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Local credit union branch manager offers advice on how to start off on the right financial path

Most of us were happy to say goodbye to 2020, but I learned so many amazing lessons despite all the turmoil; none more important than the strength of the Hillsdale community. I'll never forget how the neighborhood responded to the news of a coin shortage. Members had streamed into the OnPoint Community Credit Union branch to give us their change. That's just one of many gestures of generosity that show how our community supports each other through challenging times.

BureauAs OnPoint's Hillsdale Branch Manager, I've also learned a lot about the financial needs of this community. Now that we've turned the page on 2020, I want to help you start the new year off right with these helpful tips:

Watch Out for old scams in new packaging. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in February, financial institutions across the nation have reported three to four times more fraud complaints than average. Scams take many forms, but the newest trick is to target users of services like Venmo and PayPal. Scammers send texts posing as financial institutions with a warning of suspicious account activity and a request for your digital banking credentials or personal information. Whether it's an unusual text or a fishy email, the best way to avoid fraud is to reach out to your financial institution to validate the request.

You can also proactively stop fraud in its tracks by looking over your bank account every day to monitor purchases. If you check your account often, you'll notice an unfamiliar charge much faster and can immediately report it.

Shop Smart and budget. Your monthly spending might feel more strapped than usual, but know that you are not alone. There are ways to shop smart and save. For expenses like groceries, set a spending limit in advance, make a shopping list and stick to it. If you are more intentional about planning your spending, you can avoid impulse purchases.

Saving money might not seem like an option right now, but there are still ways to save that will help you in the long run. For those who utilize direct deposit for their paychecks, make sure you designate a small portion of your budget to a savings account. This effort ensures your savings account grows consistently, and it's ready to use when you need it.

Make a Plan. Whether it's a pandemic, wildfires, or any other road bump in between, scenario planning will help you get to the other side of a crisis more securely and predictably. To make a plan, write a list of the worst-case scenarios that could happen and how you will manage your resources if they occur.

A key piece of advice: When preparing for a crisis, don't withdraw large sums of cash to store at home. Homeowners insurance policies don't usually cover cash, and in the instance of a fire or theft, you could lose it all. Keeping your money in your credit union or bank account is the safest bet.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. If there's any lesson from 2020, it's "ask for help when you need it". Your financial institution has seen a variety of financial scenarios firsthand and can help you navigate them as your financial partner. Just as with all the change you saved in jars or dug out of the couch, you were there for us, and we promise to continue to be here for you, too.

Meredith Bureau is the manager for OnPoint Community Credit Union's Hillsdale branch.


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