July 2020 Anniversaries

Things are starting to get back to normal at the credit union, but we’re still living in a world very different from the one we thought we would be in even just a few months ago. Every month we celebrate our employees celebrating an anniversary. We ask them a few questions about their job, and try to keep it light (mostly).

Over the last two months though we’ve done it a little differently. Our June anniversary celebrants answered one simple question;

What is something the credit union does that makes you proud to say you work here?

Heidi White – 8 Years

My favorite thing is the work I do every day. I grew up in Clatskanie, and it’s rewarding to help my friends and their family improve their financial well-being. Part of WCU’s vision is that we want to be our members’ financial institution for life, and I really feel that when I help people go from getting their first credit card, to their first car, to their first house, and soon, I’ll be doing the same thing for their kids.

Kristen DeForrest – 4 Years

I am proud to work for Wauna because of the way we show our team and family spirit internally and with our members. We are one big family at Wauna and everyone is welcome with us!

Don’t Forget the Taxman

The resulting economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of Americans to find themselves out of work through no fault of there own. Several economic stimulus packages have helped out, and it looks like another is on the way, but one thing to keep in mind is that many of the boosts to unemployment are still taxable at both the state and federal level. out of work.

While the federal funds given to most people working or not are not subject to taxation, the essential unemployment benefits are.

Why is unemployment taxable?

If you’re collecting unemployment, the IRS considers it income, just like it would money earned from a job, and you’ll need to account for it when you file your taxes for 2020. While some states, including California, don’t tax unemployment benefits, Oregon and Washington both do

If you received unemployment insurance this year, you’ll receive a Form 1099-G, which shows how much money you received from unemployment benefits. 

How to avoid a large tax bill

There are a few options for paying your unemployment taxes: 

  • Paying when you file your 2020 taxes
  • Make estimated quarterly tax payments.
  • Have your taxes automatically withheld.

Most of us need every dollar of unemployment insurance, but if you can make it work, the easiest option is to have taxes automatically withheld, just like you would from a normal paycheck

The trickiest one is making estimated quarterly payments. Many sole proprietors, freelancers, or others who get all or some of their income from 1099 jobs make estimated quarterly tax payments. This helps spread out the payment, but you could be off in your estimation and pay too little, or not maximize the amount you have to live on. 

Whatever you decide, we know this is tough on everybody. While we can’t give tax advice, we are happy to help you develop a budget. You can use many of online tools, like Money Management as well.

June 2020 Anniversaries

Things are starting to get back to normal at the credit union, but we’re still living in a world very different from the one we thought we would be in even just a few months ago. Every month we celebrate our employees celebrating an anniversary. We ask them a few questions about their job, and try to keep it light (mostly).

Over the last two months though we’ve done it a little differently. Our June anniversary celebrants answered one simple question;

What is something the credit union does that makes you proud to say you work here?

Monica Lauber – 16 Years

I’m proud that we continue to offer solutions to our members financial needs. It’s about them, not us. Just recently over the last few months most of the mortgage lenders and brokers stopped offering cash out refinances because of the uncertain economic times, but there are still so many reasons people would want to use the equity in their homes. At Wauna, we didn’t for a second think about taking away a valuable resource. Now more than ever, we’re in your corner.

Jeannie Mustola – 4 Years

I just joined our Commercial team, so right now one thing I’m proud of is all the work we do to help keep our area businesses growing and supporting our communities. I’m a life-long Clatskanie resident. I just bought a home here, and I’m going to raise my family here, so the credit union doing its part of keep a strong local economy is important. Over the last two months, we helped more than 100 employees keep their pay through the pandemic with SBA Paycheck Protection Loans. I love our focus on small business and being able to connect with them personally, and help them financially. I love seeing the passion people have for their businesses.

Kerbie Belknap – 4 Years

One thing I love about working here is that we REALLY ARE trying to help our member build their financial well-being. From the type of accounts we open, to the lending that we do, the credit counseling, or even the financial advisors that we partner with. All of this is not to make the credit union rich, but to help our members. That makes me proud.

Alejandra Ortega Bermudez – 3 Years

The fact that we do the most we can for every member, we go above and beyond to help the member in any situation they may be in with regards to their finances or loans.

Jonathan Kintz– 2 Years

When the position opened up and I applied, I was just looking for a simple thing. Like a side gig sort of thing, you know? Little did I know that a position doing a few hours of cleaning a week would open up the doors to the whole company and the tight knit family they have created. I have a great working relationship with my manager. He cares about how I am doing, my family, all on top of getting me all the support and tools I need to do my job the best it can be done. I have attended a few Wauna events and I enjoyed myself thoroughly every time. Even though I rarely see the folks who work at the branch, they find ways to let me know that I am appreciated and part of the team.

