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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

Don’t Toss That Junk Mail – It Might Be Your Stimulus Payment

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Four-million Americans are receiving their Economic-Impact Payment in the form of a prepaid-debit card — and many are mistaking it for junk mail.

Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began sending out Economic Impact Payments (EIP) as prepaid debit cards. The cards arrive in plain white envelopes that are strikingly similar to junk mail from credit card companies and scam mail. There’s no way to know that the card is from the federal government unless the recipient knows to expect it.

Reports are already pouring in from all over the country of people mistakenly tossing their EIP cards along with their junk mail. By the time they realize they’ve thrown out their long-awaited stimulus payment, it’s too late.

Here’s how to spot your EIP card, activate it and use it, in three easy steps:

Step 1: Spot your card in the mail

If you’re eligible for a stimulus payment and you haven’t yet received it via direct deposit or paper check, be on the lookout for your EIP card in the mail. The prepaid debit card will arrive in a white envelope with a return address from “Money Network Cardholder Services” of MetaBank in Omaha, Nebraska. There is no other marking on the envelope to indicate it’s been sent from the federal government.

If you think you may have mistakenly tossed your EIP card, don’t panic. You can still receive your payment by calling the toll-free customer service line at 800-240-8100 (TTY: 800-241-9100) to ask for a replacement. You can also check out the EIP website for additional information and assistance.

Step 2: Activate your card

Your EIP card will be accompanied by a letter with instructions for activating it. If the card has more than one name on it, only the primary cardholder — listed first on the card — may activate it.

Dial 800-240-8100 (TTY: 800-241-9100) and be prepared to share your name, address and Social Security number. You’ll also be asked to create a four-digit PIN, which you’ll use for all ATM transactions, automated assistance and to hear your balance. For security purposes, it’s best not to use personal information, such as your birth year or home address, as your PIN.

Watch out for scammers! Pay close attention when dialing the number to activate your card. Scammers have set up bogus EIP card call centers and are using numbers that are similar to the official one shared by the IRS.

Once your card is activated, you can create a username and password to use your card online at the Money Network site. You can also check out your balance information and transaction history at EIPCard.com or by calling the toll-free number listed above.

Step 3: Use your card

You can use your EIP card to make purchases anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.

If you’d rather have your stimulus money in cash, you can get cash back with PIN debit purchases where available, or by withdrawing cash from an ATM that carries the Allpoint brand.

It won’t cost you money to use your card, except for a select few transactions. For example, if you make a balance inquiry at an ATM, you’ll need to pay $0.25. Also, you can make one free withdrawal from an out-of-network ATM, but you’ll be charged $2 for every withdrawal afterward. To find a surcharge-free ATM near you, check out EIPCard.com.

Keep your card safe; if you lose it, you’ll have to pay $7.50 to replace it. It’s also a good idea to keep track of your balance so you don’t end up at the register with a card that’s declined because of an insufficient balance.

Your Turn: How are you using your stimulus money? Tell us about it in the comments.

Should I Take The Zero-Percent Financing Offered By The Dealer?

Auto showroom

Q: I’m in the market for a new set of wheels, and I’ve seen some dealers advertising zero-percent financing. Should I take this offer?

A: An auto loan without any interest sounds like a dream; however, there are many considerations before deciding to take out a zero-percent financing loan. Let’s take a closer look at zero-percent financing so you can make an informed, responsible decision about your auto loan.

What is zero-percent financing?

An auto loan offer of zero-percent financing means the dealer financer is offering to lend the buyer money without charging any interest over the life of the loan.

With traditional loans, the lender is willing to extend money to the buyer because the lender will reap the benefits of the interest payments over the life of the loan. A zero-percent car loan, though, offers no reward for the lender. In fact, the loan is actually being offered by the auto manufacturer. The automaker stands to benefit from the loan as much as it would from an upfront cash payment for one of its cars. The only difference is that the money is earned over a longer time span. Automakers may offer zero-percent financing on slower-selling models or to help clear out stale inventory to make room for newer models.

Can anyone qualify for zero-percent financing? 

