2021 Scholarship Winners

The last year has shown us how resilient people can be, and maybe no group has been forced to change more than graduating seniors and college students. Every year we reward those hard-workers in our community, and this year, we are extra proud to award $9,750 in scholarships to nine students who have shown commitment to their studies and to the area. The winners demonstrate the great things that our young members are doing, and the great potential they have to change the future.

  • Ann Heyen (Warrenton); Ann is embarking on a future career in finance, at La Moyne College. Her ultimate goal is to open her own business and provide financial education.
  • Cade McDonald (Scappoose); Cade has already started his college career, taking dual credit classes and a class at PCC. He is planning on getting a B.S. in nursing, in an emergency or trauma setting.
  • Gabe Katon (Clatskanie); Gabe is heading to Lower Columbia College to study Psychology. He believes his time on the speech and debate team in high school helped prepare him for the future.
  • Jessica Butcher (Vernonia; Jessica is attending Portland Community College in order to get a degree in Nursing. After completing the two-year program, she plans to transfer to OHSU and earn her B.S. in Nursing.
  • Josiah Jones (Rainier); Josiah is enrolled at Northwest University, studying history and political science. He ultimately wants to return to the area to teach high school.
  • Kegan Roscoe (Astoria); Kegan is entering her sophomore year at Oregon State studying business and interior design. She ultimately wants to start her own business, and contribute back into the community.
  • Natalie Katon (Clatskanie); Natalie is off to Oregon State University, with the goal of entering the medical field. She’s excited to be working towards her degree at the same time as her dad attends a masters program. She credits her time in Leadership and track in setting her up for success.
  • Samuel Irwin (Warrenton); Sam is attending Oregon State University in the fall, and will major in biology. He wants to become a physician’s assistant, and give back to his community.
  • Shelby Blodgett (Clatskanie); Shelby will be attending Oregon Institute of Technology and studying Nuclear Medicine. She will also be continuing her athletic career, suiting up for the Owls basketball team.

The application period for Wauna Credit Union Scholarships will begin again in February 2022. The application deadline is later in the year, and winners are announced in June. All members that are high school seniors or recent high school graduates are eligible.

Credit Unions: The Better Choice

How We’re Better

The core difference between a credit union and a bank is we’re set up to serve the people who use us. That means we’re here for people, not investors. When you join the credit union, either by opening up a deposit account or by getting a loan, you become a member. With that membership you become an equal owner of the credit union. Compare that with a bank. Customers have no say in how a bank is run, instead it’s investors who hold all the power.

If you think that isn’t a big deal, look at the banks in our area. According to Nasdaq, Wells Fargo is almost 70% owned by investors. Not coincidentally, Wells Fargo announced it plans to shrink the number of branches it has from 5,400 to 4,000. That’s true for US Bank, which is nearly 75% investor owned, and has shrunk it’s branch footprint by 400 in the last year. Even local Umpqua Bank isn’t exempt. Umpqua is 89% investor owned, and announced last year a plan to close 13 – 22% of its branches to save money.

As you may guess, rural areas are hit especially hard. Less people means less opportunity to make a profit, and that means less service. These branch closures, which started during the financial crisis and have picked up steam since the current pandemic are creating banking deserts throughout rural America. That means not only is it harder to talk to somebody when you need to, but there’s a lot of evidence that simply growing up in a banking desert can negatively impact people their whole life.

Contrast that with WCU. In late 2019, we opened a branch in Forest Grove and already broke ground on a new state-of-the-art building to replace our current branch in Astoria.  Being in all these cities isn’t about the building. We’ve been rapidly expanding our online and digital capabilities to meet the needs of today’s consumers. In fact, we’d stack our digital options up against any bank. We know though, that sometimes you need to talk face-to-face with somebody, and that’s always part of our roadmap.

How We’re the Same

This part is a bit easier. Can you do it at a bank? Then you can at Wauna Credit Union too. In fact, studies show people tend to get better rates and have lower fees at a credit union than at a bank. That’s for both deposits and loans.

