5 Smart Ways to Use Your Stimulus Check

As part of the COVID-19 Relief Package, the U.S. government is issuing stimulus checks to many households in an effort to boost the economy and help individuals deal with the financial impact of the global pandemic.

What is the most strategic way to use your stimulus check?

1. Cover the Essentials

Millions of people have lost their jobs or been furloughed, leaving many with smaller incomes. However, expenses have likely remained the same. Before spending your windfall, take a look at the next few months of bills that may come due and make sure you will have enough to pay for:

  • Mortgage or rent and car payments
  • Utilities, cell service and internet
  • Minimum payments on credit cards and debt
  • Insurance for vehicles and/or home

Note: Take advantage of relief programs. If you’re experiencing significant financial strain, check with your lenders and service providers to see if they’re among many who offer relief programs or special payment terms during this time.

2. Build an Emergency Fund

If you’re in a position where you don’t need the money immediately, consider setting it aside in an accessible, protected account to use when absolutely necessary. There’s no way to know how long the U.S. economy will suffer as a result of the crisis or whether your financial status may change in coming months. Stashing it away for safekeeping may help you ease a potential impending financial burden down the road.

3. Pay Off Debt

If you’re confident that you’ll have enough to cover basic expenses for the next few months, consider having your stimulus check go toward paying off credit card debt, medical bills, car payments or student loans. While some institutions may offer relief programs in the short term, those funds will still be due later on. Prioritize by paying off debt with the highest interest rates first.

4. Invest

If you’ve established a healthy emergency fund and believe you’ll remain financially secure, you may consider contributing to your retirement through a variety of investment strategies. Markets experienced some turbulence in 2020, and have since stabilized. Long-term investments may prove promising.

Note: If you’d like to learn more about how planning ahead today can pay off in your future, contact a financial professional located at your credit union.

5. Be Generous

The global pandemic has put a strain on many nonprofits as the need for the goods and services they provide climbs to an all-time high. If you’re in a financial position to help others during this time of crisis, find a nonprofit that you feel passionate about and consider donating a portion (or all) of your stimulus check funds to those who need it most.

Representatives are registered, securities sold, advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, which is not an affiliate of the credit union. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution to make securities available to members. Not NCUA/ NCUSIF/FDIC insured, May Lose Value, No Financial Institution Guarantee. Not a deposit of any financial institution.

CBSI-3053187.2-1220-0123

The Answers to Your Second Stimulus Payment Questions

The second round of stimulus checks are on their way, thanks to the signing of the COVID RELATED TAX RELIEF ACT OF 2020 that was just recently signed on 12/27/2020. Since many different amounts and restrictions were thrown around during the negotiations, most people probably have a lot of questions about these new stimulus checks. At the top of the list: How much will I get? And when will I get it?

Here’s a few answers to the questions you may have:

Question: When will I get my second stimulus check?

Answer: Soon! The IRS has already started sending out $600 payments. If the amount is later raised – anyone who has already received a $600 second stimulus check will be sent another payment as quickly as possible for the additional amount they are owed.

If the IRS already has your bank account information—either from a recent tax payment that you made or from a tax refund sent to you, then expect to get your second stimulus check faster. That’s because the IRS will be able to directly deposit the payment into your bank account. The IRS can also make a second stimulus payment to a Direct Express debit card account, a U.S. Debit Card account, or other Treasury-sponsored account. Otherwise, you’ll get a paper check in the mail.

Question: How much money will I get?

Answer: Right now, you’ll get $600. Those who made more than $75,000 will get less. A married couple making up to $150,000 will receive $1,200. Children under 17 will get $600. Therefore, the most a family of four could get is $2,400. The amount will be based on the income you claimed on your 2019 federal tax return. $300 in additional unemployment benefits will be made to jobless workers, to expire on 3/14/2021.

Question: Will I have to pay taxes on it?

Answer: No. There are no strings attached and you will not have to pay taxes on this second stimulus payment.

If you’re wondering when you can expect your stimulus funds, please click here. This will take you directly to the IRS website where you can check your payment status.

If you know your payment will be directly deposited into your First Financial account, click here for online banking or view your account within our mobile app.

3 Ways to Stop Overspending During These Times

Given the current pandemic that continues, you’re most likely more mindful of your finances these days. Even if you have a budget set up, you may still find that money feels a little tight right now. The last thing you want to do in these current times, is rack up unnecessary debt or spend too much money. Here are 3 easy ways to stop overspending.