Zero-percent financing may be heavily advertised, but it can be difficult to qualify for one of these loans. They are typically only offered to buyers who have excellent credit, including a credit score above 700 and a long credit history. These buyers are more likely to make every payment on time and they may even pay off the loan early, making it low risk and profitable for the automaker.

It’s also important to note that not everyone can afford to take out a zero-percent financing loan. Since the lenders are only profiting from the actual sale on these loans, they will rarely agree to bargain down the price, nor do they offer any other incentives, such as cash-back rebates.

When is zero-percent financing a good idea?

For buyers who qualify, a zero-percent financing loan may be a way to save on steep interest payments throughout the life of an auto loan. A buyer can easily save several thousands of dollars in interest payments over the life of a zero-financing loan.

It is crucial that qualifying buyers crunch the numbers to be sure they can easily afford the monthly payments on a zero-interest loan. If all the numbers add up and the buyer’s credit makes the cut, a zero-interest loan can be a great way to save money on a new set of wheels.

When is zero-percent financing a bad idea

Zero-percent financing may not be in the best interest of buyers who can’t actually afford the loan. As mentioned, lenders generally will not bring down the price on a car with a zero-percent financing offer. Buyers may be blinded by the temptation of not paying any interest and therefore consider a vehicle that has a higher monthly price tag than they originally planned.

Another point to consider before committing to a zero-down financing loan is the term of the loan. Some of these loans feature longer terms than traditional auto loans, as much as six years. Six years is a long time to be paying for a car. The buyer’s auto needs may change before then and they won’t own the car for a year longer than they would have through a traditional loan. On the flip side, lots of zero-percent financing loans are only four years long, which can significantly increase the monthly payment amount.

Even if the loan terms do meet the buyer’s needs, it still may be worthwhile to skip the zero-percent financing and take out a traditional loan so the buyer will not miss out on cash-back rebates. These are typically not available on auto loans with special financing offers, and can mean missing out on robust incentives.

Let’s take a look at the purchase of a single car and run it through both kinds of loans.

A car is selling for $20,000 with the offer of a zero-percent financing loan that needs to be paid off in four years. Monthly payments on this loan will amount to $416.

Alternatively, the buyer can consider a traditional loan for the same car. An auto loan furnished by a credit union at the average national rate according to data extracted by the NCUA would give the loan an annual percentage rate (APR) of 3.45 percent. Over five years, this would amount to a monthly payment of $363.

In addition, with a traditional loan, the buyer can take advantage of manufacturer rebates. If this car would have an offer of a $2,500 cash-back rebate, its price would drop to $17,500. Through a Mutual Credit Union loan with an APR of 3.45 percent, the monthly payments would only be $318. The total amount paid on the car would also be less than the amount paid through the no-interest loan, at $19,080.

If the buyer chose to take out a loan through a bank, with auto loan APRs averaging at 5.10 percent, the monthly payments (without the manufacturer’s rebate) would be $378. If the manufacturer offered a rebate, that amount would fall to $331 a month.

Evidently, when there is a shorter loan term involved, it is not always worthwhile to take out a zero-percent financing auto loan.

If the offer does not feature a shorter loan term, the difference between scenarios wouldn’t be as dramatic. A five-year loan on $20,000 with zero interest would cost the buyer $333 each month, only $15 more than the traditional loan through a credit union after the rebate; however, a five-year loan term may not be an option on a no-interest loan. Also, when you take out a loan through Mutual Credit Union, you’ll enjoy personalized service and zero pressure to make a decision.

It’s best to run your own numbers through a free auto loan calculator to see what your actual monthly payment would be before taking on a loan. It’s the best way to determine if you can afford the payments without overextending your budget.

If you’re ready to get started on your auto loan, stop by Mutual Credit Union today to get started. We’ll have you seated behind your new set of wheels in no time!

Applying online is easy and available 24/7 by visiting MutualCU.org

For a list of our current rates, visit our Rates Page.

Your Turn: Have you chosen to forego a zero-percent financing option? Tell us about it in the comments.

Preparations Are Underway

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Preparations are underway at each of our Mutual CU branch locations for the day that we celebrate reopening to the public. Until that day, we wanted to share the steps we are working on to make our lobby areas a safe, secure environment for our staff and for our communities.