I also find it a great privilege to help support a local company doing solid community work. Thinking and acting locally is a big deal to me, and Wauna reflects those values.

Chris Barron – 1 Year

We are an active participant and supporter of our community, even outside of the branch, and outside of business hours. While everybody thinks about financial support, both donations and loans, we also donate our time, expertise, and resources. I’m proud to wear the WCU logo on my chest when I’m out and about, and to be part of this company.

Sabrina Ecker – 1 Year

I am grateful and proud to be part of an organization that does such good things for its members. I’ve been here a year now, and from the beginning, I’ve constantly heard about living our mission and vision, and putting the member first. Knowing that’s our goal lets me concentrate on helping people when they come to the branch.

2020 Scholarship Winners

Wauna Credit Union Awards Area Students Over $12k in Scholarships

It was definitely a year unlike any other. Graduations did not have the pomp and circumstances that the Class of 2020 was probably expecting, but in many ways that made the awarding of scholarships to deserving students even more rewarding.

WCU’s 2020 scholarship recipients were selected based on a variety of factors, including GPA, community involvement, and their need for financial assistance.

“This was not an easy decision as we had a huge amount of wonderful applicants this year,” said WCU CEO Robert Blumberg. “We take that to heart, because we believe not just in our communities and our schools, but in our future. And who better to make that future brighter than our children,” said Blumberg.

Fifteen students from eight area high schools are recipients of this year’s WCU Scholarships, which range from $500 to $1,500 each. This years recipients include:

  • ELI Takalo – Astoria
  • Kegan Rascoe – Astoria
  • Gabriel Katon – Clatskanie
  • James Helmen – Clatskanie
  • Gina Limon – Clatskanie
  • Jonathan Moravec – Clatskanie
  • Catherine Ruado – Forest Grove
  • Nada Jones – Rainier
  • Josiah Jones – Rainier
  • Kelsey Ela – Scappoose
  • Allisandra Kuni – Scappoose
  • Kaytlenn Worlitz – St. Helens
  • Sofia Wolf – Vernonia
  • Jessica Butcher – Vernonia
  • Katrina Diego – Warrenton

Better Than 0% Financing

As the economy opens back up many car manufacturers are bringing people in with the promise of 0% financing. This can be a great deal. The difference between a 0% APR and 3.5% APR on a $25,000 loan is $38 a month. However, as crazy as it seems, you may be able to get a better deal than 0%. How is that possible you may ask? That answer lies in an option for cash back instead of the lower rate, and the low rates Wauna Credit Union can offer right now. As of May 29th, we are as low as 3.09% on a 66 month vehicle loan.

Frequently, dealerships offer a catalog of incentives, most notably financing specials and cash back. People occasionally are able to select both cash back and a lower APR, but usually have to pick. The 0% rate seems like a no brainer, but that’s not often the case.

First of all, for buyers with bad credit, the decision is easy. The promotional APR is usually reserved for those with good scores, Experian estimates you’ll need a 740 score. You don’t often need that score for the discounts. Also, if you don’t have a lot of money to put down, taking the cash back is hugely important, so you don’t end up in a negative equity situation.

Just as importantly, even for the highest qualified buyers who have a down payment, taking the cash back amount off the purchase price of the sale, can often make the most financial sense. Let’s run through a few scenarios.

Kira has a credit score of 750 and has $5,000 to put down. She’s got her eyes on a nice Accord for $30,000. Honda is offering 0% financing or $7,000 cash back. A 0% rate on a $25,000 loan financed over 60 months has monthly payments of $417, and a total payment of $25,000. A 3.5% rate on an $18,000 loan financed over 60 months is $327 a month, and a total payment of $19,647. Here’s a case where the cash back makes the most sense.

Karissa is in a different boat. Her score is 760, so she’ll qualify for that 0%. She has $2,000 to put down, and wants a fully loaded Mini Countryman at $41,000. Mini is offering 0% financing over 48 months, or only $3,000 cash back. If she selects the 0% option, she pays $650 per month and $39,000 over the term. If she selects cash back she pays $709 per month, and $42,569 over the term. She’s one that should take the manufacturer’s financing.

