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New Year’s Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

Please enjoy this FREE E-Book from Mutual Credit Union as a gift to Kick Start your Successful Financial New Year in 2019! This workbook is designed to help you set goals, track them throughout 2019 and make your financial dreams a reality!

Click New Years Resolutions_eBook-interactive for the Downloadable Version. Enjoy!

New Years Resolution Workbook

January Resolutions Step 1

February Resolutions Step 2

March Resolutions Step 3

April Resolutions Step 4

May Resolutions Step 5

June Resolution Step 6

July Resolution Step 7

August Resolution Step 8

September Workbook

October Workbook

November Workbook

December Workbook

WE Can’t Wait To SAY……………………………..

 

Congratulations on a Job Well Done

Mutual Credit Union Announces “Pause” on Loan Payments

Contact: Susan Mandarino
1604 Cherry Street
Vicksburg, MS 39180
Phone: (601) 636-7523 ext. 1226
Email: marketing@mutualcu.org
Website: www.mutualcu.org

Press Release

Thursday, March 26, 2020

 

Mutual Credit Union Announces “Pause” on Loan Payments

Vicksburg, Miss. – – Today, Thursday, March 26, 2020, we are announcing our first ever “pause” on loan payments due to the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 world-wide pandemic. All Loans (Excluding Real Estate, HELOC and Single Pay loans) with due dates between March 16th – April 30th will see advanced due dates into May 2020. President of Mutual Credit Union, Michael Mathews stated, “This virus has brought a level of uncertainty to our community that I have not experienced in my lifetime, and the speed at which it has changed our daily routines is unprecedented. I want our members to know that we will work through this event in time together and we will utilize every available resource at our disposal to assist. Although our lobbies may be closed, we are still here for you.”

We know that COVID-19 has affected many of our members whether it is due to employment concerns, childcare stress and/or overall health concerns during this time and it is our hope that by offering this “pause” payment program that we can help to ease the financial burden our members are facing. We are doing our part during these trying times to offer all the support that we can to our Mutual CU members and to the communities we serve. Our focus truly is you.

If any member wishes to continue to make their April payment(s) as usual, you can access online banking, the mobile app, or call 877-457-3654 to continue your payments on schedule. Loan payments will still be deducted from any member on payroll allocation. If this is your situation, please either email loan@mutualcu.org or call 877-457-3654 option 5 to have your loan payment reversed.

Also, at this time, the following fees will be waived until further notice; transfer fees from savings to checking, money order fees and cashier’s check fees. It is our hope that by freeing up the availability of funds for each member that we enhance our commitment to each other by being what the Credit Union is all about, “People Helping People.” Let’s build our own community stimulus package during this time keeping our focus not on the unknown but on supporting each other while maintaining our “social distancing.”

We thank you for your membership and look forward to continuing to serve you and your families now and for decades to come.

For more information about Mutual Credit Union please follow this link to our webpage. For additional questions, please contact the marketing department at marketing@mutualcu.org or by calling (601) 636-7523 ext. 1226.

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Fun Activities To Do With Your Kids At Home

challenge-create-your-own-photo-shoot

It isn’t easy to be holed up at home with just your family for company. After two days, you may be thinking there isn’t enough coffee or chocolate in this world for a parent who’s stuck home with their kids for weeks at a time. As the parent, though, you have the unique opportunity to set the tone in your home and decide if these weeks will be a nightmare for everyone, or filled with precious memory-making and family-bonding activities.

Here are some fun activities to keep your kids busy while you wait out the pandemic at home:

Marshmallow Tinker-Toys: For a fun twist on the classic building toy, take pretzel sticks and mini-marshmallows and let your child build a world of sweetness. Have them create pretzel-marshmallow people, houses and towns. It’s creative, sticky fun, and best of all, when they’re done, they can eat their sweet creations!

Puppet Shows: All you need for the show of a lifetime is a cardboard box, some Popsicle sticks, old socks (which may have lost their match) and markers for decorating. If you have googly eyes in the house, glue them on for more realistic-looking sock puppets. Have your child entertain you, or be the entertainer — either way works. Let the show begin!

Scrapbook: Spend some quality time reliving precious memories by digging out the scrapbooking supplies and old photos to create a timeless masterpiece together.

