Advantage One Credit Union has served the Downriver community since 1952. Our commitment to provide superior member service and quality products and services has remained our prime focus throughout our growth.
1952 - On January 24, 1952 the credit union's charter was approved as the McClouth Employees Federal Credit Union, serving employees of McClouth Steel Corporation.
1982 - The credit union's name was changed to Southgate Community Federal Credit Union and the field of membership was expanded to serve the families living or working in Southgate.
1991 - Our name was changed to Southgate Federal Credit Union and the city of Riverview was added to our field of membership.
1993 - The Riverview office was opened in 1993 to better serve members across our expanding field of membership.
2001 - The field of membership was expanded to include 15 Downriver communities. To better reflect the new, broader field of membership, the name was changed to Advantage One Federal Credit Union.
2003 - The Brownstown branch was opened on September 17, 2003. The branch was built to act as the new headquarters to house the growing support staff and to offer better convenience to our newly expanded field of membership.
2007 - We expanded our field of membership once again to include Taylor, Huron Township and Romulus.
2016 - We adopted a state charter and removed "Federal" from our name. We expanded our field of membership greatly to include the following Michigan counties: Clinton, Eaton, Genesee, Hillsdale, Ingham, Jackson, Lapeer, Lenawee, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Shiawassee, St. Clair, Washtenaw, & Wayne.
For a complete listing of the communities we serve, please click here.
Title: Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Trading for Beginners 2021: 3 Books in 1: The Ultimate Guide to Start Investing in Crypto and Make Massive Profit with Bitcoin, Altcoin, Non-Fungible Tokens and Crypto Art
Author: Nicholas Scott
Paperback: 397 pages
Publisher: Independently published
Publishing date: April 11, 2021
Who is this book for?
Aspiring cryptocurrency investors who are looking for advice on entering this unique market.
Experienced cryptocurrency investors who want to expand their knowledge of cryptocurrency, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and crypto art.
Readers who don’t want to take the risk of investing in cryptocurrency, but are interested in learning how it works.
What’s inside this book?
A down-to-earth beginner’s guide into the world of crypto investing.
Advanced analysis of the cryptocurrency market.
Tips and tricks for making it big through cryptocurrency.
Strategies for choosing the perfect coin and keeping your investments safe.
A step-by-step guide for creating and selling your own NFTs.
3 lessons you’ll learn from this book:
How to make your first cryptocurrency investment.
How to build the perfect cryptocurrency trading strategy.
The 6 secret qualities of a high-value NFT.
5 questions this book will answer for you:
What is cryptocurrency and how does it work?
Is it a good idea to invest in cryptocurrency?
What are NFTs and why are they the currency of the future?
How can NFTs be used in the digital world?
What is crypto art?
What people are saying about this book:
“Don’t know what a Bitcoin is? Confused by cryptocurrency and art? These three books explain what they are and how to invest in them. The author also explains how crypto art can be a profitable investment.”
“I found this book understandable and well written. I found the part on the NFTs really interesting. I used to be skeptical about NFTs, but after reading this book, I understood how they work and how they can be used as an investment.”
Your Turn: What did you think of Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Trading for Beginners? Share your opinion in the comments.
With many indoor attractions still closed or operating only at a limited capacity, there’s never been a better time to pack up the car, RV or camper van and set out on the road trip of a lifetime. However, without careful planning, a road trip can get pricey, especially with soaring gas prices and the rising costs of food. For this reason, we’ve put together seven solid tips for a budget-friendly road trip. This should help you hit the road in style without breaking your budget.
1. Save on food costs
Food can quickly turn into the biggest expense of your trip unless you plan ahead. And no, this doesn’t mean dining only on canned baked beans or instant soups for the duration of your trip. Here’s how to save on food costs during your road trip:
Stock up on staples while at home. Shop your local stores for basics before setting out. Once you’re on the road, you won’t have as many choices for food shopping, which may stimulate overspending.
Get your “kitchen” into gear. Unless you’re road-tripping in an RV or camper van that comes with a fully equipped kitchen, you’ll need to gear up for basic food prep on your trip. A good knife, cutting board and small cooking appliances, like a portable grill, panini maker and plug-in burner, can be great starting points.
