cards at the checkout counter while the people standing in line behind you are growing impatient. No more hesitating over a stack of cash. Just pull out your phone, open your digital wallet app and tap or wave your phone near the payment-enabled terminal. It’s that easy.
Using a mobile payment app to complete a purchase has several security advantages over traditional payment methods.
First, it eliminates the need to carry around cash or credit cards, which always has the risk of being stolen or lost. Misplaced credit cards in particular can be a nightmare for consumers, making them vulnerable to full-blown identity theft.
Second, mobile-payment apps use extra security measures to protect the user’s data, such as encrypting all personal information and utilizing biometric authentication features, like fingerprint scans and facial recognition.
Finally, each transaction that takes place over a mobile payment app is tokenized. This involves a one-time code generated by the payment terminal, or a “token.” The token is used to complete the transaction in place of the buyer’s actual payment information. The token cannot be used for any other transaction and is effectively useless if hacked. The buyer is thus protected from fraud.
Mobile payments are super-fast. Instead of counting out cash or inserting a card into a payment terminal and waiting for the transaction to clear, it’s just a one-two-three tap to pay. With mobile payments, checking out in any store can take just seconds from start to finish.
Budgeting and expense-tracking
Digital wallets can be easily integrated with money-management apps, making budgeting easy. Every transaction will be instantly recorded for future reference and review. Additionally, retailers generally offer electronic receipts with mobile payments, as opposed to paper receipts which are easily misplaced.
Ever since the world entered the alternate reality of COVID-19, mobile-payment apps have enjoyed an enormous boost in popularity. In fact, retailers have seen a 69% rise in contactless payments since the beginning of 2020, according to a study done by the National Retail Federation. This is likely due to the fact that consumers are wary of shopping in brick-and-mortar locations and are hesitant to handle germ-infested cash. Inserting a debit card or credit card into a public payment terminal that processes payments for hundreds of cards a day is not much of a better option. All of this has made digital wallets the chosen method of payment now more than ever, with 67% of shoppers choosing self-checkout options from their own mobile devices over in-person payment.
Mobile payment apps enable consumers to complete a purchase without making physical contact at germ-laden terminals. There’s no need to use a wallet, cash or credit card at all. Just pull out your phone and your transaction is a quick wave or tap away. It’s the perfect way to pay for purchases without compromising your safety.
Mobile payments are the way of the future. There are so many reasons to love mobile payments. They’re convenient, secure, quick and safe.
DYI Gifts They’ll Love
Love the holidays but hate the Santa sticker shock that follows? No need to spend your way into debt this Christmas. Keep costs down and make the holidays more meaningful by gifting your loved ones with personalized homemade presents. From pamper-me packages crafted with care, to home décor that costs just a few dollars, to home-baked goodies that say “I love you,” the sky’s the limit when you DIY! Here are 13 homemade gift ideas from across the cyber-verse to get you started.
Sugar cookie sack
Everyone loves pulling freshly baked cookies out of the oven, but who wants to bother with measuring and mixing all those ingredients? Make it easy for your loved one with this adorable sack of sugar-cookie mix. Decorate the sack to make it personal, and you’ll have a heartwarming gift costing less than $10.
Help your friends and family gear up for winter with a cozy fleece blanket. If you’re handy with a needle, you can design a deluxe version of this fuzzy piece of heaven; otherwise, keep it simple, sweet and oh, so cheap.
Has your friend been pining for a pedicure? Gift them with all they need to make their nails sparkle with a “for your mistletoes” nail kit! Fill a $7 Mason jar with polishes, filers, a buffer and everything else they need for a spa-at-home experience.
Dress up a flat circle of wood with some beautiful material, attach a clock kit and voila — homemade designer décor for just a few dollars! This clock makes the perfect gift for the friend who’s just moved into a new home or dorm room. Learn how to make your wall clock here.
Bubble bath gift set
Who doesn’t love a relaxing bubble bath? This gift makes it possible with a complete bubble bath kit, including chocolate, bath salts, a candle, soaps, a pouf and more. Learn how to create your own at Sugar and Charm.
Instagram picture frame
Round up your friend’s best Instagram snaps of the year with this creative desktop frame. This gift will make them smile all year long.
Flavor your own vodkas and give your friends a unique gift they’ll enjoy for days to come. Choose between classic flavors or experiment with brave new ideas, like spicy citrus and cucumber tarragon. Get the tutorial for infused booze here.
Who says money doesn’t grow on trees? Give the gift of cash with an adorable holiday-themed presentation by rolling up stacks of bills into tree boughs. Learn how here.
This one is for the friend who dreams of starring on “Chopped.” Fill this personalized, decorated recipe box with their own best recipes and add a few new gems for their collection. They’ll think of you every time they cook up another storm. Check out Club Crafted to get the full tutorial.
Snowball bath bombs
Bath time is fun again with these peppermint-infused bath bombs! Package inside plastic ornaments for a real holiday treat.
We’re all spending more time at home these days, and what better way to light up a cold winter evening than with these gorgeous rainbow candles? All you need for these eye-catching creations is a bit of time and some old crayons.
Painted picture frames
Dress up dollar-store picture frames with colored chalk paint for the perfectly memorable gift. Learn how at Make Your Mark.