Salt Painting: Move over, glitter; this new painting technique makes designs that are just as pretty and twice as fun! Lay a piece of cardstock on top of some old newspapers. Have your child draw patterns on the paper using Elmer’s glue. The glue lines should be on the thick side. Next, pour table salt over the wet glue, making sure all the glue is covered in salt. You can speed up this step by tilting your paper after pouring the salt. Shake off all excess salt. Now, using watercolors, let your kids paint the salt! This works best if the paint is a bit watery so the brush doesn’t have to touch the salt too often; it can simply drip onto the paper. When your child is done painting, they’ll be left with a spectacular, super-cool design!

Teach a Household Skill: Instead of complaining about the endless housework, enlist your child’s help! Even very small children can help sort laundry, load the washing machine and press the buttons to turn it on (with your supervision, of course). Have the older ones help you bake, letting them put their math skills to use by adding fractions in recipes. And, of course, everyone cleans up their own messes when the day is done!

Simon Says, “Draw!”:  Give this old favorite a twist by breaking out the craft supplies. Set up a table with paper, crayons, markers, stamps and any other fun coloring supplies you have in your house. Seat your kids around the table and begin an intense game of Simon Says, only instead of movements, instruct your kids to draw something on their papers. You can have them draw basic shapes in specific colors, or something more complex if they’re a little older. Anyone who messes up is out of the game!

Balloon Ping-Pong: No need for a bulky ping-pong table! Just tape large popsicle sticks to the backs of paper plates, blow up a balloon and have your preschoolers play ping-pong with their makeshift paddles over your empty kitchen table!

Let it Snow!: It’s been a snowless winter in many parts of the country, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring the blizzard home. Whip up a batch of homemade snow while you’re stuck inside during the COVID-19 outbreak. Let your kids have a blast creating a winter wonderland that’s almost as good as the real thing. In a large pan or bin, mix 3 cups of baking soda with ½ cup hair conditioner. Note: If you don’t have enough baking soda on hand, you can also use shaving cream for your “snow.” Keep on stirring until the mixture turns cold, soft and feels like … snow!  Dig out the toy cars, small beach shovels and collections of Little People or Playmobil people and let the fun begin!

Scavenger Hunt: If your kids are bouncing off the walls from being cooped up at home, have them let off some steam with a good old-fashioned scavenger hunt. Set up hints around the house and have them race from clue to clue searching for the treasure you’ve hidden for them. If your kids are too young to read, this can work with picture clues as well. The “treasure” can be a special treat you have in the house, a new game or art supply you’ve been saving or their favorite stuffed teddy.

No, it isn’t easy to be holed up at home with your kids. But, with some creativity and a positive attitude (and lots of coffee and chocolate), you can fill this challenging time with warm memories your children will treasure for the rest of their lives.

Your Turn: How are you keeping your kids busy during the pandemic? Share your best ideas with us in the comments.

Financial Do’s & Don’ts During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Bankruptcy

Q: Since the coronavirus has landed on American shores, each day seems to bring more devastating news about the state of our economy. What steps should I be taking to protect my personal finances during this time?

A: The coronavirus outbreak has already generated severe consequences for the national and global economies — and experts say we’re only seeing the beginning of the pandemic’s financial fallout. The virus ended one of the longest bull markets in history, as the stock market plunged by a full 25 percent in one volatile month. In fact, it saw its worst day since 1987. More than that, businesses have been adversely affected by the outbreak in many ways: production lines have been put on hold as the delivery chain is disrupted indefinitely; the global-wide halt on travel has caused tremendous losses for the tourism and airline industries; sports and entertainment industries have taken huge hits; and countless other business lines have been negatively impacted by a dearth of supplies, decreased spending and a shortage of personnel due to quarantines or school closures.

With all this uncertainty, it’s easy to fall into a panic and wonder if there are some concrete steps you should be taking to save your personal finances from impending ruin. Here are some practical dos and don’ts to help you maintain financial stability and peace of mind during this time.

Don’t: Panic by selling all your investments 

Both seasoned investors with robust portfolios and those simply worried about their retirement accounts can find it nerve-racking to see their investments drop in value by as much as 10 percent a day. It may seem like a smart idea to sell out just to spare investments from further loss, but financial experts say otherwise. According to The Motley Fool, most sectors of the economy will recover quickly as soon as the outbreak clears. For example, consumers may not be purchasing shoes or cruise tickets now, but they will likely do so when it is safe to shop and travel again. While the global and national economy may not bounce back for a while, experts are hopeful that individual business sectors will recover quickly.

