There’s No Place Like Home: Plan Ahead with Age-in-Place Upgrades

Most older Americans want to stay in their homes permanently and live independently, according to AARP. Now that boomers are getting older, there’s a term for this: “Aging in place.” The trouble is, aging in place comes with a fair number of challenges, considering that most homes aren’t designed for accessibility. However, there are ways to age in place happily and comfortably, as allU.S. Credit Union explains below.

Make Modifications to Your Current Home

Aging-in-place modifications need not look institutional or awkward. These upgrades are simply about making your home adaptable for people of all ages and abilities. The focus is on planning ahead and preventing accidents before they happen. When you consider the rising costs of assisted living, money spent on modifications is money well spent!

  • Select durable, non-slip matte-finish hardwood floors. Smooth floors such as hardwood eliminate trip hazards and make it easier to accommodate wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers. Remove all hazards such as area rugs and electric cords.
  • Install a wheelchair-accessible ramp outside if necessary, along with handrails and grab bars in areas where falls are likely. (More than 30% of seniors suffer from a fall every year. Falls are also the leading cause of death and injury in aging adults.)
  • Pay special attention to the bathroom, and replace the towel bar with a weight-bearing handrail or grab bar. Also, use non-skid shower mats in the bathtub or shower. For those who must sit, have portable shower seats as well as movable shower heads. Consider remodeling your shower so that it’s curbless too. Upgrade your standard 17” high toilet to one that is chair height (19” tall), and you’ll find that everyone prefers it, mobility issues or not!
  • Remove thresholds from doorways to make passing through them easier and to prevent tripping. If it’s not possible to remove them, you can purchase ramps that make it easier to get over them.
  • Widen doorways for wheelchairs. Wheelchairs typically need at least 32,” but ideally 36” of space makes maneuvering easier. Also, make sure that countertops and cabinets can be accessed comfortably from a wheelchair.
  • Replace all door knobs with lever-style door handles. These handles are kinder on arthritic hands with less dexterity and will ensure that you won’t be inadvertently trapped inside your room. Using levered faucets in the kitchen sink are best for older hands too.

Some of this work may require professional contractors. Ask friends and family for referrals, and get written estimates. Keep in mind too that some home accessibility modifications can be deducted from your federal taxes. Widening doorways and halls, adding railings and grab bars, etc. can be considered medical expenses, so be sure to talk with your tax professional.

Downsize to a Smaller Home

Your current house made sense for you when you bought it, but it may no longer make sense for you today or tomorrow. Down the road, you may prefer walking or using a wheelchair to get to your nearest store or doctor’s office rather than driving. You may need a single-story home or access to an elevator, or you may no longer want to spend time maintaining two acres of land.

Familiarize yourself with real estate listings in your area now to get an idea of what it might cost to buy a new home. It’s also key to find a real estate professional who is savvy to the needs of senior buyers. A great agent will also walk you through different scenarios if you prefer to buy and sell at the same time or if you want to buy something new and then sell your home.

Being proactive by modifying your home now is not only a wise investment in your future, but it’s a wise real estate investment too. Age-in-place modified homes are one of the hottest trends on the market. Best of all, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’ve got a beautiful home that will work for you now and into the future.

By becoming a member of allU.S. Credit Union, you can reap the benefits of higher savings rates and lower fees and loan rates. Fill out an online application today!

What do you need to do to improve your finances in 2021?

I know all of us are looking forward to putting 2020 in the rearview mirror.  But as we do that it is a perfect time to prepare for 2021.

Other than the obvious COVID-19 circumstances, another topic on the minds of most Californian’s is personal finances and the stress that comes with it.  With all the job losses and the severe economic slowdown, getting your personal finances in order is a perfect way to prepare for any surprises that may pop up next year.  Below are some vital areas to consider for improving your financial wellness in 2021.

Budgeting

The top way to improve your finances is to create a budget comparing your monthly income with your monthly expenses.  This will help you live with the money you are bringing in and illustrates areas where you may be overspending or even have extra money to help pay off some debt.  allU.S. has free budgeting and money management tools to help you get started.