Floor circles like the image above will be placed through out the lobby area to ensure 6 ft distance between individuals. In the member service area, spacing precautions will be adjusted based on branch location. For example, a few of our branch lobbies are not large enough to have both those waiting for the teller line and those waiting for a member services representative in the same space. Other distancing measures will be made available to accomodate everyone’s safety in our smaller branch lobbies.

Clear shields have been placed at the teller windows as a protective-barrier between our staff and those they are serving. Clear shields have also been placed on the desk of each member services representative and loan officer. These shields are important in providing that extra layer of protection from person-to-person droplet spread.

We continue to deep-clean surfaces that are frequently used and have plans in place to minimize other opportunities for the virus to enter or exit our buildings through hand sanitizer stations and closed areas to the public. Our restrooms will continue to be closed to the public until further notice as well as any water fountains.

We are counting down the moments when we can safely reopen and see each of you face to face. Until then we remind you again that if you are experiencing any of the COVID-19 symptoms, traveled, or have been exposed to someone with the virus, we encourage you to use our electronic options to conduct your financial business. We are providing that list again in the notification below. Also below is a reminder of the symptoms of the COVID-19 virus.

Thank you for being a member of Mutual Credit Union and for continuing your trust in us. We will get through this together and will be stronger for you. Our Focus Is You.

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.

Video showcasing the inside our Mutual CU Branch

COVID19-symptoms

E-Services Available

 

How COVID-19 Spreads

How COVID-19 Spreads

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-covid-spreads.html

COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person. Some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus. We are still learning about how the virus spreads and the severity of illness it causes.

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
  • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
  • COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.

The virus spreads easily between people

How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious, like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, which means it goes from person-to-person without stopping.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading very easily and sustainably between people. Information from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic suggest that this virus is spreading more efficiently than influenza, but not as efficiently as measles, which is highly contagious.

The virus does not spread easily in other ways

COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning about how it spreads. It may be possible for COVID-19 to spread in other ways, but these are not thought to be the main ways the virus spreads.

  • From touching surfaces or objects. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about this virus.
  • From animals to people. At this time, the risk of COVID-19 spreading from animals to people is considered to be low.
  • From people to animals. It appears that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from people to animals in some situations. CDC is aware of a small number of pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19.

Protect yourself and others

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. You can take steps to slow the spread.

Below are handouts from the CDC to assist everyone in safely navigating this pandemic. Simply click to open.

cloth-face-covering

DIY-cloth-face-covering-instructions

stop-the-spread-of-germs

Mutual CU ATM Fleet Replacement Schedule

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

Friday, May 22, 2020

 

Mutual Credit Union ATM Fleet Replacement Schedule

Vicksburg, Miss. – – Mutual Credit Union is excited to announce that starting Tuesday, May 26th – Friday, May 29th we will be moving forward with the replacement of each of our ATM machines located at each of our Mutual CU branch locations. These new and improved ATMs bring you the latest in security, services, and screen clarity. Members will enjoy the ability to *deposit both checks and cash at any ATM, as well as, touch-screen technology and Hi-Def visibility on each screen. We hope that by providing the schedule below we can help to minimize any inconvenience this transition might cause.

ATM Replacement Schedule

Tuesday, May 26th – Cherry Street Branch Drive-Thru ATM located at 1601 Monroe Street, Vicksburg, MS

Wednesday, May 27th – South Frontage Road Branch ATM located at 2086 South Frontage Road, Vicksburg, MS

Thursday, May 28th – Raymond Branch ATM located at 460 East Main Street, Raymond, MS

Friday, May 29th – Yazoo City Branch ATM located at 1505 Grand Avenue, Yazoo City, MS

*The deposit feature on each ATM will not be available immediately upon installation. Starting June 3rd, 2020, you will be able to use the deposit feature at each newly installed ATM. *

More information about the Pemberton Mall ATM in Vicksburg, MS, and the ATM located in the foyer of the Cherry Street branch in Vicksburg, MS, will be provided at a later date.

If the ATM that you typically frequent is down on the day above, we encourage you to access our full list of Mutual CU ATMs by visiting https://www.mutualcu.org/join-us/locations-hours.html. You also have access to a nationwide network of surcharge-Free ATMs plus other available locations through shared branching also by accessing the link above.

