What You Should Know About the Stimulus Checks

Over the weekend, President Donald Trump signed a $2 trillion economic relief plan set to provide aid to millions of Americans impacted by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. The package includes stimulus payments for individuals, additional unemployment coverage, student loan relief, and more.

But, what does that mean for you?

Stimulus Payments

Most adults will receive a check or direct deposit. The amount will vary based on adjusted gross income, filing status, and the number of dependents you claim. The amounts will break down as follows:

  • Single adults who made $75,000 or less annually will receive $1,200. If you have qualifying children 16 or under, you will receive an additional $500 per child.
  • Married couples with no children who made $150,000 or less will receive $2,400.
  • Taxpayers who file as the head of household will get the full payment if they earned $112,500 or less.
  • For single adults who make more than $75,000, the payment gradually decreases until it stops all together at $99,000.
  • For married people with no children who make more than $150,000, the stimulus payment gradually decreases until it stops all together at $198,000.

If someone claims you as a dependent – even as an adult – you will not be eligible for a relief payment. To see your adjusted gross income, look at Line 8B on your 2019 or 2018 1040 federal tax return.

Most people will receive their payments within three weeks. However, according to the bill, you’ll receive a paper notice in the mail a few weeks after your payment has been distributed. That notice will also contain information about where the payment ended up and in what form it was made.

Additional Unemployment Coverage

Under the stimulus package, additional unemployment benefits will be extended to people who wouldn’t typically be eligible for unemployment.

Typically, self-employed and part-time workers, gig workers, freelancers and independent contractors aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits, but under the stimulus package, those groups will be protected. Benefits will be calculated based on previous income using a formula from the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program.

Under the plan, eligible workers will get an extra $600 per week in addition to the state unemployment they are currently receiving. The state unemployment and extra coverage is designed to replace the paycheck that has been lost due to Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Student Loan Relief

The federal government has already waived two months of interest and payments for student borrowers. There will be an automatic payment suspension until Aug. 30 for any student loans held by the federal government. Older Federal Family Educational Loans, Perkins loans or loans from state or private agencies are not eligible. However, if you have a private student loan, it’s worth asking to see what options are available to you.

Retirement Accounts

The stimulus package has also suspended certain retirement account rules for the calendar year 2020. No one will have to take a required minimum distribution from individual retirement accounts or workplace retirement savings plans.

If you have an IRA or workplace retirement plan, you can withdraw up to $100,000 without the usual 10 percent penalty as long as the withdrawal is because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The withdrawal qualifies if you, a spouse or dependent tested positive for the virus or you experienced other negative economic effects related to the pandemic. You’ll also be able to spread out any income taxes you owe as a result over a three-year time period from the date of the distribution.

You can also borrow from your 401(k) and can take out twice the usual amount. For 180 days after the bill passes, if you provide certification that you’ve been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, you can withdraw up to $100,000. If you already have a loan and it’s supposed to be repaid before Dec. 31, you get an extra year.

We’re facing unprecedented times; the pandemic has touched everyone’s lives in some way. Please know, Scient Federal Credit Union is here for you during this time. If you’re experiencing financial hardship due to the Coronavirus pandemic, reach out and talk to us at 860-445-1060. Let us help you find the option that works best for you. We can get through this together; one step at a time.

Coronavirus Concerns? Consider Past Health Crises

touching a touch screen

Putting current market volatility into historical perspective can help you stay the course during turbulent times.

 

stock price spike

Dollar-cost averaging does not ensure a profit or prevent a loss. Such plans involve continuous investments in securities regardless of fluctuating prices. You should consider your financial ability to continue making purchases during periods of low and high price levels. However, this can be an effective way for investors to accumulate shares to help meet long-term goals.

Asset allocation is a method used to help manage investment risk; it does not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss.

