Key Tax Preparation Tips to Cut Stress

Although it comes around every spring, tax season tends to inflict the same headaches year after year. To reduce your stress — and maximize your refund — it’ll help to stay organized and be aware of recent changes to the tax code.

For additional motivation to get on track, keep in mind that the average refund has been about $3,000 in recent years. Even if you don’t expect to get that much back, there are plenty of ways to put a refund to good use. But first, you’ll have to file your returns properly, taking advantage of any deductions you might qualify for. Here’s a look at where to get started.

Compiling the necessary information

For starters, you’ll need your W-2 form listing earnings and tax withholdings, which employers typically send out in January or early February. Be sure to have your Social Security number or taxpayer identification number available, as well as those numbers for any dependents you’ll claim. You’ll also need documentation of any income they may have had.

Affordable Care Act penalty

The 2010 Affordable Care Act ushered in one of the most significant tax law changes in recent years. It stipulates that if you didn’t have health insurance for more than three months in 2015 and didn’t qualify for an exemption, you may face a penalty.Portrait of businessman holding calculator

For tax year 2015, taxpayers who lack adequate insurance may be penalized at either 2% of a portion of their income or $325 per adult and $167.50 per child, to a maximum of $975 per family — whichever is higher. Those fees are set to increase in upcoming years, which means it’s a good idea to get insured as soon as possible.

Tax deductions reduce taxable income

Deductions reduce the amount of your income that you have to pay taxes on. Sit down and figure out whether the standard deduction or itemized deductions will work best for you. The former is a set amount that reduces your taxable income depending on your filing status; the latter lets you list qualified expenses separately, such as mortgage interest and local property taxes. If your itemized deductions add up to more than your standard deduction amount, go with that.

So what kinds of expenses can you deduct? Contributions to eligible organizations and interest on education loans are among the more well-known deductions you can take. Others, such as medical and home office expenses, aren’t as widely used for various reasons. Make sure to look into which of your expenses you can use to reduce your taxable income, which will probably increase your refund. Bear in mind that income limits and expense thresholds may limit these deductions or eliminate them entirely.woman-hand-smartphone-laptop

If you qualify to contribute to a traditional individual retirement account, or IRA, you may be able to shield up to $5,500 of income from taxes — plus $1,000 more if you’re 50 or over — by putting it in an IRA. You have until April 15 to make deductible contributions for the previous year. Withdrawals are subject to income tax, however.

Also, if you’re in a same-sex marriage, stay alert for further changes in the rules governing your tax status and other financial issues.

The bottom line

Completing your tax returns won’t be much fun, but it’s the first step in claiming a refund. Once you’ve filed your returns, you should expect to get what you’re due within three weeks — or in less than half that time if you ask for the money to be directly deposited to a savings or checking account. Just remember to compile all the essential paperwork before getting started, keeping an eye out for tax credits and changes to the tax code.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Happy 50th Birthday to Us

“Wauna Credit Union will be the financial institution that members choose first, use the most, and grow with throughout their lives.” Our vision means a lot to us. It’s how we plan for the future and make sure we are serving our members. It’s with that lens that our 50th birthday today means so much for us.

Fifty years-ago today on March 16, 1967, seven employees of the Crown Zellerbach Paper Company located at the Wauna Mill got together to form a financial corporative for mill employees. Crown Zellerbach eventually became Georgia Pacific, and the financial corporative eventually became Wauna Credit Union, a member-owned, local first financial corporative offering personal banking, business banking, credit cards, home loans, auto loans, personal loans and so much more to residents who live, work, or worship in Columbia County, Clatsop County, Western Washington County (Oregon) and Pacific County (Washington). What started out as seven members became over 23,000 members (and growing), and the first employee Eileen Cheuvront (who eventually became CEO) turned into 100 current employees, all of whom we are proud to call members, and part of the Wauna Credit Union family.

A blog about all our accomplishments isn’t really our style, and would never capture the contributions of our current and past employees, nor the ways our members and the community we serve have helped us become the organization we are.

We’re celebrating today with cupcakes in each of our branches, and would love it if you could stop by and join us. It’s no small feat, but what we’re really excited about is not the last 50 years, but the next 50 (and hopefully beyond). We’re constantly looking for ways to improve our services both in person and making sure we offer the most up-to-date online services to keep meeting member needs for years and years to come.