Plan a mix of meal types. You likely want to eat some meals out during your trip, but overdoing the dining out will quickly kill your budget. Instead, mix it up, alternating between home-cooked meals, dining out on fine cuisine and tasting local street foods.
Only eat out at places you don’t have at home. For further savings, save the dining out for delicacies that are unique to your current location. Think fresh seafood on the Oregon coast, authentic Korean food in K-Town of Los Angeles or Cajun food in New Orleans.
2. Camp out instead of sleeping in hotels
Sleeping under the stars whenever possible will add another layer of awesome to your trip. Check out recreation.gov, where you can book accomodations at 3,600 facilities and 103,000 individual sites across the country. Lots of camping spots will run just $20 a night.
3. Find free attractions
Who says you need to pay for your fun or it doesn’t count? Most tourist hotspots will have a wide selection of free activities and sights to see at no cost, like the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. and city street art in Pittsburgh, PA. Check out local websites or ask around on the street to find the best-kept secrets at each location.
4. Map out your route for greater savings
Instead of blowing money on gas, create a detailed schedule of all your stops before setting out, choosing the most efficient and inexpensive route. Look up local attractions in the areas you plan to stop at to book reservations in advance when possible. In many places, you can save a tidy bundle of cash just by pre-booking. Also, keep in mind that many attractions still require reservations as a COVID-19 precaution, so be sure to plan accordingly.
5. Download GasBuddy
With gas prices hitting $4 a gallon in some parts of the country, your car’s tank can take a huge chunk out of your road trip budget. Download the Gas Buddy app before hitting the road to find the stations selling the cheapest gas throughout your journey. You can save hundreds of dollars on gas costs by leveraging this game-changing app.
6. Check in on a Sunday
For those nights when you must have a hot shower and comfortable bed, you’ll likely be checking into a hotel. If you can swing it, check in on a Sunday. According to a study conducted by the travel app Kayak, hotel reservations are at their lowest rates on Sundays.
7. Explore more and drive less
Hit the brakes and get out of the car! Spend some time covering miles on foot by hiking through local trails or even backpacking through city streets. You’ll enjoy an enriching experience and save on gas costs at the same time.
Your Turn: Do you have more tips for budget-friendly road trips? Share them with us in the comments.
A: While it appears to be a seller’s market, and the perfect time to put your home up for sale, there are many variables to consider before going forward. Below, we’ve outlined important points to know about today’s market so you can make an informed decision about selling your home in 2021.
Is it a seller’s market now?
According to Realtor.com, the current supply of homes on the market is at an all-time low, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in more than two decades. This can be attributed to the federal moratorium on foreclosures, as well as the months-long halt on new construction.
At the same time, demand for homes is up, as many millennials are entering their peak homebuying years, mortgage rates hit record lows and more people are working from home than ever before. In fact, in 2020, more homes were sold than in any year since 2006, according to data from the National Association of Realtors.
Naturally, when demand exceeds supply, prices will go up. Let’s take a look at some of the current trends driving this market, as shared by Realtor.com and Redfin.com:
Home sales are up by 44% from a year ago.
The median home price for all listings increased by 12.2% over last year for the week ending June 19, 2021.
The national median home price for all housing types in May 2021 was $380,000.
Homes are on the market for 33 fewer days than last year.
In May 2021, the average home sold in just 16 days.
54% of homes sold in May 2021, sold above their list price.
Clearly, it is a seller’s market.
Will the market conditions last throughout 2021?
Most experts are doubtful that the current seller’s market will remain through the rest of the year. They cite several reasons for their prediction.
First, while demand for homes is currently strong, the rising prices of homes across the country are driving many buyers out of the market, thereby slowly decreasing demand. At the same time, more sellers are putting their homes up for sale to take advantage of favorable market conditions, increasing supply. Also, with the federal moratorium on foreclosures and evictions ending on July 31, more homes are expected to enter the market. Finally, mortgage rates have already started to climb upward: according to Bankrate’s most recent survey of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders. As of June 27, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate is 3.10%, up two basis points from the previous week. All of these factors combine for a likely market cooldown over the next few months, with demand for new homes decreasing as supply increases, until the two are a lot closer than they are now.
