His And Her Money

When two people with opposite money views marry, it’s the ultimate in “He said, she said.”

He wants to save every penny so they can afford their dream house within the next five years, and she would rather live it up today while pushing off their dream a little longer.

She wants to budget every dollar to track everything they buy, and he thinks they can trust themselves to keep within their spending limit without accounting for every single purchase.

He thinks golf clubs with a four-digit price tag are a reasonable want, and she thinks they’re a ridiculous luxury reserved for the very wealthy.

And on and on it goes.

For Talaat and Tai McNeely, a pair of high school sweethearts ready to take their relationship further, the money differences were more than just an occasional spat — they were an obstruction standing between the couple and marriage.

As the McNeelys share on their blog, hisandhermoney.com, here’s a sampling of some of the financial issues they were dealing with before they married:

  • Do we let our credit scores dictate if we are compatible for marriage?
  • How will our previous money habits play a role in our marriage?
  • Do we merge our finances?
  • How can we work together to become better at life and win with money?
  • Am I a loser because I have now made my debt problems my future spouse’s problems?
  • Can I change, or is my past really who I am?
  • Should I have a secret account just in case our money situation gets worse?
  • How will we purchase a home? Do we put it in both of our names and risk not having a low interest rate due to the lower credit score?
  • Do I have to take full responsibility for our finances simply because I’m better at it?
  • Will we have to rely on two incomes to run our home?
  • What will our lives look like five years from now?

Despite one partner being debt-free and the other carrying $30,000 in debt, the McNeelys decided to get married. They knew the financial road ahead could be bumpy, but they were prepared to weather the storms together for the sake of their relationship.

Today, after years of struggling to chart their own joint money path, the McNeelys are completely debt-free, have paid off their mortgage and run a 6-figure business online. They have learned enormous life lessons on their journey toward financial wellness, and they generously share these lessons on their blog, podcasts, videos and through their private community of couples seeking financial guidance.

The couple is passionate about helping others overcome their financial differences and build a better relationship and a better future together. Check out hisandhermoney.com to learn their secrets.

Your Turn: How do you and your partner deal with money differences? Tell us about it in the comments.

Sources:
https://paychecksandbalances.com/influencers-in-personal-finance/
https://www.hisandhermoney.com/

What’s the Best Way to Use a Home Equity Line of Credit?

Q: With interest rates falling and home prices rising, it seems like a great time to tap into my home’s equity using a home equity line of credit. What’s the best way to use these funds?

A: A home equity line of credit, or a HELOC, can be a fantastic way to source extra funds during a falling-rates environment. Tapping into your home’s equity, or the positive difference between what is owed on a home and its current value, will give you the funds you need for a large expense with no additional strings attached.

With low interest rates on a Destinations Credit Union‘s Home Equity Line of Credit, the repayment plan is always affordable. If approved, you can take an advance from the available line at any time. There are no restrictions on how to use these funds, but since you’re essentially risking the loss of your home with this loan, it’s important to choose wisely when deciding how to use the funds.

Here are four forward-thinking uses for a home equity line of credit:

1. Home improvements

One of the most popular uses for home equity is for home renovations and improvements. These can be as major as adding a 1,000-square-foot extension to your home, as minor as replacing old carpet with new hardwood flooring or anything in between.

Using your home’s equity for home improvement projects is a smart choice for multiple reasons. For one, the money you put into the renovations acts as an investment. If you choose improvements that increase your home’s value, you can make back the money you spent or even see a return when you sell your home. Also, if you use the funds from a home equity loan to increase your home’s value, you may be able to deduct the interest paid on the loan from your taxes (be sure to consult with your tax adviser if you plan to go this route).

If you plan to use your home equity funds for home improvements, be sure to choose wisely. It’s best to go for improvements that add lasting value to your home instead of blowing big bucks on superficial remodeling projects that may look dated just a few years down the line.

2. Debt consolidation

Another popular use for a home equity loan is to consolidate high-interest debt. Paying off multiple debts at high interest rates can be cumbersome and difficult to manage. Worse, the heavy interest rates mean more of the borrower’s money goes toward the lender and less goes toward paying down the principal of the debts. Using you home equity to consolidate debt to a single, low-interest loan can slash a pile of debt by several thousands of dollars and help shorten repayment time by several years.

3. College education

When interest rates are falling, funding a college education through home equity instead of a high-interest student loan can be a smart choice. Similarly, homeowners struggling to meet their student debt payments without defaulting on the loan might want to use their home’s equity to pay off the debt quickly and replace it with a more manageable low-interest loan. It’s important to note that paying off a federal student loan with home equity might not be the best choice, as these loans are sometimes eligible for partial or complete forgiveness.

4. Emergency fund

Most of us know that financial experts recommend having three to six months’ worth of living expenses stashed in an emergency fund to be used if the need arises. But reality keeps this magical-sounding fund a distant dream for too many people. If you’ve been struggling to get your own emergency fund off the ground, tapping into your home’s equity can be a great way to get that boost you need. You’ll have a large stash of cash to build your fund, and the manageable payment plan will help ensure you put money into savings each month. As a bonus, if you experience a financial emergency of any kind after taking out your home equity line, you’ll already have the funds on hand to help pull you through.

