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Monthly Archives: April 2023
How to protect yourself from phishing
Phishing is when criminals use fake emails to lure you into clicking on links or attachments and handing over your personal or financial information, or installing malware on your device. It’s also one of the most common cybercrimes, with an estimated 3.4 billion spam emails sent daily. It’s easy to avoid a scam email, but only once you know what to look for. Below are a few tips on how you can protect yourself from phishing:
Learn how to spot phishing attempts
Your email spam filters typically do a good job at filtering emails, but fraudsters are always trying to outsmart filters. The signs can be subtle, but once you recognize a phishing attempt you can avoid falling for it. Here are some quick tips on how to clearly spot a fake phishing email:
- Contains an offer that’s too good to be true
- Language that’s urgent, alarming, or threatening
- Poorly-crafted writing with misspellings, and bad grammar
- Greetings that are ambiguous or very generic
- Requests to send personal information
- Urgency to click on unfamiliar hyperlinks or attachments
- Strange or abrupt business requests
- Sending e-mail address doesn’t match the company it’s coming from
What to do if you see a phishing email
Don’t worry, you’ve already done the hard part which is recognizing that an email is fake and part of a criminal’s phishing expedition. If it came to your work email address, report it to your IT manager or security officer as quickly as possible.
If you’re at home and the email came to your personal email address. Do not click on any links (even the unsubscribe link) or reply back to the email, and delete the email altogether. You can take your protection a step further and block the sending address from your email program, too.
What to do if you accidentally click a phishing email
If you accidentally click a phishing email, you need to act quickly. Immediately disconnect your device from the internet. If you’re connected via Wi-Fi, locate the Wi-Fi settings on your device and disconnect from the network. If you’re connected using an ethernet cable, unplug it immediately. After disconnecting from the internet, back up your files using an external hard drive, like a USB thumb drive or cloud storage.
After, scan your device for malware. If you’re not technologically savvy, it’s best to leave this to a professional. Some malware can be disguised as a legitimate program. You’ll also want to change your credentials, so your personal or financial information can’t be compromised. If you don’t already, be sure to use different passwords across accounts, so it’s more difficult for scammers to access your information. Lastly, freeze your credit and set up fraud alerts with one of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). Once you’ve notified one bureau, they legally must notify the others.
Scams are becoming increasingly more common, especially in today’s age with technology. It’s important to remain vigilant and continue to educate yourself, friends, and loved ones on new tactics that may arise. This is part four of an 11-part series on cybersecurity and how you can protect yourself online in today’s digital age. For more educational tools and tips, visit our resource center.
How to budget for pet ownership
Owning a pet is one of the greatest joys in many people’s lives. Bringing love and laughter into our homes, owning a pet can be seriously fun. But pet ownership is also a serious commitment: many pets can live for more than 10 years, leaving some pet lovers unprepared for the price tag attached to owning and caring for an animal in a responsible manner.
Here, we break down what to expect and how to best budget for pet ownership.
What to expect
Basic pet care costs
Regardless of where you live, the cost of getting a new pet is significant. If you purchase your pet from a reputable breeder, you can expect to spend anywhere between several hundred and several thousand dollars, while adoption fees from a shelter can range from zero to several hundred dollars. But regardless of that upfront cost, the cost of ongoing care for your new pet is even more important to consider.
Of course, you’ll need to feed your pet. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) 2021–2022 National Pet Owners Survey, feeding a cat can cost on average $4.88 per week, and it increases to $5.52 a week for a dog. Additionally, you’ll likely want enrichment tools like toys and treats, as well as beds, leashes, and crates.
Medical care is another guaranteed expense. Four-legged friends need basic medical care to prevent future problems, and even fish get sick. For dogs and cats, a yearly checkup is routine maintenance. According to the APPA survey, the average American spends about $583 in medical expenses per dog each year; medical expenses for cats are estimated to be about $343 per year, although most cat owners have more than one.