Our last example is Michael. He has a great credit score of 805, a down payment of $10,000, but is looking at $82,000 F150. Ford is offering a longer-term 0% APR over 72 months, or $10,000 back, he’s preapproved at 3.5% also for the longer 72-month term. For him the numbers work like this; the 0% APR gives him a $1,000 monthly payment, and total over the life of the loan of $72,000. The 3.5% rate has a monthly payment of $956 and pays of $68,828. He’s another one who benefits from selecting cash back.

Everybody should have financing set up before they go shopping. Even if the manufacturers financing option makes the most sense for you, it’s important to know what you could get elsewhere to do those calculations.

May Anniversaries

Working at WCU is a privileged all of us take seriously. It’s great to come in and help out the community and make a difference – while still remembering to have fun. This month we’re recognizing our anniversary celebrants a little differently. Each person shared one question

What is something the credit union does that makes you proud to say you work here?

Debi Smiley – 32 Years

I heard a story today where we were able to assist with a single mom’s financial well-being by reviewing her current mortgage loan and found we could refinance it.  Doing such we were able to reduce the rate and the payment by $400 a month.  This is a big monthly savings.  It is the people helping people that fits my core beliefs.  That is the ‘purpose’ of credit unions.

I give back to the community whenever I can.  It is important to me.  If the community thrives, we all thrive which leads to a better quality of life. 

Loren Ames – 11 Years

They promote from within and invest in their people. I have held about five positions in my 11 years of working for Wauna. With each position I was given support and an opportunity to direct my own career path.

Devyn Osborne – 3 Years

What makes me proud to work at Wauna is that it’s one big family. Across the organization, everybody pitches in to help each other serve our member-owners, and help out our communities.

Kat McFarland – 1 Year

I am proud to work for a company that prides itself on being there for people, realizing that they are not just a number or dollar in our pocket, but real live individuals, such as ourselves who have faults and need help.

Enter Phase 1 – Now Phase 2

With our counties now entering Phase 2, we are relaxing some of the restrictions, most notably we request that everybody entering the branch wear masks, but if your personal situation means you cannot do that, it will not prevent you from entering the branch.

With Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s decision to allow parts of the state to enter Phase 1 of the COVID-19 recovery, effective Monday, May 18, we are happy to reopen all our lobbies and welcome back our favorite people, our member owners.

We’re excited to enter a new, new normal. We’re taking precautions to keep you and our employees safe, and there are still some limitations to follow the guidelines set by the state, but rest assured, we’re doing this the WCU way, which means the first thing you’ll notice is an employee at the door to greet you.

Branch Access

Members will no longer need to schedule an appointment to enter the lobby. The Governor’s order puts certain restrictions in place. During Phase 1, the number of members allowed in the branch is limited. In addition, everybody who enters the branch, including employees, will be required to wear an approved mask. Exceptions will be made for those medically unable or under the age of 2.

  • The number of members allowed in branch at one time follows:
    • Clatskanie: 4 members (maximum in lobby area is 3)
    • Scappoose: 4 members (maximum in lobby area is 3)
    • St. Helens: 5 members (maximum in lobby area is 4)
    • Warrenton: 5 members (maximum in lobby area is 4)
    • Astoria: 5 members (maximum in lobby area is 4)
    • Forest Grove: 5 members (maximum in lobby area is 4)
    • Safeway: 4 members (maximum in lobby area is 4)
    • Vernonia: 4 members (maximum in lobby area is 3)
  • Members and guests will social distance by following directional markings
    • Where to enter, exit and stand in lines
    • Where to stand while being helped on the teller line
  • Members and guests will wear masks while visiting our branches; masks will be provided to those who do not have one
    • Exceptions: medically unable or under age 2
  • Portable plexiglass barriers will be used when members or guests are visiting an employee in an office setting or at a desk
  • Public areas will regularly be wiped down with disinfectant wipes

Employee Percautions

To help prevent infection, all credit union employees will have their temperature taken prior to reporting for work each day. In addition, the credit union will prevent congregation, and stagger working hours to increase social distance.

Alert: Unemployment Fraud

The NW Credit Union Association has alerted us to a significant increase in unemployment fraud hitting or footprint. Please be aware if you, your friends, or family are asked for your account information and then see a deposit from a state unemployment division. Scammers are using this new method to conduct fake check scams https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-spot-avoid-and-report-fake-check-scams

Washington state law enforcement has recently reported investigating a widespread fraud campaign in which victims’ identities are being used to file false unemployment claims. While similar reports have not be issued for Idaho and Oregon, other states across the country are reporting the latest in fraud trends. Victims, who have not filed unemployment claims, have received notification from their employer’s Human Resources department, or the State Employment Securities Department, indicating an unemployment claim has been filed on their behalf.