If you do want to sell your home this year, it’s best to act as soon as possible to take advantage of favorable market conditions.
Why might it be a bad idea to sell my home now?
Under certain conditions, it may not be in your best interest to sell your home now.
First, a real estate market that favors sellers works both ways: You will be on the wrong side of the aisle when buying a new home. If you are upsizing, you will likely need to pay a lot more for your new home than you would when the market settles down. With moving costs, home repairs and improvements you may need to make when putting your home on the market, and the realtor’s commission, you can end up losing money from the sale, even with the higher price you may get for your old home.
Also, with the demand for new homes currently outpacing supply, you’ll have slim pickings when searching for a new home. You may need to settle for a home that doesn’t meet your wants, or even your needs, simply due to the lack of a better choice.
However, if you are downsizing or moving to an area that is not as in-demand as your current neighborhood, this can be a great time to get top dollar for your home and walk away with a nice profit. Before you put your home on the market, though, it’s a good idea to do some research to ensure you can find and easily afford a new place to live.
It’s a seller’s market right now, but that doesn’t mean you should rush to put your house on the market. Research the current market conditions carefully and read the points outlined above so you can make an informed and responsible decision.
Your Turn: Have you decided to sell your home in 2021? Tell us about your decision in the comments.
Hello, summer! It’s the season of flip-flops and ice pops, of sun-drenched afternoons and lazy days at the beach. And, unfortunately, summertime is also prime time for scammers. People are more relaxed, schedules are looser and vacationers are traveling in unfamiliar locations. All of this can lead people to let their guard down during the summer, and the scammers know it.
Don’t get scammed this summer! Follow these tips to stay safe.
1. Never pay for a “prize” vacation
So you won an all-expense-paid trip to Aruba? Or a vacay in a remote French chalet? Sounds like a dream come true, but if you follow through, you’ll be caught up in a nightmare. If you’re asked to pay even a small fee to claim a free vacation prize, you’re looking at a scam. A legitimate company will never ask winners to pay a fee for a prize.
2. Use a credit card when traveling
A credit card will offer you the most protection in case something goes wrong. You’ll be able to dispute unauthorized charges, and in most cases, reclaim your lost funds.
3. Ignore celebrity messages
Celebrities might have a direct line with the public through their social media platforms, but don’t believe a private message appearing to be from your favorite movie star, singer or athlete. A direct message from a celeb asking for money for a charity, or claiming you’ve won a prize, but need to pay a processing fee, is a scam.
4. Check for skimmers at the pump
If you’ll be spending a lot of time on the road this summer, and pumping gas in unfamiliar places, it’s a good idea to check the card reader for skimmers before going ahead with your transaction. A card skimmer will read your credit or debit card information, enabling a scammer to empty your accounts. Here’s how to check for a skimmer on a card reader:
Try to wiggle the card reader; this should dislodge a skimmer if there is one.
Check the keypad to see if it looks newer than the rest of the card reader.
Touch the surface of the keypad to see if it’s raised.
5. Research vacation rentals carefully before booking
With so many vacationers now booking stays at private homes instead of hotels, scamming travelers is easy. All it takes is a few fake photos, a bogus address, and you’ve got yourself a fake vacation rental. In other vacation rental scams, scammers will falsely advertise a rental as a beachfront property when it’s not, claim that it’s larger or more up-to-date than it is or promise amenities that are missing when you arrive.
Don’t get scammed! Before booking a vacation rental, read the reviews left by previous guests. If there aren’t any, or they don’t sound authentic, you’re likely looking at a scam. You can also look up the address of the rental to see if it in fact exists and if the location matches the description in the listing. As another precaution, you can ask the owner for more details about the property just to see their reaction; if they sound vague or uneasy, it’s likely a scam. Finally, as mentioned above, use a credit card to pay for the stay so you can dispute the charges if it ends up being a scam.
6. Vet potential contractors well
Contractors who go from door-to-door looking for work are a fairly common summertime sight. Unfortunately, though, some of these “contractors” are actually scammers who are only looking to con innocent homeowners out of their money. They’ll deliver shoddy work at an inflated price, go AWOL once a down payment on the job’s been made or do more harm than good with their “home improvement” work.
