LSS Financial Counseling: How to Overcome Barriers to Homeownership

June is National Homeownership Month! Our partners at LSS Financial Counseling can help SCCU members overcome barriers to homeownership. The below post originally appears on the LSS Financial Counseling "Sense & Centsibility" blog. Superior Choice Credit Union members may utilize free one-on-one sessions with LSS Financial Counseling. Click here to learn more.


How to Overcome Barriers to Homeownership

Homeownership is a dream for so many Americans, but a lot of people, especially younger adults, face barriers to purchasing a home. Besides increased house prices in some locations, other major barriers include:

  • Not enough money saved for down payment or closing costs,
  • Debt,
  • Limited options within their budget, and
  • Poor credit history/low credit score.

Get Your Finances In Order

There are steps aspiring homebuyers can take to break down those barriers. A great first step is by getting homeownership counseling, which will help get your finances in order. And the good news is LSS Financial Counseling offers this service for free. Our non-judgmental counselors provide ongoing guidance to:

1. Help you assess your financial situation

First, your counselor will work with you to create a thorough, realistic spending plan so you know where your money is going. When your goal is homeownership, it’s important to build up as much as savings as possible because of the associated expenses like the down payment, closing costs, moving expenses, new furniture, etc. Your counselor will provide suggestions, but ultimately it’s your choice on any spending changes you might need to make.

2. Address barriers, such as credit, debt, or student loansnew home

Your counselor will review your credit report and debts with you to create an action plan with options to pay off debt faster and concrete steps to take to improve credit/pay off debt, including student loans.

3. Determine if you are ready to buy and help you calculate what you can afford

Based on your existing budget and credit, your counselor will help you decide for yourself if you’re ready for a home purchase. And if so, s/he will help you calculate what you can afford for a monthly mortgage payment so you know your house price limit.

4. Connect you with helpful resources

There are mortgage loan programs, first-time homebuyer resources, and down payment and closing cost assistance programs out there to provide even more help. Your counselor will connect/refer you resources that may help you achieve your goal of a home purchase.

In order to be a successful homebuyer, it’s important to plan ahead and be informed.

For your free homeownership counseling session, call LSS at 888.577.2227. We can help you achieve your goals!

 

Author Elaina Johannessen is a Program Director with LSS Financial Counseling.

 

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Advantages and disadvantages of buying vs. renting a home

June is National Homeownership Month! Many times first-time home buyers wonder whether buying a home is worth the investment. Read through the information below for some of the advantages of disadvantages of buying versus renting a home. If you're wondering if home ownership is right for you, set up a time to talk with one of our friendly mortgage originators. Purchasing a home is a big deal! Our team takes the time to work with members to make sure they understand the home buying process and whether or not buying a home is the right financial choice.

Click here to meet our mortgage originator team.

Advantages of buying a home

BUILD EQUITY OVER TIME
Every dollar paid toward a mortgages principle represents equity. When you reach 20% equity you have the ability to refinance your mortgage to secure a lower interest rate or longer repayment.

TAX BENEFITS
Federal Tax Deductions: As a home owner, you can deduct your property taxes and interest paid on your mortgage, reducing your overall taxes.

CREATIVE FREEDOM
As a homeowner, you make the call on updates you wish to see throughout your home. You can paint walls, update kitchen, or finish your basement.

Disadvantages of buying a home

HIGH UPFRONT COSTS
You can expect to pay no less than 5.5% of your home’s value before moving in.

POTENTIAL FOR FINANCIAL LOSS
Although homeownership builds equity over time, home values can still decrease or remain flat.

RESPONSIBILITY FOR MAINTENANCE AND REPAIRS
As a homeowner, you’re responsible for covering the costs of all uninsured maintenance and repair work on your home.

Advantages of renting a home

NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR MAINTENANCE OR REPAIRS
As a renter, you’re not responsible for home maintenance or repair costs. If a toilet backs up, an appliance stops working, or a pipe bursts, you just have to call your landlord.

SOME UTILITIES MAY BE INCLUDED
In many multi-unit apartments, some or all utilities, such as water, gas, electric, internet, and cable are included.