Before you take out a home equity line of credit

A home equity line of credit can provide homeowners with the funds they need for a home improvement project, to get their debt under control, pay for their college education or to build an emergency fund. However, before making any of these moves, it’s important to run the numbers so you are sure you can easily meet the regular loan payments. Otherwise, you risk defaulting on the loan and losing your home.

If you’re ready to take out a home equity loan, look no further than Destinations Credit Union. Our rates and terms are always competitive. Give us a call at 410-663-2500 or stop by Destinations Credit Union to get started on your loan application today.

Your Turn: How did you use the funds from your home equity loan? Tell us about it in the comments.

Sources:
https://www.bankrate.com/home-equity/
https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/11/mortgage-rates-set-new-record-low-fall-below-3percent-on-coronavirus-fears.html
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/05/your-money/houses-prices-coronavirus.html
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/best-home-equity-loan-ways-to-use_l_5d5af341e4b036065b6abf17
https://www.bankrate.com/home-equity/reasons-to-use-home-equity/
https://www.discover.com/home-loans/articles/should-i-use-a-home-equity-loan-to-refinance-my-student-loans/

Millennials Hit Hardest by Coronavirus Recession

Man on scooter with mask

The coronavirus recession hasn’t been easy on anyone, but millennials may have been hit hardest.

According to many economic experts, the 73 million millennials in the U.S. could experience financial setbacks from COVID-19 that have a longer-reaching impact than those experienced by any other age group.

Here’s why the coronavirus pandemic has been especially hard for those in 25- to 39-year-old age bracket.

Another recession for millennials

Economic recessions are nothing new for this demographic. They already lived through the Great Recession of 2008, and for many, the impact of the last recession is still being felt today.

The Great Recession hit millennials when they were still in college or just starting out on their career paths. For some, it meant the choices for their first post-college job were very slim. For others, it meant dropping out of college when there was no longer a guarantee of a degree netting them a higher-paying job. Regardless of how they were impacted, many millennials are still playing catch-up from the recession of 2008.

“For this cohort, already indebted and a step behind on the career ladder, this second pummeling could keep them from accruing the wealth of older generations,” says Gray Kimbrough, Washington, D.C. economist and American University professor.

Job losses across the board

More than 40 million workers in the U.S. have filed for unemployment since the beginning of the pandemic, but this is another area where millennials have been hit harder than most.

According to a recent report by Data for Progress, 52% of respondents under age 45 have lost jobs, been furloughed or had their work hours cut due to COVID-19. In contrast, just 26% of respondents over age 45 have suffered a job loss of some kind during the coronavirus pandemic.

Millions of millennials have lost jobs that are impossible to do while adhering to social distancing mandates. At the height of the economic lockdowns in April, the economy shed a staggering 20.5 million jobs. Of these jobs, 7.7 million were in the leisure and hospitality sector — a sector that is dominated by millennials. An additional 1.4 million lost jobs were in health care, primarily in ambulatory services — another field that employs a disproportionately large number of millennials.

No nest egg

Many millennials who are still on the rebound from the Great Recession are carrying piles of debt and have minimal savings — or none at all.

According to surveys conducted in 2018 by the Federal Reserve, 1 in 4 millennial families have a negative net worth, or debts that outweigh their assets. One in six millennials would not be able to find the funds to cover a $400 emergency. For these young employees, a relatively mild setback from the coronavirus can be devastating to their finances.

Millennials also tend to neglect their retirements. A recent report by the National Institute on Retirement Security found that 66% of millennials in the workforce have nothing put away for their retirement.

Can millennials recover?

Millennials had still not fully recovered from the Great Recession when the coronavirus pummeled the economy. They have shouldered a large share of job losses and have little or no savings to fall back on.

But there is hope. Millennials may not be as young as they were during the Great Recession, but they still have time to bounce back. They can use the unique challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to reevaluate their career track and move onward toward a brighter future.

This age group, also known as Gen Y, is famous for its resilience and can-do attitude. They’ve gotten through the Great Recession of 2008 and they’ll beat the coronavirus recession, too. With hard work, perseverance and small steps toward a better future, millennials can pull themselves up and regain their financial health.

If you’re experiencing financial difficulties, we can help. Call, click or stop by Destinations Credit Union to speak to a member service representative today.

Your Turn: Are you a millennial who has been impacted by the coronavirus recession? Tell us about it in the comments.

Sources:
https://politicalwire.com/2020/08/10/millennials-slammed-by-second-financial-crisis/
https://www.wsj.com/articles/millennials-just-cant-catch-a-break-11597085135
https://www.npr.org/2020/06/08/871042916/d-j-vu-for-millennials-staring-at-the-2nd-recession-of-their-adult-lives
https://www.investopedia.com/insights/how-financial-crisis-affected-millennials/
https://www.foxnews.com/us/millennials-coronavirus-financial-crisis
https://www.wsj.com/articles/millennials-covid-financial-crisis-fall-behind-jobless-11596811470
https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/26/here-are-3-reasons-why-millennials-are-being-hit-especially-hard-economically-by-the-coronavirus.html
https://www.businessinsider.com/millennials-gen-z-laid-off-furloughed-coronavirus-job-market-2020-4

How to Negotiate Salary for Your First Job

Man and woman sitting across a desk in discussion.