 

During the last week of February 2020, the S&P 500 lost 11.49% — the worst week for stocks since the 2008 financial crisis — only to jump by 4.6% on the first Monday in March.1 By all accounts, the drop was largely driven by ever-increasing fears about the potential effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and its ultimate impact on the global economy. Although many market observers contend that the market was overvalued and due for a correction anyway, the unpredictability, strength, and suddenness of the historic tumble was unnerving for even the most seasoned investors. If recent volatility is causing you to consider cashing out of your stock holdings, it may be worthwhile to pause and put recent events into perspective, using history as a guide.

A look back

Since the turn of the millennium, the market’s negative response to health crises has been relatively short-lived. As this table shows, approximately six months after early reports of a major outbreak, the S&P 500 bounced back by an average of 10.47%. After 12 months, it rebounded by an average of 17.17%. Although there are no guarantees the current situation will follow a similar pattern, it may be reassuring to know that over even longer periods of time, stocks typically regain their upward trajectory, helping long-term investors who hold steady to recoup their temporary losses, catch their breath, and go on to pursue their goals.

Epidemic Month end* 6-month performance, S&P 500 12-month performance, S&P 500
SARS April 2003 14.59% 20.76%
Avian (Bird) flu June 2006 11.66% 18.36%
Swine flu (H1N1) April 2009** 18.72% 35.96%
MERS May 2013 10.74% 17.96%
Ebola March 2014 5.34% 10.44%
Measles/Rubeola December 2014 0.20% -0.73%
Zika January 2016 12.03% 17.45%

Source: Dow Jones Market Data, as cited on foxbusiness.com, January 27, 2020. Stocks are represented by the Standard & Poor’s 500 price index. Returns reflect the change in price, but not the reinvestment of dividends. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index that is generally considered to be representative of the U.S. stock market. Returns shown do not reflect taxes, fees, brokerage commissions, or other expenses typically associated with investing. The performance of an unmanaged index is not indicative of the performance of any particular investment. Individuals cannot invest directly in any index. Actual results will vary.

*End of month during which early incidents of outbreak were reported.

**H1N1 occurred during the financial crisis, when, as during other periods, many different factors influenced stock market performance.

What should you do?

First, keep in mind that market downturns sometimes offer the chance to pick up potentially solid stocks at value prices, which could position a portfolio well for future growth. Again, there are no guarantees that stocks will perform to anyone’s expectations — and decisions could result in losses including a possible loss in principal — but it may be helpful to remember that some investors use downturns as opportunities to buy stocks that were previously overvalued relative to their perceived earnings potential.

Moreover, if you typically invest set amounts into your portfolio at regular intervals — a strategy known as dollar-cost averaging (DCA), which is commonly used in workplace retirement plans and college investment plans — take heart in knowing you’re utilizing a method of investing that helps you behave like the value investors noted above. Through DCA, your investment dollars purchase fewer shares when prices are high, and more shares when prices drop. Essentially, in a down market, you automatically “buy low,” one of the most fundamental investment tenets. Over extended periods of volatility, DCA can result in a lower average cost for your holdings than the investment’s average price over the same time period.

Finally and perhaps most important, during trying times like this, it may help to focus less on daily market swings and more on the fundamentals; that is, review your investment objectives and time horizon, and revisit your asset allocation to make sure it’s still appropriate for your needs. Your allocation can shift in unexpected ways due to changes in market cycles, so you may discover the need to rebalance your allocation by selling holdings in one asset class and investing more in another. (Keep in mind that rebalancing in a taxable account can result in income tax consequences.)

Questions?

After considering the points here, if you still have questions about how changing market dynamics are affecting your portfolio, you may contact our CFS financial professional, Brendan McMurtrie, at bmcmurtrie@cusonet.com or 860-441-0909. Often a third-party perspective can help alleviate any worries you may still hold.

1Based on data reported in WSJ Market Data Center, February 28, 2020, and March 2, 2020. Performance reflects price change, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.


Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, legal, or retirement advice or recommendations. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances.

To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances.

These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources belived to be reliable — we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.

Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. (“CFS”), a registered broker-dealer (Member FINRA/SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS: are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are registered through CFS. The credit union has contracted with CFS to make non-deposit investment products and services available to credit union members.

 

New Spending Package Includes Sweeping Retirement Plan Changes

The $1.4 trillion spending package enacted on December 20, 2019, included the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, which had overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives in the spring of 2019, but then subsequently stalled in the Senate. The SECURE Act represents the most sweeping set of changes to retirement legislation in more than a decade.

While many of the provisions offer enhanced opportunities for individuals and small business owners, there is one notable drawback for investors with significant assets in traditional IRAs and retirement plans. These individuals will likely want to revisit their estate-planning strategies to prevent their heirs from potentially facing unexpectedly high tax bills.

All provisions take effect on or after January 1, 2020, unless otherwise noted.

Elimination of the “stretch IRA”

Perhaps the change requiring the most urgent attention is the elimination of longstanding provisions allowing non-spouse beneficiaries who inherit traditional IRA and retirement plan assets to spread distributions — and therefore the tax obligations associated with them — over their lifetimes. This ability to spread out taxable distributions after the death of an IRA owner or retirement plan participant, over what was potentially such a long period of time, was often referred to as the “stretch IRA” rule. The new law, however, generally requires any beneficiary who is more than 10 years younger than the account owner to liquidate the account within 10 years of the account owner’s death unless the beneficiary is a spouse, a disabled or chronically ill individual, or a minor child. This shorter maximum distribution period could result in unanticipated tax bills for beneficiaries who stand to inherit high-value traditional IRAs. This is also true for IRA trust beneficiaries, which may affect estate plans that intended to use trusts to manage inherited IRA assets.

In addition to possibly reevaluating beneficiary choices, traditional IRA owners may want to revisit how IRA dollars fit into their overall estate planning strategy. For example, it may make sense to consider the possible implications of converting traditional IRA funds to Roth IRAs, which can be inherited income tax free. Although Roth IRA conversions are taxable events, investors who spread out a series of conversions over the next several years may benefit from the lower income tax rates that are set to expire in 2026.

Benefits to individuals

On the plus side, the SECURE Act includes several provisions designed to benefit American workers and retirees.

  • People who choose to work beyond traditional retirement age will be able to contribute to traditional IRAs beyond age 70½. Previous laws prevented such contributions.
  • Retirees will no longer have to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from traditional IRAs and retirement plans by April 1 following the year in which they turn 70½. The new law generally requires RMDs to begin by April 1 following the year in which they turn age 72.
  • Part-time workers age 21 and older who log at least 500 hours in three consecutive years generally must be allowed to participate in company retirement plans offering a qualified cash or deferred arrangement. The previous requirement was 1,000 hours and one year of service. (The new rule applies to plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2021.)
  • Workers will begin to receive annual statements from their employers estimating how much their retirement plan assets are worth, expressed as monthly income received over a lifetime. This should help workers better gauge progress toward meeting their retirement-income goals.
  • New laws make it easier for employers to offer lifetime income annuities within retirement plans. Such products can help workers plan for a predictable stream of income in retirement. In addition, lifetime income investments or annuities held within a plan that discontinues such investments can be directly transferred to another retirement plan, avoiding potential surrender charges and fees that may otherwise apply.
  • Individuals can now take penalty-free early withdrawals of up to $5,000 from their qualified plans and IRAs due to the birth or adoption of a child. (Regular income taxes will still apply, so new parents may want to proceed with caution.)
  • Taxpayers with high medical bills may be able to deduct unreimbursed expenses that exceed 7.5% (in 2019 and 2020) of their adjusted gross income. In addition, individuals may withdraw money from their qualified retirement plans and IRAs penalty-free to cover expenses that exceed this threshold (although regular income taxes will apply). The threshold returns to 10% in 2021.
  • 529 account assets can now be used to pay for student loan repayments ($10,000 lifetime maximum) and costs associated with registered apprenticeships.

