How to Navigate Life’s Next Major Milestone – Downsizing Your Home in Retirement

by: Michael Longsdonwww.elderfreedom.net

Life is full of milestones, and just because you’re retired doesn’t mean those milestones are behind you. It’s becoming common for seniors to reach a new milestone after (and sometimes before) retirement: downsizing to a smaller, more manageable place to live. There are countless benefits to making this move, but once you’ve decided to downsize, you’re left with more questions to answer. Where should you move, and how do you go about de-cluttering, packing, and moving years’ worth of stuff?

Man standing with woman

You’re Ready to Downsize, But Where?

If you don’t already have a place in mind, this is the first question to tackle. You may want to escape to the quiet of the country, or as HGTV suggests, some seniors prefer a condo in the city so they live in a walk-able neighborhood and close to necessities. Along with choosing the right community, you’ll also need to decide on the type of home you want. If you plan on buying, make sure you consider all the financial obligations involved. You may even decide that renting an apartment is a good fit, especially if you want the freedom to move again.

On the other hand, you may feel more comfortable choosing a retirement community. One thing to keep in mind is how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting communities, especially those where residents live in close proximity. The bottom line is that each option for downsizing has both pros and cons, so the answer comes down to whatever best fits your needs and your budget.

Finding the Features You Need

If you move into a retirement community, you can expect it to be designed to meet your needs as you age. However, if you’re buying a home or renting an apartment, you’ll need to look for features that maximize accessibility and safety. For starters, an accessible home should only be one level and have a zero-step entry. Your top safety concern is the risk of falling, which can be reduced by adding non-slip flooring, good lighting, and grab bars in the bathroom.

Some homes may not have every accessibility feature you need, but if you’re buying a home, you can always make modifications. Make sure to leave room in your budget for all renovations, including minor changes that you can DIY, along with bigger projects. Keep in mind that major accessibility modifications, such as installing a stair-lift, replacing a shower, or installing new flooring, will require a professional to ensure it’s done right.

Selling Your Home

In addition to finding the perfect place to call home, you may be asking yourself, “How am I going to sell my home?” Because COVID-19 is still a concern nationwide, one option is to use an online real estate service like Home Captain. The benefit of using a service like this is that it’s a financial technology platform, so it’s designed to not only make the selling process easier, but also to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

De-cluttering and Packing

It’s normal for seniors to feel overwhelmed by the thought of packing and moving. The good news is that this process is much easier when you tackle it with a plan. For example, the website Senior Safety Advice recommends decluttering by taking it one room at a time – and even one section of a room at a time. Another way to ease the burden is to look at the benefits of de-cluttering and moving. As hard as it may be, the reward is that it gives you the opportunity to start fresh and organized in your new home.

Taking the step to downsize is a major life change, and it comes with both rewards and challenges. The first step is deciding if this is the right move for you; then there are the questions about how to make it happen. This article may not have all the answers, but hopefully, it can get you started on finding the answers that are right for you.

Photo credit: Rawpixel

Is It A Good Idea To Open A HELOC Now?

If you’re looking for a large sum of money to use for a home improvement project, or thewoman looking at computer economic devastation of COVID-19 has left you in desperate need of cash, consider tapping into your home’s equity. One great way to do this is by opening a home equity line of credit, or a HELOC. Let’s take a closer look at HELOCs and why they can be an excellent option for cash-strapped homeowners in today’s financial climate.

What is a HELOC?

A HELOC is a revolving credit line allowing homeowners to borrow money against the equity of their home. The HELOC is like a second mortgage on a home; if the borrower owns the entire home, the HELOC is a primary mortgage.

Given that a HELOC is a line of credit and not a fixed loan, borrowers can withdraw money from the HELOC as needed rather than borrowing one lump sum. This allows for more freedom than a loan and is especially beneficial for borrowers who don’t know exactly how much money they’ll ultimately need to fund their venture.