Things are falling into place, and after months of researching your options, polishing your resume and sitting through awkward interviews, you think you may have found your dream job.

You’ve already gone for a follow-up interview and the position is as good as yours. The only obstacle to cross before joining the ranks of the officially employed is salary negotiation.

If you’ve done your homework well, you’ll know the job you’re considering pays in the ballpark of your financial needs; however, the exact salary package you’ll be starting with depends on how the negotiations play out.

Here’s where things can get sticky. You may have your salary requirements and wish list in mind, but the company representative in charge of hiring has a lot more experience in negotiating salary than you do. It’s also easy to feel intimidated when you’re new to the workforce and desperate to find a good job.

You may not have the upper hand here, but you can still come out ahead.

Here are some tips to help you negotiate like a pro:

Choose the right time to negotiate 

Only bring up your salary requirements when you have an actual offer in hand. Don’t jump the gun and assume you’re being offered the job because you’ve had a follow-up interview and you’re getting positive vibes from the company. Talking salary before you’ve officially been offered the position can jeopardize your chances of landing the job.

Do your homework

Before you walk into that room, make sure you know the average going rate for the position in question. You can find this information through a quick online search of sites like Payscale.comGlassdoor.com and Salary.com, or by asking friends who are work in similar positions.

Once you have this number, hold it up against your own income requirements and ask for a starting salary that is slightly above your needs. You don’t want to walk away with less than you deserve, but you don’t want to overreach and come off sounding too greedy, either.

Research the company

Another crucial preparatory step for opening up the salary negotiations is to find out all you can about the company and its top challenges. Talk about ways you can help solve the company’s most pressing problems and you’ll prove you will be an employee worth hiring—at almost any price.

Understand the offer

If the company representative gives you a salary quote that is less than you expected, ask how they’ve reached this number. It’s possible that some of your skills and/or work experience were not considered when the offer was made. For example, you may have already mastered the entry-level skills for this kind of work during an internship for a similar position. This puts you at an advantage, as you won’t need to waste the company’s time and resources on basic training. Consequently, you deserve to start at a higher salary point. A simple question like this can save lots of aggravation on both sides of the desk.

Consider the full scope of the offer

When considering a position, don’t forget that job offers are about more than just salary. Look at the entire package, including all benefits, time off, retirement account contributions, etc. Sometimes, a job may have so many advantageous things attached it’s worth accepting a lower starting salary than you anticipated, as long as your paycheck will still cover your budget.

Similarly, if this job is one that offers tremendous room for growth and the ability to acquire a specific skill-set plus valuable experience, it may be worthwhile to accept it as a stepping stone for a more lucrative position in the future.

Role-play in advance

When negotiating salary, it’s important to find that sweet spot between insecurity and arrogance. It can be super-helpful to practice negotiating in advance by role-playing with a friend.

Remember not to sell yourself short. You’ve worked hard to acquire the skills and experience you have today, and you deserve to earn your true worth. Best of luck with your new job!

Your Turn: Have you successfully negotiated your starting salary at a new job? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

Sources:
https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/negotiating-salary-first-time
https://www.thebalancecareers.com/negotiating-salary-in-your-first-job-after-college-1986755

What’s A Recession Anyway?

Unless you’ve been living in a bunker for the last several months, you’ve likely caught graph on computer screenthe term “recession” thrown around on the news more than once. Hearing this word being used to describe the state of the U.S. economy can trigger a range of reactions from mild anxiety to a full-blown stuffing-money-under-the-mattress panic.

For many people, though, part of their angst surrounding the state of the economy is the vast amount of unknown: What is the exact definition of a recession? How is it different from a depression? How long do recessions usually last? What causes a recession?

So many questions — but we’ve got answers! Here’s what you need to know about recessions, the current state of the U.S. economy and what all of this means to you as a private consumer.

What is a recession? 

A recession is a widespread economic decline in a designated region that lasts for several months or longer. In a recession, the gross domestic product (GDP), or the total value of all goods and services produced in the region, decreases for two consecutive quarters. A healthy economy is continually expanding, so a contracting GDP suggests that problems are brewing within the economy. In most recessions, the GDP growth will slow for several quarters before it turns negative.

What’s the difference between a recession and a depression?

A depression has criteria similar to that of a recession, but is much more severe. For example, in both a recession and a depression the unemployment rate rises; however, during the Great Recession of 2008, the worst recession in U.S. history to date, unemployment peaked at 10%, while during the Great Depression, unemployment levels soared to 25%. Similarly, during the Great Recession, the GDP contracted by 4.2%, while during the Great Depression it shrank by 30%.