Personal Debt

The most common budget expense for people is debt, which could be credit card, mortgage, student loans, etc.  It’s very important to understand your debt and develop an action plan to keep your debt under control in an effort to meet your personal financial goals.  

If your debt is high it may be worth considering a debt management plan to help stop collection calls, lower interest rates or monthly payments.  Debt management professionals say people who utilize a debt management plan can usually pay off their entire debt in three to five years.  The most important thing to remember is don’t wait to ask for help until you’re in too deep.  Meet your financial crisis head on.

Taxes

Taxes are the number one area that people overlook when it comes to their personal finances.  There are many opportunities that can help reduce your taxable income like retirement plans, flex spending accounts, charitable donations and even Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).  It’s simple.  By planning out your pre-tax contributions for 2021, you can maximize your tax savings which may help to increase your disposable income.  It’s important to consult a tax professional to evaluate your options.

Evaluate Your Interest Rates

This next step may not be pleasant, but it is necessary.  It’s important to examine all the interest rates you are paying on your loans, which include credit cards, auto, student and mortgages.  You may be able to improve your finances and put more money in your pocket by evaluating how much you could save by refinancing or transferring some of your current debts.

Infuse Your Savings With Cash

Many people can’t handle a financial emergency because they simply don’t have enough money saved. This has become most apparent in this year’s economic decline.  According to bankrate.com over 37% of Americans would have to use a credit card or take out a personal loan just to manage unanticipated expenses.

I can’t express enough how important it is to make saving money an essential habit.  It’s easy to start by putting a little away each month.  As your income increases or expenses decrease start building up a cushion for rainy days.  

Investing

You may already be investing money each month for the future.  But, if you’re not this should be an essential part of your financial wellness plan.  Look to your employer first.  Many employers offer retirement plans like 401ks.  Your employer may even match the money you put aside which helps your balance grow even faster.  There are many investment opportunities to review.  It may make sense to contact an investment professional who can help guide you on what investments make the most sense for your situation.  The sooner you start investing, the more time your money will have to grow.

Make 2021 Your Best Financial Year Ever

By following these simple tips for budgeting your money, managing your debt, boosting your savings and planning for your financial future, you will hopefully be prepared for anything that 2021 may toss at you.  If you are looking for a financial partner that can help, consider allU.S. Credit Union.  We are dedicated to our members in support of ongoing education and financial well-being. We’re committed to being your financial advocate, providing you the necessary resources to better manage your money and make informed financial choices. 

Clean Up Your Finances for the New Year!

After a year of spending, saving, paying off bills and racking up rewards points, your financial life can get a little messy. The end of the year is a great time to regain control of your finances. When you de-clutter your accounts, paperwork and budget, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to make the most of your money.

Roll up your sleeves, dust off your statements and follow these tips for finances that sparkle:

  • Make a budget.  Take the time to examine your budget by detailing everything you spend money on each month, from gas and to dining out.  You’ll see how much you actually need to have on hand each month and what is left over for saving or spending.
  • Streamline your banking. Close up old accounts, switch to online bill pay and sign up for e-statements to reduce paper waste. Shred year-old bank statements, expired warranties, old Social Security statements and tax documents that are over seven years old.
  • Consolidate your debt. Consider rolling all of your high-interest payments into one low-rate personal loan. Close credit cards you don’t need and create a payment strategy to lower your debt. Plan to pay off credit cards with the highest interest rates first.  
  • Organize your savings. Many households have multiple savings accounts, including IRAs, CDs and 401(k)s. Consider moving all of your savings plans to financial institution and consolidating all IRAs to one account. Talk to your employer about moving old 401(k) accounts into the one at your current job, or rolling them to a self-directed IRA. Finally, increase your 401(k) savings so that at a minimum you are saving enough to earn a full match from your employer.
  • Check your credit report.  If it’s been awhile since you last checked your credit report do so now.  Checking your credit report every six months is a smart way to make sure you haven’t been a victim of identity theft. Click here to find out how to get a copy of your credit report.
  • Plan your estate. Update or create your living trust. It’s a fairly easy process that people often put off for obvious reasons. If you have any property (car, house, land, etc.), a living trust prevents lengthy legal battles and guarantees the right people receive your belongings upon your passing.

