Tips for Saving Money Post-Pandemic

Tips for Saving Money Post-Pandemic

Try writing down some of your savings goals to help you get on track.

The pandemic changed the lives of everyone one way or another. Financially, many people took hits: some either lost their job or took pay cuts. However—with the pandemic nearing its end—we should begin to prepare for a life of normalcy once again. Let us first look at how to save money. Below are some helpful tips for saving money post-pandemic.

Open a Savings Account

A savings account is a great option if you are looking to save money. The credit union has various saving accounts that cater to your different needs and assist you with life changes such as retirement or health costs. Additionally, we have special savings accounts as well. Our best recommendation for those that view saving as a challenge, is our Dollar Up Account. This account allows you to easily save a little bit of money each time you use your debit card. Click here to find out more about this savings account and others.

Plan Ahead for Having Fun

Many people have been confined to working from home and are slowly readjusting to what their lives were like before the pandemic. As businesses begin to open at full capacity again, it can be easy to get carried away with spending sprees at stores and eating out at restaurants. Some may also want to purchase cars, clothing, or travel the world. This is totally okay as long as you are aware of your spending. Don’t go crazy by having a good time.

Shop Small

Go in person and shop small! By purchasing small and in person, you can limit the amount of money you spend. This also helps support local businesses that may have taken a financial hit during the pandemic. If accepted, trying using cash instead of your debit card and only bring so much so you don’t overspend. With online shopping, it is easy to get carried away with purchasing more than you need or budgeted for.

Review Your Pandemic Habits

The pandemic caused many people to grow accustomed to using services such as using delivery food apps or signing up for various subscriptions that grew popular during these times. However, we need to remember that these cost money. Take some time to identify which ones are meaningful and useful to you and which ones you can do without. This can help to reduce some of the reoccurring monthly expenses that you may not necessarily need but use only out of convenience.

Continue to stay safe as we navigate through this post-pandemic phase and remember to keep saving!

Rolling Over Your Old 403(b)

What do I do with my old 403(b) when I switch jobs?

If you are an educator, changing jobs means you must decide what to do with the money in your 403b retirement account. Leaving the money in an old 403b may not be the best option since it is not growing and there will be no new contributions. Withdrawing the money makes it taxable income and Uncle Sam wants his fair share.

The best thing to do may be to roll that money over into a retirement account that earns money and will help the balance grow. An old 403b plan can be rolled into a traditional or Roth IRA, tax-free, giving you access to limitless investment options. It can also be transferred to a current employer’s 401k or 403b retirement plan where contributions can continue to be made up to annual federal limits.
 

Traditional or Roth IRA

financesOne of the most popular options for rolling over an old 403b plan is to put the money into a Traditional or Roth IRA account. An IRA account is an independent account that is typically not offered by the employer. Basic IRAs typically have lower interest rates, but your money is completely safe and insured. If you opt to go with a financial advisor and open an IRA that is tied to stocks and bonds, you may earn more at a faster rate, but you also put your money at risk.

A good in-between option is a Premium Market IRA. With this type of IRA, your funds are completely secure, but you earn a higher rate that is tied to the market. It is tax-privileged, earns higher dividends, and your money is insured and safe, so you won’t have to worry about losing money because of the market.

 

403b

Sometimes, rolling over an old 403b means putting the money into a new 403b plan. If a new employer offers a plan with investment options you are comfortable with, then this may be right for you. It is important that you first familiarize yourself with the investment options and potential constraints of the new plan. However, many people enjoy the benefit of growing their nest egg quickly by keeping the bulk of their retirement in a 403b plan. An employer-sponsored 403b plan typically offers low administrative costs, making it an affordable option. There are no tax penalties for rolling money over into a new 403b plan, and you can still make tax-free contributions.
 

401k

If your new employer offers a 401k, then the IRS allows you to roll your old 403b retirement savings into that new account. This is known as a tax-free conversion. There are no tax penalties for this conversion, and you can still make tax-free contributions, subject to annual limits. Many employers also match contributions into a 401k plan, up to a certain percentage, allowing savings to grow quickly. As with the 403b option, the contribution limits are higher, and there is a catch-up provision for people over 50 years old. If you happen to max out your annual contributions, some employer-sponsored 401k plans have provisions that allow participants to make after-tax contributions as well.

Aside from growing your money quickly, a 401k plan offers a certain amount of asset protection, too. First, plan administrators must abide by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, also known as ERISA. This means that they must comply with a set of fiduciary standards that put your best interest first, instead of pushing investments that may maximize profits. Plans are subject to full disclosure of historical performance and administrative fees. Assets are also protected from creditors and can’t be garnished, with a few minor exceptions. Many employer-sponsored 401k plans offer payroll deductions, making it easier to save for retirement.
 