Depressions also last a lot longer than recessions. The Great Depression officially lasted for four years but continued to impact the economy for more than a decade. In contrast, recessions generally last only 11 months, according to data from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

There have been 47 recessions in U.S. history, and a total of 13 recessions since the Great Depression. There has only been a single recorded depression in our country’s history.

What causes a recession? 

A recession can be triggered by a variety of factors:

  • A sudden economic shock that causes severe financial damage.
  • Excessive debt carried by consumers and businesses, leading to debt defaults and bankruptcies.
  • Asset bubbles, or when investors’ make irrational decisions, overbuy stocks and then rush to sell, causing a market crash.
  • Excessive inflation and rising interest rates, which triggers a decline in economic activity.
  • Excessive deflation, which sparks a decrease in wages, further depressing prices.
  • Technological changes, including outsourcing jobs to machines or other technological breakthroughs that alter the way entire industries operate.

Why the COVID-19 recession is unlike any other?

In June 2020, the NBER  announced that the U.S. economy had been in recession since February.

The COVID-19 recession, also known as the coronavirus recession, the Great Shutdown, the Great Lockdown or the Coronavirus Crash, is unique because it was sparked by an unforeseen pandemic and not by any inherent problem within the economy.

Another anomaly of the coronavirus recession is the super-healthy state of the economy before it hit. In February, unemployment levels were at a 50-year low, stock markets were at a record high and the U.S. economy had enjoyed 126 months of growth,  its longest period of uninterrupted expansion in history.

The unusual triggers and the explosive start of the current recession may be good news for its eventual end. Economists initially were hopeful that the recession could reverse itself quickly with a V-shaped recovery. Unfortunately, due to prolonged lockdowns and the nationwide failure to keep infection rates down, they have since declared that a rapid rebound is unlikely. There is still hope for a relatively fast recovery. An April Reuters poll  found that nearly half of 45 economists believed the U.S. recovery would be U-shaped: slower and more gradual than a V-shaped recovery, but still fairly quick.

How will this recession affect me?

The coronavirus recession can impact the average consumer in multiple ways.

First, many are struggling with sudden unemployment or will be facing joblessness in the coming months. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the unemployment rate at a staggering 10.2%.

Second, the economic uncertainty has triggered record-low interest rates, which in turn sparked a rush to refinance. If you are currently paying high interest rates on a long-term loan, you may want to consider refinancing and enjoying a lower monthly payment.

Finally, investments in stocks, bonds and real estate may lose value during a recession.

The good news is there’s no need to start stuffing money under your mattress. As a member of Destinations Credit Union, your funds are always safe. Destinations CU is federally insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration and independently insured up to $250,000 by Excess Share Insurance. If you are experiencing financial difficulties of any kind, feel free to reach out to us at 410-663-2500 or to drop us a line at info@destinationscu.org to see how we can help.

Your Turn: What do you think will be most impacted by the coronavirus recession? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Sources:
https://www.investopedia.com/terms/g/gdp.asp
https://www.forbes.com/advisor/investing/what-is-a-recession/
https://www.bbc.com/news/av/53736958/coronavirus-what-is-a-recession
https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/09/us-officially-in-a-recession-but-its-different-than-2008.html
https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/06/08/872336272/its-official-scorekeepers-say-u-s-economy-is-in-a-recession
https://www.nber.org/cycles/jan08bcdc_memo.html
https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/30/economy/us-economy-2020-second-quarter/index.html
https://fraser.stlouisfed.org/timeline/covid-19-pandemic
https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/08/coronavirus-recession-is-unlike-any-economic-downturn-in-us-history.html

What You Need To Know About TikTok

With more than 2 billion downloads around the world and 165 million downloads in the U.S. alone, TikTok is wildly popular.tiktok logo

The coronavirus lockdown only increased its fandom as millions of bored kids, teens and influencers used the short video app to turn themselves into instant stars. The app is hip, fun and addictive. But is it safe?

Let’s take a look at the way TikTok operates and the security concerns surrounding the app.

How does TikTok work?

TikTok is a free social media platform letting users watch, create and share videos — often with a music soundtrack and other fun embellishments — right from their phones. Users can lip-sync to their favorite music hits, share their best dance moves on the app or show off their pet’s latest trick; all while connecting with friends through likes, comments and duets.

TikTok is owned by the Chinese tech company, ByteDance.

What are the safety concerns with TikTok? 

Like all social media platforms, TikTok encourages users to share slivers of their personal life. The app also captures user data by tracking likes, dislikes, friends, consumer patterns of behavior, locations and more. While other major platforms, like Facebook, do the same thing, TikTok is the first Chinese-owned app to gain such broad popularity in the United States, raising privacy concerns that Americans have never grappled with before.

There have been some claims that TikTok is a cover for Chinese spyware that steals users’ information and sends it back to China, but these allegations have been mostly unfounded. If TikTok is actually being used to scrape information on the lifestyle and habits of millions of Americans, that data could turn into a national security risk.

Another concern with the safety of TikTok is the app’s occasional release of new software with security vulnerabilities needing to be urgently fixed. While these issues are relatively common with apps, and they’ve all been patched quickly, the small window of time between the release of the software and the security patch-up can pose a serious risk to TikTok users.