Benefits to employers

The SECURE Act also provides assistance to employers striving to provide quality retirement savings opportunities to their workers. Among the changes are the following:

  • The tax credit that small businesses can take for starting a new retirement plan has increased. The new rule allows employers to take a credit equal to the greater of (1) $500 or (2) the lesser of (a) $250 times the number of non-highly compensated eligible employees or (b) $5,000. The credit applies for up to three years. The previous maximum credit amount allowed was 50% of startup costs up to a maximum of $1,000 (i.e., a maximum credit of $500).
  • A new tax credit of up to $500 is available for employers that launch a SIMPLE IRA or 401(k) plan with automatic enrollment. The credit applies for three years.
  • With regards to the new mandate to permit certain part-timers to participate in retirement plans, employers may exclude such employees for nondiscrimination testing purposes.
  • Employers now have easier access to join multiple employer plans (MEPs) regardless of industry, geographic location, or affiliation. “Open MEPs,” as they have become known, offer economies of scale, allowing small employers access to the types of pricing models and other benefits typically reserved for large organizations. (Previously, groups of small businesses had to be affiliated somehow in order to join an MEP.) The legislation also provides that the failure of one employer in an MEP to meet plan requirements will not cause others to fail, and that plan assets in the failed plan will be transferred to another. (This rule is effective for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2021.)
  • Auto-enrollment safe harbor plans may automatically increase participant contributions until they reach 15% of salary. The previous ceiling was 10%.

The SECURE Act may have the largest impact on retirement planning since the Pension Protection Act of 2006.


Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, legal, or retirement advice or recommendations. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances.

To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances.

These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources belived to be reliable — we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.

Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. (“CFS”), a registered broker-dealer (Member FINRA/SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS: are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are registered through CFS. The credit union has contracted with CFS to make non-deposit investment products and services available to credit union members.

 

3 Keys to Keep Your Money Safe From Fraud

The Federal Trade Commission is taking extra measures to warn people of scammers that will use tactics to try and take your personal information. It’s important to remain aware of the current scams and schemes in order to protect yourself from fraudsters looking to take advantage of your vulnerability.

In order to stay vigilant and less susceptible to fraudsters, we want to share this information to help you avoid getting taken advantage of. The most current scam fraudsters are capitalizing on are the checks the U.S. might be sending American taxpayers. These scammers are looking to trap people into giving their information in order to take your money and capture your sensitive information such as social security numbers as well as card and account information.

To help combat this, we’ve put together a few tips to help you identify and fight these fraudsters should they try and take advantage of you:

  1. Any money from the government will be in the form of a check and will not be immediate. Anyone who claims this money will be made immediately available is a scammer.
  2. If you have to pay anything upfront before you receive anything, it is not legitimate. There are no fees and no hidden charges. Anyone who says otherwise is a scammer.
  3. The government won’t call and ask for your Social Security number, bank account or credit card information. Anyone who does is a scammer.

If you receive any communication from someone with the above claims, The Federal Trade Commission urges you to report it and provides guidelines on how to do so. The FTC is also an invaluable resource to stay informed and knowledgeable of current scams and schemes. If you stay informed, you can combat fraudsters trying to steal from you.

Your privacy and protection are important to us. Feel free to reach out to us if you receive communication from an entity claiming to be from our credit union to verify its legitimacy. Thank you for all you do to make our organization great and we wish you all physical and financial wellness. If you need assistance, please feel free to reach out to us to discuss your options.

Remember: Scient Federal Credit Union will NEVER request sensitive information from you through email. And, if you are ever concerned about the legitimacy of a request, please contact us for verification before providing any personal or account information.

6 Reasons Your Money Is Safe

Along with the mad dash to buy all the toilet paper stores can stock, some members have asked about the need to withdraw cash from the credit union.

The fact is, the need for cash withdrawals during this crisis has no basis in fact. Unlike overextended banks that caused the Great Recession, the current financial crisis was caused by the reaction to the Coronavirus outbreak, not a systemic banking problem. 