Do: Trim your spending

The thriving economy the country has enjoyed for a while has prompted a gradual lifestyle inflation for many people. As the economy heads toward a probable recession, this can be a good time to get that inflation in check. Work bonuses, raises and promotions are not handed out as freely during a recession as they were in recent years. Some people may even find themselves without a job as companies are forced to lay off workers in an effort to stay solvent. Trimming discretionary spending now can be good practice for making it through the month on a smaller income. It’s also a good idea to squirrel away some of that money for a rainy day.

Don’t: Put your money before your health 

Financial wellness is important, but physical health should always take priority. If you’re feeling unwell, and especially if you’re exhibiting any of the symptoms of the coronavirus — such as fever, coughing and shortness of breath — call in sick to work. Do the same if you’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days. Don’t let financial considerations come before your health and the health of those you come into contact with each day.

As part of a package of executive orders to help mitigate the financial fallout of the coronavirus, President Donald Trump has announced that all employees are entitled to two weeks of full paid leave if they are unable to work because of the coronavirus. This includes contracting the actual virus, self-quarantining for fear of having been exposed to the virus and caring for a family member who has contracted the virus, or for children who are home due to school closures. Be sure to take advantage of this offer by making your health paramount.

Similarly, doctor visits can cost a pretty penny, but when necessary, should always outweigh financial concerns. A co-pay or insurance deductible is a small price to pay for your health.

Do: Consider a refinance

The silver lining of an economic environment like this is falling interest rates. As of March 17, the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is 3.3%, down from approximately 4.5% of a year ago. Refinancing an existing mortgage at this lower rate can potentially save homeowners several hundreds of dollars a month. That extra breathing room in a budget can be a real boon in case of salary cuts or even a layoff during a recession.

Be sure to work out the numbers carefully before considering this move since a refinance isn’t cost-free. [You can speak to an MSRP at Mutual Credit Union to learn about your options.]

The coronavirus has already impacted the economy tremendously, and will likely continue to do so for a while. Keep your own finances safe by remaining calm, putting your health first and taking some of the practical steps mentioned above.

Your Turn: What steps have you taken toward protecting your finances during this time? Tell us about it in the comments.

Stuck at Home? Spend Your Time Productively

Woman installing laminate flooring.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on normal life around the world. Major retailers and small businesses are closing their doors; leisure travel has almost ground to a halt; the stock market is bearing the brunt of a string of losses; and thousands of schools and universities sit vacant mid-semester while their students are home for an indeterminate amount of time.

For many people, navigating this crisis successfully means being stuck at home for 14 days or more as they wait out a self-imposed or obligatory quarantine. Others may be home due to school closures or because their place of work has temporarily shut down. Still others may be avoiding going out in public in accordance with the president’s recommendation that people not congregate in groups of 10 or more.

