The Return of Travel

As vaccinations become more readily available across the country and the light at the end of the tunnel grows stronger and closer, Americans once again find themselves getting bitten by the travel bug and will likely resume spending money on travel.

Getting back to business as usual, or some sense of normalcy, is what we all want but at what cost to our wallet? Whether by plane, train, boat, or automobile, Americans are eager to experience a vacation beyond their backyard. And, with the renewed urge to travel, American’s wallets may feel a familiar strain. According to ValuePenguin, people spend an average of about $581 to go away for about four nights within the U.S. and approximately $3,250 for a nearly two week trip abroad.

The United States brought in $972 billion alone from a typically lucrative domestic travel industry in 2019, according to the most recent statistics from Statista. In 2020, Statista estimates that total dropped to $582 billion; a loss of $390 billion year-over-year. Predictions are that those numbers will increase gradually as Americans become more comfortable in a vaccinated world. Estimates suggest domestic travel spending will increase slowly to about $698 billion in 2021. By 2024, Statista predicts Americans will spend about $968 billion on domestic travel.

 

How to travel frugally

If you have the travel bug, do not worry! A vacation away does not have to break the bank. Below are some suggestions for frugal travel from the Travel Channel:

  1. Travel during the off-season – Tours, lodging, and even food is often discounted during the travel “off-seasons.” Consider trekking through Europe in the winter or visiting the Caribbean during the summer months (although this is considered hurricane season, so travel with caution!)
  2. Fly on an off-peak day or time – Flights generally cost much less on a Monday or Tuesday than they do on Thursdays or Fridays. Also keep in mind that the second flight of the day is less expensive than the first.
  3. Skip hotels – Sometimes, hotel rates can skyrocket. If that is the case, consider finding lodging through an app such as Airbnb, which can sometimes save you money while also giving you more space and amenities.
  4. Avoid renting a car – Make a point of researching your destination’s public transportation or ridesharing app capabilities ahead of time. Usually, utilizing these options can save you money over renting a car. When possible, opt to walk around your destination. There is no better way to explore a new city – and you will skip paying for transportation all together.
  5. Eat a fancy lunch – If you are planning to have one “fancy” meal a day on your vacation, make sure to have that meal at lunch rather than dinner. Many restaurants have lunch dishes similar or identical to their dinner menus for a lower cost. In Europe, multi-course lunch specials are common and affordable.

While you are daydreaming about your next bucket-list vacation or road trip, why not get a hold of your finances and make it a reality by budgeting for travel expenses. Easily forgettable expenses, like toll booths and parking fees, are easily forgotten, and don’t forget about those monthly bills that never take a vacation.

Create a plan before you embark on your next trip or keep your budget just a click away by checking out a few of the best budgeting apps for travelers according to SMARTERTRAVEL.

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Paying Taxes…

Since 1913, Americans have been paying taxes to the federal government with states adopting similar tax programs in 1930. Though this annual process has continued for decades, many Americans have been feeling anxious about taxes in recent years. According to a 2019 Nerd Wallet Report on taxes, 26 percent of Americans feel stressed or anxious about filing their taxes. Part of that negative outlook may come from the perception that they may end up needing to pay the government. Only 51 percent of those filing in 2019 expected an income tax refund, compared with 86 percent in 2018.

 

A larger part of that unease likely comes from fear of the unknown surrounding the IRS and its functions. According to the NerdWallet report, about 21 percent of 2019 federal filers said they feared getting audited if they discovered they filed their income taxes incorrectly. Slightly more, or 27 percent, said they are most worried about having to pay more if they filed incorrectly.

 

But Americans’ negativity about taxes may be appeased with the various changes to tax filings this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the standard deduction for 2020 increased to $12,400 for single filers and $24,800 for married couples filing jointly, with income tax brackets increasing in 2020 to account for inflation.