Borrowers withdraw funds (aka “draws” or “advances”) from the HELOC during a set amount of time that is known as the “draw period,” which generally lasts 10 years. Some lenders place restrictions on HELOCs and require borrowers to withdraw a minimum amount of money each time they make a draw, regardless of need. Other restrictions include the requirements to keep a fixed amount of money outstanding, or to withdraw a specific sum when the HELOC is first established. At Destinations Credit Union, we allow borrowers to borrow up to the limit that you qualify for as you need it.

How do I repay my HELOC?

Repayment of HELOCs varies, but is usually very flexible.

Many lenders collect interest-only payments during the draw period, with principal payments being strictly optional. Others require ongoing monthly payment toward both principal and interest.

When the draw period ends, some lenders will allow borrowers to renew the credit line and continue withdrawing money. Other lenders require borrowers to pay back the entire balance due, also known as a “balloon payment.” Still others allow borrowers to pay back the loan in monthly installments over another set amount of time, known as the “repayment period.” Repayment periods are generous, lasting as long as 20 years.

How can borrowers spend the money? 

While home improvement projects are popular uses for HELOCs, borrowers are free to spend the money however they please. Some other uses for HELOCs include debt consolidation, funding a wedding, adoption, dream vacation or the launch of a new business.  Current tax laws may allow you to deduct the interest on a HELOC if it’s used for home improvements.

Is everyone eligible for a HELOC?

Like every loan and line of credit, HELOCs have eligibility requirements, which help lenders determine the applicant’s financial wellness and responsibility. Most notably, the borrower must have a minimal amount of equity in the home.

Lender requirements vary, but most homeowners will be eligible for a HELOC with a debt-to-income ratio that is 40% or less, a credit score of 620 or higher and a home assessment that stands at a minimum of 15% more than what is owed.

How much can I borrow with a HELOC?

HELOC amounts vary along with three criteria: the value of your home, the percentage of that value the lender allows you to borrow against and the outstanding amount on an existing mortgage.

To illustrate, if you have a $300,000 home with a mortgage balance of $175,000 and your lender allows you to borrow against 85% of your home’s value, multiply your home’s value by 85%, or 0.85. This will give you $255,000. Subtract the amount you still owe on your mortgage ($175,000), and you’ll have the maximum amount you can borrow using a HELOC, which is $80,000.

What are the disadvantages of a HELOC?
A HELOC is secured by your home’s equity, which places your home at risk of foreclosure if the HELOC is not repaid. Before opening a HELOC, it’s a good idea to run the numbers to get an idea of what your monthly payments will look like and whether you can easily afford to meet them.

Also, many lenders require the full payment of the HELOC after the draw period is over. This can prove to be challenging for many borrowers.

Finally, if you don’t plan to stay in your home for long, a HELOC may not be the right choice for you. When you sell your home, you’ll need to pay off the full balance of the HELOC. You may also need to pay a cancellation fee to the lender.

A HELOC can be a great option now

HELOCs have variable interest rates, which means the interest on the loan can fluctuate over the life of the loan, sometimes dramatically. This variable is based on a publicly available index, such as the U.S. Treasury Bill rate, and will rise or fall along with this index, though lenders will also add a margin of a few percentage points of their own.

The fallout of COVID-19 may impact the economy for months, or years, to come; however, there is a silver lining among the rising unemployment rates and bankrupt businesses: historically low interest rates. The average APR for fixed 30-year mortgages has hovered at the low 3% for months now, and experts predict it will continue falling. The low rates make it an excellent time to take out a HELOC with manageable payback terms.

The economic uncertainty the pandemic has generated also makes it a prime time to have extra cash available for any need that may arise.

Are you looking to tap into your home’s equity with a HELOC? Call, click, or stop by Destinations Credit Union today to get started. Our favorable rates, generous eligibility requirements, and easy terms, make a Destinations CU HELOC a great choice.

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

Sources:
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/coronavirus-time-to-refinance-interest-rates
https://www.thepennyhoarder.com/debt/is-heloc-good-idea/
https://www.bankrate.com/home-equity/heloc-rates/

Celebrating Milestones Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

As the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt life and cancel plans across the world, people are finding creative ways to celebrate. From drive-by weddings to birthday car parades to virtual graduation ceremonies, there are so many ways you can celebrate while still maintaining proper social distancing.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can commemorate life’s happier moments during the coronavirus pandemic. Party on!

