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/

 

A Beginner’s Guide To Filling Out a W-2

It’s no secret that the IRS excels at making things complicated. And when you’re busy man reviewing paperslearning the ropes of a new job, trying to fill out a 4-page W-4 form can be a huge hassle. It’s not a good idea to rush through it, though, because a small mistake now can mean withholding too much or too little of your salary for covering your taxes. There have also been several recent changes to the W-4, so you may need to make some adjustments to your current form on file.

No worries, though, Destinations Credit Union is here to help! We’ll walk you through a W-4 form and show you how to fill it out in five easy steps. It’s important to note that only Step 1 and Step 5 are mandatory; the rest are optional.

Step 1: Enter your personal information

First, you’ll need to fill out your personal information, including your legal name, residential address and Social Security number. You’ll also be asked to indicate whether you are filing taxes as a single individual, a married partner filing jointly or as the head of a household. According to the IRS, “Head of household” should only be checked if the filer is not married and pays more than half the costs of keeping up a home for themselves and another qualifying individual.

If you believe you are exempt from filing taxes, you may need to complete Step 1(a), Step 1(b), and Step 5 (you’ll also write “Exempt” in Step 4(c), as indicated below.) Before doing this, though, make sure you are truly exempt, which means you have no tax liability and did not need to file a tax return last year. Mistakenly filing as exempt can land you a giant bill come tax time, complete with penalties for late payments.

If you are a single tax filer or married to a nonworking spouse, have no dependents, only have one job and aren’t claiming deductions or credits beyond the standard deduction, you can skip the next three steps. Just sign and date your form now.

 Step 2: Multiple jobs or spouse works

You only need to complete Step 2 if you hold more than one job, or you are married and filing jointly with an income-earning spouse. Be sure to read the instructions carefully. You’ll have three options in Step 2:

  • Use the IRS’s online Tax Withholding Estimator to determine how much to withhold below in Step 4(c).
  • Fill out the Multiple Jobs Worksheet, provided on page three of Form W-4, and enter the result in Step 4(c), as explained below. The IRS recommends only filling out the worksheet on one W-4 form per household, entering only the result of the highest-paying job.
  • You can check off this box on the W-4 form if there are only two jobs in total and both jobs have similar pay.

Step 3: Claim dependents (if applicable)

If you have multiple jobs, or if you are married filing jointly and you and your spouse each have a job, you’ll also complete Step 3 on the W-4 form for the highest-paying job.

Step 3 involves some math: If your income is $200,000 or less, or $400,000 or less if you are married and filing jointly, multiply each qualifying child under age 17 by $2,000 and each additional dependent by $500. Add up these numbers and list the total as indicated by Step 3 on the W-4.

Step 4: Make other adjustments (optional)

Step 4 is optional, but you may want to fill it out if you have multiple jobs, or you are married filing jointly and you and your spouse each have a job. If this applies to you, fill out lines 4(a) and 4(b), but only for one of these jobs. Here, too, the IRS recommends filling out these lines on the W-4 form associated with the highest-paying job. These lines can be left blank on your other W-4 forms.

For line 4(a), you’ll tally up all other taxable income not earned from jobs, including interest, dividends and retirement income. This will enable you to deduct the necessary tax out of your paycheck now so you don’t have to pay it later.

For line 4(b), you’ll need to turn to Page 3 on your form and fill out Step 4(b) — Deductions Worksheet. This worksheet will help you determine whether you’re better off taking the standard deduction or itemizing your deductions. You’ll also be able to tally up any other applicable tax deductions, such as student loan interest or deductible IRA contributions.

Once you’ve filled out lines 4(a) and 4(b), you’re ready to fill out line 4(c), which indicates the amount of additional tax you’d like withheld each pay period, such as taxes for a side job you hold as an independent contractor or gig worker. You may have already calculated this number when you completed Step 2 above. If you are exempt from filing taxes, write “exempt” here, as mentioned above.

Step 5: Sign here

Don’t forget to sign and date the W-4 before turning it in to your employer. If you’ve filled it out carefully, you should have just the right amount of money withheld from your paycheck so that you won’t have a huge tax bill to pay in April, and you won’t have a large refund either.

If your life circumstances change and you need to change something on your W-4, you can always make an adjustment. If you get married, have a baby or take on a second job, you’ll need to adjust your W-4 accordingly.