 

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the ways Americans can file taxes this year. Below are some tax deductions and credits to consider during the 2021 tax season from The Dave Ramsey Blog:

 

Tax deductions and credits for the 2021 tax season

 

  • Charitable deductions – The CARES Act allows tax filers to deduct up to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income – total income minus other deductions already taken – in qualified charitable donations if there are itemized deductions. If you take the standard deduction, the CARES act allows a write off up to $300 of charitable contributions made in cash.
  • Medical deductions – Filers can deduct any medical expenses above 7.5% of adjusted gross income (AGI).
  • Business deductions – There are a myriad of deductions self-employed filers can claim on tax returns, including travel expenses and the home office deduction. Unfortunately, these deductions do not apply to employees who have begun working remotely.
  • Earned Income Tax Credit – The EITC is a refundable credit to help low and middle-income workers earning up to $56,844 during the 2020 tax year. This tax credit could save filers anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on income, filing status and number of dependents.
  • Child tax credit – Families can claim up to $2,000 per qualified child with this credit. Since this is a refundable credit, a filer could receive up to $1,400 per child as a refund.

 

Note: Any stimulus money received as relief from the COVID-19 vaccine will not be taxed. Visit irs.gov to learn best practices to ensure a seamless and speedy tax return during the pandemic.

 

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COVID-19: We’re Going to Get Through This – Let Us Help Where We Can

Now that we’re near the end of the second week of Ohio’s state-wide “Stay at Home” order we wanted to take a moment to give an update on the services we at ProMedica Federal Credit Union are committed to continuing to provide to all of our Members.

For now, we will continue to offer extended hours of operations through our drive-thru service at the 2301 W. Central Avenue branch. Monday – Friday 7:00am-7:00pm. Due to low demand we will be ending our temporary Saturday hours of operations. We will continue to review this on a week by week basis.

Outside of this, our Members can always access our services and their accounts through other safe and secure methods – please be sure to contact the Credit Union if you need help accessing any of the following:

  • ATMs: We will make sure our ATMs continue to be stocked and in service. You may also use this Co-Op Shared Branching Locator to find other fee-free ATMs wherever you are.
  • Mobile Banking: Our Online and Mobile Banking allows a full range of services – including: Account Inquires, Mobile Check Deposit, Funds Transfers, and Electronic Bill Pay.
  • Electronic Account and Loan Processing: We are fully capable of receiving, processing, and completing applications for new Membership, secondary accounts, and loans without the need to meet face-to-face. Look here for our full suite of options at our Online Application Portal

Don’t forget we are your Credit Union – the wellbeing of our Members will always be our top priority. The current crisis has created difficulties and, with more uncertain times possibly ahead of us, we’ve rolled out a series of programs that you can look into to gain a little breathing room.

  • Emergency Loans     A $1,000 Emergency Loan will be made available to our Members in need of short-term financial assistance at only 5.99% APR* and a 12-month term. Members may make no payments for the first 90 days. Apply, get approved, and sign online at our Online Personal Loan Portal
  • Payment Deferments     Members in good standing will be able to defer payments on any existing ProMedica FCU Consumer loan for up to 90 days. This will be offered, with no processing fee. Contact us by phone at 419-479-4040 or by email at MemberServices@promedicafcu.com for instructions and details.
  • VISA Skip-a-Pay     We will help facilitate a Skip-a-Pay for qualifying cardholders that will run April 1 through May 31, 2020. Look to your next VISA statement for more details.

These assistance programs are another area we are always looking to review and improve. If there is some way we can offer better service please let us know by email at: MemberServices@promedicafcu.com

Lastly, we want to warn our Members to be careful and cautious of bad actors looking to take advantage of people during situations like this. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has compiled tips for avoiding and dealing with recent and emerging scams, including:

  1. Avoid phishing scams by keeping your anti-malware and anti-virus software up to date on your computer and never click on links from sources you don’t know.
  2. Go directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for the most recent information on the coronavirus, rather than obtaining information from emails and other sources that may not be legitimate.
  3. Watch out for advertisements or “investment opportunities” around coronavirus prevention, treatment, or cures. Consult a medical professional for questions about prevention and treatment.

Always stop and think critically about what is being asked of you – especially if you are being asked to give any personally identifying information (SSNs, Account Numbers, etc..).