Car parades

It’s like a drive-through safari, only instead of clusters of animals the guest of honor is the main attraction.

In what’s becoming increasingly popular around the country, Americans with reason to celebrate are inviting friends and family over to join in celebrations — from their cars. The hero of the hour stands outside their home and waves as guests drive by to offer their warm wishes and gifts. Sometimes, the inviter will offer pre-wrapped favors or packaged party treats to the parade of friends driving by.

Car parades have been happening to commemorate weddings, birthdays, graduations, baby showers and more. Often, the parades are a complete surprise and are organized by well-meaning family and friends who want to extend well-wishes and be part of the happy occasion.

In a fun twist, some people are theming their parades and having participants decorate their vehicles to match the theme. The hosts will sometimes decorate their own car and join the parade, and other times, they’ll deck out their home and lawn while having guests drive by in their decorated cars to wave and offer their good wishes. It can be a Star Wars-themed parade for the die-hard fan, a football-themed drive-by party for the aspiring athlete or a princess theme for the little girl who is passionate about pink.

Taking it outside

Some celebrations, especially those surrounding older people or the otherwise vulnerable, are taking place outdoors. Family members gather outside the home of their loved one for singing, playing instruments, holding up signs and shouting “I love you!” or “Happy birthday!” as the quarantined celebrity watches from the safety of their home. Some merry-makers will also use sidewalk chalk to scrawl their good wishes on the pavement near the VIP’s home.

For Kathleen Bryne of Syracuse, NY, the outpouring of love at her outdoor celebration was tangible, even from a distance. The nonagenarian, mother of seven, grandmother of 22 and great-grandmother of 29, celebrated her 95th birthday in March. When the coronavirus outbreak disrupted the family’s plans of a giant celebration, they moved on to Plan B. Cousins and siblings gathered on Kathleen’s front lawn to sing “Happy Birthday” to the matriarch of the family and to spell out “Happy Birthday” in balloons.  The birthday girl was deeply touched.

A couple in NY took it a step further and got married outside — with the officiant conducting the ceremony from a nearby apartment, four stories above street level.

Another couple in Israel invited their neighbors to come out and join their wedding celebration — from the safety of their own balconies.

Elissa Labbie-Snyder turned her son’s birthday into a fun outdoor game. She asked friends to leave birthday gifts, messages, balloons and treats for her son around the neighborhood. When they were done, she took her son, Alex, out on a three-hour birthday scavenger hunt to find the hidden treats.

Zooming in

The videoconferencing platform that has become a household word since the it is now host to thousands of business meetings, classes, and long-distance visits each day. But some people are turning to the app to host their virtual celebrations as well.

For graduating students of the Organizational Studies program at the University of Michigan, their anticipated in-person graduation turned into a Zoom videoconference event thanks to the ongoing lockdown. The virtual ceremony featured presentations and awards you’d expect to see at a college graduation, including greetings from the program’s director and keynote addresses from selected students.

To turn a Zoom event into a shared experience, Swasti Sarna, insights manager at Pinterest, suggests that all participants decorate the space being used to host the party so it feels more festive. She also recommends creating a program so the party is more than just a screen full of faces trying to keep up with an animated conversation. The program can include virtual games everyone can play together, like Psych or Jackbox Games, and a shared menu of homemade or takeout food that everyone can enjoy at the same time.

Some Zoom party hosts have upped the ante by mailing out a package ahead of the party with instructions to open them at the event. The party boxes can include a cupcake, party favors and/or a DIY craft kit for all attendees to create together.

Another great idea is for guests to send gifts ahead of the event for the host to open while everyone watches.

The rules of the game may have changed, but the milestones that make life go on can’t be stopped by a global pandemic. Here’s to continued celebrations of all of life’s most precious moments.