While it may, at first, sound like a dream come true, sitting at home without much to do can quickly get old. If you’re one of the millions of Americans waiting out the crisis at home, be proactive about spending your time productively instead of binge-watching six seasons of your favorite sitcom while eating your way through gallons of ice cream. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Learn a new language. Why not use the extra time at home to learn a second or third language? There are many free language apps, like Duolingo, that make mastering a new language almost effortless.
  • Call an old friend. Socializing in person may be out, but the old-fashioned phone still works just fine. A leisurely chat with an old friend can be a wonderful way to pass the time.
  • Get fit. Gyms can be a fertile breeding ground for all kinds of germs and bacteria, but an at-home workout can burn all those calories without the fear of being exposed to COVID-19. There are many exercises you can do without any equipment, like lunges, squats, planks, sit-ups and more. If you’re missing the support and camaraderie you get from your exercise classes at the gym, pop a workout DVD into your entertainment center or turn on one of the many fitness classes on YouTube for a similar experience.
  • Rekindle an old hobby. It’s time to dust off that guitar or pull out the modeling wood and pick up the hobbies you never have time for during your busy working schedule. To keep yourself focused, commit to completing a specific project or reaching a goal while you wait out the outbreak at home.
  • Tend to neglected household repairs you’ve been putting off all winter. Why not use this time to get stuff done around the house?  If you’re missing some important tools and supplies, it’s best to order them online instead of running out to pick them up to minimize possible exposure to the virus.
  • Brush up on your financial knowledge. With the plethora of personal finance blogs and websites available today, beefing up your financial knowledge so you can make the best, informed decisions about managing your money is ridiculously easy. Visit blogs like Thefinancialdiet.comMoneyNing.com, or Mr.MoneyMustache.com for interesting reads on a wide range money topics that can help you broaden your financial knowledge.
  • Declutter. Carve out some time to get started on spring-cleaning your home. Clearing out clutter takes lots of time, and you likely have more time than you know what to do with right now. You can make piles for throwaways, giveaways and keepers. Give your cleared-out closets and drawers a thorough scrubbing while you’re at it. There’s no better time to freshen up the house than springtime!
  • Review your budget. Budgets tend to need frequent adjusting. Use the spare time you have now to review your monthly spending of the past few months to see if your budget needs tweaking.
  • File your taxes. The government has postponed the deadline for paying tax bills, but tax returns still need to be filed by April 15 unless an extension is requested. Filing taxes is nobody’s idea of a good time, but taking care of this necessary chore will make the future you glad that you did when this is all over.
  • Keep stress levels down. Staying cooped up inside when a pandemic is sweeping through the world can really spike up stress levels. Keep calm by ensuring you’re getting enough sleep and minimizing stress triggers as much as possible. This can mean limiting the amount of times you check the news. and/or practicing yoga and meditation. Apps like Headspace can help you achieve complete mindfulness to further reduce stress levels.

Wishing you and yours continued health and safety as we navigate this challenging time together.

Your Turn: How are you keeping busy during your time at home? Share your best ideas with us in the comments.

Online Security Tips For Working From Home

Consumer Alerts from the US Treasury

Teleworking during the Coronavirus outbreak? While working from home can help slow the spread of the virus, it brings new challenges: juggling work while kids are home from school; learning new software and conferencing programs; and managing paper files at home. As you’re getting your work-at-home systems set up, here are some tips for protecting your devices and personal information.

  • Start with cybersecurity basics. Keep your security software up to date. Use passwords on all your devices and apps. Make sure the passwords are long, strong and unique: at least 12 characters that are a mix of numbers, symbols and capital and lowercase letters.
  • Secure your home network. Start with your router. Turn on encryption (WPA2 or WPA3). Encryption scrambles information sent over your network so outsiders can’t read it. WPA2 and WPA3 are the most up-to-date encryption standards to protect information sent over a wireless network. No WPA3 or WPA2 options on your router? Try updating your router software, then check again to see if WPA2 or WPA3 are available. If not, consider replacing your router. For more guidance, read Securing Your Wireless Network and Secure Remote Access.
  • Keep an eye on your laptop. If you’re using a laptop, make sure it is password-protected, locked and secure. Never leave it unattended – like in a vehicle or at a public charging station.
  • Securely store sensitive files. When there’s a legitimate business need to transfer confidential information from office to home, keep it out of sight and under lock and key. If you don’t have a file cabinet at home, use a locked room. For more tips, read about physical security.
  • Dispose of sensitive data securely. Don’t just throw it in the trash or recycling bin. Shred it. Paperwork you no longer need can be treasure to identity thieves if it includes personal information about customers or employees.
  • Follow your employer’s security practices. Your home is now an extension of your office. So, follow the protocols that your employer has implemented.

Want to learn more? Read our small business cybersecurity materials and online security articles. If you’re able to work from home, thanks for helping slow the spread of the Coronavirus.

 

Access the full article from the Federal Trade Commission website.

COVID-19 FRAUD ALERT ON GOVERNMENT ISSUED CHECKS

Consumer Alerts from the US Treasury

As the Coronavirus takes a growing toll on people’s pocketbooks, there are reports that the government will soon be sending money by check or direct deposit to each of us. The details are still being worked out, but there are a few really important things to know, no matter what this looks like.

1. The government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get this money. No fees. No charges. No nothing.

2. The government will not call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer.

3. These reports of checks aren’t yet a reality. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.

Look, normally we’d wait to know what the payment plan looks like before we put out a message like this. But these aren’t normal times. And we predict that the scammers are gearing up to take advantage of this.