CREDIT REQUIREMENTS ARE LESS STRICT
Renting is much easier than securing a good mortgage rate. Most landlords will rent to you even if your credit score is low.

Disadvantages of renting a home

NO EQUITY BUILDING
As a renter, every dollar you pay in rent is gone forever; you can’t build equity. For this reason, if you plan to stay in the same area for more than a few years, buying may be a smarter financial choice.

NO TAX BENEFITS
Renters aren’t eligible for any housing-related federal tax credits or deductions.

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Donate now to SCCU's June food drive to help local community members!

During the entire month of June, Superior Choice Credit Union will be aiding our community’s hungry by holding a food drive at all six branches. During the drive, both members credit union and the community at large are invited to bring non-perishable food items to any branch of SCCU. The food will be collected in boxes, and at the end of the month the boxes will be transported to various local food shelves in close proximity to each branch.

Branches will collect non-perishable food items for food shelves corresponding with each location:

  • The Hermantown branch will be delivering food to the Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank
  • Ashland and Mellen branches will be dropping food off at their local BRICK food shelves
  • The Denfeld location will bring its boxes of food to the West Duluth CHUM food shelf
  • Tower Avenue and Shoreline branches in Superior will be delivering food to the NWCSA food shelf

Donation boxes are available at each Superior Choice Credit Union branch. Click here for a list of locations and lobby hours.

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SCCU Retirement & Financial Advisors: Adjusting Your Portfolio as You Age

Ajdusting Your Portfolio as You Age

As you approach retirement, it may be time to pay more attention to investment risk.
Provided by Wendy Otterness

If you are an experienced investor, you have probably fine-tuned your portfolio through the years in response to market cycles or in pursuit of a better return. As you approach or enter retirement, is another adjustment necessary?

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Beware of telephone phishing scams to prevent fraud on your accounts

Superior Choice Credit Union has seen a recent uptick in fraudulent credit and debit card activity. We believe that this activity is stemming from scam phishing phone calls in which members are being coerced into divulging sensitive private financial information such as a debit card pin, CVV number, account number, or other information.

REMINDER: Superior Choice Credit Union would never call our members just to request or verify sensitive personal or financial information. If you receive a call from someone who claims to be with the credit union and they are requesting your social security number, account number, pin, CVV number (three-digit number on the back of your credit or debit card), card expiration date, address, or other personal information, do not disclose any sensitive private information to the caller and hang up the phone.

Scammers can be sophisticated, and by your phone’s caller ID it may seem that you are actually receiving a phone call from Superior Choice Credit Union’s phone number. Again, SCCU does not call members requesting a pin, CVV code, or other sensitive data.

A great approach when someone calls and claims to be from a business or financial institution and is requesting personal information from you is to tell the caller that you need to call them back. Then, look up the business/financial institution’s official phone number and call back.

It is important to note that member data was NOT compromised from Superior Choice Credit Union. It is likely that member information was compromised in relation to a place where they made a purchase, whether in-person or online.

If you have questions about your account, call Superior Choice Credit Union directly at 1-800-569-4167 or stop by one of our branches.

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June-August Featured Artist: Chelsea Branley

Chelsea Branley Art Wall for web

Every three months, Superior Choice Credit Union has the pleasure of featuring a different local artist at our Tower Avenue branch. Our art wall has seen the likes of photography to water color paintings and everything in between. The Twin Ports region has a plethroa of talented artists who we are so excited to work with.

Our current featured artist is Chelsea Branley, a UW-Superior graduate student in the art therapy program. Chelsea's mixed-media artwork is a great pop of color on our branch walls. Be sure to check out Chelsea's work now through August.

We're always on the lookout for new artists to feature! If you or someone you know is a talented local artist, please reach out to us to learn more about having artwork featured at our Tower Avenue branch. Shoot an email to SCCU's Marketing Manager Brittany Markgren at [email protected] or call 1-800-569-4167 and ask to speak with Brittany.

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Announcing the 2018 SCCU Scholarship recipients!