We appreciate your patience during this process and look forward to bringing each of our new ATMs online for you in the coming week. Thank you again for your membership and for continuing to put your trust in us now and in the years to come. Our Focus Is You.

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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Where is my Stimulus Check?

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Q: Everyone I talk to seems to have already gotten their stimulus money, but I’m still waiting for mine to arrive. Where is my stimulus check?

A: More than half of eligible Americans have already received their Economic Impact Payment, but tens of millions more are still waiting. We’ll let you in on when you can expect yours, how to help it come quicker and why you may not even be receiving a stimulus payment.

The schedule for issuing payments

The IRS is trying to get the stimulus payments out to Americans as quickly as possible, but with approximately 150 million checks that need to be issued, it will take some time.

First, the IRS is working on getting the funds to Americans via direct deposit. Most of the payments being issued to people whose account details are known by the IRS have already been distributed and the rest is scheduled to be deposited as the information is obtained.

Next, the IRS will send payments for individuals currently receiving federal benefits, such as Social Security checks, retirement or disability benefits, Railroad Retirement benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. The stimulus payments will be issued the same way these individuals receive their regular federal benefits, whether by direct deposit, Direct Express or paper check. The Treasury has promised that all Social Security and Railroad Retirement beneficiaries will receive their benefits by early May. SSI and VA beneficiaries should get their payments by mid-May.

On April 24, the IRS began issuing paper checks to Americans who have not provided their banking details. Low-income Americans are prioritized, and individuals earning an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $10,000 or less should have already received their checks. The IRS will then send out approximately 5 million paper checks each week, scheduling the mailings according to incomes in increasing $10,000 increments. For example, checks for individuals with an AGI that falls between $20,000 and $30,000 were mailed out on May 1. On May 8, the checks for people with incomes between $30,000 and $40,000 will be mailed out. This schedule will continue through Sept. 4.

How can I make my stimulus money get here quicker?

As mentioned, funds being distributed via direct deposit are issued first. The IRS will use your most recently filed taxes to determine where to send your stimulus money and the amount you are eligible to receive. If your most recently filed returns have not yet been processed, or you’ve received your refund by paper check, the government does not have your checking account information, so your payment may be delayed.

You can update this information on the recently updated track your payment portal on the IRS website. You will need your Social Security number, the gross income of your most recent tax returns, your Mutual Credit Union’s routing number ([XXXXXXXXX]) and your checking account information. Once you’ve shared your account information, your stimulus payment should be scheduled for deposit within the week.

If the IRS already has your account information and you still have not received the stimulus money, or you would prefer to receive your payment by paper check, you can track your payment on the same link. The site is updated once a day.

What if my information has changed since I filed my last tax return? 

If the checking account used for your most recently filed taxes has since been closed, the payment will bounce back to the IRS, which will then send a paper check to the home address it has on file from your tax returns.

To update a checking account, use the IRS payment portal to enter your current information.

If you’ve moved since filing taxes, you can choose to share your checking account information with the IRS, or to use another method which may include informing the U.S. Postal Service of a change of address.

What if I don’t file taxes?

If you are not required to file taxes and you are eligible for an Economic Impact Payment, you can still receive your check. Just enter your information here.

Why you may not qualify for a check 

The CARES Act does not promise payments for every American. Dependents older than 16, individuals who do not have a Social Security number and those with an AGI above $99,000, will not be getting a stimulus payment. The threshold is higher for individuals filing as a head of household, at $136,500, and up to $198,000 for joint filers.

Watch out for stimulus scams

While the IRS urges people to update their information on the payment portal, it’s important to note that they are not reaching out to individuals. If you receive a phone call, social media post, email or text message asking for your banking information, it is likely a scam. There is also no application fee or processing fee for the Economic Impact Payments. If you’re asked to pay one, it’s also a scam.

Your Turn: How are you spending your stimulus payment? Tell us about it in the comments.

Why Does My Credit Score Matter?

report credit score banking borrowing application risk formYour credit score is made up of three numbers, serving as an indicator of your financial history, wellness and responsibility. These three little numbers can spell the difference between approval and rejection for a mortgage, a job, a rental unit and so much more.