So, remember: no matter what this payment winds up being, only scammers will ask you to pay to get it. If you spot one of these scams, please tell the Federal Trade Commission: www.ftc.gov/complaint. We’re doing our best to stop these scammers in their tracks, and your report will help.

Keep up to date with the latest Coronavirus-related scams at www.ftc.gov/coronavirus or by signing up to get these consumer alerts. 

Access the full article by visiting the Federal Trade Commission website.

 

 

What Should Be On My Financial To-Do List This Spring?

Mid adult woman working in her home office, using smartphone

Q: Spring is here, and I’d love to review my finances to improve them however possible. What should be on my financial to-do list this spring?

A: It’s wonderful that you’re using the season to take a deep look at your finances. Let’s review some ways to improve your finances and general money management this time of year.

De-clutter your finances

As you sift through the “stuff” piled up around your home and throw out useless clutter until each closet would make Marie Kondo proud, it’s a good idea to do the same for your finances.

Review your monthly budget and cut out extra expenses that may be cluttering it up. Think about things like subscriptions you don’t use anymore or upgraded apps and services you don’t really need. Next, simplify your monthly bill-paying by moving all due dates to the same day and setting up an automatic payment so you’re never late.

Clean up your money management by using a personal finance app like YNAB or Mint to budget and keep track of your spending with minimal effort. Finally, simplify your savings by setting up an automatic monthly transfer between your Mutual Credit Union Checking Account and Mutual Credit Union Savings Account.

Review your W-4 

Post-tax season is the perfect time to look over your W-4 to determine if you’re withholding too much money — or too little. Remember: A generous tax refund might seem like good news, but what it really means is that you’ve been giving the government an interest-free loan throughout the year. You don’t want to withhold too little money and end up with a big tax bill to pay at the end of the year, either. To find that perfect sweet spot, work out the numbers using the IRS’ withholding calculator; use tax software like Turbo Tax; or ask a professional accountant to help. Don’t forget to submit a new W-4 to your workplace with your new withholding amount in place.

Protect your personal information 

Now that you’ve paid your taxes, it’s a good time to get rid of any documents that can compromise your safety. In today’s digital world, there are very few hard-copy documents you’ll need to hold onto. You can safely shred account statements, credit card bills, utility bills, insurance bills and more. Make sure to keep a copy of anything that requires your signature, such as the deed of your home and your car title, and hold onto unpaid loan statements and your tax returns. Keep these papers, as well as your most important sensitive documents, like your Social Security card, birth certificate and marriage certificate, in a fireproof box or in a locked file cabinet.

It’s also a good idea to clean up your computer and phone, deleting any downloaded documents that can compromise your privacy and deactivating your accounts on websites you no longer frequent. You may want to let your devices “forget” your password and payment history on retail sites as well. The less of your life you have online, the lower the risk of your personal information being compromised if any of these sites is hacked.

Throw away a debt

Did you resolve to work aggressively toward paying down your debts this year? Dust off that New Year’s resolution and take a hard look at your progress this spring. Is the debt going anywhere, or are you still trapped in the cycle of making just minimum payments that mostly go toward interest?

Get serious about getting out of debt by making a list of all debt in order from smallest to largest. Work out a plan for maximizing your payments on this debt, acquiring the necessary funds by pruning an expense category on your monthly budget or taking on some freelance work for extra cash. Once you’ve paid off the smallest debt, work on the next-smallest debt until you’re completely debt-free. As you progress through your list, be sure not to neglect the minimum payments on any of your debts.

Shop for springtime deals

There might be a shortage of major shopping days in spring, but you can still snag a fantastic deal on select items that hit their lowest prices this season. Consumer Reports recommends shopping for vacuum cleaners, digital cameras, air purifiers, space heaters and roofing in early spring. You can also find marked-down premium chocolate, luggage, gift cards and frozen foods this time of year.

Start saving for summer

If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to start putting money away for your summer getaway. Every little bit adds up, and the earlier you start saving, the more money you’ll have to spend on that dream vacation.

It’s springtime! As you celebrate the season of renewal, spruce up your finances to help stay on track for the rest of the year.