The Seattle Police Department’s cyber-crime investigators have recommended the following steps for anyone who knows, or believes, they are a victim of unemployment fraud. Credit unions may wish to share this information with their members who may be potential victims of this fraud.

Steps to Protect Your Financial Identity & Credit History

  • Step One – Contact Human Resources
    • Contact your organization’s HR staff to coordinate and report the incident to your employer.
  • Step Two – Contact Your State’s ESD
    • Call the State Employment Security Department (ESD) (Idaho: 877-540-8638 or Fraud@labor.idaho.gov; Oregon: 877-668-3204; Washington: 800-246-9763 to report the fraud or contact the ESD via an online form: https://fortress.wa.gov/esd/webform/ContactUS/)
    • You will need the following information for identity verification:
      • Last 4 of your SSN
      • Date of birth, address
      • Current phone number
      • Information on how you learned a claim was filed on your behalf
  • Step Three – Police Report
    • File an online or non-emergency report with the agency whose jurisdiction you live in.
    • Start keeping a file folder or journal with the information from this incident, including any case numbers. Some government services and accommodations are available to victims of identity theft that are not available to the general public, such as getting certain public records sealed.
  • Step Four – The Three Major Credit Bureaus
    • Obtain your free credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion at www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228
    • Report to the credit bureaus that the fraudulent claim was made using your identity and provide them with the case number from your police report. You can have a fraud alert put on your identity or freeze your credit. Doing either is free by law.
      • A fraud alert is free and will make it harder for someone to open new accounts in your name. To place a fraud alert, contact one of the three credit bureaus. That company must tell the other two.
      • Experian: 1-888-397-3742
      • TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
      • Equifax: 1-888-766-0008
    • Check your credit activity at least once a year. As a victim of identity-theft you have the right to check it monthly if you choose.
    • Credit Freeze – If you do not have upcoming large purchases, such as a home, you may want to freeze your credit for more protection. It is free and you can do it yourself. More information about freezing your credit can be found here.
  • Step Five – FTC & IRS
    • File a short report with the FTC and give them the case number for your local police report. The FTC offers more information here.
    • Consider setting up an IRS account. If you create an account with your social security number, it will prevent criminals from creating an account using your identity.
    • Another option is to lock your social security number, which can be done here. (The next wave of this cyber-attack may be IRS tax fraud.)
    • All of this reporting seems redundant, but we want to make sure you are recognized as a victim by the local, state, and federal government. Also, the more people who report it, the more support law enforcement agents will receive to pursue the perpetrators.
  • Step Six – Keep Your Notes
    • Hang on to any notes, copies of emails, etc regarding the issue. This is the paper trail that you can reference if you face any identity issues or locate inaccuracies on your credit history sometime in the future.

Protecting Your Data and Identity
You are done dealing with the fallout from this unemployment fraud incident, but may choose to further protect yourself from cyber-crime. Below are some steps and resources that the cyber-crime detectives recommend for anyone wanting additional protections for themselves and their families.

  • Control Your Own Information

Protecting Your Credit During COVID-19

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to evolve, your credit might be the last thing on your mind. During emergencies, however, you should know the state of your finances and keep credit on your radar.

Normally, your credit report is available every 12 months from all three credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Given the vast number of consumers’ financial health being impacted by the current economic conditions, online access to your report is now available on a weekly basis. Visit annualcreditreport.com and follow the prompts.

There are four main ways you can acquire your score, including checking your credit card or other loan statements, talking to a non-profit certified credit counselor, using a credit score service (be sure you know what you are signing up for and how much it really costs!), or buying a score directly from one of the three credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax.

There are additional ways you can be proactive with your credit. Follow these steps to help keep your credit on solid footing.

  1. Pay your bills on time, if you can.
    Even if it gets difficult, try to make at least the minimum payment by their due date. Late payments negatively affect your credit score.
  2. Contact your creditors and service providers.
    If you get to a point where you can’t pay all your bills, contact your creditors and any service providers such as utilities, phone company, etc.
  3. Check your credit regularly.
    Now is a critical time to make sure your credit reports are accurate. If you identify potential fraud, you can respond before it damages your credit.
  4. Be extra protective of your identity.
    Unfortunately, during times of crisis, scams and identity theft are at an all-time high. Protecting your personal information is essential. You can place a free security freeze on your credit files which prevents people from accessing your personal information and using your name to apply for credit.
  5. Get financial assistance, if needed.
    Certified credit counselors can offer advice on how to repay your debts in a manageable way.
  6. Dispute inaccurate information.
    If you find inaccurate information when reviewing your credit report, you can file a dispute with each credit bureau. Each bureau has an online dispute center, which is the quickest way to file a dispute.