Just like humans, taking your pet for their routine checkups is critical to staying ahead of any health issues, and in turn, unexpected expenses. It’s much more expensive—and risky—to treat illnesses than to protect against them. It’s also a good idea to shop veterinary practices by comparing fees for preventative care.
Spaying or neutering your pet can also save a lot of money by preventing serious health problems, including cancers. Many local shelters provide resources for low- or no-cost spay/neuter surgeries.
Beyond the basic costs, many pet owners also need to open their wallets to pay for expenses such as grooming and boarding. If you take your pet with you on your travels, most hotels and airlines will charge hefty fees to accommodate Rover or Fluffy. Additional costs can also come in the form of pet sitting while you’re at work, as some pets can’t be left alone for long periods. Lastly, it’s important to note that as your pets age, their needs may change. They may require specialized diets, more regular veterinary care, or a daily pet sitter, all of which equals more money. Keep all these things in mind as you start the budgeting process.
Budgeting for a pet
Overall, pet spending has increased over the last few years. Many pet owners have demonstrated an increase in spending in the past 12 months, with food as a top expense, regardless of pet type owned. Veterinarian care is also a greater expense for pet owners. That said, there are still ways for you to save some cash while properly caring for your pet.
Review and update your budget
We know you’re already a rockstar with a budget. Adding a new pet adds a new category of expenses, which means it’s time for another budget review. You may want to reserve a set amount each month to cover all anticipated expenses, like a bag of food, so that when it’s time to restock, you’ll already have money allocated for that purpose. And if you want to splurge for a special treat, you can check your budget and make sure there’s money available.
After your first year of pet ownership, consider setting aside at least $80 every month for your cat or $200 for your dog.
To cope with the medical costs, an increasing number of pet owners are turning to insurance policies. Some employers offer pet insurance programs, but others can be purchased independently. Pet insurance functions more like property insurance than health insurance. Unlike health insurance, the policyholder must pay for their pet’s healthcare directly, then be reimbursed by the insurance provider.
Pet insurance never covers preexisting conditions. While insurance can be helpful in an emergency, be sure to read the fine print and make sure that you understand applicable spending caps, deductibles, and coverage limitations.
Pad your emergency fund
Ideally, the money you set for routine pet expenses will cover everything your new companion will ever need. However, accidents can happen, and an emergency vet visit can cost as much as $5,000—and sometimes even more!
Every pet parent should have an emergency fund for unexpected expenses. Your emergency fund can cover everything from a surprise surgery to a flat tire. Consider opening a Money Market account for your emergency fund, so your money can grow while it sits.
- Many pets live for more than 10 years, so it is important to be fully aware of the costs of owning a pet.
- Annual costs of owning a pet can range from several hundred to several thousands of dollars, with food being the biggest cost, along with vet bills.
- Pet insurance is one way to manage the medical part of the expense of caring for a pet. You may also want to add to your emergency fund for potential emergencies.
Overall, owning a pet is not cheap but is so worth it. Their unconditional love brings so much happiness into people’s lives. April 11th is National Pet Day, and we want to celebrate all the wonderful pets out there. And if you’re considering adding a new member to your fur family, be sure to consider the above factors before committing.
9 last-minute tax tips to keep in mind
You’re not alone if you’ve waited until the last minute to file your taxes. It’s a tedious process, especially if you have a complicated tax situation. On top of that, it’s not fun if you know you owe money to the IRS. Unfortunately, you can’t ignore the tax-filing deadline—unless you want to subject yourself to penalties. But don’t stress! The following tips will help make filing your 2022 tax return a breeze:
1. File on time
For your taxes to be considered filed on time, you must file or mail your return by midnight on April 18, 2023. This is different from the usual deadline of April 15th, giving you three extra days.
If you fail to submit your tax return by the deadline, the IRS will issue a Failure to File Penalty. That penalty is calculated based on how late you file your return and the amount of unpaid tax as of the original payment due date. The Failure to File Penalty is 5% of the unpaid taxes for each month (or part of a month) that a tax return is late. The penalty will not exceed 25% of your unpaid taxes.