There is a perception and rumors churning within social media that there could be an issue with the credit or debit systems, but there is no validity to that concern. Putting it under your pillow at home is not safe. It’s more prudent to take it as you need it.

During this time, please keep these things in mind when it comes to your money: 

  1. Our credit union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration. All deposits are insured up to $250,000. This means that you will not lose a dime of money that is federally insured. 
  2. The Federal government has declared credit unions an essential business. While we’ve had to adjust our standard operations, our credit union is ready and able to assist you with whatever needs you may have. It’s our priority to ensure you receive the level of service you’ve come to expect from our credit union; even in an ever-evolving capacity.
  3. You incur more risk if you withdraw your money. Cash is much harder to recover if at all in the event of loss, theft, or any other unfortunate circumstance. Keeping your money in the credit union to withdraw as needed is much safer than keeping in your home or carrying on your person.
  4. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that frequently handled items be cleaned as a precautionary way to help ward off the virus. Cash cannot be easily washed and has passed through many hands which makes it less than optimal to have in abundance on your person.  
  5. If you do not pay your bills through automatic draft, you will have to find alternative ways to ensure your payments are satisfied. 
  6. With our online services, you are able to keep a pulse on your account and an eye on your money digitally from wherever you are. With these digital offerings, you don’t have to be tied to keeping your money on your person at all times to ensure its safety. We have many services available to you.

During this time of uncertainty, it’s natural to feel pressure to make quick decisions. We’re here to help you maintain a sense of peace regarding your money. It’s tough to know what is coming, but you can rest assured that we have your best interest in mind and will do anything we can to help you during this time. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out. We wish good health and financial wellness for you and your loved ones as we navigate this together. 

Remember: Scient Federal Credit Union will NEVER request sensitive information from you through email. And, if you’re ever concerned about the legitimacy of a request, please contact us for verification before providing any personal or account information.

COVID-19 Scams

No question – the past few weeks have been insane as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). We’re seeing things unfold that most of us haven’t experienced before. Entire cities have shut down, people are being quarantined, and credit unions are being forced to find different ways to serve members.

While we’ve seen the best in humanity from Dollar General setting aside the first hour they’re open to serve the elderly to multiple restaurants providing meals for kids who are out of school, we’ve also seen scammers who are exploiting people’s Coronavirus fears.

Scams you should be aware of

Android malware and ransomware

Android devices in particular have been left vulnerable to malware attacks allowing scammers to spy on you through your smartphone camera, listen to you through the microphone and go through your text messages. The scammers, suspected of operating in Libya, send out text messages with a link promising an app that will allow you to track the Coronavirus. Once you click on the text message, the malware installs itself on your phone.

DomainTools, a Seattle-based security research team, has discovered that Android users are also the target of ransomware that threatens to erase their phone. Much like malware, users are promised an app with a real-time COVID-19 tracker. The app is actually poisoned with ransomware called CovidLock that denies users access to their phone by changing the locked- screen password. It requests $100 in bitcoin within 48 hours or the phone’s contacts, pictures and videos will be erased. It also threatens to publicly leak social media accounts.

Scammers impersonating organizations

The FBI, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and World Health Organization (WHO) are investigating multiple claims of scammers who are sending out emails impersonating these organizations and spreading incorrect information about COVID-19. The WHO is among the most-impersonated organization in the scam campaigns. Fraudsters pretend to offer important information about the virus in an attempt to get potential victims to click on malicious links. Typically, such links can install malware, steal personal information, or attempt to capture login and password credentials.

Exploiting charitable giving

Another common type of scam going around is an attempt to tug on the heart strings and attempts to get the recipient to help fund the vaccine for children in China. Currently, there is no vaccine for COVID-19. Officials at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have served cease-and-desist letters to retailers who are trying to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic by selling fake or misbranded products claiming to combat the disease directly.