SCCU is proud to congratulate the winners of our 2018 scholarship program! There are always many qualified applicants, and the committee decided these dedicated students were to be awarded a $500 SCCU scholarship this year:

  • Emma D. attending the College of St. Scholastica
  • Mack G. attending UW-Whitewater
  • Skylar M. attending UW-Eau Claire
  • Gabriel B. attending UW-Superior
  • Alphia K. attending UW-Milwaukee
  • Allie L. attending the College of St. Scholastica
  • Anna E. attending St. Lawrence University

Thank you to everyone who applied to receive one of seven $500 SCCU scholarships. Applications for our 2019 scholarships will be available in January 2019.

Congratulations to all our members who are graduating this spring! All of us here at SCCU wish you all a successful school year!

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Join us at the Twin Ports Elder Abuse Awareness and Prevention forum June 14

Thursday, June 14 is the Twin Ports Elder Abuse Awareness and Prevention Community Forum. Help ensure that the elders in your life are protected from all types of abuse by attending the forum, which is being held at the University of Wisconsin-Superior in Swenson Hall from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

This forum will include a keynote presentation as well as brief presentations from a panel of experts who work with people experiencing, observing or suspecting all kinds of elder abuse. They will introduce you to the services they provide and answer questions submitted by participants. There will be resource materials available from many agencies throughout the Twin Ports who can help you prevent and end abuse. Every year an estimated 5 million, or 1 in 10, older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. And experts believe that for every reported case of elder abuse or neglect, as many as 23.5 cases go unreported.

SCCU is pleased to partner in the planning of this excellent safety resource. SCCU Member Service Representative Manager, Tanya Martineau, will be among the speakers at the event.

Click here to learn more and to register online for this event.

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Friday, April 27: SCCU Superior branches and offices reopen

Superior Choice Credit Union's Tower Avenue branch and Administrative Offices/Call Center have reopened for normal business hours on Friday, April 27. SCCU's Shoreline branch in Superior's East End neighborhood will reopen later in the morning on Friday, April 27.

SCCU's Superior branches and offices were closed during the afternoon on Thursday, April 26 due to the oil refinery fire and evacuation in the City of Superior. We apologize for any inconvenience to our membership while we were closed. 

On behalf of everyone at Superior Choice Credit Union, we would like to thank the all the emergency crews, local authorities, and others who helped keep our community safe and informed during yesterday's incident.

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Thursday, April 26: Branch closures due to oil refinery fire in Superior

Out of an abundance of caution due to the developing oil refinery fire situation in Superior, our Tower Avenue branch, Shoreline branch, and Administrative Offices with Call Center are closed as of 1:45 p.m. on Thursday, April 26. At the time of this post, our Hermantown, Duluth Denfeld, Ashland, and Mellen branches were still open for normal business hours. 

Our Superior branches and offices will resume normal operating hours on Friday, April 27 at the earliest.

We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your understanding. We will post updates when needed.

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You're Invited! Social Security and Your Retirement

SS seminar header

You're Invited!

Social Security and Your Retirement

Know the rules of the road to help make the most of your benefits

Join us for an Educational Seminar

Regardless of when you plan to retire, Social Security will likely be an important part of the road ahead. Join us for a no-cost, no-obligation seminar that will answer your Social Security questions and discuss routes you can take to help get the most out of your benefits. Find out how to set a clear direction on your road to retirement.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.
Updated location:
Holiday Inn Express & Suites
303 2nd Avenue East, Superior, WI 54880

Hosted by:
Mike Mason
Regional Director MEMBERS Insurance and Investments

RSVP:
Click here to RSVP online, call Anthony Bye at 715-398-8918 or email [email protected]

Space is limited. Call today!