It’s best to only hire contractors whom you’ve personally reached out to instead of waiting for one to come knocking on your door. Also, before hiring, thoroughly research a potential contractor, asking for contact info of previous clients, checking out their online presence and looking up the business on the BBB website. Finally, it’s best not to agree to pay more than a third of the total cost of a job before the work commences. Even then, only pay when you see the materials arrive.
Don’t let summertime turn into scam-time. Stay alert, follow the tips outlined above, and stay safe!
Your Turn: What are your tips for a scam-free summer? Share them with us in the comments.
The Child Tax Credit, a part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 that takes effect in July, is already drawing the attention of scammers. The newly expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) will provide monthly payments of up to $300 per child for approximately 40 million households across the country. Payments will be issued via direct deposit, paper check, or debit cards, providing a plethora of opportunities for scammers to get in on the action.
Here’s what you need to know about Child Tax Credit scams and how to avoid them.
How the scams play out
There are several variations of the Child Tax Credit scam, each ultimately designed to trick parents and guardians out of their rightful CTC funds.
In one variation of the scam, victims receive phone calls, emails or social media messages appearing to be from the IRS and asking them to authenticate their personal details or share sensitive information in order to receive their CTC funds. In lieu of pretending to represent the IRS, the scammer may also claim to be in the position of “helping” the victim receive their funds. Unfortunately, in either scenario, if the victim follows the instructions of the contact, they will be playing right into the hands of a scammer.
In another variation of the scam, victims land on a spoofed government website where they are prompted to input their personal information. This scam is especially common, as the IRS has announced that it will be launching two web-based portals for families who’d like to update their information for the CTC: one for taxpayers who file annual returns and would like to share their banking details or a change in the number of dependents they have in their household, and one for taxpayers whose income level falls below the threshold for filing returns. While the two separate sites will make the application process smoother for the IRS, they also open the door for more bogus sites to spring up and snag unsuspecting victims in their trap.
What you need to know about the Child Tax Credit
As always, knowledge is your best protection against potential scams. Here’s what you need to know about the CTC and the way the IRS operates:
The IRS does not make unsolicited calls or emails. All official communications from the IRS are sent via standard USPS mail. The IRS will never call, email, text, or DM you asking you to share sensitive information.
You do not need to take any action or share personal information to receive the Child Tax Credit. If you’ve filed taxes in 2020, or even in 2019, and you’re eligible to receive the CTC funds, they will arrive via paper check, debit card or direct deposit without any action on your part. You only need to update information on one of the upcoming IRS portals if you’ve had a change in income, the number of dependents in your household or you’d like to share your banking information with the IRS.
Only the IRS will be issuing the Child Tax Credits. Anyone else claiming to “help” you receive the payments is a scammer.
If you’ve been targeted
As the date of the first advanced CTC approaches, scams are exploding everywhere. If you believe you’ve been targeted by a CTC scam, follow the cardinal rule of personal safety by never sharing sensitive data with an unverified source. Triple-check the URL on any IRS webpage you visit, as these are easily spoofed. Note that all authentic government sites will end in .gov. Finally, report all suspicious activity to the IRS and the FTC immediately.
For additional information on the upcoming Child Tax Credits, to check if you qualify or to update your dependent or banking information, visit the IRS’s CTC webpage directly at IRS.gov.
The advanced Child Tax Credits will help millions of families struggling with the economic fallout of the pandemic, but scammers can ruin it all. Follow the tips outlined above and stay safe!
Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a Child Tax Credit scam? Tell us about it in the comments.
Q: I’m trying to heal financially as life returns to pre-pandemic norms, but the rising cost of many commodities, like groceries and gasoline, is making a financial rebound a challenge. Why are prices skyrocketing right now?
A: The jump in prices of many goods is proving to be a formidable challenge to millions of Americans who are attempting to recover from the pandemic. There are several compounding factors triggering the rise in prices across multiple industries, and the upward trend is likely to continue for a while. Here’s what you need to know about the sky-high prices dominating the post-pandemic economy.
