Category: Financial Literacy

Financial stress haunts many of us. We say, “If only I had more money?” At Compass, helping members become more financially confident is a big part of who we are. One step you can take to increase your peace of mind: create an emergency fund. For those who have limited income or little room in …

The most important financial account you probably don’t have

Financial stress haunts many of us. We say, “If only I had more money?”

At Compass, helping members become more financially confident is a big part of who we are. One step you can take to increase your peace of mind: create an emergency fund.

For those who have limited income or little room in their budget to put money away, an emergency cash reserve may be even more essential than college funds or retirement savings. You may know how many years you are from retiring and how soon the kids will be old enough for college. But, there’s no way to tell when your car’s transmission will begin to slip, your goalie daughter will break a tooth or an arm, or your job will evaporate.

Emergencies happen when we least expect them, and our wallets usually suffer collateral damage.

Here are five steps to reduce your financial stress:

1. Figure out the cost for your monthly “must-haves.” On your most recent checking account statement, circle the amounts you paid for essentials. This means the necessities required for bare-bones living, such as your rent or mortgage payment, groceries, gas, insurance, utilities, credit card and loan payments.

2. Estimate how long you might need to stay afloat in an emergency. Most people should have enough savings to cover for three to six months without a paycheck. You may want to adjust this target up or down if your job would be harder or easier to replace. Let’s say your monthly amount is $2,500, so your emergency savings goal, if three times that, is: $7,500. Mission impossible? Maybe not, if you set up milestones on the way.

3. Make a road map toward your goal. Using $2,500 as an example, you’d get there in about 23 months by putting aside $50 every two weeks. Boost that $50 to $75, and it would take only 15½ months to get to $2,500. Within four years, you could reach your goal of $7,500.

4. Set up “driverless savings.” Once you’ve decided how much to set aside regularly, set up automatic transfers in online banking. Instead of hoping there’s money left to save at the end of each pay period, set it and forget it. That’s a crucial step for success.

5. To manage your stress, keep on saving after you reach your goal. Life is unpredictable, so there may be times you’ll need to draw cash from your emergency account. Just keep squirreling away into your savings, and you’ll replenish your reserve.

Some credit union members like to use our low-interest credit card or equity line of credit as a financial safety net. But when it comes to building confidence, nothing beats having savings in reserve. If you would like to open a separate “Emergency Savings Account”, you can open a secondary savings account online or stop by one of our branches.

April National Youth Month

April is National Youth Month, designed to encourage kids to develop healthy saving habits by making saving fun and exciting. The theme for this year is “Be a credit union saver and your savings will never go extinct.” 

This campaign is an opportunity to engage with young members and show them Compass Community Credit Union is here to help them throughout their financial journey. This Jurassic theme makes saving for the future fun and helps younger members appreciate the importance of putting money aside. 

To learn more, click here.

Watch out for these scams

Phone scams have been around almost as long as phones. Sadly, the prevalence of automated robocalls has exploded and appears to invade our lives almost daily.

Three general warning signs your call may be a scam:

  1. You get an unsolicited call from someone claiming to work for a government agency or Microsoft. None of them will call you unless you have already contacted them.
  2. The caller asks for your Social Security number or to “verify your identity” in any way.
  3. The caller threatens consequences if you do not provide payment or personal information.

Beware of these particular scams that are sweeping the nation:

The IRS Swindle

A threatening phone caller “from the IRS” (or “from the Federal Reserve”) says you’re guilty of tax evasion and must pay the penalty at once with your credit or debit card, or else face jail time or revocation of your driver’s license. Some folks with complex financial lives may pay up, assuming they made a mistake on their taxes. Wrong—the IRS never demands payment over the phone. Self-defense: Don’t pay. Report the scam to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General’s office at 1-800-366-4484.

The “Family member” Scam

The person claims to be a family member in trouble and needs your help, asking you to send them money or use your credit card. You might be asked to guess who’s on the line. If so, don’t give out any names. You ask the caller to identify who they are. Then ask them to describe something you know only the real person would know like a special occasion or trip together, a gift you gave or received or something in your home that they would know. Self-defense: Be absolutely sure you know who you are speaking with and do not give out any information until you know for sure who it is you’re talking with.

The “Computer Crash” Con

You get a phone call from a self-described “computer security expert” who warns that your Windows PC or laptop may be infected with a fatal virus. You might be asked for money to protect your system or to remove this nonexistent malware. If you agree to download a fix or allow remote access to your computer, the crook can ask for your passwords—and may actually install malware that you then have to pay to get rid of. Self-defense: Hang up on this scammer. No legitimate IT security pro will ever cold-call you in this way.