Serving Our Communities: Funds Raised For Clatsop Community Action

During the last quarter of 2016, Wauna Credit Union staff raised more than $2500 for Clatsop Community Action.  Depending on the year, we have changed charities quarterly or annually. Staff nominates and vote on each organization we support. It is part of the Credit Union culture to support our communities through volunteering and donations, and it carries down from the very top to our front line staff. One of the reasons many of us have chosen to work for a financial cooperative is the philosophy of “people helping people” and our desire to make a positive difference in the communities around us and the world.

For part of 2016, Wauna Credit Union raised money for Clatsop Community

Robert Blumberg, Amy Stocky and Debi Smiley presents a check for $2,543.20 to Elaine Bruce and Viviana Matthews of CCA
Wauna CU presents the check to CCA

Action (CCA). Clatsop Community Action is an incredible organization in Clatsop County that helps fund the food bank, they offer energy assistance for people when money is tight, whether it be a seasonal layoff, sudden unemployment, or just not earning enough. They help low income workers get needed items, offer training programs, and even find housing for those without any. They do so much in the community, it is impossible to imagine Clatsop County without them!

It was with great pride and deep gratitude, that we presented Clatsop Community Action’s tireless director Elaine Bruce with a check for $2,543.20, and more than 50 pounds of personal care items for those who need them. It is great knowing all of these funds will be used to help people in Clatsop County.

The tourism economy, which is a major part of Clatsop County’s business, can be Wauna CU CEO Robert Blumberg and CCA Executive Director Elaine Brucea volatile way to live for those who work within it, much like fishing, it is seasonal. Tourism industry work consists of many low paying jobs – food service, retail, and hotel housekeeping, these jobs typically pay minimum wage with few, if any, benefits. It can be hard to make ends meet. Luckily, CCA is here to help people when ends don’t meet, when the off season lasts just too long, or when bad luck has knocked good people off their feet. CCA is also mostly volunteer run.

The money goes towards CCA clients who have no money for critical items such as diapers, toothbrushes, bus passes, replacing lost identifications needed for job searches and other emergency services that are not served due to limits placed on grant funds do not allow.  Many families have children and are living in their cars or a shelter with little or no money to live on.

Our fundraising is done through a variety of methods, some employees allow for an automatic deduction from each paycheck to go to the charity fund year-round. We also do “Jeans Days” on paydays, in which every employee wearing jeans puts $5 into the fund. Another fundraiser is “Spirit Days”, when on non-payday Fridays staff is encouraged to wear various themed attire, in December every Friday had a special theme, including wearing elf or Santa hats, wearing Silver and Gold, or jerseys of a favorite team. When members see staff dressed down in this clothing or in jeans, they can rest assured, our staff is being philanthropic!

Other ways we raise money for our charities are staff raffles, silent auctions, and with the candy we sell at the teller windows. All of the money raised from the candy sales go right to our charity fund. Occasionally, we enter members and staff into raffles for sporting event tickets or weekends at the beach if they donate a certain amount into our charity fund.

Thank you CCA for all that you do in our community, and for all the people you work so hard to help!

Jon Rimer – Employee of the Quarter


Every quarter Wauna Credit Union celebrates one employee who exemplifies our mission to “Provide opportunities for our members to build their financial well-being,” and our vision to be “the financial institution that members choose first, use the most, and grow with throughout their lives.” For January through March that person is Jon Rimer.

Jon has been at WCU for almost a year, serving as the Maintenance Supervisor after a long career at the Kern County California Roads Engineering Department. Along with his team, Jon makes sure that all eight of Wauna CU’s branches are running smoothly. In addition to managing the day-to-day oversight of all of our branches, training center and company cars, Jon also serves as a foreman when things need to beJon Rimer is Wauna Credit Union's employee of the quarter built. He calls the remodel of the flagship Clatskanie branch as his favorite project at the credit union; although at times the demanding work made it the most challenging thing he’s tackled at the credit union as well. Jon points out the people as the best thing about working for Wauna Credit Union, and looks forward to helping people every day.

When not at work Jon enjoys spending time with his family either watching Los Angeles Dodgers games, perhaps that’s why his favorite color is blue, reading Hemming’s Motor News, or watching movies like The Way.