We have outlined how your credit score is calculated, why it matters and steps you can take to improve your score.

How is my credit score calculated?

There are three major credit bureaus in the U.S.: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Each one collects and shares information about your credit usage with potential lenders and financial institutions. Most lenders use this information along with the FICO scoring model to calculate your credit worthiness. Some lenders use the VantageScore model instead of FICO.

While there are several slight differences between the FICO and the VantageScore formulas, both scoring models look at the following factors when calculating your score:

  • The age of your credit. How long have you had your oldest credit card? When was your first loan? An older credit history generally boosts your score.
    The timeliness of your bill payments. Are you paying all of your monthly bills on time? Chronic late payments, particularly loan and credit card payments, can drastically reduce your score.
  • The ratio of your outstanding debt to available credit. The VantageScore formula views consumers with a lot of available credit as a liability, while the FICO formula considers this a point in your favor.
  • The diversity of your credit. Lenders want to see that you have and have had several kinds of open credit. For example, you may be paying down an auto loan, a student loan and using three credit cards.
  • The trajectory of your debt. Are you accumulating new debt each month, or slowly working toward paying down every dollar you owe?
  • Your credit card usage. Financial experts recommend having several open credit cards to help boost your credit score, but this only works if you actually use the cards and pay off your bills each month. It doesn’t help much to have the cards sitting in your wallet.

How does my credit score affect my life? 

Your credit score serves as a gauge for your financial wellness to anybody who is looking to get a better idea of how responsible you are with your financial commitments.

Here are just some ways your credit score can affect your day-to-day life:

  • Loan eligibility. This is easily the most common use for your credit score. Lenders check your score to determine whether you will be eligible for a loan.
  • The larger the loan, the stricter the requirements. A poor credit score can hold you back from buying a house, a car, or getting a personal loan at Mutual Credit Union.
  • Interest rates on loans. Here too, your credit score plays a large role in your financial reality. A higher score can get you a lower interest rate on your loan, and a poor score can mean paying thousands of extra dollars in interest over the life of the loan.
  • Employment. A study by the Society for Human Resources Management found that 47 percent of employers look at the credit scores of potential employees as part of the hiring process.
  • Renting. Many landlords run credit checks on new tenants before signing a lease agreement. A poor credit score can prevent you from landing that dream apartment or it can prompt your landlord to demand you make a higher deposit before moving in.
  • Insurance coverage. Most insurers will check your credit before agreeing to provide you with coverage. Consumer Reports writes that a lower score can mean paying hundreds of dollars more for auto coverage each year.

How to improve your credit score

If you’re planning on taking out a large loan in the near future, applying for a new job, renting a new unit or you just want to improve your score, follow these steps:

  • Pay your bills on time. If you have the income to cover it but find getting things paid on time to be a challenge, consider using automatic payments.
  • Pay more than the minimum payment on your credit cards. Your credit score takes the trajectory of your debt into account. By paying more than just the minimum payment on your credit cards, you can show you’re working on paying down your debt and help improve your score.
  • Pay your credit card bills before they’re due. If you can, it’s best to pay your credit card bills early. This way, more of your money will go toward paying down your outstanding balance instead of interest.
  • Find out if you have any outstanding medical bills. You may have an unpaid medical bill you’ve forgotten about. These can significantly drag down your credit score, so be sure to settle any outstanding medical bills as quickly as possible.
  • Consider debt consolidation. If you’re paying interest on multiple outstanding debts each month, you may benefit from paying off your debt through a new credit card that offers an introductory interest-free period, or from taking out a [personal/unsecured] loan at Mutual Credit Union. This way, you’ll only have one low-interest or interest-free payment to make each month. (Note: If you’ll be applying for a large loan within the next few months, it’s better not to open any new cards.)

It’s crucial that you make the effort to improve and maintain your credit score. It’s more than just a number; it will impact your financial wellness for years to come.

Your Turn: How do you keep your credit score high? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

How Should I Spend My Stimulus Check?

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The stimulus checks promised in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act are starting to land in checking accounts and mailboxes around the country. The $1,200 granted to most middle class adults is a welcome relief during these financially trying times.