Your Turn: What’s on your financial to-do list this spring? Tell us about it in the comments.

6 Financial Lessons You Can Learn From Basketball

Basketball player shooting from free throw line, rear view

With college hoops March Madness coming up, let’s take a moment to review some surprising financial lessons we can learn from the iconic sport and its players.

Lesson 1: Passion breeds success

As any wannabe professional athlete can tell you, it takes more than muscle and talent to be a star. You need to be completely passionate about the sport to really succeed; otherwise, you’ll find it challenging to summon up the single-mindedness and commitment necessary for building your skills and strength.

In much the same way, you’ll see the most success while working at a job you feel passionate about. Your interest in the field will drive you to push yourself harder, set increasingly larger goals and achieve true success on a personal and financial level.

Lesson 2: Discipline is key 

From grueling training sessions to early-morning workouts, basketball requires an endless amount of self-discipline. Athletes must learn to ignore distractions and to devote themselves completely to the game to reach the top. This can mean missing out on social events, pulling all-nighters to keep their grades up and, of course, spending hours upon hours on training sessions and muscle building.

Managing your finances successfully requires a tremendous amount of discipline as well. Will you stick to your budget for groceries this month or blow it all on an expensive product that catches your eye? Will you have the self-control to decline an invitation to join your friends at a pricey restaurant when you already used up your allotted monthly budget for dining out? Will you remember to pay yourself first each month and set aside money for savings when there are so many things you’d love to buy today?

Training yourself to be disciplined with money is the key to a lifetime of financial wellness.

Lesson 3: Set small goals

Young athletes aspiring to compete on a professional level have a long road ahead of them. To bring their long-term goal within reach, they set smaller, trackable goals along the way. For example, they might work on increasing their muscle mass one season and then focus on bringing up their speed the next year.

Setting small goals is equally important when managing your finances. Sure, it’s nice to dream of acquiring your first million or buying a private island, but how realistic are these goals right now? How many years will it take to achieve them? It’s better to set smaller, manageable goals for your money, such as saving up a targeted amount of money, putting away a specific percentage of your monthly income for the future or bringing your monthly discretionary spending down by 10 percent. Just like a professional basketball player, your goals can be progressive, with another, larger goal taking the place of a smaller one you’ve already achieved.

Lesson 4: Diversify, diversify, diversify 

A basketball team cannot be made up of star centers. The team needs every player, each of whom is an expert in their own skill area. The team players then work in perfect coordination, using their talents to compensate for their teammates’ weaknesses and, ultimately, to win the game.

Similarly, the best investors will diversify their investments across different classes to maximize their chance of success. This way, the loss of any investments that don’t work out as planned will be offset by those that do.

Lesson 5: Research, review, revise

Athletes prepare for games beyond training sessions and practice runs. Before a scheduled game with an opponent, coaches will show their players videos of previous games they’ve played against that particular team. This way, the players can get an understanding of what they’re up against, learn the other team’s strengths and weaknesses and develop the best strategy to help defeat them.

In smart  money management, there’s no end to the ways you can build your knowledge. You can check out online financial resources, read the latest in personal finance literature and listen to podcasts on money topics that interest you. You can also stop by Mutual Credit Union to speak to an [MSRP] about the financial resources we offer members. Use the knowledge you acquire to make smart decisions about general money management, your investment strategy and your long-term financial goals.

Lesson 6: There’s no such thing as the easy way out

Players learn quickly that there are no shortcuts to building their skills, stamina and strength. Those who try to take the easy way out by turning to steroids or other illicit sources to help them reach their goals end up ruining their own careers.

Short of winning the lottery, there are no shortcuts to financial wealth, either. Don’t fall prey to get-rich schemes or miracle investments promising astronomical rewards. Instead, follow the timeless rules of money management to maintain true financial wellness throughout your life: Always pay yourself first, invest early to take advantage of compound interest, spend less than you earn and increase your earning potential by investing in your own skills and knowledge.

Your Turn: Can you think of any more financial lessons we can learn from basketball? Share them with us in the comments!

Coronavirus vs. The Flu

Pregnant woman having blood test in doctor's office

The coronavirus has slowed its spread in China, but is now picking up speed in Europe and the U.S. As of March 3, 2020, the virus has spread to more than 89,700 people in at least 67 countries around the world, 3,000 of whom have died.

