Small Business Administration resources

While we do have several small businesses as a part of our membership, we are not set up as a commercial banking institution and do not offer SBA loans. We are unable to participate in any of the SBA Coronavirus emergency lending programs but do want to provide some local resources our members can turn to. We’d like to thank our local chambers of commerce for providing these resources:

For more information, visit the Small Business Administration’s website.

 

If I only had the time

Have you ever said, “I would do    (fill in the blank)_, if I only had the time.” Well, many of us are now working from home and are finding that we do have more time on our hands. I started thinking about this because I saw a funny comment about this very subject:

“After years of wanting to thoroughly clean my house but lacking the time, this week I discovered that wasn’t the reason.”

You can substitute the thorough house cleaning with something you’ve meant to do at work or maybe with your finances and most likely you’ll discover that time wasn’t the reason. My colleague and I were determined to change that while we are working remotely and decided to thoroughly clean our website, our credit union home on the Internet.

Why hadn’t we done this sooner? Probably the same reason as the author of the above quote. It wasn’t a fun activity and we always found other things to do instead. Well, the Spring cleaning is done and everything is up to date and our website is better because we took that first step: we started. And once you get going, you get into a rhythm and you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

If you’ve found yourself with a bit more time, we encourage you to find that thing you’ve been putting off. If your thing is financial in nature, the credit union has the tools you need to get started. For example, if you have always said that you want to understand and improve your credit score but haven’t had the time, then you are in luck. The credit union just added a tool called SavvyMoney to our digital banking system that allows you to view your score, what makes up your score and includes tips to improve your score. Want to take this time to start budgeting better? Again, log into your account and start using the budgeting feature to categorize and track your spending.

As I’ve written before, getting started is the hardest part. Hopefully you’ll find your thing and wonder once it’s done why you didn’t do it sooner. Good luck.

 

 

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.

A good time to focus on personal health

I keep reminding myself that I’m buying low on all of my investments right now. Really low! A lot of personal wealth has eroded recently as retirement savings in the stock market lost all of the gains from the previous few years. The good news is that it will come back up. It may take time but it always comes back.

The same isn’t true of your health. It doesn’t work like the stock market and doesn’t always get better, especially now during the pandemic. It is time to focus on our personal health because personal wealth is no good without being healthy enough to enjoy it.

As we are all forced to stay at home, this seems like a good time to try introducing some new healthy routines into our schedules. Here’s a few I’m trying at the moment:

  • Set an alarm to remind you to get up at least once every 45 minutes. When it goes off, walk around the house or do something active.
  • Go for a walk or bike ride in the morning and evening – but only using social distancing guidelines.
  • Do some yard work – a little every day is good exercise and the reward will be a more appealing yard.
  • Drink more water. I’m committing to at least 4 liters per day.

None of the aforementioned things help if we are not following the advice of medical experts during this time. So with that said, I’m sure we’re all practicing at least one healthy habit way more than we used to – washing our hands. And by the way, my favorite song to sing to make sure I wash my hands long enough is Over the Hills and Far Away by Led Zeppelin. What’s your song? Create your own washing poster with that song’s lyrics.

 

 

 

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.

 

Schools are the glue

I normally write about the subject of money but given recent events, I want to write about the glue that holds society together – our public schools.

I’m a huge believer in the power of education. I’ve seen firsthand how an education can change the trajectory of someone’s life. Education is the great social escalator and our public schools are the vehicle that provides that to everyone.

Much is expected of our schools and I’ve seen how hard school employees work to make sure each student is given the opportunity to learn. My oldest daughter wants to be a teacher like her mom. She knows that it won’t make her financially rich but like so many she feels she’s been called to teach.

Right now, our schools are going above and beyond to provide students with meals and lessons. Go to twitter and you will see that every local school district’s nutrition department is providing meals for students who might go without food since schools are closed. You will see teachers and administrators collaborating and providing students with distance learning opportunities to keep them engaged in academics.

The school districts are doing these things because they are the right things to do and the employees of the districts genuinely care about children. Every time we have a disaster that closes schools, the schools are the first to respond. Remember Harvey? Schools became shelters, districts collected food and clothes for affected families and students pitched in with manual labor. This time is very different except for the way in which the schools have responded. They were among the first of our public institutions to respond. Not surprising because they are the glue that holds our society together.

I encourage you to join me in thanking:

  • the district administrators for making tough choices centered on student and employee safety
  • the teachers working to take an activity that has always been done in person and making it all online
  • the nutrition staff for making to go meals so students don’t go hungry while school is out
  • the technology teams for getting the tools in place to facilitate online learning
  • every member of the school district team that said, “what can we do to help kids?”

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Fraud is not Immune to a Virus

scam alertCovid-19 has affected our world and changed the definition of what “normal” is. People around our area, as well as across the country have started to feel the financial effects of this virus.  Gulf Coast Educators is prepared to handle this difficult time and will continue to assist our members in the ongoing weeks.