How much more do groceries cost compared to a year ago?
A trip to the grocery in 2021 doesn’t come cheap. According to new data from NielsenIQ, all 52 tracked food categories are more expensive now than they were a year ago. The cost of fresh meat, for example, jumped by 8.6% from May 2020 to May 2021, while processed meats are up by 9.2% and the cost of eggs has seen a nationwide increase of 8.2%.
What is causing the increase in grocery prices?
A confluence of factors is causing grocery prices to rise.
For one, the pandemic has caused a shortage in many materials due to a prolonged disruption in the labor force and supply chain, which has increased demand, and the prices of these goods, to rise. Grocery items, in particular, also saw a surge in demand due to the many Americans cooking at home while on lockdown during the pandemic. Many industries are still suffering from these shortages and don’t expect to recover for a while. In fact, the Bloomberg Commodity Spot Index, which tracks 23 raw materials, is at the highest level it’s been in nearly a decade.
Second, there is a shortage in the labor market now, which can likely be attributed to the inflated and extended pandemic unemployment insurance, which made many laborers reluctant to return to work. Employers are forced to offer more pay for attracting workers, and they pass this extra cost on to consumers.
Finally, the increase in prices can be linked to the rise in transportation costs as gas prices continue to rise, which we’ll explore more in a moment. Again, this increased expense is passed on to the shopper through higher prices on consumer goods.
Why are gas prices so high?
It’s sticker shock at the gas pump these days, with prices as high as $4 per gallon in some parts of the country.
There are many factors contributing to the rise and fall in gas prices, of which the fluctuating price of crude oil is most prominent. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), approximately 60% of the money we pay for a gallon of gas goes to cover the costs of the crude oil that went into making it. Another 25% pays for the costs of refining, distributing and marketing the gas, while the rest pays for federal taxes, and state taxes in some states as well.
Crude oil prices, in turn, rise and fall in direct correlation of multiple factors. Most recently, here’s what’s causing the price of crude oil to peak:
Basic rules of supply and demand. The last few months saw a loosening of COVID-19 restrictions around the globe. This led to an increase in the demand for gas, and in turn, for crude oil. In contrast, at the height of the pandemic, demand for crude oil fell sharply — and so did its price tag.
The presidential election. Crude oil prices have spiked by an average of $0.75 per gallon since Nov. 3, 2020. The oil markets evidently see the current administration as one that will inhibit U.S. oil production, which leads to a tightening on the global oil market. Traders responded by driving up the price of crude oil. Seasonal market changes. The price of crude oil tends to rise and fall with the seasons, where prices generally rise in the spring and summer months as more motorists hit the road, thereby increasing demand. The changeover to summer gasoline blends also leads to a jump in gas prices at this time of year
Change in the value of the dollar. Oil is priced in U.S. dollars within the world market. When the dollar is strong, relative to other currencies, crude oil is cheaper for Americans and more expensive for the global market. When the dollar is weak, as it is now, oil becomes more expensive for Americans.
Strong discipline among the OPEC+ nations. When the nations which are part of OPEC+ stick to their agreement to cut back on oil production, prices increase.
What can I, as a consumer, do about the rising cost of goods?
Unfortunately, as a private consumer, there’s not much you can do to bring down the costs of common goods. However, there are steps you can take to help you manage these costs in a financially responsible manner.
First, you’ll likely need to make some changes to your monthly budget to accommodate the higher costs of groceries and gas. Shuffle your spending categories by trimming discretionary expenses until you have enough money to cover the costs of food and transportation.
Next, incorporate cost-saving techniques you may not have needed to use until now to help you manage these increased expenses. Think couponing, shopping the seasons and the sales, buying items you always use in bulk, and cutting back on pricey grocery items you can do without. To save on gas costs, consider walking to work or to do your errands, carpooling when possible, or using public transportation more often.
Rising prices might be hard on the wallet, but with some proactive steps, you can still stay on top of your finances and help bring your financial health back to pre-pandemic norms.
Your Turn: How are you budgeting for the rise in the cost of groceries and gas? Share your tips with us in the comments.
