SIU Credit Union Blog

How Should I Use My Tax Refund?        

Q: I got a bigger than expected tax refund this year and I don’t want to blow it all. How can I use it responsibly?

A: You’re already making the better choice by thinking about what to do with your small fortune instead of splurging and then watching it all disappear within a few weeks.

When you receive an unexpected windfall, whether it’s from a tax refund, work bonus or a cash gift, it’s always a good idea to be proactive about how you’ll spend it instead of letting it just blow through your checking account.

Below, we’ve listed some dos and don’ts for you to consider.

Do: Pay down debt

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Beware These Tax Scams!

They’re at it again! Every year, tax season brings a fresh crop of scammers with yet another way to con you out of your money – and sanity. The IRS and the FTC are both warning the public about a series of tax-related scams to be wary of during this busy and stressful time.

You may be delighted to have finally filed your taxes and be done with all those forms, but unfortunately, the scams are just beginning.

Here at SIU Credit Union, the last thing we want is for you to lose your money to criminals. That’s why we’ve gathered all the info you’ll need about this year’s tax scams so you can arm yourself with information against these crimes.

Here’s what to know about the latest tax scams:

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Your Parents’ Financial Advice Is Probably Wrong (for You)

Debbie Heffernan Gallant followed her dad’s advice to invest in his favorite mutual fund when she opened an IRA in 1984.

“The great part of the advice was opening an IRA at age 21 before I even had graduated from college, plus putting money in the stock market,” she says.

The not-so-great part: Mutual funds vary, and this one invested a large portion in bonds. That low-risk but low-earning choice was too conservative for someone with a long timeline to smooth out stock market ups and downs.

“This is something I might put my pre-retirement or even retired clients in, but not a 21-year-old just starting her work career,” says Gallant, now a certified financial planner and CEO of Gallant Financial Planning in Rockville, Maryland.

Money decisions should be based on your individual needs. Like Gallant’s father, your parents mean well, but their financial advice might not be right for you. Here are three reasons why, and what to do instead: Continue reading

Teaching the value of a dollar with Banzai

We know that teachers need a resource for the often mandated, but also underfunded curriculum of financial literacy. We also know that financial literacy has yet to achieve standard curriculum status so finding quality resources poses a real challenge. Here at SIU Credit Union, we’re deeply interested in helping young people become wise stewards of their money. We’re also experts in teaching fiscal responsibility. For that reason, we’re offering Banzai – an award-winning financial literacy program – at no cost to schools in our region. How do you get started? Just ask your school to sign up!

Schools need a program that is engaging and interactive. Financial literacy is more about what you do than what you know. SIU Credit Union’s Banzai curriculum will show students what real life is all about. It will introduce them to many of the challenges they’ll face as adults. In addition to introducing them to concepts, it will help them navigate financial dilemmas in a responsible way.

Want to get started? Ask your school to sign up at:

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Mortgages: The 20% Down Myth 

Are you desperate to own a home of your own?

If that’s your dream, you are likely saving up, dollar by hard-earned dollar, until you have that magic number: 20% of your dream home’s total value. That’s what all the experts say, right?

For the average American home, 20% amounts to a pretty big number. Throw in closing costs and you’ve got a small fortune to raise – and years to go until you reach your goal.

It’s great that you’re putting money away toward what will likely be the largest purchase of your life, but there’s one huge mistake in your calculations: You don’t need to put down 20%.

Yes, you read right. The 20% myth is an unfortunate leftover from the era after the housing crisis, when out of necessity, access to credit tightened up. Thankfully, times have changed, and since FHA loans were introduced more than 80 years ago, mortgages have not required a 20% down payment.

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How To Fund An Emergency  

Q: Help! I’ve been hit with a financial emergency and I don’t know how to pay for it! What are my options?

A: Ideally, you’ll want to have an emergency fund in place for this very reason. If you don’t, or the money you have set aside isn’t enough, you have several options to consider.

We’ve listed some ideas below. Be sure to review the pros and cons of each before determining which option(s) will work best for you.

1.) Credit cards

For many people, when faced with staggering and unexpected bills, the default option is to pull out their plastic. Unfortunately, following this trend can put you on the fast track toward a lifetime of debt and playing catch-up because of this one-time emergency.

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