Will TikTok be banned in the U.S.? 

The United States is not the first country to raise concerns over the safety of TikTok. The app has already been threatened with bans in several countries, including Indonesia, Pakistan and Japan.

More recently, President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to ban TikTok in the United States. Trump is pressuring ByteDance to sell the app to an American company before the ban goes into effect on Sept. 15. Microsoft is currently under negotiations with ByteDance to purchase 30% of the app, but the administration is pushing for complete ownership by an American company. As the deadline for a deal approaches, TikTok continues to insist that its platform is completely secure.

“TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S.,” the company said in a statement. “We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”

Should users delete the app?

With negotiations still underway, and the future of TikTok in the U.S. still unknown, many users are unsure of how to proceed. Is the app safe to use?

There’s no black-and-white answer to this critical question. While every social media platform poses a safety risk, as the only Chinese-owned app to dominate the American scene, TikTok is a bigger concern. You may want to delete the app just to be on the safe side.

If you decide to keep TikTok on your device, be sure to exercise caution when using the app:

  • Don’t assume your data is private. Keep all potentially vulnerable information off the app and videos you share.\
  • Keep the app’s setting private.
  • Beware of what you share. If you aren’t comfortable with the video going viral, don’t share it.

TikTok is a super-fun app that may pose a potential risk to user security. It’s best to practice caution when using the app to keep your information safe.

Your Turn: Are you concerned about the safety of TikTok? Tell us about it in the comments.

Sources:
https://www.axios.com/tiktok-bans-worldwide-china-6e77a3a8-f4c7-4600-94bf-df89af0a8e5f.html
https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2020/07/11/tiktok-seriously-dangerous-warning-delete-app-trump-ban/#761d8e932b0e
https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/07/tiktok-ban-china-america/614725/
https://www.wsj.com/articles/whos-afraid-of-tiktok-11595373247
https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/parents-ultimate-guide-to-tiktok

What You Need To Know About Selling Your Home During COVID-19

Selling a home is a move people generally plan years in advance, and 2020 was no couple closing on a mortgage loandifferent. For many homeowners, the hot real estate market of spring and summer of 2020 was going to be the season they put their homes up for sale. And then came the coronavirus — and the world turned upside down. With people struggling just to get by financially, and health and safety paramount, selling a home seemed like a dream from another lifetime. Records of home sales in the U.S. from the beginning of the outbreak reflect these feelings, with a sharp decline of 21% in total homes sold in March, and another decrease of 17.8% in April, according to data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) .

Now, though, the U.S. real estate market is looking very different. As the economy limps toward a recovery, many buyers are searching for a new place to call home and the housing market is thriving. In fact, national home sales climbed a record 20.7 percent in June compared with home sales from a year ago, global pandemic notwithstanding

One crucial factor driving the surge in home sales is the declining mortgage rates. In the beginning of March, mortgage rates plunged to a record low of 3.13 percent. Since then, the market has seen several smaller increases and decreases. On Aug. 6, history was made when the national average mortgage rate hit 2.88%, the lowest rate on record of all time.

Despite the flourishing housing market, many homeowners who’ve planned to sell their homes this year are still reluctant to take that leap. And it’s no wonder, with restrictions still in place and so much uncertainty still surrounding the economy.

If you’ve been thinking of selling your home, you still can. Here’s all you need to know about selling your house during the COVID-19 crisis.

Are you really ready to sell?

Before putting your home on the market, it’s important to consider all the variables involved in this step, and be sure it’s a financially responsible move. With the pandemic causing a slowdown of the economy and a likely recession, life circumstances you may have relied on, such as a steady job and salary, may not be dependable anymore. Before calling a real estate agent, it’s a good idea to review all the relevant numbers to be sure that selling your home now is in your best interest.

Stage your home to sell

Anyone selling their home knows they need to showcase it in the best possible light, and never has this been truer than now. With restrictions still in place in many states and lots of people stuck home in quarantine, many buyers will be doing their touring virtually. For sellers, this means that staging and photographing a home well is more important than ever.

Consider hiring a professional home-staging and photography service to truly present your home in the best way possible. If your furniture is shabby or your home is too cluttered to be attractively displayed, you can also invest in virtual staging software or hire a team of professional virtual stagers to help you update the furniture and clean out the clutter with just a few clicks. Either option can cost you upward of $75 an image, but the NAR report from 2019 shows that on average, sellers see about a 5% return on this investment.

Here are some general tips to follow when staging and photographing your home, as shared by Buddy Mountcastle,  a real estate photographer based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.:

  • Clean up the outside. Curb appeal is the first selling point for any home. Make sure there are no weeds, overgrown grass or kids’ toys ruining the first impression of your home.
  • Let the sunshine in. Aim to shoot mid-day. Scrub your windows clean, open the curtains and let the natural sunshine brighten up every room.
  • Undo the lived-in look. Remove all personal effects from your home before going camera-crazy. This includes stray shoes, family photos, piles of magazines, small kitchen appliances and more.
  • Shoot from the right spot. When capturing a room on camera, try to get as much of the space in the frame. Aim to include three walls, which can mean shooting from the corner or doorway. It’s also important to shoot straight and from chest height so as not to distort the room.