One of the most important parts of setting up a monthly budget is separating needs from wants. Before assigning dollar amounts to any categories, it’s important to know which parts of your monthly expenditures are an absolute need, and which items would be nice to include, but are not a necessity. Many people find this particularly challenging, and many even give up on budgeting when they can’t move past this step.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Below, we’ve outlined how to tell the difference between wants and needs, as well as how to separate these two categories on a monthly budget plan.
Defining needs and wants
A need is something that is necessary to live and function.
A want is something that can improve your quality of life.
Using these criteria, a need includes food, clothing, shelter and medical care, while wants include everything else. However, as you’ll find when creating a budget, these terms are more fluid than they appear to be at first glance. While working through your lists, you may find that some items can fit into both categories, making the process confusing.
A good trick for dividing wants from needs is to let some time pass before fulfilling your desire for the item, either theoretically or practically. The desire to obtain a need only grows stronger as time passes, while the desire to fulfill a want will weaken with passing time.
Listing your needs and wants
Now that we’ve defined each of these budget categories, you can begin listing your own needs and wants.
Start with your needs, including the basics, like food, rent or mortgage, as well as other fixed expenditures that are necessary for you to live and function. Those things may include transportation costs, health insurance coverage and any clothing or tools you need for work.
It’s important to note that needs will vary from one person to another, and even for one person at different stages of life. For example, a family with two working parents who live in a community where there is no reliable public transportation may require two vehicles. Conversely, a family living in a city with several dependable transportation systems may list a second car as a want. Similarly, a four-bedroom home may be a need for a family while they’re raising several young children, but turn into a want later when the kids go off to college.
If you get stuck on a particular item and don’t know where to place it, hold it up to the following questions:
Do I really need this item to live and function?
Is it possible to fill this need in a less expensive way?
How would my life be different if this item were not a part of it? When you’ve completed your list of needs, you can list all remaining expenses in your category of wants.
Reviewing and tweaking your lists
After completing this exercise, review your list of needs to see if anything can be removed. Will you still need these items a few years from now, or even a few months from now? Can any of your needs be swapped for a cheaper option? For example, you may need clothing, but do you need eight pairs of designer jeans?
Do the same for your list of wants. Which of them are only there because of pressure to keep up with others or look good? Which of your wants were more important to you in the past than they are today? Which are status symbols? Pare down your list until you’re only left with the wants that truly add value to your life.
Now that you know how to tell the difference between needs and wants, creating a monthly budget is simple. Assign dollar amounts to your fixed and non-fixed needs, set aside money for savings and use the rest to pay for your wants.
Going forward, you’ll likely also have an easier time keeping your impulse buys under control. Before purchasing an item, ask yourself if it’s a need or a want. If the item is a want, consider its importance and other wants you’ve recently bought before going ahead with the purchase.
Separating wants and needs can be one of the most challenging parts of creating a monthly budget. Follow the steps outlined above to learn how to make the distinction between these two spending categories with ease.
Your Turn: How do you separate wants from needs? Share your tips and tricks with us in the comments.
Re-acclimating to normal life as pandemic restrictions are lifted and businesses reopen across the country will mean more than just getting used to wearing real pants again and working without your cat on your lap. You’ll also need to consider your finances. How has your overall money management changed during the pandemic? Have you dipped into your savings? Have you been letting your retirement accounts slide? Or, maybe you’ve been waiting for the chance to hit your favorite retailers again, and you can’t wait to splurge after a 15-month financial fast.
As you prepare to leap back into normal life, proceed with caution. Be sure to consider your full financial picture as well as long-term and short-term goals.
Here are some forward-thinking money moves to make as you adjust to post-pandemic life.
Review and adjust your budget
Pandemic times required their own budget, as people cut down on costs like dining out and updating work wardrobes, but spent more on things like at-home entertainment. Others may have had to adjust their spending to fit a changed income level or to help them coast during a stint of unemployment. The pandemic may have also shifted something in some people’s mental list of needs and wants, as they found they can live with a lot less than they’d believed.
As you adjust to post-pandemic life, take some time out to review and tweak your monthly budget. Be sure to incorporate any changes in income, as well as a readjustment to pre-pandemic spending or changed priorities. You may need to review and adjust your budget, and maybe even your spending behaviors, every few months until you find a working balance.