Whatever he’s doing, Jon has more than earned his favorite food, a rib-eye steak. Thanks again for all your hard work Jon from all your teammates at WCU.

Working for Wauna-Current Job Openings

Ian and Liz attend the recent Clatsop County Career & Job Fair
Ian and Liz attend the recent Clatsop County Career & Job Fair

Working at Wauna Credit Union is a great experience. Everybody who works here really believes in the benefits of credit unions, that means we have a family environment where everybody cares about each other and cares about doing the best job we can. WCU has seven branches now serving Clatsop County, Columbia County, Western Washington County in Oregon, and Pacific County in Washington. That growth is a direct testament to the members first attitude from our employees – who are members themselves – it makes us incredibly proud.

Ian and Liz attend the recent Clatsop County Career & Job Fair
We like to have fun at WCU. Anna celebrates becoming the new fire chief in the Astoria branch.

One of the things that WCU believes in is rewarding good work. There are always opportunities to learn new skills, and grow your career. With the credit union’s growth and true commitment to our employees’ careers we now have several job openings that we are actively looking to fill.

All of our jobs are listed on the Wauna Credit Union Careers Page https://waunafcu.org/about/careers.shtml. We are looking for people who thrive on helping others, who care about our members, our community, our environment and each other. People who work at Wauna Credit Union:

  • Embrace the philosophy of People Helping People
  • Serve their community
  • Like working in a FUN environment
  • Take Member satisfaction seriously
  • Believe that integrity matters
  • Want to belong to a thriving organization with a lot of gumption

If you, or somebody you know, fits the bill and is looking for a career doing any of the following apply today.

  • Lending Support Specialist – Clatskanie
  • Lending Support Specialist – Astoria
  • Member Consultant – Peak Hour – Astoria
  • Member Consultant, Peak Hour (20 per week) – Warrenton
  • Virtual Teller – Astoria

The Importance of Financial Education

One of the things that makes Wauna Credit Union special is our Mission to provide opportunities for our members to build their financial well-being. If you live, work, attend school or worship in Clatsop County, Columbia County, Western Washington County, or Pacific County Washington, we want to help you realize your financial goals. Sometimes, that is very hands by providing personal loans, mortgages or credit cards to help you grow. We pride ourselves on is our commitment to helping provide financial education to all our members. Sometimes this takes the form of our credit enhancement program, where we sit down with a member whose credit isn’t quite where they want it to be, and go over their credit report and help them make a plan to improve it. But financial education isn’t only us telling members what they need to do, one of the features we offer is BALANCE, which offers a ton of ways for members to take control of their finances.

What is BALANCE

BALANCE gives members the training they need to take control of their finances

BALANCE offers amazing personal budgeting tools to help our members improve their money management skills. Some of the things it offers are housing counseling, assistance making a debt repayment plan, a credit report review, and a toll-free information line, all free to Wauna Credit Union members. BALANCE also offers educational modules on a variety of subjects related to money, saving and spending goals. Read the modules or listen to many of them on podcasts and improve your relationship with money forever.

MoneyDesktop and MoneyMobile

MoneyDesktop can give members a snapshot of how their money is spent

MoneyDesktop is available directly from Online Banking. It gives members an easy and secure way to track finances and budget. You can add any account you want, whether it’s with us, or somebody else to get a full view of how you spend your money. Members can also download the free MoneyMobile app and take all of that information with you wherever you go.MoneyDesktop & MoneyMobile allow members to visualizes their spending as well. They both are great ways to offer help you take control of your finances.

We really hope that members can take advantage of these great free programs Wauna CU offers.

 

Meet Danea Passmore Senior Vice President of Strategic Implementations

Wauna has many talented and amazing people who work for us, including Danea Passmore who recently was promoted to the Senior Vice President of Strategic Implementations. The Wonderful World of Wauna caught up with Danea to talk about her time here, and find out more about what she does, and what motivates her.

How long have you been at Wauna? I have been employed at Wauna for 11 ½ wonderful years!

What is your new position at WCU? My current position is SVP, Strategic Implementations. My vision is to lead and build a strategic team that improves our products & services; implements innovative technology, and ensures that members hear about all the ways we can help them achieve their financial opportunities.