There is usually no penalty if the IRS owes you a refund, or if you don’t owe taxes altogether. But, it’s still good practice to file on time—you have just three years to claim a tax refund.
2. Take breaks
Even if you’re working down to the wire, don’t try to complete your return in one sitting. Get up and take breaks periodically to avoid making any critical mistakes. Stepping away from your return for a few minutes will let you come back with a fresh set of eyes—and hopefully allow you to catch any errors, which brings us to our next point…
3. Check for mistakes
Check for mistakes before you submit your tax return, even if you’re using online tax software. Tax software can usually catch glaring mistakes, but you need to proof for small typos. Be sure to look over the following:
- Your name
- Your Social Security number
- Your employer’s EIN (employer identification number)
- Any calculations if you’re filing a paper return
- Your bank information (account and routing number)
- Whether you signed and dated your return (if filing by mail)
4. File electronically
Filing electronically, also known as e-filing, is the easiest, fastest, and most reliable method of filing your tax return. E-filing will also allow you to receive your refund faster. You can file your taxes for free with IRS Free File if your adjusted gross income is $73,000 or less. If you don’t qualify for Free File, you can still use the Free File Fillable Forms.
5. Send your return to the right address
Despite many e-filing options available, there are still people who prefer to mail their tax returns instead. If you’re one of them, check that you’re mailing your return to the correct address. You can look up the correct address based on your state and return type on the IRS’s website.
6. File an extension (if needed)
If your tax situation is complicated and you won’t be able to file your return on time, consider filing an extension. You can request an automatic extension from the IRS with Form 4868. You can access the form through Free File on the IRS website, even if you make more than the maximum threshold for Free File.
If you file an extension, you should still pay what you owe by April 18th. Filing an extension will give you more time to submit your return and avoid a late-filing penalty, but not paying what you owe by the deadline will result in late-payment penalties and interest.
7. Know what to do if you can’t pay
If you owe the IRS but can’t afford to pay in full, you may be able to pay in installments by applying for the IRS Online Payment Agreement. If you owe $50,000 or less in combined tax, penalties, or interest and have filed your return, you can apply for a long-term repayment plan. You can apply for a short-term repayment plan (180 days or less) if you owe less than $100,000 in combined tax, penalties, and interest.
8. Track your return and refund online
You can create an account with the IRS to track your return and refund status. If you just want to check your refund, you can use the IRS’s Where’s My Refund? tool. To check your refund, you’ll need:
- Your Social Security or taxpayer ID number
- Your filing status
- The exact refund amount on your return
9. Start planning for next year
Let this be a lesson learned—preparing your tax return takes time. Keep tax-related documents and forms organized throughout the year so you don’t have to scramble at the last minute. If you suspect that you’ll owe money, start setting funds aside in a savings account each month. That way, you’ll have the funds needed when the next tax reason rolls around.
How to teach your kids about money at every age
April is Credit Union Youth Month, and what better time to remind you about the importance of teaching your kids to save money? Today, financial literacy is one of America’s biggest issues, so the sooner your children understand the how and why behind saving their hard-earned pennies, the brighter their financial future.
Effectively communicating the importance of saving for a rainy day can be quite the challenge for parents, especially because stashing your cash isn’t always fun. That’s the secret, though. Saving CAN be fun if you make it that way, and once your kids realize it was all a lesson, they’ll already understand its importance. Mission accomplished!
Here are some creative and practical ways to tap into savings fun and prepare kids of all ages for a smart and responsible financial future:
Preschoolers & Kindergarteners
Visit your local financial institution
Little eyes are watching you! A study by the University of Cambridge found that money habits in children are formed by the time they’re 7 years old. Set a healthy example for them, and they’ll be much more likely to follow it when they get older.