Need help tidying up? Stop by the allU.S. Credit Union branch or give us a call. We’d be more than happy to help you clean up your finances for 2016!

What do you need to do to improve your finances in 2021?

I know all of us are looking forward to putting 2020 in the rearview mirror.  But as we do that it is a perfect time to prepare for 2021.

Other than the obvious COVID-19 circumstances, another topic on the minds of most Californian’s is personal finances and the stress that comes with it.  With all the job losses and the severe economic slowdown, getting your personal finances in order is a perfect way to prepare for any surprises that may pop up next year.  Below are some vital areas to consider for improving your financial wellness in 2021.

Budgeting

The top way to improve your finances is to create a budget comparing your monthly income with your monthly expenses.  This will help you live with the money you are bringing in and illustrates areas where you may be overspending or even have extra money to help pay off some debt.  allU.S. has free budgeting and money management tools to help you get started.

Personal Debt

The most common budget expense for people is debt, which could be credit card, mortgage, student loans, etc.  It’s very important to understand your debt and develop an action plan to keep your debt under control in an effort to meet your personal financial goals.  

If your debt is high it may be worth considering a debt management plan to help stop collection calls, lower interest rates or monthly payments.  Debt management professionals say people who utilize a debt management plan can usually pay off their entire debt in three to five years.  The most important thing to remember is don’t wait to ask for help until you’re in too deep.  Meet your financial crisis head on.

Taxes

Taxes are the number one area that people overlook when it comes to their personal finances.  There are many opportunities that can help reduce your taxable income like retirement plans, flex spending accounts, charitable donations and even Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).  It’s simple.  By planning out your pre-tax contributions for 2021, you can maximize your tax savings which may help to increase your disposable income.  It’s important to consult a tax professional to evaluate your options.

Evaluate Your Interest Rates

This next step may not be pleasant, but it is necessary.  It’s important to examine all the interest rates you are paying on your loans, which include credit cards, auto, student and mortgages.  You may be able to improve your finances and put more money in your pocket by evaluating how much you could save by refinancing or transferring some of your current debts.

Infuse Your Savings With Cash

Many people can’t handle a financial emergency because they simply don’t have enough money saved. This has become most apparent in this year’s economic decline.  According to bankrate.com over 37% of Americans would have to use a credit card or take out a personal loan just to manage unanticipated expenses.

I can’t express enough how important it is to make saving money an essential habit.  It’s easy to start by putting a little away each month.  As your income increases or expenses decrease start building up a cushion for rainy days.  

Investing

You may already be investing money each month for the future.  But, if you’re not this should be an essential part of your financial wellness plan.  Look to your employer first.  Many employers offer retirement plans like 401ks.  Your employer may even match the money you put aside which helps your balance grow even faster.  There are many investment opportunities to review.  It may make sense to contact an investment professional who can help guide you on what investments make the most sense for your situation.  The sooner you start investing, the more time your money will have to grow.

Make 2021 Your Best Financial Year Ever

By following these simple tips for budgeting your money, managing your debt, boosting your savings and planning for your financial future, you will hopefully be prepared for anything that 2021 may toss at you.  If you are looking for a financial partner that can help, consider allU.S. Credit Union.  We are dedicated to our members in support of ongoing education and financial well-being. We’re committed to being your financial advocate, providing you the necessary resources to better manage your money and make informed financial choices. 

How Do You Give Thanks This Year?

2020 has been a tumultuous time and because of that Thanksgiving will look a bit different this year.  Every year, people across the country travel and gather to not just eat a meal, but to participate in one of our nation’s most cherished traditions. Thanksgiving isn’t about turkey, football, or preparing for Black Friday. Thanksgiving is the one holiday we celebrate that focuses on what happens when unique individuals come together to form a cohesive whole, a family.  

This year many traditions will be put on hold. Many people will be spending the holiday away from family and friends due to COVID-19–related travel restrictions or safety concerns. 

This Thanksgiving is an opportunity to think outside the box. It may inspire you to throw out your traditional playbook and opt for an entirely new menu (maybe that’s something you’ve secretly wanted to do for years anyway). Or you may be seeking just the opposite, longing to replicate some semblance of your family’s Thanksgiving traditions because you find them comforting in these uncertain times. Perhaps you’re looking for thoughtful ways to show your family, friends, or community that you care even if you can’t do it in person. 