Can we really do everything that a bank can? Most people know about our deposit accounts, including money market and certificates. We’re known for our credit cards and vehicle loans, and people are learning how awesome our local mortgage team is for home loans, construction loans, home equity lines, and even investment loans. We have a full-service commercial lending and deposit program, and through our partnership with LPL Investments and our CUSO Cascade Crest Insurance, we can offer everything you need for your financial well-being.

Just as importantly, we employee local people from entry level to CEO. We understand the community, and we’re here. That means all decisions made are made by people who live and work here. We look at the individual, not just at numbers.

Free Financial Education

Financial Education is a key part of our purpose and our mission as a credit union. The pandemic has made it hard to meet face-to-face, and sadly kept us out of the schools, we’re still here to help. From online webinars on Paycheck Protection Loans, registering a business, and developing a business marketing plan, we’ve kept busy helping our commercial members.

For our consumer members, we’ve teamed with our partner BALANCE to offer completely free webinars to help with a variety of financial topics.

If you need a little more help, BALANCE offers free and confidential assistance for whatever life throws at you. that covers a variety of subjects.

See something you’re interested in? Register for any of these webinars free of charge.
MAY — FINANCIAL FIRST AID
A financial crisis can throw even the best money management plan into chaos. This session focuses on ways to gain control of a crisis. Participants will learn about financial assessments, expense prioritization, and effective negotiation with creditors.  

Session 1: Tuesday, May 11, 2021
Time: 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. (PST)
Link: bit.ly/2NSviLL  

Session 2: Thursday, May 20, 2021
Time: 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. (PST)
Link: bit.ly/2NSviLL    
           
JUNE — 30 WAYS TO TRIM YOUR BUDGET
Stretching your budget is a necessary step to achieving your financial goals. Learn smart ways to save on the things that impact your finances most, such as food, health care, insurance, and more.    

Session 1: Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Time: 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. (PST)
Link: bit.ly/3b8D2m4    

Session 2: Thursday, June 17, 2021
Time: 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. (PST)
Link: bit.ly/3b8D2m4                  

JULY — SAFEGUARDING KIDS’ IDENTITY AND ONLINE PRIVACY
Today’s youth generation is tech-savvy and connected online. However, parents still play an important role in helping them avoid online hazards such as identity theft, privacy and cyberbullying. This workshop covers important issues including online privacy tips, managing computer settings, smartphone apps, and positive online behavior.  

Session 1: Tuesday, July 13, 2021
Time: 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. (PST)
Link: bit.ly/3wmZKja    

Session 2: Thursday, July 22, 2021
Time: 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. (PST)
Link: bit.ly/3wmZKja                  

Covid Relief Bill Details

Today, Congress passed H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan of 2021, which was then signed into law by President Biden. The $1.9 trillion stimulus bill includes direct payments of up to $1,400 for individuals, billions to help schools and colleges re-open, and funding for vaccine distribution.

The below guidance based on the most current review of the bill, but please consult your accountant before making any financial decisions.

Who is eligible for the third round of payments?

U.S. citizens and resident aliens who are not eligible to be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s income tax return are eligible for the third payment. Eligible individuals will automatically receive an EIP of up to $1,400 for individuals, or $2,800 for married couples, and up to $1,400 for each qualifying child. Generally, recipients with adjusted gross income for 2019 (2020 if they have filed their 2020 tax returns already) up to $75,000 for individuals, and up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns and surviving spouses, they will receive the full amount of the third payment. For filers with income above those amounts, the payment amount is reduced.

What will people need to do in order to receive the rebate?

Payments are automatic for eligible taxpayers who filed a 2019 (or 2020) tax return; those who receive Social Security retirement, survivor, or disability benefits (SSDI), Railroad Retirement benefits, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI); and Veterans Affairs beneficiaries who didn’t file a tax return. Payments are also automatic for anyone who successfully registered for the first payment online at IRS.gov using the agency’s Non-Filers tool, or anyone who submitted a simplified tax return that has been processed by the IRS.