W-4, done!

Your Turn: Do you have any tips for filling out a W-4? Share them with us in the comments.

Sources:
https://twocents.lifehacker.com/a-beginner-s-guide-to-filling-out-your-w-4-1792359834
https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/081214/filling-out-your-w4-form.asp
https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/taxes/how-to-fill-out-form-w4-guide

How To Create Your First Elevator Pitch

Elevator pitches take humble-bragging to a new level. At its core, the concept of an young man being interviewed by a womanelevator pitch is to squeeze all you can about your talents, strengths and work experience into the time it takes for an elevator to travel from one floor to the next.

Your last few months in college are a great time for polishing your elevator pitch until it is perfect. You can use it to answer common interview questions as you job hunt, or just have it handy if you happen to run into a potential new employer, anytime, anywhere. Working on your elevator pitch will also help you clarify your work goals as you prepare to transition to a new stage of life.

To make this task easier, we’ve broken down the process of creating a killer elevator pitch into seven simple steps. While reading through each section, jot down a few sentences that cover the details of that category. Don’t worry about the writing or syntax here; we’ll get to that.

Step 1: Introduce yourself

Launch your pitch with a super-short intro about your background. Include your name, your major and your unique interests. You can also throw in a one-liner about any special research projects or volunteer work you’ve participated in during college.

Step 2: Talk about your work experience

Now that listeners know who you are, start listing any work experience you already have in your field. Include paid work as well as internships.

Step 3: Sell yourself

Now, you’re going to step in with your professional strengths and areas of expertise. It’s OK to boast a bit here, as long as you don’t cross the line into arrogance. Just speak matter-of-factly and tell the absolute truth. For example, if you’re a law major looking for a paid internship in a large law firm and you know you have a way with words, you can talk about the way you’ve always been chosen as the spokesperson in college work, or how you dominated the debate team thanks to your fantastic oratory skills.

Step 4: Talk about what you can bring to the team

What are your work goals? What kind of value can you bring to the company? Take a minute to put this into words.

Step 5: Wrap it up 

Close your pitch with an eye toward the future by talking about how you can’t wait to hear back from your listener, or how you look forward to working for them or in their company.

Step 6: Put it all together

Now that you’ve got the content for an elevator pitch written down, it’s time to bring it together in a short, hard-hitting pitch.

First, go through each section to pull out the most important parts. Leave out anything that is not absolutely essential. Next, start the actual writing by putting it all together in one paragraph. Remember: Time is limited here, so keep it short and sweet. Elevator pitches are best when delivered in 30 seconds or less, which gives you approximately 75 words to work with. Once you’ve got it all in one place, read through your pitch again and again, weeding out anything that sounds awkward or isn’t crucial to your pitch. When you’ve got it down to 75 words or less, you’re ready to move on.

Step 7: Practice, practice, practice

A perfectly written pitch is worthless if the delivery is lacking. You want to come off sounding super-confident and capable to any potential employer you meet. Practice delivering your pitch in front of the mirror and with friends until you know it by heart. It’s also a good idea to record yourself speaking so you can hear how you sound and make any necessary changes to the word flow.

Keep at it until you can deliver the elevator pitch in your sleep.

Now that you’ve mastered the art of the elevator pitch, you’re ready to get out there and blow those employers away with your talent and skills. Go get ‘em!

Your Turn: We’d love to hear your elevator pitch! Share it with us in the comments.

Sources:
https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/college-senior-elevator-pitch-1103
https://homeat30.com/elevator-pitch-example-tips-for-students/

The Back to School Guide for These Unconventional Times

Back-to-school season is traditionally marked by a run on discounted pencils, Mother putting mask on her daughterovercrowded malls and lots of nail-biting nerves about new teachers. But this year, the back-to-school season is entirely different. Forget the crowds and a race to find the hottest-selling backpack. This year, it’s all about the trendiest face masks and getting ready for a school year that promises to be unlike any other. And for a child, that can be more than a little frightening.

As with every transition, proper mindset and preparation is key to smoothing out the inevitable bumps and hurdles. Whether your school district is starting off the year exclusively with distance learning, going back to in-person learning five days a week or they’ve settled on something in between, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s our complete guide to helping you prepare your child for the new school year in these unconventional times.