That spirit of family and every one of the people who make this credit union great is what we are most grateful for. We certainly hope that, for at least one moment on Thanksgiving Day, you can cherish the stories and the journey that everyone near or far took to be with you in person or virtually. On any other day, those moments can be very fleeting, but on Thanksgiving, they are a treasure, just like you.

From all of us here at allU.S. Credit Union, thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!

Filipino American History Month

During October in the United States, Filipino American History Month is celebrated.  The Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) proposed the first annual Filipino American History Month to be celebrated in October 1982 with a resolution from the FANHS NAtional Board of Trustees.  In 2009, the U.S. Congress recognized October as Filipino American History Month in the United States.

The celebration of Filipino American History Month commemorates the first recorded presence of Filipinos in the continental United States, which occurred on October 18, 1587, when “Luzones Indios” came ashore from the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Esperanzo and landed at what is believed to be Morro Bay, CA

Filipino Americans have deep roots in our region.  After the Spanish American War and as a result of the Chinese Exclusion 
Act of 1882 and the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924, Filipinos supplied a greater share of labor to the local agricultrual industry.  Like the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and Mexicans before them, Filipinos were largely migrant workers and suffered racial discrimination.  One such episode occurred over a four-day period in 1930 in Watsonville, when Filipino American farmworkers were violently assaulted by residents opposed to immigration.  This episode, call the Watsonville Riots, highlighted the racial and socioeconomic tensions in California’s agricultrual communities exacerbated by the Great Depression.

The 2020 Filipino American History Month theme is the History of Filipino American Activism.  The FANHS chose this theme “to highlight the myriad ways Filipino Americans have participated in social justice movements, including but not limited to, the United Farmworkers Movement, the fight for Ethnic Studies, Hawaii Sugar Plantation strikes, Washington Yakima strikes, and Anti-Martial Law Movements across multiple decades.”

Celebrate Filipino American History Month by learning about the many Filipino American activists that have fought and continue to fight for social justice, such as labor activist Larry Itliong, by reading Governor Newsom’s Proclamation Declaring October 25, 2019, Larry Itliong Day.  Or learn about one of the many examples of Filipino American unionism on the West Coast, such as the Filipino Labor Union and its role in the Salinas Lettuce Strike of 1934.

DISCOVER THE FREEDOM OF THE OPEN ROAD!

It’s time to get on the road again.  Experience a real family adventure on wheels.  It’s not about where you go or the money you spend.  It’s about the moments you share during these uncertain times.

We can get you there with our affordable low-rate loans.  Whether you’re looking for a new car or Recreational Vehicle (RV), set your wheels in motion for savings!

  • RV Loans As Low As 3.99%*
  • Auto Loan Rates As Low as 1.99%*

With RV/Auto financing from allU.S. Credit Union, we’ll make sure getting to your destination is half the fun…and make the journey affordable, no matter the season.

Apply now online or through our App, www.alluscu.com or call us at 831-789-8020.

*Must qualify for rate discount.  Applied reductions will not lower the rate below the current floor rate of 1.99%. Some restrictions may apply.  Loans currently financed with allU.S. Credit Union are not eligible.

SHOULD I CUT THE CORD?

The Crown, Game of Thrones, Queen of the South, Ozarks.  Everyone loves a good television show and they are made available to us through mainstream TV via cable and satellite.  Whether it’s Comcast, DirectTV, AT&T, Xfinity or DISH, your cable service has proved to be very expensive – $100/month for 200 channels that most people don’t even watch.  What’s the alternative?  Streaming services that have picked up about 4 million subscribers because it’s cheaper.  If you’re on the fence about cutting the cord, we will discuss why you should, and provide you the options to move forward. 

How do I start my streaming journey? 

If you have an adequate internet connection, you are ready to cut the cable.  So, what now?  The first thing you need to do is obtain some type of streaming device.  This can be a Roku Stick, Apple TV, Google Chromecast or an Amazon Fire Stick.  If you have a smart TV some of these apps (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube) may already be built into the TV and you can use it instead of a separate streaming device. 