Rebuild your savings
If you are one of the many Americans who were forced to dip into savings, or even to empty them completely, during the pandemic, create a plan to get your savings back on track. Tighten up your spending in one area until you’ve built up an emergency fund that can keep you going for 3-6 months without an income, or use a windfall, such as a work bonus or tax refund, to get the bulk of your emergency fund in place.
Once your emergency fund is up and running again, continue to practice basic saving habits, such as setting aside 20% of your monthly income for savings, or whichever approach you prefer. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that it’s always best to be prepared, because you never know what can happen.
Rethink your long-term and short-term financial goals
The pandemic has prompted many people to reevaluate their goals. Retiring before you hit 50 or spending a month in Europe next summer may not be as important to you as you’d originally believed; or it may be even more important now. Similarly, you may realize your family has outgrown its living space and that moving to a new home is your number one financial priority. Or maybe you’ve decided you can live without a second car.
Take some time to rethink your long-term and short-term financial goals and adjust your savings and budget accordingly.
As you move through this step, be sure to consider any long-term goals you may have put on hold during the pandemic. Have you stalled your contributions to your retirement accounts or toward your child’s college tuition fund? Have you been making only the minimum payments on your credit cards? If any of these apply to you, be sure to revert your savings and debt payments back to pre-pandemic levels as soon as you can.
Spend with caution
It’s perfectly fine to enjoy a shopping spree in celebration of a return to pre-pandemic norms, but it’s best to spend with caution.
First, prepare to encounter inflated prices wherever you go. Gas prices have jumped recently, and costs of many consumer goods have spiked as well. If you planned to purchase a big-ticket item like a new car or tickets for a cruise, consider waiting it out a bit until prices cool off.
Also, you may be eager to make up for lost time, but no amount of nights out on the town will bring back the months you spent at home. Similarly, overbuying for this fashion season won’t bring back the seasons you spent at home in a hoodie and sweatpants. To avoid irrational overspending, set up a budget before you hit the shops and only spend what you’ve planned.
The restaurants and movie theaters are open for business again, and mask mandates are dropping all over the country. As life returns to pre-pandemic norms, be sure to consider the state of your finances and to make responsible, forward-thinking money moves like those listed here.
Your Turn: What post-pandemic money moves will you be making now? Tell us about it in the comments.
Here are the most important changes to the CTC for 2021:
Families claiming the CTC will receive up to $3,000 per qualifying child between the ages of 6 and 17 at the end of 2021. The credit will include children who turn 17 in 2021.
Families claiming the CTC will receive $3,600 per qualifying child under age 6 at the end of 2021.
The credit for qualifying children is fully refundable. This means taxpayers can benefit from the credit even if they don’t have earned income or don’t owe any income taxes.
Advance payments of up to 50% of the total CTC per family will be distributed once a month, from July 15 through Dec. 15, 2021.
For comparison’s sake, for 2020, the amount of the CTC was up to $2,000 per qualifying child under age 17 at the end of the year. Also, the credit was only refundable by up to $1,400 per child.
Who is eligible for the Child Tax Credits?
Taxpayers who have a primary residence in the U.S., and reside in it for at least half of the year, are eligible to receive the child tax credits.
The payments will begin to be phased out for married taxpayers filing a joint return and earning more than $150,000 a year, for heads of household earning more than $112,500 a year and for all other taxpayers earning more than $75,000 a year. Income eligibility will be based on 2020’s tax return (more on this later).
Do I need to take any action to receive the monthly payments?
Taxpayers need not take any steps to receive the advanced Child Tax Credits. Of course, taxpayers need to file their 2020 taxes, which were due on May 15, 2021. Filing electronically may speed up the receipt of the CTC payments.
How much money will I receive each month through the advanced Child Tax Credits?
The advance payments being sent to qualifying families from July through December will be equal to up to 50% of each family’s total Child Tax Credit. The payments will be based upon the income information found in taxpayers’ 2020 tax returns. If these were not filed yet, the 2019 tax returns will be used to determine each family’s eligibility.