How to protect yourself

Even though there are lots of ways to get taken advantage of, there are also lots of ways to protect yourself.

  • Don’t click on links from any sources you don’t know. It could download viruses on your computer or device.
  • Be aware of emails claiming to be from a government organization. If you receive an email from the WHO or CDC, don’t click on links in the email. Instead, go to the website to verify the information.
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores.
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
  • Be wary of giving your personal information. Legitimate organizations will not ask for any of the following:
    • Full social security number
    • Account or card numbers
    • One-time password
    • PIN information
    • Usernames or passwords
    • Payment through Bitcoin, money cards, gift cards, etc.

While it seems that this unfortunate epidemic has come upon us most unexpectedly, there are fraudsters out there quickly taking action and prepared to hustle unsuspecting, innocent people. If you aren’t sure of the legitimacy on a certain request, take extra steps to verify to ensure you’re doing everything you can to protect yourself, your sensitive information, and your money. You can also keep yourself updated by following the Federal Trade Commission’s page here.

Your privacy and protection are important to us. Feel free to reach out to us if you receive communication from an entity claiming to be from our credit union to verify its legitimacy. Thank you for all you do to make our organization great and we wish you all physical and financial wellness through this trying time.

Wedding Planning on a Budget

So, you’re engaged! Congratulations! You’re probably over the moon and full of stars in your eyes and have visions of wedded bliss. 

You’ve been thinking about this day for as long as you can remember. You’ve got your Pinterest boards, a planning notebook, and you’re ready to hit the ground running. But, have you put a price tag on any of those ideas and visions? 

$35,329

That’s the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. And that doesn’t even include the honeymoon! After hearing this sky-high number, you’re probably ready to simplify the process, save money, and elope. However, It’s absolutely possible to have the wedding of your dreams without spending well over what you can afford. Simply prioritizing your must-haves, creating a budget, and allocating your money accordingly will go a long way in planning for the big day.

What’s important to you?

Before you can create a budget, there are a few things you need to decide. First, determine what kind of wedding you want. What do you see when you think of your big day? A country club wedding and reception? An elegant downtown loft? A backyard barbecue? 

Once you answer this question, have the budget talk with everyone contributing to the wedding. When you start talking money, make sure you talk about more than the total amount you’ll spend. For instance, break down the wedding budget into categories – ceremony, reception, decorations, etc. – and decide what you’ll spend in each category. 

Now that you’ve taken this step, you’ll need to determine the most important and the least important items on your checklist. Is there anything you can cut altogether? Sit down with your fiancé and determine what you both REALLY want and let that vision guide your budget. 

Track your spending

First things first, leave some room in your budget. No matter how down-to-the-penny it may be, unexpected expenses are going to pop up. Your budget will evolve over the planning process, so be prepared by giving yourself a little bit of a cushion. 

If you Google, “wedding budget worksheet,” you’re going to find a bunch of different options. Find what works best for you. This could look like an Excel spreadsheet, a Google Sheet, or one of the thousands of templates on wedding planning websites. Regardless of your template, tracking your spending throughout the entire process will be imperative. You’ll be able to ensure you’re staying well within the lines of your budget. Plus, it serves as a great guide or list to see what you’ve paid for, how much you’ve paid, and how much you have left to cover. 

There are apps. Use them!

There are a few fantastic wedding-related apps that are free or inexpensive. Use them! Most of those sites have the option to create free websites, invitations, and save-the-dates. Get started with these suggestions:

  • ZolaZola has everything you need in one place. They have a great selection of templates for you to design your wedding website for free! Your website is crucial for keeping your loved ones informed by sharing information about travel arrangements and relaying the important details of your day. You can also build your registry, design and order invitations or save-the-dates and manage your guest list.
  • ThumbtackPhotographers, DJs, bands or florists – no matter what service you’re looking for, Thumbtack will have it. This app allows you to browse services in your geographic region to compare prices, check out reviews and even talk directly to the vendor. 
  • WeddingHappyAre you a list maker? WeddingHappy is the app for you! It is the ultimate to-do list. It’s a great app that will help you manage your wedding-related tasks, payments coming up and vendors you’re working with. 