America Saves Week

America Saves Week was established in 2007 as a call for everyday Americans to commit to developing a habit of saving. It’s an initiative where credit unions can help members develop better financial habits. Compass Community Credit Union is proud to participate and provide financial resources to our members.

Each day of the week focuses on a different area of finances to help individuals and families address savings goals to achieve better financial stability, along with strategies for how they might get there. Click here to learn more.

Five simple steps to take now that can make tax filing easier later

Welcome to 2021! That means that the 2020 fiscal year is over. While there’s nothing fun about filing tax returns or paying taxes, taking steps in January to organize your paperwork could help you avoid getting frustrated, frazzled, or befuddled come tax time. Here are 5 things you can do now:

1. Make a copy of last year’s tax return and attachments. With this to guide your tax prep, you’re less likely to forget a source of income or a deduction.

2. Collect the tax IDs you’ll need. This includes your dependents’ Social Security numbers and the SSN of anyone you employed (e.g., a babysitter, housecleaner, or nanny).

3. Create a file folder labeled “Income”. Use this folder to organize the following tax forms you should receive in January or early February:

  • W-2s and 1099-MISCs from employers
  • 1099-INTs reporting interest income and 1099-DIVs for mutual fund or stock dividends
  • 1099-Bs reporting brokerage transactions

4. If you typically itemize your deductions, start another folder labeled “Deductions”. Some of the information that goes here will come by mail; the rest you may need to supply yourself.

  • 1098s reporting interest you paid on mortgages and equity loans (also real estate taxes, if included in your monthly mortgage payment)
  • A receipt for real estate taxes if you paid them yourself
  • A copy of your W-2s showing state and local income taxes you paid
  • A receipt for personal property tax from your town or the taxing authority
  • Receipts for charitable donations, including mileage
  • Receipts for medical expenses, including mileage
  • Receipts for bills incurred while job-seeking

5. Rev up your retirement saving. There’s still time before the April filing deadline to contribute to a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA. For details, search “IRA Contribution Limits” at www.IRS.gov. Don’t have an IRA yet? Ask us about our insured IRA options.

Compass Community Credit Union does not provide tax advice. We recommend consulting a qualified tax professional to determine how tax laws may apply to your situation.

Where did all my money go?

If you find yourself running out of money before you run out of days until your next paycheck, you’re not alone. In fact, even people who earn tons of money find themselves in this situation every month. And the reason they do is because they have no idea where all their money went.

To figure that out, start with a money diary. Every time you buy or pay for something, write it down. This includes everything from your mortgage and car payment to something as small as a candy bar. Then at the end of the month, take a look and see where all your money is going.  Now look to see which expenses you can reduce or eliminate — like that large cup of fancy coffee every morning.

Once you find and reduce frivolous expenditures, take that money you would normally spend on them and deposit it into your savings account for a rainy day fund.

Next, establish a budget. Most financial experts recommend the 50/30/20 budget. 50% of your after-tax dollars on necessities like a mortgage, groceries, and other bills. 30% on wants like clothing and eating out. And 20% on savings and debt repayment. Tracking expenses and living on a budget may take some getting used to in the beginning, but over time it will give you a better financial future.

How much is in your checking account right now?

That may seem like an odd question, but knowing the answer can help ensure that you’ll never have to pay any fees for overdrafts or insufficient funds.

Today, with so many different ways to withdraw from your checking, it’s easier than ever to mistakenly take out more funds than your checking account has available. Checks, ATM transactions, debit cards, automatic bill pay, electronic payments – they can all lead to overdrafts or insufficient funds if you don’t keep accurate track of every transaction.

To make matters worse, the recipient of the non-paid check can also charge you an additional fee of their own — and refuse to accept checks from you in the future.

To avoid finding yourself in this position, keep track of how much money you have in your account by recording all debit card purchases, checks written, ATM withdrawals, and automatic bill payments or other electronic payments. You might also want to get into the habit of using banking tools like mobile or online banking to check your account balance before you make a purchase.  In addition, you can also ask us about setting up overdraft protection from your savings account. 

In short, a credit union is a cooperative financial institution where people work together to make everyone’s lives better. Everyone who has an account here is a member. And every member is an owner.

Rather than making profits to send to far-off shareholders, Compass CCU reinvests in our credit union. Which means we reinvest in YOU. That’s why we say that, at Compass Community Credit Union, we guide you to better banking.