If you are concerned about cutting yourself off from the cable world and your favorite channels, you might consider a subscription cable replacement service like Sling TV, DirecTV Now, PlayStation, Vue, Hulu, YouTube TV and many more. 

Word of Caution:  if you sign up for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+ and Hulu, your bill will start to add up quickly.  Will it be cheaper than a cable bill?  Absolutely.  But make sure you actually use the streaming services you sign up for.

Easy to Use

Cable users usually have a lot of buttons to push with a large menu to select from.  For you cord cutters out there, it’s a lot easier to navigate the shows and watch what you want.  

Portability

You get to watch your streaming content anywhere by default, using your mobile devices (laptop, tablet, smartphones, etc.).  It’s perfect for anyone who is on the road.

Instant Access

Once you switch from cable to streaming, you are in total control of everything you are watching.  You can pause and stop and go back to watch it later.  This is perfect for the binge watcher.  We have a side benefit for you.  You may be able to cut the amount of time you are watching TV.  No more channel surfing and you’ll be more inclined to watch a specific program.

Deciding to cut the cord is definitely hard to do, but all these alternatives can help you be more confident in your decision.  If you are currently paying for a service and there might be a better option out there that meets your needs and especially your budget, then it’s definitely worth a look.  You can watch great shows and save money at the same time by CUTTING THE CORD!.

Summer 2020: The Season of Road Trips

I think we can all honestly say that the summer of 2020 will live in our minds forever.  Staying close to home, reducing vacation costs and staying healthy have been the goal for all of us this summer.  Whether you are planning a family road trip, a trip for two or just driving solo, we’ve put together a few tips to help you prepare for the road.

Get Your Feet Wet by Taking a Day Trip first.  If you are planning an extended road trip, we suggest you get your feet wet by planning a day trip close to home.  This will give you an indication of what you’ll need to do to prepare.  For example, how many snacks you will need and how much hand sanitizer you will go through in a day.  Your one-day trip will help you get an idea of what to expect for your longer trip.

Get Your Car Ready for the Road.  AAA published a helpful checklist to help you make sure your vehicle is as ready for your road trip as you are.  It’s especially important this year, as availability of service might be limited, and few outside contacts are desirable.  If your own vehicle is not the best option for a long road trip, why not rent one that’s bigger and more fun to drive?  Picture yourself in a cute red convertible for rolling down Highway One or a sturdy SUV for tackling mountain roads.  Or, you can opt for a sleek luxury car for a smooth, stylish ride.  No matter what rental company you decide to work with, be sure to review their cleanliness policies, along with pickup, return and pricing. 

Plan Your Route and Keep it as Simple as Possible. Preparation for any road trip is essential but especially important during the Coronavirus pandemic.  Limit the number of places you visit and make a note of rest areas that may be closed so you can plan your stops appropriately.  Also, as tempting as it may be to visit as many landmarks and quick stops along the way, keep your list of must-sees short to avoid additional exposure to large groups of people.  Visit the Roadtrippers website for assistance in planning your route.  Know your roads, highways, and freeways to avoid detours and unexpected closures.  Your local AAA can provide up-to-date road information and directions.  

Gear Up.  Make a list of items that you’ll need and want along the way.  Stock the cooler with all your snacks and beverages.  Pack a travel kit, including masks for everyone plus a few extras, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, isopropyl alcohol wipes for phones, travel laundry detergent to wash fabric masks, and a thermometer.  It is also advisable to include an extra cell phone charger, first-aid kit, blanket, flashlight, basic tools, jumper cables and gloves.

Don’t Take a Vacation from Safety.  Keep yourself and others traveling with you healthy during your summer road trip by following CDC guidelines.  Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth; washing your hands frequently; keeping six feet of physical distance; and wearing a face covering.  Car and RV travel are considered lower-risk options.

Research Ways to Save.  While taking a summer road trip can reduce your vacation expenses, it still won’t be cheap.   A little research could help you find great deals on hotel stays and attractions.  See what businesses are offering travel deals online and use an app like GasBuddy to help you make the most of your fuel.