To make it easier for buyers to view your home, you can post a virtual tour on your online listing, and offer the option of scheduling a live tour with an agent through FaceTime or Zoom.

Play it safe

If you will be allowing potential buyers into your home, don’t forget to play it safe. Set up a box of disposable masks, shoe covers and sanitizing wipes at the door for all visitors who will be tramping through your home. If you will be hosting an open house, it’s best to allow a limited number of people inside at a time to make social distancing possible.

Price it right

Fewer homeowners are putting their houses up for sale this year, but the pool of buyers is also smaller than usual. This means you won’t be able to jack up the price of your home for way more than it’s worth. Work with an agent to look at comparable home sales in the area and to determine a fair asking price. Also, as always, list a selling price a bit higher than your actual desired price to allow for negotiations.

Closing during COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic will likely affect every aspect of selling your home, up until the closing. With many workers in the home-selling industry, from professional home inspectors, to mortgage lenders, to movers working with a smaller team now, be prepared for various steps of the home-selling process to be delayed. It’s best to be patient and to anticipate that things may take longer than usual. This is especially true with lenders, as low mortgage rates are triggering a spike in refinance applications across the country and lenders are busier than ever.

COVID-19 has wrecked all sorts of plans, but selling your home does not have to be one of them. With some adjustments and altered expectations, you can successfully sell your home during the coronavirus pandemic.

If you plan to buy a new home, don’t forget to check the great rates and options for a first mortgage through Destinations Credit Union!

Your Turn: Have you sold your home during COVID-19? Share your tips with us in the comments.

When Does It Make Sense To Pay A Bill With A Credit Card?

Credit cards and debit cards both offer incredible convenience. With just a quick swipe close up of hand holding card and typing in laptopor a linked account, a payment can be instantly processed. It seems like a no-brainer to use that convenience for taking the hassle out of paying bills. But, is it a smart idea to pay monthly bills with a credit card or debit card?

Choosing to pay a bill with a card can have a significant impact on your general financial wellness — for better or for worse. That’s why it’s important to consider the many variables of this decision before going ahead with it.

Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of paying monthly bills with a credit card or debit card.

The advantages of paying bills with a credit card or debit card

There are many reasons you may want to pay your monthly bills with a credit or debit card when possible. Here are just a few of the advantages of paying with plastic:

  • Automate monthly payments. Setting up automatic payments for monthly bills through a credit card or debit card will help ensure payments are always on time.
  • Build credit with a consistent monthly payment. Using a credit card for a monthly bill is a great way to amp up a credit score without running the risk of overspending. Just be sure to pay the bill in full and on time every time.
  • Earn rewards for money that needs to be spent anyway. Using a credit card that offers rewards for a bill that needs to be paid anyway will help to pile on those rewards points without overspending. Many debit and/or credit card issuers, [including ’s [debit/credit] card], also offer attractive rewards for using the card to pay for specific expenses, including some monthly bills.
  • Enjoy consumer protection. Paying with plastic offers the consumer the advantages of purchase protection, zero or minimal liability in case of fraud, guaranteed returns and more.
  • Pay your bills quickly without the hassle of writing out checks and using snail mail. With a credit or debit card, paying a bill only takes a few clicks or phone prompts.
  • Budget easily. Paying with a credit or debit card makes for easy tracking of monthly spending.
  • Payments post promptly. Bill payments made via credit or debit card will generally post within one or two business days. Contrast that with a check that needs to be mailed out, delivered to the correct party and then deposited and cleared until the payment is finally processed.

The disadvantages of paying bills with credit or debit cards

Here’s the flip side of paying bills with plastic:

  • There may be fees for paying the bill with a credit card. Pay close attention to the payment options on every bill; some service providers charge a processing fee for paying with a debit or credit card.
  • It can make a difficult financial situation worse. For consumers who are already carrying a sizable amount of debt, it may not be the best idea to charge a monthly bill to a credit card. Similarly, it isn’t responsible to set up an automatic monthly payment through a debit card that is linked to an account that may not have enough money to cover the charge each month.
  • Credit utilization may cross the threshold to an undesirable rate. One of the key components of an excellent credit score is a low credit utilization rate. For consumers with a minimal amount of available credit, charging too many bills to a credit card can cause their score to plunge.
  • Interest may accrue. Consumers who cannot pay their entire credit card bill each month would be saddled with more accrued interest than they can afford if they choose to pay their monthly bills with a credit card.

Which of my bills can I pay with a credit or debit card?

You will likely not be able to pay the following monthly bills with a credit or debit card:

  • Mortgage
  • Rent
  • Car payments

These monthly bills can usually be paid with a credit card, but you may need to pay a fee to do so:

  • Car insurance
  • Home insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Taxes

The following monthly bills usually allow you to pay with a credit card or debit card, and without a fee:

  • Subscription services
  • Phone bills
  • Utility bills
  • Internet providers
  • Cable providers

Before deciding whether to pay a specific bill with a credit or debit card, it’s best to check with your provider to find out if this is a viable option and if there will be a fee attached for paying with plastic.