Wendy Otterness, Financial Advisor
SCCU Retirement and Financial Advisors

 

MEMBERS Insurance & Investments and MEMBERS are marketing names for the products, services and programs offered by CMFG Life Insurance Company (CMFG Life), MEMBERS Life Insurance Company (MEMBERS Life) and other leading carriers. MEMBERS® is a registered trademark of CMFG Life. CUNA Mutual Group is the marketing name for CUNA Mutual Holding Company, a mutual insurance holding company, its subsidiaries and affiliates. Not NCUA/NCUSIF/FDIC insured, may lose value, no financial institution guarantee. Not a deposit of any financial institution. Representatives are not tax advisors or Social Security experts. For information regarding your specific tax situation, please consult a tax professional. To discuss your specific Social Security benefits, please contact the Social Security Administration office in your area.

Securities sold, advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution to make securities available to members. Not NCUA/NCUSIF/FDIC insured, May Lose Value, No Financial Institution Guarantee. Not a deposit of any financial institution.

MGA-840147.3-0117-0219

 

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Celebrate National Credit Union Youth Month with us!

youth month 2018 header

Every child dreams about their future. Some of those dreams may require money to come true. How do you help your children achieve their dreams?
One way is to help them learn how to save their money.

In April, Superior Choice Credit Union is celebrating Youth Month, which is a program that helps teach and encourage kids to develop good financial habits.

The theme this year is “The Science of Saving,” showcasing fun, sci-fi-inspired characters. Science has proven that if you start with small goals, saving your money can become a regular habit. This year’s Youth Month inspires children to begin saving the money they earn so they can attain their dreams of a happy future.

Superior Choice Credit Union will celebrate Youth Month from April 2, 2018 through April 30, 2018 with the following activities and promotions:

  • Stop by your nearest branch of SCCU to get a $5 coupon for opening a new youth savings account
  • Kids age 10 and under can participate in the SCCU Youth Month coloring contest. Click here to download a printable PDF coloring page, or stop by your nearest branch of SCCU to pick up a coloring contest sheet.
  • SCCU is offering $500 college/tech school scholarships to members who are graduating high school this spring. Click here for details and a printable application. Applications are due no later than Friday, April 27, 2018.
  • Members will get a $15 Kwik Trip gift card for opening a Teen Checking account during the month of April1.
  • Join us Friday, April 20 for a Youth Month open house at all SCCU branches. We’ll serve cookies and refreshments, handout Youth Month goodie bags for kids, and more.

 

1Membership eligibility required. Promotion available April 2-30, 2018 but is subject to change or discontinue at any time. Kwik Trip gift card will be mailed to new account holders in early May 2018. Account opening gift card APY = 0.00%. Bonus will be reported on IRS-1099 and member will be responsible for tax filing and reporting.

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Get your credit report and score for free May 11!

credit scoreSuperior Choice Credit Union will host April Sanderson, a Certified Credit Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling, on Friday, May 11 at the Denfeld branch (4125 Grand Avenue in Duluth) for a Credit Check Clinic. Members and their partner/spouse may sign up for a 15-minute consultation to find out what's on their credit report; learn their credit score; learn quick tips on how to improve or maintain their credit score; correct any errors; detect and stop identity theft; and more. Thanks to SCCU's partnership with LSS Financial Counseling, these consultations are completely free!

While the consultations are completely free, members should register for a time slot. To register for a free consultation, call 1-800-569-4167. Appointments are available between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, May 11. All time slots have been filled! Stay tuned for future opportunities, or click here to learn more about free one-on-one financial counseling for SCCU members.

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Online banking login box changes

We recently made some changes to the online banking login box that is featured on our home page. In order to increase compatibility with It's Me 247 Online Banking, we had to make some upgrades to our online banking login box. This renovation creates added security against would-be identity thieves by making it even more difficult to access member accounts using software that targets member usernames.

Previously, you just had to type your online banking username in the online banking login box, then click the "Login" button to proceed to the online banking page where you would enter your password and answer your security question.

Now, you will type your username and password into the online banking box and then click the "Login" button to proceed to the online banking page where you will answer your security question to access your online banking account.

Please see the photos below demonstrating the old login box vs. the new login box.