Cut back on takeout: It’s great to support local businesses right now, but don’t overdo it. Have you been consistently making trips to your favorite fast food drive thru or ordering takeout/delivery? If your takeout budget has increased, your grocery budget needs to decrease. Be mindful of what you are spending on food and if the takeout is taking over your budget.

Pay with cash: After you pay your bills for the month, try to use cash for anything else. Other than necessities that you may still want to purchase online for health and safety reasons, are you shopping online and using a card just to pass the time or buy items you don’t really need? Using cash may prevent you from adding that one extra item to your Amazon or other online shopping cart.

Make do with what you have: Delayed events are happening all over. Movies and concerts have either been pushed back or cancelled. As much as you might want to spend money you normally would spend on summer concert tickets on something else, keep it in your savings account. For now – watch a movie on Netflix you haven’t seen yet, or on your cable network’s free on demand movies. You can also login to YouTube and view a past live concert at no cost. There are many ways to improvise and save money!

 

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Student Loan Payment Changes During COVID-19

With unemployment levels rising and many employers cutting work hours, large numbers of college grads are now struggling to meet their student loan payments. Thankfully, the federal government has passed legislation to help ease this burden. However, many borrowers are confused about the terms and conditions of these changes. Here’s all you need to know about changes to student loan debt due to 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 (CARES Act) signed into law on March 27, 2020 – all federal student loan payments are suspended, interest-free, through September 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, some Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL), as well as 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 non-payments as missed payments to the credit bureaus. 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 loan. You can also call your loan servicer directly as well.

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 would typically 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 who have defaulted on student loans – must make 9 out of 10 consecutive monthly payments in order to bring their loans out of default. The U.S. Department of Education will consider the six-month suspension on payments as if regular payments were being 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 make 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 may be able to lower your monthly payments by enrolling in an income-based repayment plan. This would adjust your monthly student loan payment amount according to your discretionary income. 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.

Still have questions about your student loan payments during this time? It’s always a good idea to reach out to your lender and find out what options are available to you.

Article Source: CUcontent.com

Should You File for Bankruptcy?

Your debt feels impossible. New bills and past due notices are showing up constantly. Creditors won’t stop calling. As you feel like throwing your hands in the air, you wonder – should I file for bankruptcy?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a reality that many might be facing. Millions of Americans across the country have been unemployed since earlier this year. It’s incredibly easy to get behind on bills when the money isn’t coming in, but the bills are still showing up. It’s an overwhelming feeling.

The longer this pandemic continues, the more likely it is that you’ll see an attorney on a TV commercial asking if you’re thousands of dollars in debt, feeling overwhelmed by creditors and looking for a solution. Next – they’ll present the option of filing for bankruptcy, which who wouldn’t want to have their debt forgiven, right? Not so fast.

Filing bankruptcy might help you get rid of your debt, but it’s important to understand the serious, long-term effects it can have on your credit. When you file bankruptcy, it remains on your credit report for 7-10 years as a negative remark, and it affects your ability to open credit card accounts or get approved for loans with favorable rates.

What exactly is bankruptcy? Bankruptcy is a legal process designed to help individuals and businesses eliminate all or part of their debt, or in some cases – help them repay a portion of what they owe. There are several types of bankruptcy, but the most common types are Chapter 7, Chapter 11 and Chapter 13.

Chapter 7 forgives most of your debt and allows you to keep all of your assets with a few exceptions, depending on state and federal laws. During the process, you and your creditors are invited to a meeting where they are allowed to make a case as to why a federal bankruptcy court shouldn’t forgive your debt. Once your case is approved, your debt will be forgiven, and none of your creditors will be allowed to hassle you over the forgiven debt.

Chapter 11 is generally for small business owners. It allows small business owners to retain their business while paying back debts according to a structured plan. With this option, business owners give up a certain amount of control to court officials, debtors, or counselors assigned to help them rebuild their credit. Despite losing some control of the business, owners are able to keep their business running while working on their financial future.

Chapter 13 is different than Chapter 7 in that it requires you to come up with a plan to repay your creditors over a 3-5-year period. After that, your debt will be forgiven.