 


The opinions expressed on this page are for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal or financial advice. The views expressed are those of the author of the article and may not reflect the views of the credit union.

Be Prepared for Hurricane Season

Be Prepared for Hurricane Season
Preparation for any natural event is key in reducing the amount of damage done. If you have lived along the Gulf Coast, you know how important it is to prepare for hurricane season. We want to share some tips on the essentials needed to be ready for hurricane season. Our hope is that this will help you and your families if/when the time comes.

Gulf Coast Educators Federal Credit Union has a history of being prepared for natural events and providing our members with essential updates. Members can access all the updates online. Additionally, the credit union provides emergency updates on our Facebook Page, Twitter Page, Instagram Page, and online banking or mobile app.

Prepare at Home
If ordered to evacuate or shelter, you should always prepare the necessary goods and items for at least a week without needing to access a grocery or convenience store. These five items are an essential part of the packing list: bottled water, nonperishable foods, batteries, bags of ice, and a first aid kit. I also suggest looking at The National Hurricane Center website to be aware of future events.

Prepare to Leave
When hurricane season arrives, you should always be ready to leave your current home or area. At any moment, there could be mandatory emergency orders to evacuate the premises as soon as possible. And in this case, it is important to be ready. Know where you will go, how you will get there, and what you should bring beforehand.

Prepare for the Aftermath
With hurricanes, it is difficult to predict what exactly may happen as a result. You may lose power for an extended period, or you may experience severe flooding. In any case, it is important to keep all your insurance contracts and documents safe and readily available. Be ready to handle anything that may come your way, especially when it comes to your assets.

The key is to be prepared and ready for anything.

Additional Resources:
Developing a Family Plan
Creating a Disaster Supply Kit
Having a Place to Go
Having a Pet Plan

Scam Alert – Fake Fraud Alert Text & Calls

Scam Alert – Fake Fraud Alert Text & Calls

Some members have reported receiving fraud alert text messages that appear to be from the credit union. The message asks if the member conducted a transaction and to reply with YES or NO. While the credit union does send fraud alert texts similar to this, fraudsters have copied the same message and are using it as a way to contact members to get more information from them.

In the cases that we have investigated, the fraudster calls the member after sending the text message and proceeds to ask for identifying information, such as your card number, pin, or online banking login information. GCEFCU will never ask for this information.

Here are a few things to remember if you receive a text that claims to be from GCEFCU:

🔹We will NEVER ask for your PIN or online banking password.
🔹Don’t click any links or phone numbers in the text message. Instead, exit the text and call the credit union directly.
🔹You can forward fraudulent texts to 7726 (SPAM) to report it to your phone carrier.
🔹Remember to check your account daily and report any unusual activity.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 281-487-9333.

Here is an example image of the fraudulent text:

Travel Tips For 2021

Travel Tips for 2021

As summertime quickly approaches, we are sure that many of our members are excited to finally be able to travel again and enjoy a well-deserved vacation. Due to the global pandemic, many of us had to cancel or postpone our trips last year. However, with restrictions being lifted and businesses running at full capacity, it seems that things are slowly but surely returning to normal.

Whether you are looking at traveling internationally or within the U.S., the CDC has some recommendations, to help keep you and your loved ones safe. As the vaccine has become readily available, it is suggested to be fully vaccinated prior to traveling. However, you should prepare based on what you think and feel is best for you but keep in mind all the rules and regulations relevant to your travel destination.

It’s also advised to make sure you fully understand and remain updated with all the changes occurring related to travel. These include the requirements made by all airlines and of course your destination, which will vary depending on where you are visiting. Keep in mind that some places will still require the use of a face mask, and of our course social distancing. If you are in the process of planning or have an upcoming trip the CDC website is your best resource for travel during COVID-19.

While taking health precautions and staying safe should be a top priority we also want to remind our members to please make the credit union aware if you plan on traveling internationally. To protect our members and keep your information safe, we block most foreign transactions from clearing your account. However, we can place travel exemptions on your card, which is why we ask that you notify us ahead of time of which countries you plan on visiting and the time in which you plan on being there. This helps maintain your account and funds secure, all while giving you peace of mind knowing that your funds are safe.