Your wedding day will be one of the most amazing days of your life! Don’t let money and budget-related stress take that away from you and your significant other. There are a lot of options out there to make this day incredible no matter your budget.

Once you have a set budget, financing your big day might be the best option for you. Talk to us. At Scient Federal Credit Union, we have options like personal loans, lines of credit and low-rate credit cards that could be exactly what you’re looking for. Let us help you make the big day one you’ll never forget!

4 Best Budgeting Apps

Budget. Did you just get cold chills reading that word? It’s not a popular word, and it’s certainly not a popular idea. Typically, the idea of a budget is enough to take away any sense of fun you have when thinking about spending your money.

But, it doesn’t have to be. There are several benefits to creating a monthly budget.

When you have a budget in place, you instantly:

  • Make your money work for you
  • Assign each dollar in your account a job
  • Gives you 100% control of your money
  • Allows you to track your expenses
  • Relieves some of the stress that finances can bring
  • Helps you create a “safety net”

There are obvious benefits to creating and maintaining a budget, and there are just as many tools to help you budget as there are benefits.

So, where do you start?

First, figure out how much you make each month. Then, figure out how much you spend. Once you figure out what you’re bringing in vs. what you’re spending, you can start creating specific categories for your money. This is where you get to tell your money what to do.

Now, you’ve got a basic budget in place. You know what you’re making, what you’re spending, and your money has a specific goal. But, how do you keep track of all that information in a manageable way?

Budget apps! The great thing about budget apps – not only do they keep track of your budget, but you can take it with you everywhere you go.

Check out some of the best budgeting apps for 2020.

  1. Wally — Get the intimate details of all your financial activity in an easy-to-digest template. Categorize spending destinations, set goals, and create charts. Wally provides you with the full picture of your account in a simple and colorful template. Easy to look at and easy to understand, Wally makes tracking and analyzing your financial habits easy.
  2. Acorns — You know how it’s hard to overcome the mental hump of setting money aside? Well, Acorn removes that struggle from the equation. By rounding up each of your transactions to the nearest dollar, it puts the funds into an investment portfolio. This app looks out for “future you” and makes sure you always have a few acorns hidden away for a rainy day.
  3. Mint – Create budgets, track bills and receive a free credit score when you use Mint. But, it’s the budgeting feature that really makes Mint shine. It allows you to link your credit union, loan and credit card accounts and then uses the information from those accounts to suggest budgets for you based on your spending. Mint takes it a step farther by breaking that spending down into categories like “entertainment,” “food and dining” and shopping. The best part? You’ll be able to see how much you can save by cutting back in each category.
  4. Mvelopes – A popular budgeting method is the envelope system, a style of budgeting, where you put cash in envelopes for different spending categories and when the envelope is empty, your budget category is spent for the month. This is great for people who mind a cash system, but for people who use credit and debit cards, this is challenging. Enter Mvelopes; an app that makes it easy to follow the cash style budgeting in a digital world.

Of course, while you’re downloading apps, make sure you’re using our app. At Scient Federal Credit Union, our app allows you to check your balances, transfer money, check your spending and deposit checks remotely. Still have questions about budgeting and financial planning? Talk to one of our member service representatives and let us help get you on track.

Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Even if you’re not a first-time home buyer, looking for and financing a home can be stressful. When you don’t know where to begin or what to do, it can be even more stressful. We’ve got a few tips for first-time homebuyers to get the most out of your home buying experience.

Determine how much house you can afford and get pre-approved.

When you’re ready to look for your dream home, it’s important to know how much home you can afford. This will narrow down your home search and will give you a realistic view of the types of homes you can buy inside of your price range. You will also avoid the temptation to purchase a home where you’ll struggle to make the payments.

Save up for a down payment.