Things to consider if you’re thinking about filing bankruptcy:

It’s important to note the serious impact bankruptcy can have on your credit report. Bankruptcy effectively wipes out everything on your credit report – good and bad remarks, and will stay on your credit report for 7-10 years.

This also means any account you’ve paid off or left in good standing that could positively impact your credit score, is also wiped out. Any hard work you’ve put into building your credit is basically nonexistent once you file bankruptcy. All the negative remarks will be gone as well, but you will also be considered high-risk when it comes to lending moving forward.

Bankruptcy affects your ability to open lines of credit – credit cards, mortgages, auto loans, personal loans, etc. Because you will be labeled high-risk, most banks will likely deny any application you submit for a line of credit – even though your credit score might have gone up when your credit report was initially wiped out. If you are approved for a line of credit, you’ll likely get a much higher interest rate which will make your monthly payments higher too.

Should you file for bankruptcy?

When it feels like your debt is caving in on you, bankruptcy might seem like the only way to reach financial peace. Here are a few steps to consider taking before you consider filing.

  • Take a moment to talk to your creditors. Negotiate and see if there are options to make your debt more manageable. Can you lower the interest rate? Is it possible to settle for less than you owe? Can you set up a payment plan?
  • Talk to us about your financial picture. We might have options that will allow you to consolidate your debt into one, more affordable payment.
  • Go through your house. Do you have things you don’t use or need that you can sell? If so, sell some of those items and apply that money to your debt.

Also, it’s important to note that not all debt is eligible for bankruptcy. While bankruptcy can eliminate a lot of your debt, some types of debt cannot be forgiven:

  • Most student loan debt.
  • Court-ordered alimony.
  • Court-ordered child support.
  • Reaffirmed debt.
  • A federal tax lien for taxes owed to the U.S. government.
  • Government fines or penalties.
  • Court fines and penalties.

Bankruptcy should be the last option you consider. Look through your debt, see what you owe and carefully weigh all your options. Again, make an appointment to come in and talk to us and we can help you review your options. We’re your credit union, and we’re here for you!

5 Ways Being Home Can Save You Money

As the public health emergency continues, what are you up to these days – working from home? Taking fewer trips? Eating at home more? Chances are, you’re probably saving money on gas and your usual food tab.

Hopefully, there are other areas where you’ve been able to save money as well. Check out these tips below that can help save you money whether you’re quarantined or not!

Unplug It

How many devices do you leave plugged in during the day? Did you know that even in standby mode, any electronic device that is plugged in will still suck energy?

Energy.gov reports that “an appliance constantly taking in 1 watt of electrical current is equivalent to 9kWh per year, adding up in annual costs (basically $1/watt/annual). Considering how many appliances are used in an average household, costs can quickly add up to $100-200 a year.”

If you’re not using it, unplug it. Or, use a power strip that can be turned off. It’ll save you money in the long run!

Save Water

You might be tempted to throw half a normal load of wash in, but first ask yourself – are there enough dirty clothes to make it worth it or do you have an energy efficient load sensing washing machine? Another tip to conserving energy is washing in cold water when you can, since the majority of your machine’s energy consumption happens when it needs to heat the water.

While you’re home – conserve water by taking shorter showers. If each member of your family reduces their shower time by 3 minutes, you’ll save about $100 a year on your water bill.

Check Your Policies

You’ve probably seen the car insurance commercials advertising a credit to customer accounts. Check into that. Give your insurance company a call or check your account online. Most companies are giving their customers a 15 percent credit because they aren’t driving as much. In some cases, customers are getting a $150 credit added to their policy for the duration.

Don’t sleep on the chance to save some money on your auto insurance. While you’re at it, check on your other policies and accounts. You might find other places offering a similar discount to help out their customers.

Cool It Now

What is your thermostat set on? If you’ve adjusted your thermostat during the day now that you’re working from home more, you might want to tweak that a bit to offset the cost.

Find Your New Normal

We’ve all said it – “when things get back to normal.” But now we’re all in the position to redefine what normal looks like for us. Take a moment to reevaluate your priorities and budget. Are their unnecessary subscriptions you can cut? Is there a magazine, streaming service or even gym membership that is no longer valuable because you’ve found an alternative? If so, cut those from your budget and save some money each month.

Article Source: https://www.schlage.com/blog/categories/2020/05/5-ways-to-save-money-at-home.html