• What Happens After You File for Bankruptcy?

    If you’re swimming in debt and looking for a fresh start, declaring bankruptcy has probably crossed your mind. Just be aware that bankruptcy isn’t an “easy way out.” It may be better than having your wages garnished or your home foreclosed, but you should only consider it as a last resort. Learn more about what happens after you file for bankruptcy so you can go into the process feeling more informed.

    Your Creditors Leave You Alone

    When your case enters the court, you are immediately protected from the aggressive collection efforts of your creditors. This bankruptcy benefit, known as the automatic stay, prevents creditors from harassing you over the phone, at your door, via email, or by sending letters.

    Your Credit Score Takes a Hit

    Bankruptcy leaves a big black mark on your credit history that lasts up to 10 years. Of course, if you’re considering this option, your credit score is probably mediocre to begin with. Once you file and get creditors off your back (and out of your bank accounts), you can begin rebuilding your score.

    You Could Lose Your Property, Including Your House

    If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the process includes working with a trustee to liquidate (sell) your non-exempt items—which may include your house, car, family heirlooms, and other valuable assets—to repay your creditors. If the sale of these items doesn’t cover your entire debt, the remainder is discharged (forgiven).

    You May Still be Required to Repay (Some of) Your Debt

    If you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy because your income is too high to qualify for Chapter 7, you will work with a trustee to reorganize your debts into a feasible payment plan based on your income. Your assets aren’t liquidated, meaning you get to keep your house, but you must stick to a strict repayment plan for three to five years. After this time, your remaining debt is discharged.

    Not All Debts are Forgiven

    There are some significant exceptions regarding which debts can be discharged by filing for bankruptcy. For instance, student loan debt, child support, alimony, taxes, and fines and penalties most often won’t be forgiven. In the case of recent expensive purchases, such as jewelry or a new car, you can either reaffirm the debt, which means you remain responsible for paying it off, or you agree to have it repossessed and sold to help pay off your other debts.

    The Details of Your Bankruptcy are Made Public

    This negative consequence of filing for bankruptcy means that family, friends, and future landlords, lenders, or employers can find out the details of your court proceedings, including how much money you owed and whom you owed it to. The loss of privacy could be a deal-breaker for some people.

    GCS Credit Union offers banking solutions to help you rebuild your credit and get your finances back in order after declaring bankruptcy. To learn how you can become a member, please contact us at (618) 797-7993 today.

  • Simple Financial Advice That Everyone Can Follow

    From home mortgage loans to investments, personal finance can get pretty complicated. But there are some simple financial rules that anyone can follow to achieve better financial stability. When you watch this video, you’ll hear a financial expert talk about what he’s learned over the years.

    Some of his financial guidance includes avoiding buying and selling individual stocks, and instead buying well-diversified mutual funds and index funds. He also recommends saving 10% to 20% of your income and paying off your credit card balance in full every month.

    For financial advice tailored to your specific situation, talk to a financial planner at GCS Credit Union. Call (618) 797-7993 to locate our credit union in O’Fallon or to find out about becoming a member.

  • What to Do if You Fall Behind on Auto Loan Payments

    If you’ve lost your job or faced recent unexpected expenses, you may be worried that you’re going to fall behind on your auto loan payments. Ideally, you should take action before you miss a payment. As soon as you know that you can’t make an upcoming payment, get in touch with your auto loan lender to work out a solution.

    Request a loan forbearance agreement.

    If you have a temporary financial problem, a loan forbearance agreement can give you the wiggle room you need. Your lender may agree to let you skip a couple of payments. Those payments would be added to the end of your loan, so you’ll still end up making them eventually. A similar agreement is to make small payments for a few months. However, if you think your financial problem will last longer than the forbearance period, it may be best to explore other options.

    Refinance your auto loan.

    If your financial problem is a long-term one, and you have strong credit, then refinancing the auto loan may be your best option. Refinancing the loan may give you a lower interest rate or a longer life of the loan. Either modification would result in smaller payments. Of course, your original lender might not be willing to refinance. Consider going to a credit union instead. Credit unions are known for working with their members to develop customized financial solutions.

    Sell your vehicle.

    While it might not be the most ideal option, selling your vehicle may be the only feasible path forward if you can’t refinance or get a forbearance agreement. Of course, selling your vehicle will only improve your situation if the sale price is at least equal to the amount you have left on the loan. Another option may be to sell your car to someone you know who is willing to take over the loan or lease.

    GCS Credit Union offers auto loans in O’Fallon at the highly competitive rates you need and the customized terms you deserve. Come in and speak with a member representative today, and we’ll work to structure your auto loan to suit your needs. Call (618) 797-7993.