Your Turn: Have you celebrated a milestone event during the coronavirus lockdown? Tell us about it in the comments.

Where is My Stimulus Check?

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?

Man Looking at Cell Phone Standing on City Street.

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 bank or credit union’s routing number (Destinations Credit Union‘s routing number is 252076442) 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

Your credit score is made up of three numbers, serving as an indicator of your financial man and woman looking at laptophistory, 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 .
  • 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 . 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.  For a free copy of your credit report, go to annualcreditreport.com to get reports from each of the major credit bureaus.

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

Sources:
https://www.discover.com/credit-cards/resources/why-does-my-credit-score-matter/
https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/mortgages/articles/how-does-your-credit-score-affect-your-mortgage-rates/
https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/vantagescore-fico-score-the-difference/
https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-credit-315391

6 Rules to Follow for Safe Curbside Pickup During a Lockdown

1. Review your order carefully. Triple-check your order before placing it to minimize theWoman in car picking up order from drive thru window number of trips you take to the store.

2. Wear a face covering and gloves. The CDC recommends wearing a cloth covering over your mouth and nose, or a face mask, when out in public.  This is now mandatory in many states.

3. Use contactless payment. Many stores will require you to pay for your order in advance of pickup. If that is not an option, try to use contactless payment when picking up your order since it minimizes physical contact with the workers delivering your order.

4. Remove your gloves and mask immediately after returning home. Remove your gloves carefully, turning them inside-out so any contamination is on the inside. Discard, and wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Remove your mask, being careful not to touch your face. Wash your hands again before touching food.

5. Carefully transfer any takeout food to your own plates. There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food, but there has been proof that the virus can live on containers and utensils for several days. After transferring, wash your hands thoroughly. You can also choose to wear a new pair of gloves when transferring your food.

6. Follow normal food safety procedures when eating. Refrigerate your leftovers within two hours as per the CDC recommendations. It’s also best not to share utensils and cups with your fellow diners.

How Should I Spend My Stimulus Check?

The stimulus checks promised in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security close up of hands with computer, notebook and pencil(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, Destinations 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 Destinations CU 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 410-663-2500 ext 124 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.

Sources:
https://www.marketwatch.com/amp/story/guid/C2DFDCE4-6DE2-11EA-A687-9E83803F6B96
https://www.bankrate.com/personal-finance/stimulus-checks-money-moves/amp/

Which Businesses Are Essential

With social distancing mandates in place across most of the country and many states Woman in mask shopping for produceunder lockdown, many businesses and storefronts are now shuttered. The federal government has determined that only businesses deemed to be essential may keep their physical locations open during these times.

Ultimately, each state and city can establish its own criteria. This decision has led many businesses and state-level government officials to wonder which businesses should be deemed “essential.” In general, though, businesses that don’t make the cut include those that are purely recreational, such as museums, theaters, fitness centers and spas. Restaurants are usually included in the list of non-essential businesses, but they are allowed to operate with a drive-through or curbside-pickup option only.

The list of essential businesses permitted to remain open across the country includes all supermarkets, hospitals, gas stations and financial institutions. Officials agree that these businesses are too critical to be closed, even when a stay-at-home order has been enacted.

This means that all credit unions are legally allowed to remain open during the coronavirus pandemic.

Destinations Credit Union remains open, but with different ways to access to our services.  We continue to offer our drive-thru services as well as remote access. For more information on how to access the Credit Union, please visit our Coronavirus Update Page.  You can also reach us at 410-663-2500 Option 5 for our call center staff. Please feel free to reach out to us if you need assistance in any way.

We are committed to serving your financial needs with uninterrupted service during the pandemic. Please reach out to us with any questions you may have regarding our services or for financial assistance of any kind. Wishing you and your family continued health and safety.

The Credit Union Difference: A Look At Loan Interest Rates

As a member of Destinations CU, you enjoy the many benefits we offer, including woman showing calculator results to a couplepersonalized service; convenience; a voice in the way your credit union operates; and higher general earnings on your savings.

