Force Ghosts and Your Credit

Last week was Star Wars Day, which Wauna Credit Union always dutifully celebrates—we’d also celebrate John Wayne Day if anybody wants to help us get that going. On its surface, Star Wars Day is just a fun way for us to dress up like Darth Vader and have fun with our members, but there are actually several things that the preeminent saga of our time can teach us.Image of WCU employees wearing Star Wars garb

One of those things is how things we do and decisions we make can stay with us throughout our life. In Star Wars Luke literally sees and hears Obi Wan, Yoda and eventually Anakin–Sebastian Shaw not Hayden Christensen thank you very much—who continue to guide him. Similarly, we are all guided by the lessons imparted on us by our parents, teachers and other influences. Very often these lessons help us, but sometimes people learn the wrong way to handle finances.

Often people fall behind early and are constantly being visited by malevolent ghosts who encourage them to spend more than they have, not pay bills on time and consistently over-extend themselves. Wauna CU has multiple online ways to help with this, education programs like Balance for adults, The M3 Money Club for young children and The Elements of Money for teens.

A lot of us prefer in person help as well, for that we offer a credit enhancement program. As a community-oriented institution we want to help be that positive Smiling woman helping members-Stock Force Ghostinfluence for our members. Our member consultants will sit down with a member whose credit isn’t quite where they want it to be, and go over their credit report, explain what the different notes and indications mean, provide a plan of attack and then periodically check in to apprise progress. Teaming with our members like this is one of the ways we stay true to our goal of being a true member of the areas we serve.

Employee of the Quarter Laura Lovegren

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 this quarter our Employee of the Quarter is Laura Lovegren.

How long have you been at WCU? This is my second go-around at Wauna Credit Union. I initially worked as a teller, which is now called an MSR to reflect all the work they do for our members, about five years ago. It was such a great experience to interact with all the members and be hands on with what we do at the credit union. When there was an opening to come back in 2015 I jumped at the opportunity, and have been there since then.

What brought you here? I wanted to go to a place where I could serve my local community and grow my career. WCU is so great about providing career paths for all of our employees. As long as you’re willing to work hard there’s opportunity.  

What is your title? I’m an EFT Clerk. That means I’m responsible for  putting electronic payments and money transfers through the ACH process. I make sure everything is correct, and then push the transfers through. Before I was an EFT Clerk, I was an MSR and MC. Working with our members every day was such a great experience.

What is your favorite thing about working here? That’s easy. It’s the family culture. I love that we set goals and when we grow we set more. I am happy to come here every day, and feel empowered by the people I am surrounded by, who help me work to become a better person.

What project has been your favorite? Learning to my job as EFT has been exciting for me. WCU really emphasizes Integrity Coaching. I love learning about who people are and how to better communicate.

Where did you grow up? I’m a Clatskanie lifer. My son and daughter went to high school here, and I still volunteer with the school even though my son is always on the road performing in logging shows and my daughter now has a child of her own. Growing up here really led me to enjoying all the community has to offer. I enjoy spending time with my family, friends and four dogs, clam digging and organizing (yes as a hobby!).

 

Astoria Earth Day Riverwalk Cleanup

Like many of our members, Wauna Credit Union is deeply committed to sustainability and green initiatives. The careers of our founding members way back in 1967 were tied to the environment, Two women pose with bagsand thousands of our current members work in fields like fishing, timber, and food production. We rely on our natural environment for our livelihood and for our recreation. Wauna Credit Union even built the very first LEED Certified Credit Union branch in all of Oregon!

With our commitment to the environment and to being involved in the community, we were incredibly excited to partner with member Buoy Beer and SOLVE, a non-profit with the goal to enhance the livability of Oregon, on an Earth Day clean-up of the Astoria Riverwalk.two young girls drink root beerEven with a grey day that turned into a hard rain nearly 50 people, including employees of the credit union, Buoy Beer, Clatsop Community College and the Astoria Coast Guard picked up an estimated 300lbs of trash and debris from a 3-mile stretch along the Astoria Riverwalk.

Two people with dogsIt was especially great to see children involved in the cleanup. While we know it’s always hard to get kids out in the rain, they had a great time splashing around in the puddles, and helping their parents with the work at hand. Everybody who participated received a free beer, or non-alcoholic drink, thanks to Buoy Beer.

Overall in the state, 6,000 volunteers partnered with SOLVE to remove over 35 tons of trash, plant 3,300 native trees and shrubs, and clear 10 acres of invasive plants from 162 different sites across the state.
Woman holding two full bagsBeing part of the community is a huge part of who we are, and we’re always happy to partner with our commercial members to help keep the cities we live and work in beautiful. Let’s do it again next year!

