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.

Beware of Zoom Bombers

With social distancing mandates in order until at least the end of April, and three out of happy couple looking at computerevery four Americans under statewide lockdown, huge parts of normal life have now moved into the virtual world.

Social visits, executive meetings, classes and more happen over videoconferencing apps, with Zoom being the most popular. The app was downloaded 62 million times during the third week of March, and 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies are now using Zoom.

Zoom’s simplicity is likely the driving factor behind its popularity — and its vulnerability. The FBI is warning of a new kind of scam in which criminals join Zoom meetings with malicious intent.

As they explain it, without protective measures, like passwords and screen-share locks, anyone can join and disrupt a Zoom conference. “Zoom-bombing” is happening more and more often, with hackers hurling racial slurs or displaying graphic content in the middle of classrooms and business meetings.

Some criminals take it one step further by creating bogus domains that impersonate Zoom. When videoconferences are set up on these domains, the hackers will use the opportunity to steal personal information from meeting participants, which they then go on to sell or use for criminal purposes.

The bureau recommends that Zoom users take the following precautions to protect their conferences from being Zoom-bombed:

  • Make meetings private by requiring a password or using the waiting room feature, which controls admittance of guests.
  • Share teleconference links directly with participants instead of posting them in a public forum, like a social media page.
  • Control screen-sharing by choosing “Host Only” in the screen-sharing options.
  • Make sure all participants are using updated software

Videoconferencing apps like Zoom are helping millions of Americans maintain a semblance of normalcy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Follow the FBI’s guidelines for secure videoconferencing to avoid getting Zoom-bombed. Stay safe!

Sources:
https://www.appannie.com/en/insights/market-data/video-conferencing-apps-surge-coronavirus/
https://zoom.us/docs/doc/Zoom_Platform_and_Company.pdf

Complete Glossary of Financial Terms Related to COVID-19

Some of the financial terms flying around in the wake of the recently approved woman looking overwhelmed in front of computerCoronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act may be confusing. We have broken down some of the key components and how they relate to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deferred interest
What it means: Deferred interest is when interest charges on a loan or a line of credit are deferred or delayed for a specific period of time. The interest will usually accrue, or continue to grow, during such a deferral period.

How it relates to COVID-19: Many major credit card companies are allowing consumers to defer interest on their March and April payments due to the coronavirus. Also, as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), lenders must stop collecting payments for federal student loans through Sept. 30. Interest will then be deferred throughout these six months and will not continue to accrue.

Forbearance
What it means: Forbearance is the delaying of a payment on a loan, such as a mortgage or auto loan. Interest generally continues to accrue. Any missed payments are either moved to the end of the loan’s term or are collected when the period of forbearance is over.

How it relates to COVID-19: For Federally backed mortgage loans, 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, funded by lenders Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, account for 66 percent of all home loans in the country. Many private lenders are offering homeowners forbearance at this time as well. Some state governments have also instructed all mortgage lenders in their states to offer forbearance for three months.

Freelancers
What it means: Freelancers are self-employed workers who sell their work or services by the hour or by the job.

How it relates to COVID-19: Under the CARES Act, freelancers are eligible for unemployment insurance.

Furlough
What it means: A “furloughed” worker is someone who is “out on furlough” – or temporarily laid off without pay.

How it relates to COVID-19: Millions of workers are now on furlough as companies temporarily shut down for complying with social distancing mandates, statewide orders to “shelter in place,” or due to a lack of business during the pandemic. Furloughed workers are eligible for unemployment insurance.

Gig workers
What it means: Similar to freelancers, a gig worker, or independent contractor, enters into a formal agreement with a company to be on-call when the company needs to provide service to its clients, such as rideshare drivers working for Lyft or Uber.

How it relates to COVID-19: Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), gig workers are eligible for unemployment insurance.

Stock buyback
What it means: Also known as a share repurchase, a stock buyback refers to a company’s reacquisition of its own stock. Stock buybacks are common when stocks are falling as the company will use its cash reserves to buy outstanding shares for reducing the number of available shares on the market.

How it relates to COVID-19: The CARES Act has prohibited stock buybacks for any individual while they are receiving government funds and for a full year for companies receiving federal loans at this time.

Unemployment insurance
What it means: Unemployment insurance offers laid-off workers partial compensation while they are seeking a new job. Eligible candidates must have been laid off through no fault of their own and be actively seeking a new position or undergoing job training. Weekly benefits are determined by each state, generally capping at 60 percent of the worker’s former income.

How it relates to COVID-19: With millions of workers temporarily or permanently out of a job, unemployment benefits have been greatly expanded. Restrictions and qualifications have been loosened and an additional weekly $600 will be added to most checks for up to four months.

Your Turn: Have you learned any new financial words since the coronavirus outbreak? Tell us about it in the comments.

Sources:
https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/26/coronavirus-relief-bill-what-to-know-about-unemployment-benefits.html
https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/UnemploymentBenefits/unemployment-benefits.aspx
https://www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-stimulus-package-questions-answers.html
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/25/trump-senate-coronavirus-economic-stimulus-2-trillion/