Old login box:

Current Online Banking

New login box:

New Online Banking

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Dairyland State Bank joins Superior Choice Credit Union

Dairyland State Bank joins Superior Choice Credit Union

Acquisition allows SCCU to grow to $480 million credit union serving more than 35,000 members with 12 branches throughout northwestern Wisconsin and northeastern Minnesota.

Superior, WI — Superior Choice Credit Union and Dairyland State Bank announced today that the acquisition agreement between their two financial institutions has been finalized. Pending regulatory approval, the acquisition will create a combined financial institution with more than $480 million in assets.

Closing is expected to occur in the third or fourth quarter of 2018. After closing, the two financial institutions will legally become one entity, which will operate under the Superior Choice Credit Union name and charter. Existing employees of both organizations will be retained. The acquisition allows Superior Choice Credit Union to offer expanded services to its soon-to-be 35,000 members with 12 branches throughout northwestern Wisconsin and northeastern Minnesota.

SCCU President/CEO Gary Elliott, who has been with the credit union since 2005, will continue to lead the combined organization. Elliott views the acquisition as an opportunity to expand SCCU’s footprint in northwestern Wisconsin.

“We are ecstatic to welcome Dairyland State Bank to our credit union,” said Elliott. “As a locally-owned community bank, we know that the values of Dairyland State Bank are already closely aligned with the values that we champion as a member-owned credit union. While SCCU will grow in numbers and in branch locations, we will remain committed to serving our membership by offering low loan rates, high deposit rates, and member-focused services.”

By joining SCCU, Dairyland State Bank customers will become SCCU members and will have the added benefit of access to more branches, expanded use of technology, and member-ownership. Dairyland State Bank President Robert Hegeholz says SCCU’s community roots makes the credit union a perfect fit for Dairyland State Bank’s customers.

“Dairyland State Bank has taken immense pride in serving our local area,” Hegeholz said. “Superior Choice Credit Union is going to do an outstanding job in furthering the work we’ve done, while adding new products and services that Dairyland State Bank customers are going to really appreciate.”

The next step for the newly combined financial institution will be to fully integrate operations, products, services, policies, technology, and more. All Dairyland State Bank offices, located in Bruce, Exeland, Sheldon, Gilman, Holcombe, and Hayward in Wisconsin, will be converted to Superior Choice Credit Union branches in the coming months.

Both financial institutions have a long history of serving residents in northwestern Wisconsin. Superior Choice Credit Union was first chartered in 1932 and was located in the Superior Co-op Store at Belknap Street and Tower Avenue in Superior. By 2015, SCCU expanded to operate six branches in five cities: Superior, Ashland, and Mellen in Wisconsin along with Duluth and Hermantown in Minnesota. Dairyland State Bank was chartered in 1902 and was known as Lumberman’s State Bank at that time.

SCCU is represented by Michael Bell from Howard & Howard Attorneys, PLLC and Dairyland is represented by Randi L. Osberg of Ruder Ware, LLSC.

About Superior Choice Credit Union
Superior Choice Credit Union operates six full-service branch locations around the Northland offering a full line of financial products and services. Since 1932, SCCU has been serving the financial needs of its member/owners. As a member-owned cooperative, members have a say in their financial institution. Please visit www.superiorchoice.com for more information. Superior Choice Credit Union is federally insured by NCUA. Equal housing opportunity.

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SCCU Retirement & Financial Advisors: Keeping this Correction in Perspective

After 20 months of relative calm, this volatility needs to be taken in stride.

Provided by Wendy Otterness

Are you upset by what is happening on Wall Street? It may help to see this pullback within a big-picture context. Corrections have become so rare as of late that when one occurs, emotion threatens to influence investment decisions.

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Free educational event for SCCU members: Student Loans 101

Being a Senior in high school (or parent of one) can be a very exciting time. But if you're headed off to college or a technical school after graduation, it can also be a little confusing – FAFSA, SAR, family contributions, and most daunting of all – student loans. LSS Financial Counseling Student Loan Counselor, Tasha, will help to explain all the things that come after filling out the FAFSA and help to explain the different payment options when it comes to post-secondary education.