Celebrating Credit Union Youth Week

Wauna Credit Union’s Mission is to provide opportunities for our members to build their financial well-being. One of the most important places we demonstrate this core belief is through financial education and helping our members either improving, or starting, their financial setting. Nowhere is this more evident than our commitment to providing our youngest members with the financial start to lead them to a positive lifetime relationship with money. One of the ways we’re doing this is partnering with thousands of credit unions across the country for Credit Union Youth Week, April 24-29.

Youth week 17 - poster 1

This week in order to encourage parents to begin their child’s savings, and start that financial conversation with their family we’re doing a few extra things to help our members out.

  • During Credit Union Youth Week, we will match all new member $5 deposits when they open a Jump Start Club savings account for youth from age 0 to 17Kids dressed as superheros
  • All new and existing members who make a minimum $5 deposit into their account during the week will be entered to win a $250 prize. Also, each branch will award an additional $50 prize.
  • In addition to matching the first $5 deposited, Wauna Credit Union will donate $1 for every new account opened during Credit Union Youth Week to the local Backpack Program that helps feed hungry children
  • We are also launching two new additions to our Balance education program aimed for children to give them a fun way to learn about money
    • M3 Money Club® for kidsThe M3 Money Club for kids. An immersive kid-friendly adventure featuring superheroes, fun and valuable money lessons
    • Elements of Money for teensThe Elements of Money for teenagers. A financial education, site that gives teens more than 100 podcast episodes, educational articles, eLearning modules and videos

WCU passbook photoEvery person is unique, but most people who save regularly developed the habit early on in life. Learning to understand money and save for long-term goals is a crucial life skill, and one Wauna Credit Union is committed to helping our youngest members achieve. Credit Union Youth Week is just one way we do that.

7 Bad Financial Habits You Need to Break Right Now

Bad money habits are more difficult to steer out of than other automated behaviors like driving a car. Why? Financial peace of mind is a much more subtle reward than the satisfaction of navigating a half-ton piece of metal through city streets without death or injury.

Still, every person who is good at money learned good habits, which means you can, too. “What we know from lab studies is that it’s never too late to break a habit. Habits are malleable throughout your entire life,” Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” told NPR.

Here are seven financial habits you should break before you go broke.Young Millennial in red hoody running down an empty road

1. Stop spending more than you earn

Who do you think you are, the U.S. government? America’s fiscal deficit is projected to be $559 billion in fiscal year 2017, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

How is your own personal deficit? About one in five Americans spend more than they earn and 38% break even, research from the National Financial Capability Study shows. Your goal must be to join the 40% of Americans who spend less than they earn.

2. Stop ignoring your bills

Here’s how not to handle your obligations: When a collection agency calls, you pay the bill. This kind of financial firefighting only guarantees you’ll veer from crisis to crisis as your credit score burns.

Payment history carries huge weight on your financial future; more than one-third of your credit score is judged by your ability to pay your power bill, car insurance and credit cards on time. If you can’t, work out a payment plan with your creditor before it goes to collections.

3. Stop using your credit cards like free money

Credit cards are a weapon in your financial arsenal. Like all armaments, they can be used in strategic defense or to shoot yourself in the foot. Too often, it’s the latter — the average U.S. household with credit card debt has $16,748 of it.

Lady looking in windowThat plastic in your pocketbook is the greatest enabler of bad money habits, allowing you to spend on a whim and forsake all budget plans. Sticking to a budget should be your most faithful money habit.

4. Stop thinking you’re not smart enough

Today, consumers must take control of their own financial lives, whether it’s understanding health insurance or guiding their own 401(k) plans to invest for retirement. Even so, during the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, many consumers struggled to understand basic health insurance terms such as “deductible,” a survey by the Kaiser Foundation found.

Learn the lexicon of finance to manage your money better.

“I used to catch myself saying, ‘Investing is hard. I just don’t understand it.’ This gave me permission to avoid learning how to invest,” wrote Ann Marie Houghtailing, author of “How I Created a Dollar Out of Thin Air.” “Now I say, ‘Investing is a skill. You just have to start small.’”

5. Stop making it hard to save

Old habits die hard, and one of the oldest habits is using checks to pay bills or make savings deposits. “Personal finance habits take longer to change than the way you might switch from one smartphone to another. That’s because money is so important to us,” Fred Davis, a professor of Information Systems at the University of Arkansas, told Marketplace.

Set up automatic transfers for bill payments. Also automatically have 10% or more of your paycheck sent directly to your savings account. These two steps will go a long way toward building good money habits and credit scores with little effort.

Two young men giving Spock Live Long and Prosper s

6. Stop complaining about your paycheck

Whatever energy you’re spending complaining about the size of your paycheck takes energy away from finding ways to improve your bottom line. Think you’re being underpaid? Negotiate a raise or at least talk with your boss to understand what’s needed to see a bump in pay. If you’re valued, your supervisor will see the implicit threat that you may leave for a higher-paying job. Start looking for that more lucrative gig while you’re at it.