Will the IRS notify recipients after the rebates are sent?

In previous rounds, people received an IRS notice, or letter, after they received a payment with the amount of their payment. Recipients should keep this for their tax records.

Are there payments for parents?

The bill provides additional help to parents of dependent children in the form of tax credits. Income has a significant impact on the credits. NBC News has a good overview.

When will they be sent?

According to the White House press secretary, the IRS and Treasury are working hard to get the payments out as soon as possible. The direct deposits could potentially begin being sent to accounts as soon as this weekend. The direct deposits will then be followed by checks, and finally prepaid cards.

Are the third round of payments taxable?

The EIPs will not be counted as taxable income for recipients. The rebates are a credit against tax liability, and are refundable for taxpayers with no liability to offset.

Are the payments subject to garnishments?

H.R. 1319 did not provide the same clear exemption from garnishments that the previous two rounds did. There may be state laws that prohibit garnishment of these funds.

Are the third round of EIPs subject to reclamation?

The payments have the status of a tax rebate and should not be subject to reclamation.

To view the American Rescue Plan of 2021 online at congress.gov.

2021 Annual Meeting

Important Note about our 2021 Annual Meeting

Following the CDC’s guidance on COVID-19, our annual meeting will be fully virtual this year. Please visit this page on March 16 for information on how to attend the meeting.

What is an Annual Meeting?

Each year, Wauna Credit Union, and all Credit Unions for that matter, hold an Annual Meeting to share with our member-owners the financial status and growth of our Credit Union during the prior year.  The results of our Board Of Director elections are also announced at the event.

An Annual Report is produced each year for the Annual meeting, it offers reports from key figures at Wauna Credit Union, as well as our financials presented in a statement and graphs.

2021 Annual Meeting

When: Our 54th Annual Meeting (you’re invited!) will be held on Tuesday, March 16, 2021 at 6pm.
Where: Virtual
Questions: Contact the Board Governance Committee at gcomm@waunafcu.org

Six Factors That Could Hurt Your Credit Score

Our partner BALANCE is ready to help you build a better financial future with free, trusted guidance and resources for all of life’s milestones. Go to balancepro.org for more information on how they can help you realize your financial dreams.

It’s no secret that maintaining a good credit score is essential to strong financial health. It is a must if you ever wish to take out a substantial loan or need to apply for rental properties. Most people know the basics of what may hurt and what may help your credit score. For example, paying your bills on time will help your credit score, while filing for bankruptcy will hurt it. However, you may not know about a few surprising things that can hurt your score.

Here are six factors that may negatively impact your credit score:

Having unpaid municipal debts

Municipal debts, such as parking tickets and library fines, are often minor, which is why some people often forget to pay them. Unfortunately, your city government may notify the credit bureaus about these unpaid municipal debts no matter how minor they are if they go unpaid for too long. Once they do this, these debts could potentially lower your credit score.

Not having any current loans

You would think that not having any loans would be a good thing, especially if you recently paid off any loans that you did have. It means that you’re practically free of debt, after all. However, credit scoring systems reward people who have different types of accounts. This is because the debt you have doesn’t always hurt your credit. If you make regular payments on time and in full on a loan, it will help your credit. It’s not uncommon for someone paying down a loan and a credit card to have better credit than someone who is only paying down a credit card.

Not using your credit cards

People will often pay with cash whenever possible instead of using their credit cards to avoid running up their credit card debt and the high-interest rates that go along with it. However, only using cash to make purchases could end up hurting your credit instead of helping it. Credit card companies will stop reporting to credit bureaus after six months of inactivity on your card. They might also cancel your account, which would lower the amount of credit you have overall, thereby hurting your credit score. To avoid this, make minor purchases on your card monthly, and be sure to pay off your balance each month as well. Plus, you can be taking advantage of any cashback or other rewards that can save you money!