Those numbers may sound alarming, but when held up against influenza, or the flu, they don’t seem so frightening. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the U.S. alone, the flu has caused an estimated 32 million illnesses and 18,000 deaths this season.

Does that mean the flu is actually worse than the coronavirus?

While it may seem that way at first glance, it’s not so simple. Scientists have been studying seasonal flu, its symptoms and possible cures for decades. In contrast, there is very little known about the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Scientists and medical professionals are doing all they can to learn about this virus, but they are still months away from developing effective medication and vaccines.

Unfortunately, the first coronavirus death in the U.S. was recorded on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. Many Americans are beginning to wonder if there is any truth to the claim that the coronavirus is milder than the flu.

Let’s take a closer look at the known differences between influenza and COVID-19.

Fatality rate

It’s difficult to give an accurate fatality rate to a virus that is still spreading, but the coronavirus seems to be more deadly than the flu. On average, seasonal flu kills approximately 0.10 percent of infected individuals. Researchers initially found the death rate for the COVID-19 virus to be 2.30 percent in mainland China, but a later study of hospitalized patients, published Feb. 28 in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the overall death rate was lower, at roughly 1.40 percent.

Researchers have also found that the death rate for the coronavirus seems to vary by location, the infected individual’s age and the general state of their health. Many also claim the death rate is actually lower than it is believed to be, thanks to many unreported or symptom-free cases of the virus. There have also been no known coronavirus deaths of children under the age of 9.

Symptoms

According to the CDC, common flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue and, occasionally, vomiting and diarrhea as well. Flu is characterized by the sudden onset of symptoms. Recovery generally happens within two weeks of contracting the virus. Sometimes, the flu causes medical complications and necessitates hospitalization.

Symptoms of the coronavirus are still being studied. According to the CDC, reported symptoms have ranged from mild to severe, and typically include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Fatigue and muscle aches have been present in 11 to 44 percent of patients as well. Other, less-common symptoms include headache, sore throat, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Rate of contagion

To date, the coronavirus seems to be more contagious than most strains of the flu, and about as contagious as strains that appear in pandemic flu seasons.

Each person with the coronavirus appears to infect 2.2 other people, on average. Many experts claim this data is skewed since the epidemic was mismanaged at its outset and the rate of infection consequently soared.

By comparison, each person with the seasonal flu infects approximately 1.3 other people.

As with most viral diseases, infected individuals can be contagious before the onset of any symptoms. Both viruses also spread easily through the air and contaminated surfaces, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces.

At-risk populations

Both COVID-19 and influenza are most dangerous to people who are older than 65, or have chronic illnesses or a compromised immune system.

The flu appears to be more dangerous to children, especially very young ones, while the coronavirus only triggers very mild symptoms in children or none at all. The flu is also a known danger to pregnant women. The coronavirus may pose a similar threat to expectant women, though it is still too early to know this with any certainty.

The coronavirus seems to be more deadly for older men. Death rates among men over 40 who have contracted the virus have exceeded those among women in the same age group. The higher rate of smokers among men, and by extension compromised lung function, may be the reason for this discrepancy.

Severity of the virus

As of Feb. 22, there were a minimum of 310,000 hospitalizations and 18,000 flu deaths among the 32 million cases of flu in the United States, according to the CDC.

By contrast, as of March 3, approximately 100 people in the United States have been infected with the novel coronavirus, and there have been six deaths, all in Washington State.

Most cases of coronavirus infection are not severe, but some people do become quite sick. Data from the largest study of patients in China to date found that of coronavirus patients receiving medical attention, 80 percent had mild infections, approximately 15 percent had severe illnesses and 5 percent were in critical condition.

Available treatment

Antibiotics are ineffective against the coronavirus and the flu. However, there are four antiviral prescription drugs available to help mitigate the severity of flu symptoms and shorten its duration. Unfortunately, there are no approved antiviral medications available for the coronavirus just yet, though several are in the testing stages. Doctors recommend that infected individuals follow the general remedies for viral illnesses, including rest, increased fluid intake and painkillers.

Prevention

Flu vaccines are widely available, and are 40-60 percent effective in protecting against the virus.