  • Becoming a Member at Our Credit Union

    If you’re looking for an online banking option, and you’re also interested in getting great interest rates on loans and savings accounts, then it’s time to join GCS Credit Union in Illinois. If you live, work, or go to school in one of our covered counties, then you’re eligible to become a credit union member. Legal entities, including businesses, members of approved employee groups, and the family members of credit union members are also eligible. Once you open an account, you’ll remain eligible for life, even if you move to a non-qualified county or stop working for a qualified employer.

    If you’re eligible, all you have to do is complete the simple application form. We’ll ask you for identifying information, including your date of birth. A representative may ask to see your driver’s license or other proof of identification before approving your membership.

    To become a member at our credit union in O’Fallon, call (618) 797-7993, visit a branch near you, or complete our online application. The entire team here at GCS Credit Union looks forward to helping you save money and benefit from better interest rates.

  • How Much Money Should You Save Every Month?

    If you save as much as you can throughout your life, you shouldn’t have much stress as you approach retirement age. Of course, everyone saves different amounts because everyone’s financial situation is unique. What works for you might not work for someone else. If you’re having trouble sorting through your personal finances, or you just want an expert to review your situation, consider talking to a financial planner at a credit union. Here’s a quick look at how much you should be saving each month as you start planning for your future.

    Overall Savings

    Since people’s income varies widely, many financial experts recommend saving a percentage each month. A typical recommendation is to save at least 10% to 20% of your income. Some people are able to save more, others less. It may not be possible to save 20% of your income if you live on a $30,000 salary and have significant medical expenses, for example. Just try to save as much as you can every month, and be on the lookout for new ways to cut expenses and increase savings.

    Goal-Oriented Savings

    Within your overall savings, you should have separate funds. Your retirement funds should comprise the biggest portion of your savings. For example, if you save 20%, then your retirement savings may comprise 15%. The remaining money should be saved for other long-term and short-term goals, such as buying a house, buying a new car, and putting the kids through college. Additionally, everyone needs emergency savings. Ideally, you should have three to six months of income saved just in case of a major catastrophe, like prolonged unemployment.

    Saving Tips

    There are countless ways to cut expenses and increase your savings. You might decide to get a side hustle in addition to your full-time job, for instance. You could also eliminate your cable bill and opt for a less expensive TV streaming service instead. If you have a spouse or partner, and one of you works from home, perhaps it would be possible to only keep one car on the road. Figure out what will work for you, given your lifestyle.

    At GCS Credit Union, our members have access to a bundle of superior savings options, including money market accounts, share certificates, savings accounts, and Roth or traditional IRAs. Plus, members can use our online banking features in O’Fallon and beyond to take control of their finances. Join our credit union today by visiting a local branch or calling (618) 797-7993.

  • Strategies for Managing Your Credit Score

    Your credit score can open—or close—a lot of doors for you. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of what they need to do to build and maintain a good credit score, so they make easily avoidable mistakes that end up harming them financially. As a member of a credit union, you have access to financial information from qualified advisors whose only interest is seeing members thrive financially. Take advantage of this important asset of credit union membership that bank customers don’t get since their institutions are for-profit and not member-driven. In addition to seeking advice at your credit union, these tips will help you take control of your score.

    Check Your Credit Report—Often

    You can’t manage your credit score if you don’t know what is on your credit report. Your credit report lists all of your credit accounts for the past seven years and how you managed them, and often, people find incorrect information on their reports that are dragging down their scores. You should monitor your report multiple times per year and petition to have incorrect or outdated information removed. Note that, contrary to popular belief, checking your credit does not lower your score. Only hard credit pulls from lenders affect your score.

    Reduce Your Debt When You Can

    The amount of debt you have versus the amount of credit you have available plays a big part in your credit score. Reducing your debt is a great way to increase your credit score. Pay as much as you can each month towards your debt, but never pay less than the minimum payment, so you don’t have late payments reflected on your credit report. For a similar reason, don’t close old accounts, since it will reduce the amount of credit you have available and cause you to update your debt-to-credit ratio.

    If you need help managing your credit, call GCS Credit Union and set up an appointment to talk to a representative. We’re invested in your financial success, whether you’re just getting your first credit card or trying to dig your way out of debt for retirement. For more information about our checking accounts, Visa Rewards credit card or other credit union service in O’Fallon, call (618) 797-7993.