We do our best to keep our Members up to date on potential scams by sharing consumer alerts from the FTC on our Facebook page. Another great resource to help you keep your money safe, especially with the Federal Economic Stimulus checks due to start going out soon, is the IRS Corona Virus Center where you can find a wealth of information straight from the source.

Remember, we’re here to help. Be kind and be safe out there!

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Credit subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. Programs, rates, terms, and conditions are subject to change without notice. This credit union is insured by the National Credit Union Administration.

 

Tips and Tricks to Help Manage Your Holiday Expenses

With the holiday season right around the corner, consumers are often unprepared for the additional expenses for those special presents and occasions and exit the holiday season with debt—a gift that unfortunately keeps on giving.

According to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, consumers expect to spend an average of $1,047.83 this holiday season, which is a 4 percent increase from the $1,007.24 they said they would spend in 2018.

Research shows that many Americans who rack up holiday debt do so on high-interest credit cards, averaging $1,230 in 2018, according to an annual survey conducted by Magnify Money. This notes an increase from $1,054 in 2017, and $1,003 in 2016, in holiday spending.

A lack of preparation could be the problem. According to a 2017 survey conducted by mobile startup Varo, 74 percent of Americans say they often fail to budget properly for the holidays, forgetting to take into account the full range of holiday-related expenses such as last-minute gifts, food, decorations, and holiday outfits.

And then there’s always peer pressure. According to a 2018 survey by Bankrate, two in five Americans feel pressured to overspend during the holiday season, with parents and middle-income earners feeling the greatest burden.

Even after the decorations are stored away, debt on credit cards tends to linger beyond the holiday season. According to a Magnify Money holiday debt survey, 49 percent of holiday shopper respondents said it would take five months or longer to pay the season’s debt off of their credit cards. That means in 2018, those shoppers were still paying off their holiday debt into May of 2019.

The statistics are even more alarming for holiday shoppers who are planning to make minimum payments on their debt. For example, it would take more than five years to repay a debt of $1,230 on a card with an annual percentage rate of 16.5 percent if the cardholder was making minimum payments of $30 each month. That shopper would not be rid of the 2018 holiday debt until 2023.

Despite holiday spending pressure, consumers can still enjoy the season’s festivities and manage to avoid a lump of debt through these following spending tips:

  • Look for travel deals. Book your travel early and use online tools such as Expedia or Kayak to comparison shop. Try carrying on your luggage to avoid excessive fees and avoid peak travel dates where possible.
  • Make a gift list. Make an extensive list of all family members, friends, teachers, and more that you need to purchase gifts for so you can accurately define your budget, then set a specific amount you want to spend for each category of recipients.
  • Track your spending. Return to your gift list and budget after each purchase to track your spending and make sure you’re staying within your financial limits.
  • Pick a payment. Plan the way you’ll pay; cash or credit. If cash, start setting aside savings for your spending now. If credit, make a repayment plan to avoid carrying unnecessary debt into next year. If you need a new source of funds for the holidays, consider a seasonal job or suspending certain luxuries for a couple of months.
  • Do it yourself. Get creative and make your gifts. From pictures of the kids to holiday treats, candles and crafts, there are a lot of easy DIY options.
  • Shop the deals. Pay close attention to sales ads and take advantage of big sale days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Sign up for email lists of your favorite retailers, so you receive notifications of exclusive discounts.
  • Share hosting responsibilities. If you’re hosting a holiday get together with family or friends, consider asking guests to each bring a dish and if sharing gifts, consider drawing names instead of buying for all.
  • Start saving earlier next year. In January, open a specialized savings account at your credit union. This will let you easily set aside money each pay period throughout the year, so you’ll be ready to shop more efficiently next season. To find a credit union near you, visit YourMoneyFurther.com
Back -To-School

Shop Smart and Save this Back-To-School Season

Even though summer has just begun, pretty soon it’ll be time to focus on the school year ahead, and if your family is like most, you’re already thinking about purchasing school supplies for the upcoming year.