In contrast, there is no vaccine available for the coronavirus. An experimental vaccine is currently being developed, but it will likely be a year or two before it is ready for widespread use.

In the wake of the arrival of COVID-19 on American shores, experts are urging all people who are not vaccinated against the flu to get their shot now. The flu vaccine will not protect against the coronavirus, but it will free up more hospital personnel, beds and equipment for treatment in case of a coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.

As always, proper hygiene is vital to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The following guidelines can help keep you healthy:

  • Wash your hands with antibacterial soap for at least 20 seconds after being out in public and before touching food.
  • Keep unwashed hands away from your eyes and face.
  • If you’re feeling unwell, stay home.
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbows and not into your hands.

Your Turn: How are you keeping yourself safe from the coronavirus? Share your tips with us in the comments.

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Should I Finance a Large Purchase?

Bankruptcy

“Buy today with no money down and zero interest!”

You’ve seen the ads when shopping for new furniture, household appliances or an entertainment system. The text differs slightly each time, but each ad offers the same thing: the option of spreading the cost of your purchase over several months or several years, with a zero-percent interest plan. To fund your purchase, you may need to enroll in a payment plan with the company, sign up for its credit card or open an unaffiliated credit card offering an introductory no-interest period. It sounds like a fantastic deal—but is it really?

Here are the potential pitfalls of going this route and the surprising benefits of financing a large purchase under specific circumstances—even if you have the cash to pay for it today.

What happens when you finance a purchase?

Setting up a payment plan for a purchase or charging it to a no-interest credit card essentially means pushing off the payment of the purchase and spreading it over several months or even years. The retailer is eager to offer you this plan because it makes you more likely to overspend and buy something you can’t afford. Consumers love these deals because it enables them to divide a large purchase into bite-size pieces.

When is financing a bad idea?

In general, it’s not advisable to buy something you can’t really afford. But what if the total price of the sofa is prohibitively expensive and you can easily pay the monthly installments?

Here’s where it gets tricky. First, it’s important to note that nearly every no-interest offer is only temporary. Once the promotional period runs out on these deals, you’ll almost always be hit with a double-digit interest rate. Second, most of these plans come with a deferred-interest clause stipulating that any missed payment will be charged with retroactive interest after the no-interest period is over. Both of these caveats mean that missed or late payments will cost a lot more than you may believe.

With this in mind, it’s best not to finance a large purchase if any of these apply:

  • Finances are extremely tight. If you regularly have trouble making it through the month, you’ll likely find it difficult to meet the monthly payments on this purchase.
  • You are not a careful spender. If you technically have the money for the monthly payments, but you know you tend to blow your budget, you’ll be better off skipping a financed purchase.
  • You don’t have an emergency fund. If you can fit the monthly payments into your budget, but you don’t have any cash set aside for emergencies, you might not want to finance a purchase. If you do go forward with it, any unexpected expense that arises could throw your budget off and cause you to miss one or several payments.

When financing can work in your favor

In certain circumstances, the smarter choice may be financing a large purchase you can actually pay for today. In these cases, you are confident you have enough money in your monthly budget to meet the monthly payments and you have the discipline not to spend that money elsewhere.

Here are two reasons you may want to finance a purchase you can pay for now:

  1. To boost your credit rating. If you’re working on improving your credit score, adding a payment plan, also known as “installment credit,” to your credit file can help boost your score. This will only work with a payment plan since retail credit cards opened to fund a specific purchase generally only cover that purchase, which increases your credit utilization rate and hurts your score. In addition, a credit card won’t help diversify your credit file. It’s also not a good idea to go this route if you’re planning on taking out a large loan in the near future. Opening a new line of credit now may hurt your score in the short term, which will lower your chances of getting the best possible terms on the bigger loan.
  2. To invest your cash in a high-yield account. If you have the cash saved up for a large purchase and are offered a no-interest payment plan that you know you can afford, you may want to invest that money (where it will be earning more) instead of using it to pay for your purchase. Remember: This can only work if you are absolutely sure you will be able to meet the monthly payments on time.

Whether you choose to finance a large purchase ultimately depends on your financial reality, personal discipline and personal preferences. Be sure to consider every angle of this decision before making a decision.

Your Turn: Have you ever financed a large purchase? Why, or why not? Tell us about it in the comments.