How to Order Your Credit Report
Don’t contact the credit reporting agencies individually. The free reports are available only through annualcreditreport.com and 1-877-322-8228.

You’ll need to provide your name, address, social security number, and date of birth. If you’ve moved in the last two years, you may need to provide your previous address. For security purposes and to verify your identity, you may be asked for information only you would know, like your monthly mortgage payment.

Beware of “Imposter” Websites
The only website authorized to fill orders for the free annual credit report you are legally entitled to is annualcreditreport.com. Other sites that claim to offer “free credit report” or “free credit monitoring” aren’t part of the legally mandated free annual credit report program and in some cases have strings attached to the “free” product being advertised.

Report Scams
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) works for you–the consumer–to prevent fraud and unfair business practices in the marketplace. If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam, you can file a complaint with the FTC (ftc.gov/complaint) and/or the Attorney General of your state.

No matter what, alongside your physical health, the state of your financial health and wellness should be a top priority. Of course, you can always visit waunafcu.org for more information or to meet directly with a member of our friendly and knowledgeable team.

Easing Children’s Anxiety During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every corner of the globe and all areas of our lives. It has changed the way we do things in ways most of us never would have imagined. Schools, businesses, sports events, concerts, and movie theaters are closed or operating remotely. It’s not surprising that most of us are feeling stressed and anxious, and our kids, too, are feeling the effects–especially children with an existing anxiety disorder.

Fortunately, there are things we can do to help kids cope during this stressful time. Children take their cues from the adults who care for them. If you are displaying outward signs of stress and anxiety, it will be hard to calm your kids and soothe their fears. Experts say that dealing with your own anxiety can be the most powerful way to make sure your kids feel secure.

Here are a few steps you can take to ease the anxiety of COVID-19 for you and your family.

Establish a routine.
Kids need routine. As much as they like to push against it, they actually thrive when a regular schedule is in place. Whatever your new “normal” looks like, structure their day so it involves exercise, regular meals, and a healthy amount of sleep–especially for the teens in your household. It will help regulate your family’s moods and worries.

Stay connected.
To keep kids from feeling alone, use technology to help them stay connected with friends and family. Let them talk with their friends on the phone. Schedule virtual playdates with their school mates and friends. Let them play a game or eat together.

This holds true for the adults in the home as well. Coordinate virtual meetups and dinner parties with business groups, friends, or family regularly. Social distancing is meant to keep us healthy. Don’t let it keep you away from your social support networks.

Get the facts.
Be smart about what you are reading. It’s easy to get pulled into looking at or clicking on every update as it is reported, so consider limiting the number of articles you read or for how long you read about the coronavirus each day. If consuming content about the pandemic causes you to become anxious, take a break. Staying informed is one thing but being overexposed is another.

Stay calm by focusing on mindfulness.
Remind yourself that your family is doing its part to minimize the spread of the virus by practicing social distancing and keeping your hands and your home clean. While it’s sensible to prepare for the future, it’s even more important to make sure you’re dealing with things in the present moment.

If you find yourself getting carried away with the “what ifs,” try practicing mindfulness, which is a tool that will help your family stay grounded and calm in the present moment. Take time to focus on the present. Be intentional and thoughtful about where you are and how you are feeling. Sounds simple, but it takes work, especially now when concerns about what the future holds feel so heavy.

Some mindfulness activities you can do with your kids include:

Belly Breathing: Put one hand on your stomach and one hand on
your chest. Slowly breathe in from your stomach (expand like a balloon) and slowly breathe out, letting your belly deflate.
Mindful Meal: Pay attention to the smell, taste, and look of your food. Don’t work or watch television while you eat. Focus on chewing your food and think about all of the effort it took to get that meal on your plate. Consider where food comes from vs. thinking food is an end product.
Squeeze Muscles: Start with your toes and pick one muscle group to squeeze. Count to five and release. Notice how your body changes. Repeat this exercise moving up your body.
Meditation: Sit in a relaxed, comfortable position and focus on your breath. When your mind wanders (and it will wander!), bring your attention back to your breath.
Blowing Bubbles: Notice their shapes, textures and colors.
Coloring: Find something to color and focus on the colors & designs.
Listening to Music: Focus on the lyrics of a song or listen specifically to the voice or an instrument.