With such a big purchase, having a down payment to invest in your home is important. A good rule of thumb for a down payment is to save 20% of your mortgage. For instance, if you have a $100,000 mortgage, your target down payment is $20,000.

If 20% of your mortgage doesn’t seem feasible, there are other options for first-time homebuyers that will allow you to save and invest a smaller amount into your mortgage. If you’re wondering how much you need to save to achieve your desired payment, check out a down payment calculator for reference.

Payoff as much debt as possible

One of the factors that will determine your creditworthiness is your debt-to-income ratio. A debt-to-income ratio measures the total amount of debt you’re paying off each month compared to the amount of income you’re bringing in within the same period. If the amount of debt you’re paying off is considerably more than your income, this will negatively impact your credit score. In turn, this will hurt your chances of being pre-approved for and financing a mortgage.

Try at all costs to avoid inquiries on your credit report

When you’re looking to finance your first home, one item that first-time homebuyers seem to overlook is avoiding new lines of credit. For instance, opening a new cell phone line, television service, or even setting up a utility account will all affect your credit score and your inquiries.

Before you buy a house, your focus should be on maintaining and improving your credit score while saving as much as possible for a down payment and closing costs instead of building new avenues of credit.

Save up for a down payment.

With such a big purchase, having a down payment to invest in your home is important. A good rule of thumb for a down payment is to save 20% of your mortgage. For instance, if you have a $100,000 mortgage, your target down payment is $20,000.

If 20% of your mortgage doesn’t seem feasible, there are other options for first-time homebuyers that will allow you to save and invest a smaller amount into your mortgage. If you’re wondering how much you need to save to achieve your desired payment, check out a down payment calculator for reference.

Buying your first home is no easy feat. Take the first step and contact one of Mortgage Specialists at 860 441 0902 to discuss all your options to owning your very own dream home in no time.

What’s the Difference Between a Tax Credit and a Tax Deduction?

“Just write it off.”

“Go ahead and deduct it.”

“I think there’s a tax credit for that.”

Although you might have heard or even uttered one of the sentences above, have you ever wondered what it actually means? While both tax deductions and tax credits can save you a significant amount of money on your taxes, they work in significantly different ways.

What is a Tax Deduction?

A tax deduction is a result of a tax-deductible expense or exemption which reduces your taxable income. A common tax deduction on your federal income tax return is the standard deduction. An example of how this works: If your income was $50,000, your standard deduction (if single or married filing separately) would reduce your taxable income by the 2018 standard deduction of $12,000, so your taxable income would now be $38,000.

What is a Tax Credit?

Unlike tax deductions, tax credits are subtracted from your tax liability (not taxable income). A common tax credit is the Child Tax Credit. If you have a qualifying child, you can take a credit of up to $2,000 per child against the taxes you owe in 2018. If you have a total federal income tax liability of $3,500, the Child Tax Credit for one child would reduce that tax liability to $1,500.

Is a Tax Deduction Better Than a Tax Credit?  Is a Tax Credit Better Thank a Tax Deduction?

If you were ever faced with a hypothetical choice between a $100 tax deduction and a $100 tax credit, you would most likely prefer to receive the credit. Unlike a tax deduction, a $100 tax credit reduces your tax dollar-for-dollar ($100). On the other hand, a tax deduction reduces your taxable income by $100. The resulting amount of tax you save depends on your marginal tax bracket (in everyday language: your tax bracket). If you are in the 24% tax bracket in 2018, a $100 tax deduction reduces your taxes by $24. On the other hand, a $100 credit would reduce your taxes by $100.

TurboTax Has You Covered

Don’t worry about trying to figure out which tax credits or deductions you should take, or if you should itemize or take the standard deduction. TurboTax will ask you simple questions about you and give you the tax deductions and credits you are eligible for based on your answers to get you the biggest tax refund. As a credit union member, you can save up to $15 on TurboTax federal products. Click here to access TurboTax and your savings!