The bottom line

Sometimes, paying bills with a credit card or debit card makes perfect financial sense, but it sometimes does not. Before deciding which way to go on any particular bill, consider all the relevant factors detailed above to be sure you’re making the responsible choice.

When it doesn’t make sense to use a card, try Destinations Credit Union‘s Online Bill Payment.  It’s free as long as you pay at least one bill with it in a calendar month.  Your can schedule it and forget it, or schedule it as a recurring payment if the amount doesn’t change.  Paying bills this way also puts you in control – you don’t have to give anyone your card number and struggle to get reimbursed if you stopped the service you’re paying for.  You are in control.

Your Turn: Do you pay any of your monthly bills with a credit card or debit card? Tell us about it in the comments.

Sources:
https://www.thesimpledollar.com/credit-cards/blog/paying-bills-with-credit-card/
https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-pay-bills-with-your-debit-credit-card-315033
https://www.creditkarma.com/credit-cards/i/paying-bills-with-credit-card

COVID-19 is Causing a Coin Shortage

The COVID-19 Global pandemic caused an initial panic leaving store shelves empty of coins spilling out of wrappersface masks and toilet paper. Hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, paper towels and meat followed quickly in what was fast becoming routine for life during COVID-19. And now, the latest commodity to run in short supply is coins.

Got change? Many financial institutions, retailers and private citizens don’t.

Although we are increasingly becoming a cashless society, coins play an integral role in day-to-day commerce, and a dearth in their supply can severely impact small businesses that  are already struggling to survive. There’s more than just pocket change at stake here, and if things don’t improve soon, the effect on the economy can be critical and long-lasting.

Here’s what you need to know about the most recent shortage caused by COVID-19.

What triggered the shortage?

The jangling coins in your wallet were stricken in the U.S. Mint. The Federal Reserve distributes these coins to financial institutions across the country. From there, the coins are purchased by retailers or private citizens, enter the economy and begin circulating. But now, with the pandemic upending the economy and the Mint operating at partial capacity, this chain was disrupted for months at a time.

“The COVID‐19 pandemic has significantly disrupted the supply chain and normal circulation patterns for U.S. coin,” according to a statement  issued by the Federal Reserve. “In the past few months, coin deposits from depository institutions to the Federal Reserve have declined significantly and the U.S. Mint’s production of coin also decreased due to measures put in place to protect its employees.”

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell added that the massive shift to online or contactless transactions has further disrupted the flow of coins through the economy.

Even now, as large segments of the country reopen, the supply of coins is failing to keep pace with demand. Many consumers still shop remotely and those who do shop in physical stores are wary of handling germ-infested dollars and coins and are opting for contactless payment instead.

 The response to the shortage

To help mitigate the fallout of the coin shortage, the Federal Reserve began to ration its coin distribution  on June 15, giving banks and credit unions only part of their requested orders. The total number of rationed coins each bank or credit union will receive is determined by the institution’s history of coin orders and the capacity of the U.S. Mint to fulfill the request. The Reserve has also encouraged banks and credit unions to order only the amount of coins they need to meet short-term member demand.

The Federal Reserve is working together with the Mint to ramp up production of new coins and to lift supply allocations in the near future.

The impact of the shortage on the economy

The severity of the shortage first came to light in mid-June, when banks in Tennessee were notified that they’d only receive a small portion of their weekly coin order from the Federal Reserve.

In a virtual hearing  on June 17, Rep. John Rose of Tennessee told Powell that the banks in his district, having received only part of their weekly coin order, would likely run out of change by the end of the week, or might need to round up or down if they run low.

“In a time when pennies are the difference between profitability and loss, it seems like it might be a bigger concern than the announcement from the Fed would indicate that it is,” Rose said.

The shortage can have devastating effects for retailers who won’t receive their complete requested orders of coins from their bank or credit union, Rose said. Without the means to provide adequate change for their customers, small business owners can be forced to round up or down, leading to significant losses in revenue and in customers.

A temporary shortage

The Federal Reserve believes the coin shortage is only temporary and that it will resolve itself in the near future.

“As the economy reopens, we’re seeing coins begin to move around again,” Powell said.

However, the dearth in available coins is still a reality that can be felt in all sectors of the economy. As a consumer, this means that Destinations CU may be unable to fulfill your complete request for coins at this time. You may also feel the impact of the shortage when paying cash at brick and mortar stores; the clerk may not be able to provide you with accurate change.

Finally, if you have spare change lying around at home, you may want to sell it to Destinations CU to help us close the gap between our coin supply and demand.

Your Turn: Have you felt the impact of the coin shortage? Tell us about it in the comments.