One of the easiest ways to start is with an afternoon outing to your local bank or credit union. Kids are curious, and we’re betting the drive-thru is far less interesting than what’s inside. Schedule a short tour and consider opening a savings account for your child when you’re done. Georgia’s Own’s Coindexter Club® is a great way to start learning about money and interest. An account for a child under the age of 13 can begin with an initial investment as low at $5.00 and will start earning interest at $5.01. Which leads us right to…
Start saving and setting goals
Gone are the days of the pink ceramic piggy bank with the curly tail—we’re going high-tech here. Purchase an automatic coin-counting bank so your child can keep track of how much money they’re saving and spending. It’ll help with addition and subtraction skills, and they’ll love the pride and satisfaction they feel when they can actually see their progress.
Once they have the hang of saving, start adding savings goals. When they’ve hit their goal, you can reward them with prizes like a special trip to the zoo or an additional contribution to their savings. Savings is the most important financial habit to instill early on, and this tip can easily be adjusted with age.
Distinguishing wants versus needs
“Look at this!! Can we get it please?!” Sound familiar? This age group really knows how to capitalize on the impulse buy—especially when it uses someone else’s money.
Instead of giving in, let your child know they can use their new hard-earned allowance to pay for it. Helping them distinguish between what they really want and what they really need will help them think harder before spending their own money. Another good tip is to encourage your child to wait at least a day before they purchase anything over $15. It will likely still be there tomorrow, and they’ll be able to make that money decision with a level head the next day.
Pay it forward
Teach your children to be generous. While healthy spending and saving is important, the value of generosity trumps them both. Whether it’s with money, time, or talent, it’s important to give back to the community. You can volunteer together to pack lunches for the homeless, visit a nursing home, or fold clothes at a thrift shop. No matter what they choose, over time they’ll see how giving doesn’t just affect the people they give to, but the giver as well.
Play to learn
Board games are fun activities you can enjoy with the whole family while secretly teaching them about money. Buy some property and build some hotels in Monopoly Jr., go to college and choose a career in The Game of Life, and get to the next month without blowing your entire paycheck in Pay Day. Each one requires wise financial decisions and includes a surprise monkey wrench or two along the way!
Video games like Animal Crossing as well as computer games are also a great way to introduce money management. Try Peter Pig’s Money Counter. It’s an interactive game from Visa® that teaches counting skills and savings strategies to kids from ages 5-8. For your littler ones, Cash Puzzler is a game that lets 3-to-6-year-old kids put their memory to the test by putting scrambled puzzle pieces together to form images of different dollar bills. For your sport-loving kids who are ages 11 and up, check out Visa’s NFL-themed Financial Football game, which focuses on money management. And The Payoff, for ages 14 and up, is played in a web-app that simulates a mobile phone, allowing players to chat with characters, check their bank, open fake websites, check their emails and more.
Let ’em earn it
Do you have a child who loves to vacuum or fold the bath towels? Do they watch you mow the lawn or water the plants? Get them involved in age-appropriate chores and give them an allowance so they understand how money is earned. They’ll think it’s fun, and you might get a little help around the house.
We know you don’t always get to do the things you enjoy when you’re earning a salary, so toss in a not-so-favorite chore every now and again as they get older. While not as much fun, it’s a good reality check!
Are there other chores that need to be done in the house? Make a list of things that need doing and assign a payment amount to each one. If your child is saving for something special or wants a side hustle to supplement their allowance, they can choose an additional chore and get paid for completing it.
Find their entrepreneurial spirit
Is your child a crafter or an artist? Do they love to bake brownies? There are tons of opportunities to sell things in the neighborhood (supervised, of course). Try setting up shop at the home swim meets, during the neighborhood garage sale, or at the holiday craft show. Discuss the cost of the ingredients and supplies, the price of the items, and how to calculate a profit. If you have an older child, help them design a colorful flyer to drum up some dog sitting, lawn mowing, or mother’s helper opportunities.
Tweens & Teens
Teach your gamer how to game
Have a gamer? There’s a huge market for pre-owned video games. Talk to your child about buying certain items new or used and the savings opportunity it can offer. If you’re making the purchase, you might even consider giving your child the amount you saved a time or two as a way to emphasize the impact.