With businesses all around making difficult decisions to send workers home, or close all together; we understand the financial stress this puts on everyone.  As a lot of things are changing and adjusting around us, the one thing that is immune to this virus and will continue is fraud. Unfortunately, the credit union deals with fraud every day, and this will continue as well. Currently, one of the most frequent types of fraud we encounter is the “Work from Home Scam.” Fraudsters will use apps such as LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, as well as direct emails and pose as job recruiters wanting you to be personal assistants or shoppers, the best part is that you can do this from your own home. They will send you a check, usually meant for “purchasing supplies” and some extra for yourself. They will ask you to deposit into your account, then wire money back or send some form of gift cards. By the time you do this and send the funds back, your check has been returned and now your account is negative.

With everyone either on “self-quarantine “or not having a job during these times, there is a chance that we will see an increase in this type of fraud. Gulf Coast Educators has an excellent fraud prevention team that is dedicated to not only preventing fraud, but helping our members when their accounts have fallen victim to it as well.  We are constantly training our staff on how to recognize a fraudulent check or scam. Here are some things that can help you identify them as well:

  • The check the scammers will send you will be from out of state and generally overnighted to you at your home.
  • The amount of the check will always be under $5,000 (because they also know the check hold rules for financial institutions) and we have seen them over time be in the range from $2,000 to mid $4,000 range.
  • Like I mentioned above, they will ask you to send funds back somehow, and they will want to have this turnaround be quick as possible.
  • Correspondence will be used in all types of methods, including email and texting.
  • When members have shown us their conversations with scammers in past, we have noticed several grammatical errors that they use.
  • Our front-line staff have been trained to ask questions to you to fight fraud. Scammers are starting to realize this and will instruct you “not to talk to or answer any  questions from credit union employees” when depositing the funds.

These tips are just some of the ways that you can also fight and spot fraud before it happens. Unfortunately, we now live in a society where scammers will try and take advantage of people during extreme hard times and situations. With all the precautions and measures the Coronavirus has made everyone take, fraudsters will use these times of hardship and financial uncertainty to lead you to believe they are trying to help.  In reality, all they will end up doing is causing more stress and burden.

Gulf Coast Educators is always here to help and assist you, with any questions you may have. If you have questions about if a check is real or if you are uncertain if your situation is one that is fraudulent, give us a call or chat with us online and we will make sure and answer your questions. Gulf Coast Educators will remain open through our Contact Center, Website, ITM’s and Drive Thru.

 

 

Post author: Adam Smith, Branch Manager – League City

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.

Full Services Available During COVID-19

GCEFCU is committed to providing our members with the same excellent member service despite our lobbies being closed. Please take a look at the services offered below and the alternate methods in which you can access your funds and conduct transactions. To view branch locations, click here.










Buy low and sell high

Now seems like a perfect time to recite the advice my dad gave me when it came to the stock market: “Buy low and sell high”. I suppose this applies to everything you consider an investment including baseball cards, art and real estate. But like most of you, currently anyway, it applies to our investments in the stock market including our IRAs, 401(k)s and 403(b)s. In a previous post I discussed the emotional reaction to owing the IRS with your tax return. I stated that if you took the emotion out of it, you’d probably favor the smallest refund possible.

The same applies to your long-term retirement investments. As we see record drops in the market, we need to be reminded to take the emotion out of it and not sell low. So how do you take the emotion out of it? A lot will depend on the stage of your career you are in. Obviously, if you were looking at retirement within the next few years then you are more emotionally invested versus a person just starting their career and contributing to retirement vehicles for the first time.

A few tips that I try to live by when it comes to my retirement investments:

  • Don’t look at gains or losses over the short term. Try to look at longer term to get a better idea of the overall growth of your retirement investments. Don’t log in every day to see the drops. I didn’t log in everyday when it was on the rise so I shouldn’t do that when I know it is likely dropping.
  • Make sure to review your portfolio every year or so and make changes based on the length of time until your retirement. Get expert advice if needed to determine what a good strategic mix of stocks versus bonds is for your retirement goal. Most 401(k)s and 403(b)s will have automatic age based balancing options that you can use.
  • Every other week when I’m contributing to my 401(k) or IRA, I remind myself that during these down times that I’m buying more shares. So, shift from looking at dollars to shares and you take some of the raw emotion out because you are not focusing as much on the money.
  • If you’ve been at it long enough, you have history to look back at and see how you came out of similar events in the past. You can find some comfort in knowing this has happened to you before and you are still better off now than you were then.

In the end you must do what you think is best for your situation. You may feel comfortable going it alone or you may want expert advice when it comes to your investments in the market. Either way,  I certainly encourage everyone to buy low and sell high, no matter what you’re buying and selling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post author: Jamieson Mackay, CCUFC

The opinions expressed on this page are those of the credit union’s Certified Credit Union Financial Counselors, staff members and other authors and may not reflect the views of the credit union. Information is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal or financial advice. The views expressed are those of the author of each article.

 

Got my tax refund, but is that a good thing?

I’m feeling super proud of myself for getting my taxes done early this year. We also got a nice refund this year. But is that a good thing?

There are two schools of thought on this subject that we’ll explore.

