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

 

Financial and Preparedness Tips for Summer Roadtrips

Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, as bigger trips get cancelled and flights are limited – some may be considering road trips to other states as this year’s family summer vacation. While the CDC still urges limited travel, those who decide to take a roadtrip should consider the following before hitting the road:

  • What’s actually open? Planning is especially important this summer because many state parks and businesses in certain states may still be closed. Do your research ahead of time.
  • Face masks – Bring one for every passenger, and wear them in public. Even places where it looks like social distancing is in force can become crowded in a hurry.
  • Call ahead – Be sure to confirm any potential restrictions for where you are traveling.
  • Call the hotel – If you plan to stay overnight at a hotel, call ahead to make sure it is still open and will have rooms available.
  • Stop early and often for fuel and breaks, just in case. Check online to see which state-run highway rest stops are open and which facilities are operational.

Auto Maintenance Tips for Traveling by Car:

  • Bring your own protective equipment – This includes gloves for pumping your own gas, paper towels, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper. Some gas stations/rest stops may be limited in what they have available, so be sure to bring your own just in case.
  • Prepare in advance – Be sure to stay up to date on oil changes and have your tires checked before you go. Also check your windshield washer fluid level, coolant, light bulbs, battery life and so forth. Book a service appointment for your vehicle prior to leaving.
  • Do you have a roadside assistance plan? If not, you may want to enroll in one before your trip.

Packing and Preparedness Suggestions:

  • Don’t overload your car, and store the heaviest items low (or opt for a rooftop cargo carrier).
  • Be sure to bring a car phone charger, basic tools, road flares, a flashlight, spare tire and changing kit, and jumper cables.

Did you know that First Financial’s mechanical repair coverage can help you limit out-of-pocket costs should you ever have a covered breakdown? Be sure to check it out before you hit the road this summer. To research, compare, and buy Mechanical Repair Coverage, visit creditunion.forevercar.com/firstffcu or call 855.927.0224

*Mechanical Repair Coverage is provided and administered by Consumer Program Administrators, Inc. in all states except CA, where coverage is offered as insurance by Virginia Surety Company, Inc., in WA, where coverage is provided by National Product Care Company and administered by Consumer Program Administrators, Inc., in FL, LA and OK, where coverage is provided and administered by Automotive Warranty Services of Florida, Inc. (Florida License #60023 and Oklahoma License #44198051), all located at 175 West Jackson Blvd., Chicago Illinois 60604, 800.752.6265. This coverage is made available to you by CUNA Mutual Insurance Agency, Inc. In CA, where Mechanical Repair Coverage is offered as insurance (form MBIP 08/16), it is underwritten by Virginia Surety Company, Inc. Coverage varies by state. Be sure to read the Vehicle Service Contract or the Insurance Policy, which will explain the exact terms, conditions, and exclusions of this voluntary product.

Article Source: Patch.com

Beware of Coronavirus Unemployment Scams

Millions of Americans have found themselves out of work as the economy still reels from the impact of COVID-19. A record number of Americans have filed for unemployment insurance in recent weeks. Unfortunately, when there’s bad news – scammers aren’t far behind. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Americans have lost a collective $13.4 million to coronavirus-related fraud, and unemployment scams have contributed their fair share to the loss.

With a high number of individuals filling out claims, along with the overloaded unemployment websites and phone lines – it provides the perfect cover for con artists. In light of the pandemic, the federal government has also waived some regulations of unemployment insurance, including the requirement to actively be seeking work in order to be eligible for benefits. This looser criteria has only made it easier for scammers to pull off their schemes without getting caught.

Here’s what you need to know about circulating unemployment scams:

How the scams play out

An unemployment scam can involve a con artist filing in someone else’s name and then collecting their benefits or claiming to have been employed by a place of business where they have never held a job. The victim will thus be denied their own benefits.

According to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Labor, these fraudsters can also take the form of a scammer impersonating a government employee and offering to help the victim fill out their application form for unemployment insurance. The victim, seeking assistance with their claim – will willingly comply with the scammer who is only out to get information so they can nab the victim’s benefits. Or worse, the scammer may use this information to steal the victim’s identity.

Other times, while allegedly helping the victim fill out their forms, the scammer will ask the victim to make a payment via credit card to enable them to receive their benefits. Of course, this money will go straight into the scammer’s pocket and the victim’s unemployment claim will never be filed.

In yet another variation of the unemployment scam, fraudsters create bogus websites that look like the federal websites used for claiming benefits. Scammers use sophisticated software to create these sites and lure unsuspecting victims via social media posts or emails. Once the victim is on the site, they willingly share information and assume they are actually filling out their unemployment forms.

Unemployment scams can make a challenging situation all the more difficult by leading to theft, delaying an unemployment claim, or completely disqualifying a victim from receiving unemployment insurance altogether.

How to spot an unemployment scam

As always, arming yourself with knowledge is the best way to protect against an unemployment scam.

  • First, it’s important to note that there is no fee involved in filing or qualifying for unemployment insurance.
  • Second, government officials will never ask you to share personal information over the phone unless a phone appointment was pre-planned and scheduled for a specific date and time. This includes a full Social Security Number, date of birth, employment history and financial information.
  • Finally, sensitive information should never be shared on a site without first verifying its security. Each state will have its own website dedicated to filing and checking unemployment claims, but you should also look for the lock icon next to the site’s URL and for the “s” after the “http” in the web address. It’s also best to visit your state’s unemployment site on your own instead of clicking on an ad or a link that’s embedded in an email.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world as we know it. Society is now looking toward the future while determining the next step in their new reality. Part of the recovery process involves picking up the pieces and putting personal finances in order. Scammers are out to thwart this process, but you can outsmart them. Always stay alert for potential scams, and practice vigilance when sharing sensitive information online or over the phone. Stay safe!

Article Source: CUContent.com