Make Safer Purchases.  It’s always a good idea to bring a little cash on your trip, just for emergencies.  It’s also prudent to rely on your credit or debit card for your expenses on the road.  Remember, these cards add extra protection against theft and fraud while making it easier to track your spending. 

Monitor the Coronavirus Spread.  As your road trip gets closer, be sure to watch for COVID updates from the communities you plan to visit.  Some of your destinations may have adjusted hours or close on certain days for increased cleaning measures.  

We would be remiss not to mention that safe travel isn’t just the responsibility of hotels, restaurants and popular destinations.  Heeding state and local laws are imperative in keeping yourself and others safe.  We will all need to modify our behavior and make adjustments, so travel is possible this summer and for the rest of 2020.

So, if the open road is calling you, play it safe for a truly memorable summer road trip.

Protect Your Financial Health During and After the COVID Crisis

As we are all painfully aware, the Coronavirus has altered many aspects of our lives.  People are working and studying from home and shopping and intermingling in ways we never would have expected one year ago.  Simultaneously, millions of people have suffered a significant loss of income at an alarming rate through pay cuts, decrease in work hours and layoffs and furloughs.  These reductions came in response to the stay-at-home orders as businesses and other organizations were forced to close their doors.

The uncontrollable household debt and a continuing health crisis has a lot of individuals and families strapped for cash and need to learn how to manage their debt now and after the health crisis comes to an end.

If you find yourself in debt as a result of the COVID crisis, don’t despair, because there are many steps you can take to effectively deal with your debt.  Dealing with your debt now will put you in an even stronger position when the economy starts its recovery.  There’s no time like the present to buckle down by getting organized and start dealing with your debt in a few easy steps.

You need to know what you owe.

Create a list of all your creditors, your balance with each, your current interest rate and your payment schedule.  This list will allow you to decide how to eliminate your debt over a specific period of time.  This may also be a great opportunity to summarize your recurring monthly bills in an effort to see if there are any areas you could cut or reduce your expenses.

Act swiftly

Contact your creditors to explain how the health crisis has affected your ability to meet your monthly obligations.  There is no shame in asking them for some type of financial assistance.  When you understand your options, you will have the tools you need to help manage your debt.  Now is also a good time to research lower interest rates, balance transfers or other payment options that can help you confront your debt.

Make your payments in a timely manner

Your on-time payment history is the leading contributing factor to a respectable credit score.  Payments 30 days in arears or more negatively affect your credit score.  So, if you’re late, but within that 30-day period, pay up now before it is reported.  Even if you can only pay the minimum, it’s important to pay on time.  The other important reason to pay on time is the impact the late fees will have on your budget and overall debt.  Try automating your payments which can eliminate paying late fees.

Prioritize your debt

Pay off high-interest loans first.  This is called the debt avalanche theory.  This payment method will minimize the burden of compounding interest on your monthly payments.  By using this methodology, you make minimum payments on all but your highest-interest credit.  Once you’ve paid off your first balance, you move on to the second-highest interest rate, and so it continues down the line.

If you are daunted with the size of your balances, maybe a different tactic can be utilized.  Check out the debt snowball method.  

Don’t take on any unnecessary new debt

As you walk through your debt management process and your credit score improves, you can become a target for credit card companies to entice you with new cards with introductory rates.  Stay true to your debt management plan and in time it will work.

Pay yourself first

Make yourself a line item in your monthly budget and pay yourself.  Start by creating an emergency fund to deal with sudden expenses without falling back to credit cards.  Once you have a healthy emergency fund, focus on your retirement goals.  

If you follow these simple steps, you will be in a stronger financial position when the COVID crisis comes to an end or when another crisis comes around.  You’ll be in control of your debt instead of your debt being in control of you.  Talk to us and take advantage of allU.S. Credit Union products and resources.  Unlike the big banks, we’re committed to protecting the financially vulnerable.  If you need some personal guidance on how to navigate these challenging times, we’re here to help.  Ask about our Recovery Loan, skip-a-pay options, and payment extensions.  Always remember the health and success of your credit union depends on our members and your financial health is our number one priority.  So, let’s wash our hands and get down to business.