Closing your credit card accounts

If you’ve been struggling with credit card debt and have finally managed to pay off one of your cards, then you may be tempted to close it. That’s a bad idea. Closing a card will remove that line of credit from your total credit, which will increase your credit utilization. For example, if you have two credit cards, one with a balance of $1,000 out of a $2,000 limit and one completely paid off with a $2,000 credit limit. With those two cards, you have a credit utilization ratio of 25 percent ($1,000 out of $4,000). If you close the card that you paid off, you lose that credit, which means now you are using $1,000 out of a total of $2,000 in available credit, leaving you with a credit utilization ratio of 50 percent. You’re much better off leaving the account open and making small purchases paid off each month, as suggested above.

Doing anything that requires a credit inquiry

Any time a business looks into your credit history, it will generate a hard inquiry on your credit report, which will affect your credit score. While one or two inquiries overtime shouldn’t affect it by much, you must be aware of what kind of actions generate a hard inquiry. These actions include requesting a credit limit increase, applying for a loan, applying for a credit card, signing up for a cell phone plan, applying for an insurance policy, and more.

Not regularly checking your credit report

If you don’t regularly pull your credit report, you won’t know what is on there. Maybe you have some of those small municipal debts that you can quickly pay off. There could also be inaccurate or duplicate accounts that you need to have removed. If you don’t check, you won’t know what you need to do to raise your credit score. Most banks and credit reporting companies will provide you with a free credit report once per year.

Odds are you try to be diligent about maintaining good credit. Unfortunately, not everybody knows about all of the different factors that could affect your credit score. These are six surprising factors that could ding your credit if you’re not careful. Be sure to take advantage of options for receiving your credit report for free once a year, and stay on top of any adjustments you need to make to keep your credit healthy.

Did You Get a 1099-G?

A sad truth is, those who are looking to take advantage of people, or scam the system, will use all tools at their disposal, regardless of how much it hurts others. One of the ways people have been cheating the system since the pandemic started is unemployment fraud. For those who don’t remember our blog post from last May, unemployment fraud is when a scammer uses somebody else’s identity and falsely claims unemployment insurance. In many ways it’s the perfect crime. The government will usually make the first couple of payments before the claim is disputed, and the victim happily has their job, and doesn’t even know somebody has claimed to be them until it’s too late.

How late is too late? For many it’s when they receive a 1099-G and file their taxes. Unemployment income is income, and the IRS expects its cut. So what to do if there’s a 1099-G in your name when there shouldn’t be? The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued guidance for taxpayers who receive Forms 1099-G for unemployment benefits they did not actually get because of identity theft.

Taxpayers who receive an incorrect Form 1099-G for unemployment benefits they did not receive should contact the issuing state agency to request a revised Form 1099-G showing they did not receive these benefits. Taxpayers who are unable to obtain a timely, corrected form from states should still file an accurate tax return, reporting only the income they received. A corrected Form 1099-G showing zero unemployment benefits in cases of identity theft will help taxpayers avoid being hit with an unexpected federal tax bill for unreported income.  

The IRS previously issued guidance requested by states on identity theft guidance regarding unemployment compensation reporting. No Forms 1099-G should be issued to those individuals the states have identified as ID theft victims.

Why Cars From Canada Aren’t Worth the Risk

Our friendly neighbors to the north are many things, great hockey players, phenomenal makers of maple syrup, and a significant contributor to the world’s overall comedy output. One thing you should never count on Canada for though is used cars. That’s surprising to many people. After all, they’re the same cars sold stateside. What would cause Canadian cars to be such a bad investment?

As with many things, the answer boils down to multiple factors. In this case, there are three main drivers (pun intended) that lead us to recommend skipping that great deal from Canada.