Many recipients may be wondering: What is the best way to use this money?

To help you determine the most financially responsible course of action to take with your stimulus check, Mutual Credit Union has compiled a list of advice and tips from financial experts and advisers on how to use this money.

Cover your basic life expenses

First and foremost, make sure you can afford to cover your basic necessities. With millions of Americans out of work and lots of them still waiting for their unemployment insurance to kick in, many people are struggling to put food on their tables. Most financial experts agree that it’s best not to make any long-term plans for stimulus money until you can comfortably cover everyday expenses.

Charlie Bolognino, CFP and owner of Side-by-Side Financial Planning in Plymouth, Minn., says this step may necessitate creating a new budget that fits the times. With unique spending priorities in place, an absent or diminished income and many expenses, like subscriptions and entertainment costs, not being relevant any longer, it can be helpful to reconfigure an existing budget to better suit present needs. As always, basic necessities, such as food and critical bills, should be prioritized.

Build up your emergency fund

If you’ve already got your basic needs covered, start looking at long-term targets for your stimulus money.

“I would immediately place this money in my emergency fund account,” says Jovan Johnson, CEO of Piece of Wealth Planning in Atlanta.

Emergency funds should ideally be robust enough to cover 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses. If you already have an emergency fund, it may have been depleted during the pandemic and need some replenishing. If you don’t yet have an emergency fund, or your fund isn’t large enough to cover several months without a steady income, you may want to use some of the stimulus money to build it up so you have a cushion to fall back on during lean times that are likely to come in the months ahead.

Pay down high-interest debts

According to the Federal Reserve Bank, Americans owed a collective $930 billion in credit card debt during the fourth quarter of 2019. Using some of your stimulus check to pay off high-interest debt would be a great way to get a guaranteed return on the money, says Chris Chen, of Insight Financial Strategists in Newton, Mass.

This advice only applies to credit cards and other private, high-interest loans. The federal government put a 6-month freeze on most student loan debts, so they should not be as high a priority right now.

Boost your savings

If your emergency fund is already full and you’ve made headway on your debt, it can be a good idea to use some of the stimulus money to add to your Mutual Credit Union savings account. The money in your savings can be used to cover long-term financial goals, such as funding a dream vacation or covering the down payment on a new home.

Consider all your options before choosing how to spend your stimulus money. In all likelihood, this will be a one-time payment received during the pandemic. If you need further assistance, feel free to reach out to us at or . We’ll be happy to help you maintain financial stability during these uncertain times.

Your Turn: How are you spending your stimulus check? Tell us about it in the comments.

All You Need To Know About The COVID-19 Stimulus Plan

couple at kitchen table working on budget

After days of negotiations and last-minute changes, the Senate and the White House have signed a historic $2 trillion stimulus plan to help mitigate the economic fallout of COVID-19. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) will put cash directly into people’s pockets, provide desperately needed funding for hospitals and help struggling businesses remain afloat in these financially fragile times.

Here’s all you need to know about the CARES Act.

Stimulus checks

One of the most crucial elements of the bill is the plan to distribute stimulus checks to Americans in the middle class and lower income levels. Officials hoped to deposit the one-time payments as soon as early April, though Americans likely won’t see the funds until a few weeks later.

Aid amounts will be based on household income reported in 2018 taxes (or 2019 taxes if they’ve already been filed), and will average $1,200 for each adult earning up to $75K a year and married couples earning up to $150K a year. Check amounts will begin to phase out for individuals whose income exceeds the $75K threshold, and for couples who earn more than $150K. Individuals earning more than $99K, and couples with no dependents earning more than $198K, won’t receive stimulus checks. Each household will also receive an additional $500 for every child under the age of 17 living at home. You can look up your anticipated check amount on this calculator.

The feds are hoping the stimulus checks will help the floundering economy and be a welcome relief to the millions of Americans struggling with a job loss or decreased hours due to COVID-19. The checks will provide benefits quicker than a tax credit and offer more spending freedom for recipients.

Increased unemployment benefits 

The enhanced unemployment insurance includes four months of unemployment pay for laid-off workers; expanded coverage for employees who were furloughed; the inclusion of workers who generally do not qualify for unemployment, like gig workers and freelancers; and increased unemployment benefits for all eligible workers by $600 a week for four months in addition to each state’s predetermined unemployment compensation.