What do you like most about your new job? I am looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and figuring out what we can do to help our borrowers in Clatsop, Columbia, Washington and Pacific Counties. While banks worry about products that make money, we get to think about ways to help people. The credit union believes in Integrity Coaching and The Member Advantage (TMA), which help us communicate effectively with members, and really listen to them.  For the past two years, I was certified in Integrity Coaching and TMA and provided training to all staff.   Through the strategic implementation process, I hope to lead with integrity, collaboration, cooperation, and build team synergy.

What do you think makes WCU special? Wauna Credit Union is special because of our people. We are people that have vision, passion, and purpose. We are proud of the fact that we make a difference every day when we show up with purpose. Another thing that is so special about Wauna is that we truly care about

Danea with Rex Johnson at the University of Lending

our employees, community and our members. Each day, we seek to provide opportunities to take members from where they are to where they want to be. We are people helping people!

What is your favorite memory or testimonial of working with a member?

One of my favorite examples of this was during my time as the Operations Manager in the Clatskanie branch. We had a member that was overseas having trouble purchasing train tickets.  His train was getting ready to leave without him…….We were literally running up and down the stairs trying to sort out the issue with Visa, keeping the member on the phone until finally the charge was approved.  He made the train by minutes. We’ll never quit on a member and will do everything we can to help because we care.

Since I’ve done so much with The Member Advantage, I get to work with our internal members (i.e. employees) too! I recently had somebody that put me to

You can often find Danea out on the river.

tears unexpectedly during a TMA homework call.  Validate Yourself, Your Credit Union, and Your Products and Services a key section of the process.  This person gave a list of positive traits about her teammates on the call.  She had only met these people once and so the words she chose were even more special:   kind-hearted, true problem-solver, caring, takes charge, responsible for well-being,

charismatic, well organized, researcher, serve our members, understands the needs, validating spirit, understands why we do what we do, making members feel secure, dedication, great insight, building trust, problems are followed up on and fixed, patient, reassuring, listens, and loves the Wauna family really hit me. Putting me to tears is difficult, but sometimes every once in a while, someone touches your heart and you react.

How to Save for Retirement

It’s never too early to start putting away money for your future. If you’ve ever wondered how to save for retirement when you’re also dealing with day-to-day expenses, these easy tips can help.

1. Get a rough estimate of retirement expenses

It may seem difficult to know how much money you’ll need in retirement, especially if it’s several decades away. Experts say that to keep your same standard of living, you’ll probably need at least 70% of your pre-retirement income.

The reason you probably won’t need 100 percent is because some costs, such as commuting expenses or child care, probably won’t be necessary in retirement. If you already have a budget for your current expenses, then it’s probably easy to get a rough idea of what you may need when you retire.

2. Decide on a savings target

Say you’re 25 years old and your living expenses are about $50,000 a year. Take 70% of that, and it means you’d probably need about $35,000 to retire comfortably, assuming your income remains the same until retirement. So you’d want a nest egg that provides about $35,000 annually.

Many financial experts suggest that you withdraw only about 4% of your retirement savings each year to help ensure that it lasts. That means to get $35,000 in income, you’d need a savings target of about $875,000.

It’s a lot of money, but by using a retirement calculator, you could find that there’s a good chance you could reach your goal by age 61 if you start saving 10% of your income each year. This number assumes your savings earn 7% annually. If your income increases before retirement, you’d probably also need to increase your savings target.

If you can’t quite put away 10% — or whatever your goal percentage is — while also keeping up with your regular expenses, consider starting with a smaller amount and gradually increasing the percentage of income you save until you reach your goal.

You may also have other income sources in retirement, such as Social Security or a pension plan. Look at the Social Security calculator to get an idea of what your monthly benefits might be when you retire and add that to your retirement calculations.

Bear in mind that an income of $35,000 will probably have much less spending power in 40 years than it does today because of inflation, so it’s smart to consider cost-of-living increases in your savings target. It may be a good idea to make an appointment with a certified financial planner to help you weigh your options.

3. Contribute to a tax-advantaged retirement plan

In addition to knowing what percentage of income you should save each year, you’ll also want to decide where to put your money. If your employer offers a traditional or Roth 401(k), consider enrolling. This is especially important if your company offers an employer match, because a match is like adding free money to your retirement savings. You could also contribute to a traditional or Roth IRA.