Back-to-school shopping is the second-largest consumer spending category after holiday shopping, according to statistics from the National Retail Federation and Research Now. An additional survey, conducted by Deloitte, found that 32 percent of families expect to spend more on school supplies this coming year, either because their children need more items, materials are increasing in price, or students need more expensive supplies.

Back-to-school expenses seem to climb every year and can be a strain on family budgets. In a 2016 survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, back-to-school spending has increased 55 percent over the past 10 years, with the average family spending $107.76 on school supplies. Combined with other expenses, such as clothing and accessories, electronics, and shoes, a family could end up spending an average of $674 on back-to-school shopping.

Despite rising costs, back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to be a budget-buster. A little pre-planning and early shopping can help you avoid extra spending. Nationally, 73 percent of back-to-school shoppers plan to shop a month to three weeks before the start of school.

Here are some ways you can shop smart during the back-to-school season:

• Timing Matters: Look for end-of-summer sales and tax-free holidays, especially on big ticket items where you’ll really feel the savings. In Ohio, the tax-free holiday starts on Friday, Aug. 4, 2017, at 12:00 a.m. and ends Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, at 11:59 p.m. To learn more about this tax-free holiday weekend, visit the Ohio Department of Taxation website.

• Plan Ahead: Before making new purchases, take an inventory of supplies you already have around the house. From there, make a list of items still needed. Two-thirds of consumers are likely to buy more than what is on their list, so be sure to stick to your shopping plan.

• Avoid Fancy Supplies: Instead of spending money on the brightest, shiniest, and glitteriest supplies with a licensed logo, which adds to the cost, make them “Do It Yourself” art projects for your kids to decorate.

• Use Technology to Bring Deals to Your Inbox: Let technology save you money by doing an online coupon search, monitor your favorite stores’ social media accounts to get advance notice of sales, and sign up for coupon links.

• Stock Up: If you see a good deal on supplies you know will be an ongoing need, stock up so you’re ready when something runs out, gets lost, or breaks.

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fed

The Fed Who Cried Wolf

If you remember the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf, you have a pretty good idea of the Federal Reserve’s behavior over the past year.
Like the boy in the story, the Fed cried “Wolf!” several times over the past twelve month, but the wolf failed to appear.

OK, the Fed didn’t actually cry “Wolf!,” it cried “Interest Rate Hike!” But you get the idea.

After threatening to raise rates for months, the Fed finally came through with a small bump in the federal funds rate last week.

Markets were fully expecting this move. You may have noticed that mortgage rates have been rising for the past seven weeks. Still, it’s a brave new world when the Fed raises rates for only the second time since the Financial Crisis. It’s a big deal.

The good news is that the Fed felt bold enough to move on rates. They only did this because the economy is finally threatening to speed up to the point where a tighter money supply, (to keep inflation in check) may finally be necessary.

We say “may” here because it’s indeed debatable whether the economy needs any slowing. Sub-3% growth in GDP, teeny-tiny productivity gains and workforce participation numbers straight out of the disco-groovin’ mid-1970s are not exactly reasons to fear an overheating economy and runaway price inflation.

Unless, of course, we’re talking about over-inflated asset classes like stocks or real estate. Which are over-inflated specifically because of the Fed’s freewheeling monetary policies.

Maybe, then, the takeaway from this move is that the Fed believes that the economy is entering a more normal state after years of needing life support. This would indeed be a good thing.

So how does this interest rate hike affect PFCU and our Members? Certain rates will be re-priced eventually, though not immediately. PFCU along with most Credit unions savings rates have stayed well above the rates offered by the banks. Please contact PFCU with any questions.

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Home Equity
Annual Meeting

Annual Member’s Meeting

ProMedica FCU is excited to announce our Member’s Annual Meeting is almost here. It will be held on Tuesday, August 16 from 3:30pm – 5:00pm in the ProMedica Toledo Hospital Education Center Auditorium. Come meet our staff and hear important Credit Union updates. There will be fabulous gifts, door prizes, and great food. Don’t miss it!

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