  • Never Miss Another Bill Due Date with This Advice

    Missing a due date for a bill happens to everyone at some point, but although it may seem like a simple oversight, it can have costly repercussions. If you miss multiple due dates on an ongoing basis, you could end up paying for your errors for an extended period of time, as late payments drag down your credit score and haunt you for seven years. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make sure you never miss another due date, and some of the tools may already be integrated into your credit union accounts. Try these suggestions to keep up with your due dates.

    Use Online Bill Pay

    If you prefer a set-it-and-forget-it approach to paying your bills, online bill pay could be exactly what you’re looking for. With online bill pay from GCS Credit Union, simply set up the date and amount of payment for each bill you have, and your payments will be automatically sent to your creditors at the right time. Make sure you have your payments set up for at least the minimum amount so you never miss a deadline, but be aware that you can change the amounts at any time to pay more when you want to. For bills that change monthly, such as utility bills, you can still use online bill pay. Just set up your payment when your new balance is available.

    Align Your Due Dates

    Creditors will often allow you to shift your due dates, so consider making your bills all due on the same day or spacing them out on two or three specific dates each month. This will help to prevent anything from slipping through the cracks and also makes it easier to line up your payment with your paycheck dates.

    Set Up a Day Each Month for Financial Management

    If you automate your bill paying process as much as possible, you remove a lot of the room for error. However, it’s still important to check in on your finances monthly and make sure nothing needs attention. Pick a day each month to review all of your accounts and to make any necessary adjustments.

    GCS Credit Union offers easy and convenient online bill pay along with a variety of other tools for staying in control of your finances. To learn more, contact our credit union in O’Fallon by calling (618) 797-7993.

  • A Look at the Features of Our Visa Rewards Credit Card

    There are a lot of credit cards on the market, so it’s important to choose one that offers you benefits that you can use. You’ll find just that with the Visa Rewards credit card from GCS Credit Union. You’ll get the competitive rates you expect with your credit union membership plus the valuable benefits of the GCS Visa Rewards program.

    With the program, you get one point for every dollar you spend. The points are redeemable for everything from travel to merchandise, as well as special offers from GCS Credit Union. You can manage your points online at any time. With your card, you also get no annual fee, emergency card replacement, a PIN for ATM usage, and a 25-day grace period on all of your purchases.

    Find out more about applying for a Visa Rewards credit card by contacting GCS Credit Union. We also offer a variety of banking services, including checking accounts, savings accounts, home and auto loans, and much more. Talk to a credit union representative today by calling (618) 797-7993.

  • Tips for Dealing with Financial Stress

    Financial stress happens to everyone, no matter how much money they have in their checking account or on their credit card bills. The key to dealing with financial stress is to face it and find a solution. Your credit union can be a big help in this regard. The tips in this video will also help you manage financial stress.

    When you’re facing financial difficulty, it may help to write down the problem. Seeing it on paper may help you put it into perspective. Focusing on a solution that will deal with the short-term problem and prevent it from reoccurring will also help.

    GCS Credit Union is committed to the financial well-being of our members and can help you reach your goals with checking accounts, online bill pay, and competitive rates for auto loans in O’Fallon. Learn more about membership by calling (618) 797-7993.

  • What to Consider When You’re Planning for Retirement

    Retirement is the time when you get to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. However, without careful planning, it can instead be a time of financial stress. The key to successful retirement is planning. Even if you haven’t yet thought about retirement, the time to start is now. Sit down with a representative from your credit union to explore all of your saving options and to make a plan that works for your goals and budget. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re planning.

    There is never a wrong time to start saving for retirement.

    The ideal way to save for retirement is to start when you are young, so you have the maximum amount of time available to you to allow interest to work in your favor. However, if you didn’t start young, that doesn’t mean that it is too late. There is never a wrong time to start saving. You simply have to adjust your strategies based on your current stage of life, so you can maximize your returns.

    Goals will help you stay on track.

    Setting aside money without any goals in mind is an ineffective way to plan for your retirement. Instead, set savings goals, so you know exactly what you want to achieve. Know how much you want to have when you retire, and then set mini-goals along the way as you strive to accumulate that amount. You’ll feel more motivated if you’re hitting goals as you go, plus, you’ll be better positioned to do the things you want to do during retirement.

    Financial windfalls can pay dividends in the future.

    If you come into some extra money, such as an inheritance or tax refund, don’t start looking at the short-term rewards you could give yourself. Put that money in a retirement account so that it starts working for you. You’ll be glad you focused on the long-term potential of that money when retirement comes around.

    Let GCS Credit Union help you build a retirement savings plan that works for you by leveraging our competitive interest rates and member-focused financial services. To discuss your goals with a representative from our credit union in O’Fallon, call (618) 797-7993.