We also recommend that when you plan on traveling, especially outside of the U.S., that you always carry an alternate form of payment. We do our best to make ourselves available for our members. Our call center is open from 7 AM to 7 PM on weekdays, and 9 AM to noon on Saturdays. Additionally, after-hour support is available for debit and credit card-related issues, you will be connected to a Visa support specialist. However, when traveling, especially internationally, there are many incidentals that can occur so having more than one form of payment is always best.

Following these steps will take some stress away and allow you to enjoy and relax during your much-deserved time away.

We wish you happy and safe travels!


The opinions expressed on this page are for informational purposes only and are not intended to provide legal or financial advice. The views expressed are those of the author of the article and may not reflect the views of the credit union.

Gulf Coast Educators FCU Ranked in Top 100 Best Performing Credit Unions

Gulf Coast Educators FCU Ranked in Top 100 Best Performing Credit Unions

For Immediate Release: April 23, 2021
Caylee Smith, Marketing Director – csmith@gcefcu.org

Pasadena, TX: Gulf Coast Educators Federal Credit Union is pleased to share that we are listed in S&P Global Market Intelligence’s recent annual rankings of the Top 100 Best-Performing Community Banks and Credit Unions for 2020. GCEFCU is ranked seventh on the list and is the top performing credit union in the state of Texas.

Each year, S&P Global Market Intelligence scores every credit union based on five metrics. The scores are then measured against the industry mean and ranked accordingly. The five scoring metrics used are listed below:

  • Member growth
  • Average loans, net of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, per member
  • Net worth as a percentage of total assets
  • Delinquent loans as a percentage of total loans, net of PPP loans
  • Return on average assets

Gulf Coast Educators FCU is proud to be named the best performing credit union in Texas, and one of the Top 100 Credit Unions for 2020. Our management team and board of directors strive to provide top quality and sound service to all of our members. For a complete listing of S&P Global Market Intelligence’s Best-Performing Community Banks and Credit Unions for 2020, click here.

About Gulf Coast Educators FCU: In 1948, eleven Pasadena ISD educators got together and formed what today remains a credit union dedicated to serving the financial needs of school employees in the state of Texas. The credit union offers its member-owners a full line of banking services, but through a cooperative ownership structure. To learn more about the credit union, visit www.gcefcu.org.

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Six Things You Need to Teach Your Teen About Money

Six Things You Need to Teach Your Teen About Money

How old were you when you opened your first checking account? In today’s world of technology, contactless payments, and mobile wallets, the average age of first-time debit card users is getting younger and younger.

Back in my day (which doesn’t feel that long ago), your parents helped you open a checking account and get a debit card when you got your first job. Before that, you paid for everything with cash, and there wasn’t a need for anything else. There was no Apple Pay or Venmo. I couldn’t even press the internet button on my flip phone without being worried I would bankrupt my parents.

That was then, this is now. Thanks to modern technology advancements, a worldwide pandemic, and a coin shortage, physical cash has become a thing of the past. So what does this mean for future generations?

Simply put, it means we (parents of young impressionable teens) have to start teaching our kids how to handle money at a younger age. We have to do more than just give them a piggy bank and hope for the best. It is our job as parents to give our teenagers the tools they need in order to one day become financially stable adults in an electronic-driven world.

If you, too, are a parent of a teen or pre-teen, these are some suggestions to help you along the way.

1. Open a Student Checking Account

If your kid is 13 or older, they are eligible to have their own Student Checking account. Include them in the process, whether you are opening their account online or in person. Since they are under 18, you will be a joint owner on their account and can monitor their saving and spending as well. They will also receive their own debit card that they can use anywhere that accepts VISA.

2. Set up their Online Banking & Download the Mobile App

Help them create a login for online banking and teach them how to navigate all the different features available. If they have a phone or tablet, have them download the GCEFCU mobile app for free from the Apple or Google Play store. Practice depositing a check into their account electronically by using the Deposit Check (RDC) feature in the mobile app.

3. Teach Them How to Use Their Debit Card Safely

Contrary to what many children believe, a debit card is not a magical piece of plastic that lets you buy anything for free. Explain to your teen that they should only use their debit card at places that they trust, and only if they have enough in their checking account to cover the cost. After they use their debit card a few times, have them log into their online banking to see their transactions.

4. Create a Habit of Saving Money

Good savings habits start early and last a lifetime. If you instill the importance of saving money at a young age, chances are it will grow with them into adulthood. Teach them to pay themselves first by putting a certain percentage of any money they get into their savings account. As an extra perk, you can even transfer them an allowance for chores completed.

Another great way to teach savings is with a Dollar Up account. Every time your teen uses their debit card, the transaction amount will be rounded up to the nearest dollar, and the change deposited into a savings account. It is an easy way to show how saving just a little bit of money can go a long way.