Salty History

This one isn’t that surprising. It snows a lot in most of Canada, and like the Midwest, the salted roads can lead to a lot of corrosion and rust over time. This isn’t a deal breaker of course, just something to be on the lookout for. Remember, to really look at the bottom of any car or truck you buy. It’s worth it to bring it to a non-affiliated garage with a lift and plenty of light to make sure you don’t buy something with a well-hidden major problem

Carfox You Say

Many people are surprised to learn that Carfax is not as accurate on Canadian vehicles. It varies, but an (older) study found that while information from cars originating in some provinces had accurate information, but missed huge repairs from cars originating in others. Unless you have the capacity to do your own repairs, it’s not worth it to most people to take a risk on buying a vehicle that needs thousands of dollars in repairs just to save a bit of money up front.

I Don’t Recall

While the cars and trucks for sale in Canada are largely the same, there are differences. Sometimes that means you can get a trim or color not available stateside, but other times it means a part that is recalled isn’t available. There are also slight variations in the way some car companies handle recalls in different countries, which can potentially put you in an unsafe situation.

This of course doesn’t mean you should never buy a Canadian car, but it’s important to know the risks going in to it.

Warming Astoria

It’s impossible not to see the struggles of our community when visiting the Riverwalk or supporting the local stores and restaurants. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Astoria hard, and has placed countless obstacles for many just trying to get back on their feet.

The issues with houselessness are vast and complicated. Health and safety risks pose dangerous threats to Astoria’s homeless citizens and these risks worsen during winter, when living out of a car or on the street are lethal, as temperatures drop and winds pick up.

Check presentation
Members of our staff were happy to present a check to the Astoria Warming Center

A beacon of hope exists, however, in the Astoria Warming Center. A modest organization with a huge heart, the Center provides overnight shelter during winter months. Located at the First United Methodist Church, the Center exists solely to support people in need, which includes those experiencing homelessness. Like many beacons of home, the Center relies heavily on donations to keep their doors open. This year that, reliance has increased, as the Center moves toward paid employees.
This reliance was one of the many reasons Wauna Credit Union (WCU) employees voted to support the Astoria Warming Center as the 2020 official credit union charity.
“When we were choosing our annual charity, the Astoria Warming Center was an obvious choice,” said Kristen DeForrest, a member of the WCU Operations team, and a huge supporter of the Warming Center. “Many of our employees live in Astoria and see the good work they do every day.”

Kristen has long volunteered for the Center, and knows how important the role it has in helping the people of Astoria, “We see so many folks every day who just need a little help,” she said, “just giving a warm room to sleep when the temperature starts to dip is a huge benefit.”

Kristen was recently on hand to present a check for $11,299.09 to the Astoria Warming Center’s Board Member, Annie Martin, longtime Center Coordinator, Cheryl Paul, and Kathleen Sullivan, the Center’s new Executive Director. Just shy of $12,000, the donation was raised exclusively by WCU employees.

“Thank you so much for this incredibly generous donation! It means even more that your employees chose us! Please thank your employees for us. Wow! We’re quite choked up. Thank you, Wauna Credit Union,” said Sullivan. “We couldn’t continue without such kindness from the community!”

“The Astoria Warming Center depends on our community partners in order to serve those most in need, Annie Martin added. “We are grateful to the Astoria First United Methodist Church who allows us to use their first level for the center. We also are grateful for the local restaurants who are still donating meals despite the mandated closures due to COVID-19.”

Cheryl Paul, the Center Coordinator for a number of years, said she was proud that the Astoria Warming Center offers up to 28 beds on the nights they are open, as well as offering the public showers on Wednesday afternoons from noon to 4:00PM. “It has been so important to people with nowhere else to go, to have a safe, warm place to get out of the winter weather. Thank you, WCU employees!”

Annually, WUC chooses a new corporate charity to support through employee contributions and volunteer work. For 2021, the employees chose the Amani Center in St Helens www.amanicenter.org. The Amani Center (The Columbia County Child Abuse Assessment Center) is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization created to assist our community in responding to child abuse.