One of the most significant advantages we offer our members is lower interest rates on loans. Our loans offer you the best of both worlds, with an easy application and qualification process, plus a quick turnaround from beginning to end. Most importantly, though, when you take out a loan through Destinations CU, you’ll enjoy more savings on the interest rates throughout the life of the loan. That means your loans cost you less.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular loan categories and how the interest rates at credit unions differ from the industry average. (All data has been pulled from the NCUA’s annual analysis of credit union and bank interest rates.)

Auto Loans
Looking for a new set of wheels? Look no further than Destinations CU! You won’t be under pressure to overspend or make a rash decision like you might be at the dealer’s lot. Instead, speak with one of our representatives who will be delighted to help you identify how much you can truly afford while in a relaxed and pressure-free environment. You’ll be working directly with the lender, so you won’t get duped into a deal that includes inflated rates that go directly toward someone’s commission. Most importantly, with rates that fall far below the industry average, you can sign with confidence, knowing you’re getting a fantastic deal.

Used Car Loan, 48 months:
Average industry rate: 5.55%APR (Annual Percentage Rate)
Average credit union rate: 3.75%APR

Used Car Loan, 36 months:
Average industry rate: 5.50% APR
Average credit union rate: 3.61% APR

New Car Loan, 60 months:
Average industry rate: 5.22% APR
Average credit union rate: 3.69% APR

New Car Loan, 48 months:
Average industry rate: 5.10% APR
Average credit union rate: 3.57% APR

Here at Destinations CU, we offer new or used car loans beginning at 2.99% APR*.  Apply online or call to speak to a Loan Officer.

*Monthly payment per $1,000 borrowed at 2.99% APR is $17.97 for 60 months and $22.14 for 48 Months.

Credit Cards
Why pay steep interest rates on a new credit card when you can get one at Destinations CU at a rate that’s nearly two points lower than the national average?

Average industry rate on new credit cards: 13.61% APR
Average credit union rate on new credit cards: 11.80% APR
Here at Destinations CU, we offer credit cards for our members with an interest rate as low as 9.50% APR. See full disclosures here.

Home Equity Lines of Credit
Are you looking to fund a home renovation or expansion? Or, do you want to tap into your home’s equity and take out a secured loan you can use any way you’d like? Consider taking out a home equity line of credit (HELOC) at Destinations CU. Check current rates here.

Home Loans
When you apply for a home loan at Destinations CU, you’ll enjoy personalized attention throughout the loan process, quick, professional service, and interest rates that beat the industry average no matter what kind of mortgage you choose. Visit our First Mortgage Center to check current rates and borrowing options.

According to a report by CUNA, the closing fees for mortgages taken out through credit unions average $200 less than those taken out through banks. That’s $200 in your pocket at a time when you’ll need to cover all kinds of moving-related expenses, from new furniture, light fixtures and touch-ups on your new home to moving costs.

Personal/Unsecured loans
When you need a bit of extra cash for a reason that doesn’t fit neatly into any other category, consider a personal loan at Destinations CU. The application process is quick and easy, and you can use the extra money any way you please, from funding a dream vacation to paying for wedding expenses to covering the costs of adopting a child. With modest interest rates, you’ll enjoy an affordable payback plan throughout the life of the loan.

Average industry interest rate on fixed 36-month personal loans: 10.31% APR
Average credit union interest rate on fixed 36-month personal/unsecured: 9.46% APR

You’ll always benefit when you choose Destinations CU. As a not-for-profit, member-owned cooperative, our only goal is your financial wellness. Speak to a Loan Officer today about taking out a low-interest loan of any kind.

Your Turn: Which low-interest loans are you currently enjoying from Destinations CU? Tell us about it in the comments.

Guide To Prioritizing Bills In A Financial Crunch

Our vibrant, animated country has been put on pause. Busy thoroughfares are now couple looking at billsempty 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.

If you are affected by COVID-19, we understand that you may not be able to meet your monthly payments at this time and we are willing to work with you on a case-by-case basis. Please feel free to reach out to us at 410-663-2500 Option #5.

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