Funding for the health care system

The stimulus plan will pump $150 billion in the country’s overtaxed health care system to help it

meet the overwhelming demands of the pandemic. Of this funding, $130 billion will go directly to hospitals struggling to deal with a shortage of masks, ventilators, beds and protective gear; and $1 billion will go to the Indian Health Service. The rest of the money will be used to fund research and treatment and to help the Strategic National Stockpile raise supplies of ventilators, masks and other equipment for hospitals across the country.

Small business bailouts

Small businesses are among the hardest hit by the pandemic and national shutdown to help “flatten the curve.” The stimulus plan will offer $350 billion worth of funds to these corporations to help them remain solvent during these economically lean times. These funds take the form of loans, some of which may ultimately be forgiven.

Funding for state and local governments

State governments are especially active and vocal at this time, as they are the sole elected officials authorized to enact and enforce lockdowns on their jurisdictions. State treasuries are also straining to meet the surge in requests for funding from hospitals and individuals seeking unemployment benefits. Local governments are similarly mobilized during the pandemic, with law enforcement authorities in heavily infected areas putting in long, hard hours daily ensuring the safety and health of citizens.

The CARES Act will distribute $150 billion directly to state and local governments to enable them to address their spending shortages and to fund their increased labor at this time.

Retirement Plans

The act calls for waiving the 10% early withdrawal penalty for distributions up to $100,000 for purposes relating to COVID-19, retroactive to Jan. 1. Withdrawals still will be taxed; however, taxes are spread over three years, or taxpayers have the three years to roll it back over.

In addition, the loan limit for 401(k) loans has increased from $50,000 to $100,000 and required minimum distributions (RMDs) from IRAs and 401(k) plans (at age 72) are suspended.

Student Loans 

Federal student loan borrowers will be allowed to pause payments on their loans. Loans will be put into forbearance for at least 60 days starting March 13, 2020. No payments should be due until after Sept. 30, 2020.

Federal student loan interest rates will automatically be set to 0% for a minimum period of 60 days until Sept. 30, 2020. If borrowers continue making payments, the full amount will be applied to the principal.

Borrowers do not need to take action to suspend loan payments. In addition, collection efforts, including the garnishment of wages and the seizure of tax refunds, will be suspended on federal student loans that are in default.

Mortgages

Some homeowners could be able to pause payments for at least six months with the possibility of an additional six months of forbearance, according to the act. Homeowners become eligible if they have one of the following types of mortgage loans:

  • An FHA Loan
  • A VA Loan
  • A USDA Loan
  • An 184/184A Mortgage
  • Any mortgage backed by Fannie Mae
  • Any mortgage backed by Freddie Mac
  • Missed payments would be required to be paid back; however, homeowners can work with their lenders at the end of the forbearance period to come up with a manageable payment plan. A moratorium on foreclosures for borrowers with any of the above types of government-backed loans began March 18.

Additional provisions and addenda

There are several other components of the CARES Act, including the following:

  • Establishment of a Treasury Department special inspector general for pandemic recovery and a Pandemic Response Accountability Committee to oversee loans to businesses
  • Prohibition for all businesses controlled by the president, vice president, members of Congress and heads of executive departments from participating in the loan or investment programs. Their children, spouses and other relatives are also banned from receiving benefits.
  • Provisions to ban stock buybacks during the period of government assistance. There is an additional ban of a year for all companies receiving a federal loan from the CARES Act
  • Establishment of worker protections for businesses receiving the federal loans
  • Prohibition for airlines from using the federal loans for CEO bonuses

The country is going through historically challenging times, but with the combined effort of the federal government, the cooperation and compliance of the public and generosity of each individual, we can all get through this together. Wishing all of our members and their families continued health and safety at this time.

Your Turn: How do you plan to use your stimulus check? Tell us about it in the comments.

The Complete Guide to Prioritizing Bills During a Financial Crunch

Student reading record before the exam

Our vibrant, animated country has been put on pause. Busy thoroughfares are now empty of pedestrians and previously crowded malls are eerily vacant, as millions of Americans shelter in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Forced leave of work has left many wondering if and when they’ll receive their next paycheck.