With traditional retirement plans, you receive an upfront tax deduction for the money you contribute. You then let that savings grow and allow the interest to compound. You’d pay income tax on any money you withdraw, and you’d also have additional early withdrawal penalties if you take money out before age 59½.

With Roth plans, you pay tax on your contributions, but you don’t have to pay tax on your withdrawals if you retire after age 59½.

When you put your money in a retirement savings plan, you’ll have a number of different investment options to consider, including stocks, bonds and mutual funds.

4. Put your savings on autopilot

Once you’ve established your retirement plan, consider setting up automatic withdrawals from your paycheck or bank account. It would be much easier to meet your savings goals when your money has a chance to grow uninterrupted over a period of years.

Learning how to save for retirement is important, but it doesn’t have to be hard. By coming up with a savings goal and contributing regularly to a retirement account, you can help make sure you’ll be able to meet your financial goals for the long term.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Congratulations McKenzie Wilson Producer of the Year

At the annual Winter Celebration held on December 10, 2016, Wauna Credit Union CEO & President Robert Blumberg handed out 10 awards to outstanding employees. The most coveted award of 2016 Producer of the Year went to McKenzie Wilson, Real Estate Loan Officer at the Warrenton branch.

The reward was a surprise to McKenzie but well deserved. She was sitting with her husband Vince listening to her boss Monica Lauber, VP of the Mortgage Department give the final award of the evening, when she slowly realized Monica was talking about her.

McKenzie started as an intern at WCU during high school. She left for a few years after graduation and decided to come back to WCU. She will celebrate her 5-year anniversary at WCU this year, and knows there will be many more to come.

She said the most satisfying thing about her job is getting first time buyers into a home and helping people consolidate their debt with Home Equity Line of Credit loans. “I grew up in Knappa, so I’m not just getting loans for strangers. The members we work with were my friends growing up and their families. It’s very rewarding to be able to help them realize their dreams.”

This year is already looking to be even better than last. With the expansion of the mortgage team and the continual emphasis on making sure WCU is serving the members McKenzie sees nothing but opportunity and success in the year ahead. “We’re really working well together as a team. We have fun when it’s time to have fun, and work hard when it’s time to work hard. This year is already looking to be even better than last. “The coast is really busy this year,” McKenzie said. “I told my boss this year I want a pink one! “

Meet Monica Lauber Vice President of Mortgage

Wauna has many talented and amazing people who work for us, including Monica Lauber who recently was promoted to the Vice President of our Mortgage Department. The Wonderful World Of Wauna caught up with Monica to talk about her time here, and find out more about what she does, and what motivates her.

How long have you been at Wauna? I’ve been at Wauna for 13 incredible years. I started in the Warrenton Branch as an MCR and moved over to the Lending Department in 2005.

What is your new position at WCU? I am the now the VP of Mortgage. I’ve been managing the Mortgage department since 2013, and have seen us grow to continue to meet the needs of our members.

What do you like most about your new job? There are so many things I like love about my job. I have an amazing team that I have built over the years. Most of which have been promoted from within. We all believe in Wauna’s mission and vision statements and strive to deliver positive experiences to our members every day. I look forward to continuing to build on that success for the department and the credit union as a whole. We are growing more and more every day!

What do you think makes Wauna Credit Union special? Our Leadership Team and Board of Directors listen to the needs of our members and the communities we serve. They allow me to create and structure products unlike a bank or mortgage broker. The mortgage industry changes every day,

Monica poses with her team at the Wauna CU Mortgage Origination Office groundbreaking last August. Cookies from Pink Poppy Bakery.

and I strive to be ahead of the game for the benefit of our membership. We are not for profit and we truly care about our membership and their financial well being.

What is your favorite memory of working with a member? You saved the best for last. However that’s a very tough question! I have had the pleasure of working in all of our branches over the years and I continue to travel them weekly.

There have been so many memories that I have gained over the years.

I’ve helped our members from buying their first home and then worked with them again to remodel that home to meet their growing needs. I look at each interaction with our members and strive for them to choose us for all their financial needs, not just for a mortgage..

We live by Wauna’s mission statement Wauna Credit Union will be the financial institution that members choose first, use the most, and grow with throughout their lives.  It is important for us to live by those words, because that gives us lots more membership memories. It’s what makes me love what I do, every day!