This is also a good time to discuss selling items, like old video games, toys, and electronics as a way to make some extra money and clear out that clutter. Explain to your child that when they sell items that they no longer use, the funds could be reinvested into something else they’ve been swooning over—or they can save it in that nifty coin-counting bank! As the adult, you’ll want to list the items for sale on the resale sites, but have the kids help take pictures, make up descriptions, and set prices.
Stick to a budget
Have your child grab a calculator (or your smartphone) and head to the grocery store together. Before you leave the house, though, set a budget for your shopping trip. As you walk up and down the grocery aisles together and put items in your cart, ask your child to add the cost of each item to your running total, being mindful of your budget.
Compare brands and pricing, and explain the benefit of buying items on sale. Did you bring your coupons? Ask your child to match them with the appropriate items and then add the money you saved. What was the goal, and was it more or less than the last trip? As your kids age into teens, you can add in new concepts, like how to create a monthly budget, calculating fixed and variable expenses, and more.
Introduce them to investing
Once your kids have saved some money, you can consider introducing the concept of investing. With your younger teens, try purchasing a blue-chip stock with fictitious dollars and having them track the daily market fluctuations. How much money would they have lost or gained in three months, six months, and a year? Do the same with a penny stock and you can introduce the idea of risk and return.
If they’re older and you’re already an investor, consider opening a custodial brokerage account for them or helping them purchase fractional shares. Keep in mind the potential tax considerations for custodial accounts and work with an advisor to ensure they would be appropriate for your situation.
Build that resumé
Your teen is likely babysitting, mowing lawns, or engaging in some other entrepreneurial activity to earn a few bucks. Encourage them to keep track of their earnings and brainstorm with them about how they can improve and expand their business. If they’re old enough, a summer job may be a good way to introduce the concept of taxes.
- Kids are always watching–so be sure to set a good example with your own finances and start introducing these concepts as early as possible. While it’s never too late to start, kids have their money habits set young.
- Some of the most important concepts to cover are savings, budgeting, and paying it forward.
- Talking about money may not sound fun, but it can be for both you and your kids!
Whether it’s across the kitchen table, on the way to a baseball game, shopping for school supplies, or tucking them in at night, there are an unlimited number of ways to work financial responsibility and savings into the conversation. The most important thing is to get started early and to continue making time to discuss financial responsibility as your kids age—but it’s never too early or too late to start teaching your kids about how they can create a more financially stable future.
Georgia’s Own Credit Union named a 2023 Top Workplace
For the second consecutive year, Georgia’s Own Credit Union is proud to be named to the Top Workplaces USA list. The Credit Union was also named a Top Workplace for the financial services industry for 2022.
Organizations must receive at least a 35% response rate on their employee engagement surveys to be considered for the Top Workplaces USA award from Energage. Questions range from employees’ experiences with work-life balance and their overall well-being to communication, innovation, and values within the organization.
In addition, Georgia’s Own was named to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and CoxNext’s 2023 Atlanta Top Workplaces list.
A record 7,998 companies were nominated or asked to participate in the Atlanta 2023 Top Workplace rankings, and more than 98,000 workers in the Atlanta region were represented.
As a full-service, not-for-profit financial institution, serving our members, giving back to our communities, and cultivating our employees is at the heart of what we do. That includes providing a flexible, innovative, engaging, and progressive work environment—just to name a few.
We had an impressive participation rate of 79.5% in the employee engagement survey. Below is what some of our incredible employees have to say about working for Georgia’s Own:
“In my work, I can be very flexible with my schedule, and I feel like I can contribute to the overall success of the company.”
“I feel like I am an important part of Georgia’s Own, and what I do matters.”
“Georgia’s Own is true to its values.”
“I can contribute to the greater cause of providing our community with financial assistance to meet the dreams and needs of their families.”
“It’s fulfilling [to work for Georgia’s Own], and I am learning so much about Georgia’s Own Credit Union and its culture and diversity. My manager is very responsive and supportive in helping me to be successful at my job.”
We’re honored to be included among some of the most highly regarded organizations in the nation. This award would not have been possible without our extraordinary employees who work hand-in-hand to ensure our mission of Banking on Purpose remains the foundation of our work.