Families eligible for the full CTC will receive half of the total across a six-month time span. This means eligible families will receive a total of $1,800 for children under age 6, or $300 a month per child from July through December, and a total of $1,500 for children ages 6-17, or $250 a month per child from July through December.
How will I receive my monthly payments?
The IRS has announced that payments will be issued in the same way as the three stimulus payments distributed to all eligible taxpayers since the start of the pandemic. If you received your stimulus payments via paper check, you’ll likely receive the CTC payments the same way, and if you received them via direct deposit, expect the same now.
The one caveat here is for those who have not signed up to receive their Economic Impact Payments via direct deposit but have filed their 2020 tax returns electronically. These taxpayers will receive their CTC payments the same way they filed their taxes; either electronically or via direct deposit.
Can I decline the opportunity to receive the advance payments of the 2021 Child Tax Credits?
Eligible taxpayers who do not want advance payments of the 2021 Child Tax Credit can choose not to receive them at this time. The IRS has not yet provided the public with instructions for how to officially decline the advance payments, but has promised to update its website when the instructions become available.
Is it a good idea to decline the advance payments of the 2021 Child Tax Credits?
While it is generally better to receive money owed to you upfront, under certain circumstances it may be better to decline receiving the advanced Child Tax Credits.
If you have reason to believe you will not be eligible for the full CTC amount at the end of 2021, you may end up owing the IRS some or all of the money you received when you file your 2021 taxes. This can happen if your income level rises in 2021, or if you have primary custody of the child(ren) receiving the credit in 2020, but not in 2021. If either of these may apply to you, consider opting out of the advance CTC payments. You won’t miss out on these payments, as you’ll receive whatever is owed to you at the end of 2021.
The advance CTC payments will be a boon for families who are struggling with the financial fallout of the pandemic, but it may not be in every taxpayer’s best interest to accept these payments now. Use our guide to brush up on the details of these payments so you can make an informed decision.
Your Turn: How do you plan to use the advanced Child Tax Credits? Tell us about it in the comments.
Title: What to Do with Your Money When Crisis Hits: A Survival Guide
Author: Michelle Singletary
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publishing date: May 18, 2021
Who is this book for?
Anyone who is struggling to stay on top of their finances.
Anyone who’s ever wondered how to handle their money during a financial crisis, such as a pandemic, recession, bear market or energy crisis.
What’s inside this book?
Singletary’s expert advice for weathering financial storms.
Answers to questions about handling money during a financial crisis.
A practical guide for managing common money concerns.
3 lessons you’ll learn from this book:
The most important steps to take when facing a financial crisis.
How to keep a financial crisis from becoming a catastrophe.
How to manage debt, credit card issues and cash-flow problems.
5 questions this book will answer for you:
What bills must be paid first when in a financial crisis?
When is it OK to dip into savings?
How can I cut back on spending?
How do I keep from panicking when the stock market is down?
How do I tell a scam from a legitimate opportunity?
What people are saying about this book:
“If you’re one of the tens of millions of Americans who are struggling financially, or if you’re faced with helping others who are struggling, you need to read this. Michelle Singletary has written an outstanding book, filled with no-nonsense, let’s-get-to-it advice that’s immensely practical, easy to read and emotionally reassuring. Stop lamenting your situation and let Michelle show you the way out of your crisis.” – Ric Edelman
“Michelle Singletary, a voice of financial reason and calm throughout the pandemic, helps us move forward with what we need most—answers. From when to raid your retirement accounts, go back to school, and so much more, her clear, precise guidance will put you on the right track to rebuild your future.” – Jean Chatzky
“This is a compassionate encyclopedia of financial first aid when you stumble, and good financial health practices when you are back on your feet. Michelle Singletary has been the down to earth, practical advisor to the stars — and us ordinary folks — for decades.” – Vicki Robin
“Michelle Singletary’s latest book is full of clear, wise advice that anyone can follow—and everyone should—especially when they are thrown a curve in the game of life.” - Knight A. Kiplinger
Your Turn: What did you think of “What to Do with Your Money When Crisis Hits: A Survival Guide?” Share your opinion in the comments.