Talk to your child about what to expect

The more your child knows about the dynamics of the upcoming school year, the better off they’ll be. As the situation evolves, and you learn more details about the year’s schooling, speak to your child about what to expect. If your school’s administration has decided to continue in-person instruction with daily temperature checks, let your child know to expect them. If the school year will start off with remote learning and tentative plans for returning to in-person instruction in January, share this information with your child. The more your child knows, the easier it will be for them to handle changes as events unfold.

Create a back-from-school protocol to keep your home safe

If your child will be going to school full-time, or even partially, it’s important to establish a sanitizing ritual for them to adhere to when they walk through the front door after each day of school.

“When children return from school, they should immediately sanitize their hands,” advises board-certified pediatrician, Dr. Candice W. Jones. “Once at home, at the very least, they should remove clothes/shoes and place them in the laundry, or in a designated safe place for disinfecting. A shower would be great, but is not absolutely necessary.”

Talk to your child about this daily disinfecting routine, and run a practice round or two to make it easier to remember when school starts.

 Zooming in on remote schooling

Many states and school districts have announced the continuation of distance learning for the start of the new school year. If the idea of sitting your child down in front of the screen for hours at a time again makes your head spin, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Dr. Linda Carling, an associate research scientist at Johns Hopkins University, shares these tips for helping children succeed at remote learning:

  • Encourage movement. Squeeze in some stretching breaks throughout the school day and pencil in larger chunks of time for longer exercises, like a bike ride around the block. If your child finds it particularly difficult to sit still for long periods of time, set up a tablet or laptop on a raised surface and have your child stand through their classes.
  • Reduce distractions. Create a distraction-free zone for your child’s learning to help boost their focus. Noise-canceling headphones can also be helpful to drown out auditory distractions.
  • Adjust your schedule as needed.  Many younger children need constant or intermittent guidance to help them with their remote learning. If possible, adjust your own schedule so you can be on hand to help your child as necessary.
  • Use a checklist for focus. A basic visual checklist of tasks that need to be completed can help children focus. Draw up the checklist with your child at the beginning of each day and have them cross off tasks as they’re completed.
  • Provide immediate positive feedback. Each time your child successfully follows instructions, provide immediate and positive feedback. You can keep it small, from a sticker on their work assignment or words of praise to an extra 15 minutes of play before bedtime.

Help your child prepare for face mask wearing while at school

School supply lists are looking very different this year, with “face masks” penciled in right next to “erasers” and “glue.” But having your child wear a mask for hours on end while sitting through school can sound next to impossible.

To help your child prepare for face mask wearing while at school, it’s best to model positivity.

It’s no secret that kids mimic the adults in their lives. Though you may find it difficult to wear a mask yourself, you can help your child build up a positive attitude about mask-wearing by talking about how your mask is keeping you and others safe, as well as how the discomfort is a small price to pay for safety.

It’s also a good idea to practice mask-wearing at home. This will serve the dual purpose of getting your child accustomed to wearing a mask, and help to ensure your child is wearing it correctly before school starts. If your child is particularly resistant to wearing a mask, you may want to employ some strategies, like having them wear the mask for the length of their favorite song, or playing dress-up as a doctor or your child’s favorite superhero.

For the sensory child, face masks can be a nightmare. Make it easier by finding the style that is most comfortable for your child, whether that’s a classic ear-loop mask, a bandanna style covering, or a neck gaiter. Extenders or button headbands can also be a welcome relief for irritated ears.

Finally, make masks fun again by choosing a child-friendly pattern. You can go with these adorable bear face masks from Amazon, have your child design their own mask on Etsy,  choose an extra breathable and lightweight mask from Athleta or pick out a mask featuring your child’s favorite movie character from Disney.

Get the school year off to a great start with these preparatory tips for you and your child.

Your Turn: How are you preparing for the upcoming school year? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

Sources:
https://www.franciscanhealth.org/news-and-events/news/masks-school-how-prepare-your-child
https://education.jhu.edu/2020/04/8tipsforfocus/
https://www.today.com/shop/face-masks-kids-t181575
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/cloth-face-cover.html
https://www.realsimple.com/work-life/family/kids-parenting/back-to-school-supplies-coronavirus