The first is that tax refunds are bad because it means you overpaid your taxes. The bigger the refund to more you overpaid. Basically, you gave Uncle Sam an interest free loan that he repays through your refund. This school of thought is based on the idea that you can make better use of the money whether that includes saving it or investing it. It makes sense and reminds me of something my dad used to tell me, “No one cares more about your money than you do.” I consider myself fairly good with money (thanks to my parents) and so I know from a rational standpoint I should work to minimize my refund and keep more my money in each paycheck. I already save for my property taxes so I’ve proven to myself that I can do it.

Which brings us to the second school of thought which is less about actual rational thought and more about a gut reaction. If I’m completely honest this is where I find myself. One year in my early career I had to write that check to Uncle Sam that put me into this school of thought. Even now I can remember the gut punch of owing taxes and I swore it would never happen again. It’s all about the feeling. A tax refund feels like a unexpected windfall which is the exact opposite of the feeling you get writing the check to send off with your return.

It’s too late for last year but maybe I’ll revisit this issue with my own taxes and take the emotion out of it and make a strictly rational decision.

In the meantime, I’ve got plans to enjoy the money from my refund.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post author: Jamieson Mackay, CCUFC

The opinions expressed on this page are those of the credit union’s Certified Credit Union Financial Counselors, staff members and other authors and may not reflect the views of the credit union. Information is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal or financial advice. The views expressed are those of the author of each article.

 

Travel back in time with an IRA

Ever thought about how cool time travel would be? You could go back and right wrongs and take care of all the things you should have done. Well, as we all know, time travel does not exist, but you can travel back at least one year with an Individual Retirement Account. You have until April 15th to do something you told yourself you would do last year — open and/or contribute to an IRA.

So while you may feel like you are five years too late in starting your retirement saving, you’ve been given a chance to not make it 6 years too late by still having time to open and fully fund an IRA for 2019 in 2020 as long as you do it before April 15th.

Now that you’ve decided to take advantage of this unique time travel opportunity, you’ll need to decide on the type of IRA you want. Do you want a Roth or Traditional IRA. Here’s a quick side by side just to whet your appetite:

Traditional IRA Roth IRA
Contributions may be tax deductible Pay taxes on contributions
Withdrawals are taxed as income Withdrawals are tax free
No income limits to make contributions Income limits to make contributions
Required minimum distributions at 70 1/2 No required distributions

Please research or consult with professionals to determine which option works best for you. For example, we can’t provide you with any tax advice and if that is one of your main decision drivers, you’ll need to ask a tax professional.

Once you’ve decided on the type of IRA that’s best for you, you’ll have to decide on your risk tolerance and overall strategy. Are you early career and looking for substantial growth or are you mid to late career and looking to protect the saving you’ve already built up? Again, if you wish to tie your IRA to the stock market, you’ll need to consult with a professional. If you are looking for a safe, guaranteed place to grow your IRA, we’ve got good options for you, especially with our Premium Market IRA.

Since you are reading this, you are at least showing interest in IRAs so now I encourage you to do your own research and take action.

 

 

 

 

 

Post author: Jamieson Mackay, CCUFC


The opinions expressed on this page are those of the credit union’s Certified Credit Union Financial Counselors, staff members and other authors and may not reflect the views of the credit union. Information is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal or financial advice. The views expressed are those of the author of each article.

Should you purchase travel insurance?

You’ve booked that vacation you’ve been dreaming about for years, and then you are asked if you want to purchase optional travel insurance. My standard answer used to be “no thanks,” but then my life circumstances changed, and I gave the topic more thought. We booked a trip recently and decided for this trip to pay for the insurance because my father-in-law was ill. He passed away right before the trip so we had the ability to cancel the trip and be reimbursed for the entire trip amount.

Like most insurances, you hope you never have to use it. In the case of travel insurance, it is especially true because it usually means something bad has happened on your trip or before your trip preventing you from going.  Either way, it ruins a vacation. The most common types of travel insurance are medical related and trip cancellation policies.

So when I was asked about travel insurance by a coworker after he booked his honeymoon, my first inclination was to answer no but I paused and thought about recent events and gave him the reasons why he may or may not want to consider it:

  • Health. The overall health of those who are travelling and those loved ones who’s passing would cause you to cancel your vacation. Given recent events, it is worth considering if the types of health risks you might encounter at your vacation destination.
  • Non-refundable. What portion of your travel is non-refundable? The higher the percentage or amount, the more you may want to consider a trip cancellation policy.
  • Existing coverages.  Before you travel, check with your health insurance provider to see what coverage you have based on where you are travelling. Some credit cards may have travel benefits such as medical if you used the card to purchase the travel.

If you do consider this type of insurance, make sure you are getting the coverages you feel will give you the most peace of mind. You don’t have to buy this type of coverage at the time you book your trip so you have the opportunity to shop around to make sure you get the price and coverage combination you need.

UPDATE: Happy to announce that my coworker was married in a beautiful ceremony. He did get the travel insurance and was able to cancel the trip he booked due to travel concerns and getting stuck in a foreign country.

 

 

Post author: Jamieson Mackay, CCUFC


The opinions expressed on this page are those of the credit union’s Certified Credit Union Financial Counselors, staff members and other authors and may not reflect the views of the credit union. Information is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal or financial advice. The views expressed are those of the author of each article.