If you are one of the millions of Americans on furlough, you may be panicking about incoming bills and wondering where you’ll find the money to pay for them all. Let’s take a look at what financial experts are advising now so you can make a responsible, informed decision about your finances going forward.

Triage your bills

Financial expert Clark Howard urges cash-strapped Americans to look at their bills the way medical personnel view incoming patients during an emergency.

“In medicine it’s called triage,” Howard says. “It’s exactly what’s happening in the hospitals right now as they decide who to treat when or who not to treat. You have to look at your bills the same way. You’ve got to think about what you must have.”

Times of emergency call for unconventional prioritizing. Clark recommends putting your most basic needs, including food and shelter, before any other bills. It’s best to make sure you can feed your family before using your limited resources for loan payments or credit card bills. Similarly, your family needs a place to live; mortgage or rent payments should be next on your list.

Housing costs

It’s one thing to resolve to put your housing needs first and another to actually put that into practice when you’re working with a smaller or no paycheck this month. The good news is that some rules have changed in light of the financial fallout of the pandemic.

On March 18, President Donald Trump announced he’s instructing the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to immediately halt “all foreclosures and evictions” for 60 days. This means you’ll have a roof over your head for the next two months, no matter what.

Also, in early March, the Federal Housing Finance Agency offered payment forbearance to homeowners affected by COVID-19, allowing them to suspend mortgage payments for up to 12 months. These loans, provided by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, account for approximately 66 percent of all home loans in America. The payments will eventually need to be covered. Some lenders allow delayed payments to be tacked onto the end of the home loan’s term, while others collect the sum total of the missed payments when the period of forbearance ends.

Speak to your lender about your options before making a decision. A free pass on your mortgage during the economic shutdown can be a lifesaver for your finances and help free up some of your money for essentials.

If you’re a renter, be open with your landlord.

“Consumers who are the most proactive and say, ‘Here’s where I stand,’ will get a lot better response than those who do nothing,” says Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, CEO of AsktheMoneyCoach.com and author of “Zero Debt.”

Your landlord may be willing to work with you. That’s true whether it means paying partial rent this month and the remainder when you’re back at work, spreading this month’s payment throughout the year, or just paying April’s rent a few weeks late, after the relief funds and unemployment payments from the government begin.

Paying for transportation

When normal life resumes, many employees will need a way to get to work. Missing out on an auto loan payment can mean risking repossession of your vehicle. This should put car payments next on your list of financial priorities. If meeting that monthly payment is impossible right now, communicate with your lender and come up with a plan that is mutually agreeable to both parties.

Household bills

Utility and service bills should be paid on time each month, but for workers on furlough due to the coronavirus pandemic, these expenses may not even make it to their list of priorities.

First, don’t worry about shutoffs. Most states have outlawed utility shutoffs for now.

Second, many providers are willing to work with their clients. Visit the websites of your providers and check to see what kind of relief and financial considerations they’re offering their consumers at this time.

It’s important to note that lots of households receive water service directly from their city or county, and not through a private provider. Many local governments have suspended shutoffs, but be sure to verify if yours has done so before assuming it to be true.

Finally, as with every other bill, it’s best to reach out to your provider and be honest about what you can and cannot pay for at this time.

Unsecured debt

Unsecured debt includes credit cards, personal loans and any other loan that is not tied to a large asset, like a house or vehicle. Howard urges financially struggling Americans to place these loans at the bottom of their list of financial priorities during the pandemic. At the same time, he reminds borrowers that missing out on a monthly loan payment can have a long-term negative impact on a credit score.

Here, too, consumers are advised to communicate with their lenders about their current financial realities. Credit card companies and lenders are often willing to extend payment deadlines, lower the APR on a line of credit or a loan, waive a late fee or occasionally allow consumers to skip a payment without penalty.

[Are you making payments toward an unsecured loan at Mutual Credit Union? We understand that you may not be able to meet your monthly payments at this time and we are willing to work with you. Please feel free to reach out to us at to learn about your options.]

Your Turn: How are you prioritizing your bills during the pandemic? Share your tips with us in the comments.