Reindeer gift card holder
This holiday-themed card holder is the perfect present for that friend who owns a collection of gift cards and needs a place to keep them safe. You can also use it to dress up a gift card and make it more personal. It’s made out of leftover toilet paper rolls and basic craft materials you likely already have at home.
Keep the stress out of the holidays this year with our DIY gift ideas. It’s all the shared love with none of the debt. Plus, creating these gifts will keep you busy as you ride out a quarantine or avoid crowded malls during these pandemic times. Who knew holiday gifts could be so much fun?
Why You Need a Checking Account
About 14 million adults in the U.S. do not have an account with a credit union or bank. Whether this is by choice or because they don’t think they qualify to open an account, they end up missing out on many financial services that make life easier. For instance, instead of using a credit union to cash their paychecks, they use check-cashing stores like Check into Cash or retailers like Walmart, which charge a fee of 1% to 6% of the check amount.
In addition, people without a credit union account don’t have a safe place to keep their funds, are less likely to qualify for loans, and can’t earn interest on the money they save.
Conveniences to having a checking account:
- You can get a debit card
- You will get checks to pay your bills
- You will be able to pay bills online
- If your employer offers direct deposit, you can have your paychecks automatically deposited into your account. This means you will get your money faster and you won’t need to go to a credit union or ATM to make the deposit
- You can cash just a portion of your paycheck and leave the rest in your account, so you won’t have to carry large amounts of cash on you
- Your money will be safe in your account from theft, fire, or loss. It’s also insured, so if something should happen to the credit union, your money is covered up to $250,000
Many banks charge checking account fees, some as high as $9 a month. But at Kellogg Community Credit Union you can get a no-fee checking account. And when you become a member, you become a co-owner of the credit union. Among the perks are lower loan rates and higher savings rates than you would get at banks or other financial institutions.
To get started, apply online or contact one of our Member Representatives at 800-854-5421
Tips to get the Best Deal on a New Car
5 things you can do to save on your next car
So, you've found the perfect car. You’ve shopped around, and this car has your name on it. Well, not quite yet. Not if you want the best deal anyway. Here are five simple things that can help you afford the car of your dreams.
1. Go to KCCU and get preapproved for an auto loan
Because KCCU is not-for-profit, and owned by our members, you can get better borrowing rates than banks typically offer. When you get preapproved you will know how much you can spend, your interest rate, and what your monthly payment will be. This information gives you confidence when sitting across the desk from the salesperson.
2. Price check
Check out Edmunds or Kelley Blue Book. These sites have information that can help you figure out the dealer’s wholesale cost—that’s the price the dealership would pay the car manufacturer. Also, shop around to find out how other dealers are pricing your make and model.
3. Choose the bes time to shop. Shop on a week day, at the end of the month, and, even better, at the end of the year
Yes, if you can slip out of work on a weekday when there aren’t a lot of potential buyers in the place; the dealership will be eager to make a deal. At the end of the month, dealerships will be trying to hit their monthly sales goals, and you can take advantage of that situation. And, if you can hold off until the end of the year, when most dealerships are trying to unload inventory, that’s a great time to buy!
4. Stick to the price of the car
Don’t get pulled in another direction with options for add-ons, trade-in value, or a lower monthly payment. You can negotiate those things after you’ve confirmed the price of the car—that’s the number you should be negotiating. Everything else is a distraction.
5. If the price is still too high, don’t be afraid to walk away
Even if you believe this car is perfect, be prepared to let it go and don’t look back if it is out of your price range. And when it is meant to be, your credit union will still be there to give you a loan you know you’ll be able to afford.
Share Insurance Protects Your Money
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.
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.
Celebrating Thanksgiving During COVID-19
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.
Manage Your Money During COVID-19
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.
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
Pending Package Scam
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.
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 .
Millennials and the Coronavirus Recession
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.
When to Pay a Bill with a Credit Card?
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
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:
- 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.
How can I save on car insurance during the COVID-19?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Having anti-theft features can get you 5-25% off your comprehensive auto insurance.
Available for cars less than three years old.
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
Tax Scams for 2020
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.
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.
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) .
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Never share personal information online
- Don’t open unsolicited emails. If you do, do not click on any links in them.
- Never send money by insecure methods to an unknown party.
- Protect your devices by using the most current operating systems, choosing two-factor authentication and using strong, unique passwords for every account.
- Choose the strongest privacy settings for your social media accounts.
- Keep yourself in the know about the latest scams
- Educate your kids about basic computer safety and privacy
- If you have elderly parents, talk to them about common scams and teach them to protect themselves.
- If a government agency or a company calls and asks you to share personal information, tell them you’ll contact them on your own.
- Never accept a job or pay for a purchase or service without researching the company involved.
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (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 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 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 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.
“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).
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Renew the credit line
- Pay back the entire balance
- 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.
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
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:
- CornerStone: 1-800-663-1662
- FedLoan Servicing (PHEAA): 1-800-699-2908
- Granite State — GSMR: 1-888-556-0022
- Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, Inc.: 1-800-236-4300
- HESC/Edfinancial: 1-855-337-6884
- MOHELA: 1-888-866-4352
- Navient: 1-800-722-1300
- Nelnet: 1-888-486-4722
- OSLA Servicing: 1-866-264-9762
- ECSI: 1-866-313-3793
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.