Sources:
https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/06/20/coronavirus-shortage-coin-supply-pennies-nickels-dimes-quarters/3230828001/
https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/18/us/us-coin-shortage-coronavirus-trnd/index.html
https://www.wate.com/news/nationwide-shortage-of-coins-tied-to-coronavirus-pandemic-weigels-asking-for-exact-change/
https://www.wate.com/news/nationwide-shortage-of-coins-tied-to-coronavirus-pandemic-weigels-asking-for-exact-change/
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/25/business/economy/coin-shortage-coronavirus.html

Your Complete Guide to Using Your Credit Cards

Q: I’d love to improve my credit score, but I can’t get ahead of my monthly payments. I woman with credit card in hand surrounded by shopping bagsalso find that my spending gets out of control when I’m paying with plastic. How do I use my credit cards responsibly?

A: Using your credit cards responsibly is a great way to boost your credit score and your financial wellness. Unfortunately, though, credit card issuers make it challenging to stay ahead of monthly payments and easy to fall into debt with credit card purchases. No worries, though; Destinations CU is here to help!

Here’s all you need to know about responsible credit card usage.

Refresh your credit card knowledge

Understanding the way a credit card works can help the cardholder use it responsibly.

A credit card is a revolving line of credit allowing the cardholder to make charges at any time, up to a specific limit. Each time the cardholder swipes their card, the credit card issuer is lending them the money so they can make the purchase. Unlike a loan, though, the credit card account has no fixed term. Instead, the cardholder will need to make payments toward the balance each month until the balance is paid off in full. At the end of each billing cycle, the cardholder can choose to make just the minimum required payment, pay off the balance in full or make a payment of any size that falls between these two amounts.

Credit cards tend to have high interest rates relative to other kinds of loans. The most recent data  shows the average industry rate on new credit cards is 13.15% APR (annual percentage rate) and the average credit union rate on new credit cards is 11.54% APR (note: Destinations Credit Union has a lower rate!).

Pay bills in full, on time

The best way to keep a score high is to pay credit card bills in full each month — and on time. This has multiple benefits:

  • Build credit — Using credit responsibly builds up your credit history, which makes it easier and more affordable to secure a loan in the future.
  • Skip the interest — Paying credit card bills in full and on time each month lets the cardholder avoid the card’s interest charges completely.
  • Stay out of debt — Paying bills in full each month helps prevent the consumer from falling into the cycle of endless minimum payments, high interest accruals and a whirlpool of debt.
  • Avoid late fees — Late fees and other penalties for missed payments can get expensive quickly. Avoid them by paying bills on time each month.
  • Enjoy rewards — Healthy credit card habits are often generously rewarded through the credit card issuer with airline miles, reward points and other fun benefits.

Tip: Using a credit card primarily for purchases you can already afford makes it easier to pay off the entire bill each month.

Brush up on billing

There are several important terms to be familiar with for staying on top of credit card billing.

A credit card billing cycle is the period of time between subsequent credit card billings. It can vary from 20 to 45 days, depending on the credit card issuer. Within that timeframe, purchases, credits and any fees or finance charges will be added to and subtracted from the cardholder’s account.

When the billing cycle ends, the cardholder will be billed for the remaining balance, which will be reflected in their credit card statement. The current dates and span of a credit card’s billing cycle should be clearly visible on the bill.

Tip: It’s important to know when your billing cycle opens and closes each month to help you keep on top of your monthly payments.

Credit card bills will also show a payment due date, which tends to be approximately 20 days after the end of a billing cycle. The timeframe between when the billing cycle ends and its payment due date is known as the grace period. When the grace period is over and the payment due date passes, the payment is overdue and will be subject to penalties and interest charges.

Tip: To ensure a payment is never overdue, it’s best to schedule a time for making your credit card payments each month, ideally during the grace period and before the payment due date. This way, you’ll avoid interest charges and penalties and keep your score high. Allow a minimum of one week for the payment to process.

Spend smartly

Credit cards can easily turn into spending traps if the cardholder is not careful. Following these dos and don’ts of credit card spending can help you stick to your budget even when paying with plastic.

Do:

  •  When making a purchase, treat your credit card like cash.
  • Remember that credit card transactions are mini loans.
  • Pay for purchases within your regular budget.
  • Decrease your reliance on credit cards by building an emergency fund.

Don’t:

  •  Use your credit card as if it provides you with access to extra income.
  • Use credit to justify extravagant purchases.
  • Neglect to put money into savings because you have access to a credit card.

Using credit cards responsibly can help you build and maintain an excellent credit score, which will make it easier to secure affordable long-term loans in the future.

Destinations Credit Union offers a low rate Mastercard Credit Card.  We also have options to help you establish or repair your credit if you need that.  If you need help improving your credit score or budgeting, contact our HOPE Inside financial well-being counselor.

Your Turn: How do you use your credit cards responsibly while keeping your score high? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

Sources:
https://www.moneyunder30.com/how-to-use-a-credit-card-responsibly
https://www.npr.org/2020/02/13/805760560/u-s-credit-card-debt-hits-all-time-high-and-overdue-payments-rise-for-young-peop#:~:text=Americans%20owe%20nearly%20%241%20trillion,rising%2C%20especially%20among%20young%20people
https://www.debt.org/faqs/americans-in-debt/
https://www.creditcardinsider.com/learn/using-credit-cards-responsibly/