In the meantime, investigate ways to build other streams of income and seek ways to improve your skills.
7. Stop thinking more cash brings happiness

OK, money does bring happiness, but only to a point. Purchasing experiences and giving to charity have a much longer shelf life for our well-being, research suggests.

Replace bad habits with good ones

Breaking your go-to financial routines will take time and effort. Subbing in habits that improve your bottom line — paying bills on time, using technology and Woman sewingincreasing your income and savings — will be worth the work in the long run.

 

Another great blog from our friends at Nerdwallet!
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April Anniversaries

Wauna Credit Union is growing fast (if you want to join us check out our careers page). The main reason for that is the great service we provide our members. The reason for that great service is our amazing employees. We caught up with a couple who are having their anniversary this month.

McKenzie Wilson 5 Years
What is your current position?
I am a Real Estate Loan Officer in the Warrenton Branch. I assist members with purchases, refinances and second mortgages, and work with local realtors to help their clients get financing. I love being part of the home-buying process, and I love being part of Wauna Credit Union. I was an intern here right after high school and coming back after working at another financial institution for a McKenzie Wilsoncouple of years was such a great decision. Whether somebody is getting their first house, their fifth, or taking advantage of our great HELOC special to add the master bedroom they’ve always wanted, I get to be part of our members realizing their dreams.

What is your favorite WCU memory?
I don’t have one specific favorite memory but I love helping members build their financial well-being as well as helping people purchase their new homes is always such a great feeling. They always say if you love what you do you never work a day in your life, and I really feel like that’s true. In addition to working with our members, I’ve had so much fun with all my coworkers (who are also members). We all like to have fun while helping people out. No matter if I’m talking to people in the Warrenton branch or the other members of the mortgage team who are spread out across Columbia, Clatsop and Western Washington Counties in Oregon, and our new office in Pacific County Washington I’m sure to laugh a bunch during the day.

What is something you like to do when you’re not at work?
When I’m not at work I love spending time with my husband Vince and our three dogs, Nitro, Torq and Kona. I love anything outdoors…. camping, hunting, fishing and riding our quads and side by side. We recently purchased our first home so anything that has to do with making it ours is a huge passion of mine. I grew up in Knappa, so I knew I would always live here, but actually buying a house makes me feel even more like part of the community.

Ashleigh Sibley 1 Year
What is your current position?
I am a Communication Center Consultant. My job is to assist members with a variety of matters and filter out as much as possible from going through the branch directly. My duties are as basic as balance inquires and as complex as Ashleigh Sibley sits at her desktechnology troubleshooting.

What is your favorite WCU memory?
I have particularly enjoyed embracing the team and family spirit of Wauna over the last year. When I reach out to any branch I am greeted consistently with effective communication, integrity, and respect from employees. Those characteristics inspire me to return the positive feedback to our members.

What is something you like to do when you’re not at work?
Outside of Wauna I enjoy spending time with my husband, our two children, seeking adventure and making memories.

Others

  • Jeff Parker – 11 years
  • Heather Dixson – 4 years
  • Marci Szlavich – 1 year
  • Jon Rimer – 1 year

Learn More About Your Finances

One of the complimentary benefits all our members receive is a comprehensive financial education program through our partner BALANCE. BALANCE offers free lessons and amazing personal budgeting tools to help our members improve their money management skills. It also provides housing counseling, assistance making a debt repayment plan, a credit report review, and a toll-free information line.tablet on top of books

In April BALANCE is offering a webinar on using your home equity. This is a great opportunity for members looking to take advantage of their largest asset to improve their lives.

If you’re interested you can register for either of the two times below.

 

Session 1: Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Time: 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. (PST)
Register: bit.ly/2jbjlAu

Session 2: Thursday, April 20, 2017
Time: 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. (PST)
Register: bit.ly/2jbjlAu

March Anniversaries

Wauna Credit Union is growing fast (if you want to join us check out our careers page). The main reason for that is the great service we provide our members. The reason for that great service is our amazing employees. In March, we have several long-time employees celebrating their anniversary.

Norm Dufton – 7 years
What is your current position?
VP of Consumer Lending. That means I oversee the underwriting, indirect lending and consumer loans teams. It’s been great. I have a great team working for me.

What is your favorite WCU memory?
My favorite WCU was meeting Rex Johnson who founded Lending Solution. Wauna Credit Union has partnered with LSI for years to make sure we’re meeting the needs of our members.

What is something you like to do when you’re not at work?
I believe in keeping active outside of work. I’ve owned two Karate schools, and I really like fishing. My biggest catch, is a 55-inch Sturgeon I caught on the Columbia. He was delicious.

Others

  • Janice Hanes – 13 years
  • Bob Horness – 9 years
  • David Merrell – 9 years

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.