5. Practice Safe Spending

If your teen is going to be using their debit card for online purchases it is essential that you go over safety precautions. Fraudsters steal from young people just as easily as they steal from the elderly. Make sure they know to only make purchases from secure websites, which have https at the beginning. In addition, explain that they should never give out their PIN or online banking login and password to anyone.

6. Don’t Forget to Teach the Basics

As common as debit cards are, it is still important to teach your kid the basics of managing money. Teach them how to write a check, what a routing number is, and how to fill out a deposit slip. Most importantly, educate them on the value of a creating & abiding by a budget.

Some Tips for the Parents

If you are thinking, “my kid isn’t responsible enough to have their own debit card,” you are not alone. But most people, teenagers included, are ignorant in certain areas until they have experience to help them improve. With a Student Checking account, you have full access to their account and can monitor their saving, spending, and even choose their daily limits. Plus, you can see exactly how much they spent on something (and if they owe you any change).

As always, if you ever have any financial related questions, don’t hesitate to give the credit union a call.

From one parent to another – Good luck!


Post author: Caylee Smith, CUCME

The opinions expressed on this page are for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal or financial advice. The views expressed are those of the author of the article and may not reflect the views of the credit union.

The 7 Basics of Budgeting

The 7 Basics of Budgeting

Do you want to get control of your finances but don’t know how or where to start? Are there financial goals that you have but can’t seem to reach? Do you ever ask yourself “Where does all of my money go?” You aren’t alone.

Setting a savings goal or getting out of debt are challenges that can be achieved with a little planning and discipline. Understanding the flow of your money, developing a plan, and committing to your budget are the keys toward financial stability and achieving your financial goals.

1. Ensure that all household parties are involved and determine goals

Building a successful budget depends on the participation of your entire household. When your partner and/or children set goals and are in agreement with the budget it assists in minimizing potential conflicts. If your goal is to save for a family vacation in 2 years, that is something that everyone can work toward! Goals can be as simple as reducing debt or as complex as purchasing a home in cash. For some individuals it may be surprising or uncomfortable to delve into spending habits, but objectively focusing on goals and building a secure financial future is a positive building block.

2. Review your recent account statements

The first step to building a budget is to determine where your money is being spent. A good starting point is to review at least two months worth of statements to average your transactions and view trends. As you review your statements, it is necessary to create a tally of expenses based on categories. Be sure to categorize every transaction listed on your statement – leaving out transactions can exclude important information on where your money is being spent. Some example categories include income, housing expenses, loan payments, transportation expenses, groceries, etc.

3. Compare your income and expenses to determine if there is a deficit

One of the biggest pitfalls of personal finance is overspending. When your expenses exceed your income you may be on a slippery slope towards increasing your debt. If you review your statements and see a deficit between your income and your expenses, you will need to evaluate your expenses to see what areas you can cut back on spending. Although easy solutions for reducing spending include not eating out or purchasing coffee, there are many more areas that can make a difference in saving. Here are some areas that may benefit you in reducing monthly costs:

  • Household expenses: The Department of Energy states that you can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting. Being conscious of turning off appliances and electricity use can also help save money on your monthly bills.
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  • Insurance: If you pay high premiums for your auto or home insurance you may be inflating your monthly expenses. It is always a good idea to review your insurance policies on a yearly basis to ensure that you are receiving an affordable rate. Be sure to review your policy details as well to remove add-ons like rental or roadside insurance if these are not services that you need. GCEFCU is proud to offers in-house insurance services for auto, home, and more! Click here for more information or to receive a quote.
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  • Reviewing pay stubs: Your pay stub can provide a good indication of how much income you receive or could potentially receive. If you have recently experienced a life event such as a new child, marriage, divorce, or other qualifying event you should consider reviewing your tax filing status. Changing your filing status or dependents with your employer can potentially change the amount of your take home pay or tax refund. Although it may seem nice to receive a larger refund check annually, it may be more beneficial to receive more money per paycheck. If your essential expenses are exceeding your income, you may also want to adjust your employer-sponsored retirement plan contributions. It is extremely important to save for retirement, but it is also important to be financially stable in order to not carry excessive debt into retirement.
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  • Subscriptions: As subscription based entertainment is becoming more popular, many people find themselves enrolled in more subscriptions than they need. Removing extra subscriptions for similar products such as tv shows, gyms, fashion items, etc. can save money over the course of a month.
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  • Transportation: Although the convenience of a vehicle is important to most individuals, transportation costs can become excessive. In some cases carpooling, utilizing public transportation, or taking a bicycle could save on monthly expenses. You can also reduce transportation expenses by avoiding tollways or extensive road trips unless necessary.