Join us on Tuesday, March 6 at 5:30 p.m. for a free informational session thanks to our partners at LSS Financial Counseling. This event takes place at the SCCU Administrative Offices, located at 1320 Grand Avenue in Superior. We have a limited amount of space available, so be sure to RSVP as soon as possible!

Click here to register online.

 

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Changes to It's Me 247 Online Banking passwords

Attention It's Me 247 Online Banking users! If you receive a login message that your password is longer than 10 characters, enter only the first 10 characters of your password to proceed with login. Options for creating much longer passwords are coming soon!

Our online banking will undergo an upgrade! Starting March 11, 2018, this exciting change will expand the limit on the length for your online banking password from 10 to 256 characters. This is great news for your online banking security!

However, this change may require you to update your password if you are currently in the habit of typing more than 10 characters for your password. Beginning March 11, those characters will now be counted and your password will be incorrect (remember, passwords must be between 8-10 characters now, but some of you are typing extra characters!)

A password longer than 10 characters that is entered on March 11, 2018, will not be able to access Online Banking and must be changed on that date. Prior to the change, you may notice a message in It's Me 247 letting you know there's an issue with your password length. If you see this message and must change your password on March 11, use the "I forgot my password" link in It's Me 247 Online Banking and follow the prompts to create a new password. If you need assistance changing your password, please contact the credit union.

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LSS Financial Counseling: It’s Almost Tax Season and It’s Time To Make a Plan

This article is courtesy of our partners at LSS Financial Counseling. You can read this article, and more, over on their Sense & Centsibility blog.

The new year brings up thoughts of resolutions like eating better, paying off debt, exercising, and more. But the new year also brings with it tax season…again. Don’t wait until April 14th to work on your taxes; be proactive this year.

Get Organized

Find a drawer, folder, or manila envelope to gather all of your tax documents, such as W-2s. I get most of mine electronically now so I create an electronic folder and keep them there. Use the method that works best for you to keep everything together.

Determine How You Will File

Are you going to file online, do you have a tax professional, or can you get free tax preparation help? Figure out your method for filing. Be cautious of anyone charging high fees, especially if you don’t have a complicated tax situation. If not, check out free or relatively cheap and safe online options. If your household earned less than $66,000, you are eligible to file taxes for free via MyFreeTaxes.com.

Plan for Your Refund

If you get a tax refund, be strategic with it by prioritizing your needs. If you’re behind on any bills, get caught up on those first. Do you have an emergency fund? If not, use half of your refund (or as much as you can afford) to establish savings. If you already have savings, put 1/4 in savings and deposit half (or more) into retirement savings. You can never have enough money set aside for the future.

Make Saving Automatic

The IRS gives you the option of depositing your refund in up to 3 different accounts. A great way to ensure you save that money is to set up an automatic deposit into a separate savings account.

Be Prepared for Possible Refund Delays

This year, the IRS is required to hold any refund that includes the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until at least February 15th. So keep in mind you may have to wait a little longer for your refund if it includes either one of those tax credits.

Think Ahead About Repayment

If you know or think you will need to pay in for taxes, start setting aside money now. That will help you be more prepared to pay in. Also, you can check into IRS repayment plans or your state’s department of revenue if you owe on state taxes.

Beware of Scams

There are a lot scammers out there that prey on people, especially during tax season. The IRS will never call you and ask for your personal information. Tax fraud is also a concern…for more info check out the Taxpayer’s Guide to Identity Theft.

Author Elaina Johannessen is a Program Director with LSS Financial Counseling.

*IF YOU NEED ADDITIONAL HELP, SEEK ADVICE FROM A REPUTABLE ACCOUNTANT / TAX PROFESSIONAL.

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SCCU Retirement & Financial Advisors: The Dow Dropped — Don't Panic

Provided by Wendy Otterness of SCCU Retirement and Financial Advisors

This week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped in a way that it never had before. Monday, the benchmark fell 1,175 points, taking the greatest tumble in its long history. At one point, it was down 1,500 points during the trading day.1,2

While Monday’s Dow loss was indeed severe, it was not as catastrophic as certain headlines trumpeted.

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