4. Review and organize current debt obligations

To accurately assess your current debt, you should review any balances owed, interest rates, payment amounts, and payment frequencies. Once this information has been obtained, you can then organize your debt by interest rate. Debts with the highest interest rates are often the best option to start repaying first. The more interest you pay on a debt over time the more expensive that debt will become. It may also be helpful to combine unsecured debts to the lowest interest rate option available. For example, if you have multiple credit cards it may be advantageous for you to consolidate your balances to the card with the lowest interest rate. GCEFCU offers free balance transfers for our members who wish to consolidate their credit card debt.

5. Create a spending plan

A spending plan breaks down your expenses into essential bills, analyzes your income, and designates how you will allocate your remaining funds. Every dollar must be accounted for within your spending plan. If you receive a bonus or other unexpected income, this should be included in your spending plan as well. One of the most important aspects of a spending plan is to create set-aside savings. Set-aside savings prevents you from creating additional debt by instead saving ahead for recurring or unexpected expenses that may not come in the form of a monthly bill. These expenses can include annual insurance premiums, property or income tax, vehicle registration fees, or vehicle maintenance fees. If you are a homeowner, these unexpected expenses could include appliance replacement, hurricane preparation, and emergency repairs. If you have children these expenses could include sports fees, new clothes, doctor visits, school supplies, etc.

6. Create a debt repayment schedule

Within your spending plan you will also need to allocate funds for debt repayment. Once you start to repay your debt, you will begin to see a snowball effect. The snowball effect begins when you set aside a certain amount each month on top of your required minimum payment that goes towards the principal amount of your debt. Once one debt is paid off, you will be able to include the extra amount you set aside and the minimum payment amount of the debt you paid off towards another debt. For example, if you pay $100 in addition to your $50 regular payment for a credit card, once your credit card is paid off you will have $150 to put towards another debt. Seeing a timeline of when your debts will be paid off begins to provide you a true sense of relief and accomplishment that your financial goals are attainable. Click here for a free resource to develop a personalized debt elimination plan.

7. Maintain financial health

Congratulations! Once you have created a budget, spending plan, and debt repayment strategy you are ready to focus on maintaining your financial health. Maintaining your financial health includes avoiding excessive debt, maintaining savings habits, planning for retirement, and investing your funds in accounts that provide you a high rate of return. To view what options GCEFCU has for maintaining your financial health, please click here.


Post author: Elizabeth Thornton, CCUFC

The opinions expressed on this page are for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal or financial advice. The views expressed are those of the author of the article and may not reflect the views of the credit union.

Credit Score Simulator is like having a Crystal Ball

For years, members have asked our team how certain things would affect their credit score. Our team members who deal with these questions consistently would be able to offer sound advice and examples of how different credit decisions could affect a score. But they didn’t have a crystal ball so the explanations would be educated, generic estimates.

As a part of empowering our members with the latest financial tools, we began offering SavvyMoney last year so that members had access to their credit report, score and recommendations instantly. Credit plays a huge role in financial health.

In a recent release, a new feature gave me the answer to the question I had about how a car loan for my daughter’s first car would affect my credit. The Credit Score Simulator gave me some good news and the damage to my score wasn’t as bad as I expected. It really was like having my own credit crystal ball.

While the simulator can’t guarantee the actual rise or drop in score, it is comforting to be able to get a sense of how decisions related to credit could impact my score. Here are some of the activities you can put into the simulator to see how they could impact your score:

  • Adding new loans by type, including Auto, Personal and Mortgage

    credit score down

    Example of simulated credit score where one month of payments missed.

  • Adding new credit cards and balance transfers
  • Increasing balances on cards
  • Raising limits on cards
  • Paying off credit cards
  • Missing monthly payments
  • Making on-time payments

After going through each one, I decided that this would be a good tool to show to my soon to be 18 year old who will no doubt begin receiving credit card offers on her birthday. When I showed her what would happen to my score when I missed monthly payments, she gasped at my score dropping more than 100 points. I think it was a good lesson that hopefully she takes to heart.

I encourage you to log in and get started managing your own credit score. It really is like having a crystal ball which can help you make better decisions when it comes to your credit score.

 

Post author: Jamieson Mackay, CCUFC

The opinions expressed on this page are for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal or financial advice. The views expressed are those of the author of the article and may not reflect the views of the credit union.