Struggling With A Student Loan? Ask Your Lender for Help

If you’re one of the millions facing unemployment and staggering student debt, you may find yourself unable to make your monthly payments on your student loans. With the threat of wagestudent loan garnishment and irreparable damage to your credit score hanging over your head, where do you turn for help?

 

The answer is your lender. There are often different options available for repayment that you can choose to suit your needs and financial situation, but you need to be proactive about finding out what those are. The first step you need to take is to determine whether your student loans are serviced through the U.S. Department of Education or through a private lender.

 

Options for federal loans depend on the program. You may be able to lower your monthly payment or temporarily put repayment on hold. You can choose from a menu of repayment plans and change from one to another at any time. Possibilities include lower monthly payments that increase over time, an extended repayment period that results in lower monthly payments, and monthly payments based on your income.

 

Although these kinds of plans may reduce monthly payments, remember that the longer you take to pay down the loan, the more you pay in interest. Federal loan borrowers also might qualify for forbearance or deferment, which can temporarily reduce or postpone payments.

 

To get help with a federal loan, contact your servicer, the organization that collects your loan payments. Borrowers can identify their federal loans and the servicers for those loans using the U.S. Department of Education’s National Student Loan Data System.

 

For private student loans, contact your servicer to learn about possibilities such as forbearance or deferment or alternatives like rate reductions, extended loan terms or other loan modifications. On July 25, 2013, the FDIC, the Federal Reserve Board and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued a statement encouraging financial institutions to work constructively with private student loan borrowers experiencing financial difficulties.

 

Finally, beware of unsolicited offers from companies that promise an easy solution to student loan woes. The solicitation may even appear to be affiliated with the government or represent government programs. Often times, these are attempts to obtain your personal information and commit identity theft, or scams that collect fees for services that are freely available through the Department of Education or a private institution.

 

To learn more about federal student loans and repayment options, start at studentaid.ed.gov. Also find information from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Friday Focus: Charles County Dive Rescue

When disaster strikes on the water, Charles County Dive Rescue, Inc. is there to help by dispatching properly trained and equipped divers to assist in Dive Support13emergencies. The organization was founded in 1989, when medical advances in near-drowning resuscitation prompted a need for a specialized rescue team that could respond in those situations. Today, CCDR Company 13 is an independent emergency service agency that operates an in-house training program and maintains a fleet of dive and rescue boats and vehicles.  We talked with Chief William “Skeeter” Porter for this week’s Friday Focus, who gave us a look an inside look into the organization.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: CCDR is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that operates with other public safety agencies for emergencies around water and ice.  Our mission is to serve the citizens of Charles County (as well as neighboring jurisdictions) by providing properly trained and equipped divers to assist in times of need. Further, we shall always strive to raise public conscience concerning safety around water and ice.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: It’s hard to pick a ‘favorite’ moment when your service is most needed at times when people may be experiencing a horrible tragedy.  Suffice it to say we are fortunate to have dedicated members who volunteer their time, knowledge, and skills to help others in their time of need.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Many emergency operations on open water are difficult due to a lack of reliable information.  Distance is very hard to estimate over water.  Also, wind and currents create difficult contributing factors.  Alcohol is often a contributing factor to accidents, which also makes obtaining accurate information about an incident difficult.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: You can learn more about CCDR by visiting our website at www.ccdr.net.

Friday Focus: Walden

Walden-LogoProviding comprehensive behavioral health services and recovery support, Walden has been a powerful force for good in the community since 1973. This week, we spoke with Walden’s Christine Timmerman, who shared her organization’s story with us.

 

 

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: For over 40 years, Walden has been at the forefront of behavioral health in the Southern Maryland Region. Since 1973, we have continued to grow and evolve to meet the changing needs of individuals and families, all while working hard to improve the overall health of our surrounding community. Our comprehensive array of services is designed to provide clients with the help they need, when they need it. Our mission at Walden Sierra is to contribute to the well-being of the Southern Maryland community: “Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow”. Walden’s vision is to consistently provide the best behavioral health treatment and recovery support services to Southern Maryland.

The name Walden was inspired by the work of Henry David Thoreau. St. Mary’s County has been home to Walden since 1973. Walden is a local, community based 501(c)(3) nonprofit CARF (Commission for Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) accredited organization, with six different locations in Southern Maryland.

Central to our programming is our 24 hour local crisis hotline, 301-863-6661. This hotline is one of the oldest local, professionally staffed hotlines in operation in the United States. From the hotline, Walden is able to help individual community members and better understand unmet community needs. We have used this information to build our programming as a response to community needs.

Walden has received several excellence awards over the years. Some of these awards include: the Sunshine Peace Award, the NAMI Social Impact Award and the Better With Less Award. We take great pride in what we do to help the community here at Walden, and we couldn’t do what we do without the support of our community partners, leadership team and management team.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: Walden’s favorite moments are when someone in need of our services has been given the resources and support to achieve the utmost care that Walden can provide for them. Each year, we provide our community with an Annual Report informing Southern Maryland of the impact that Walden has had on the community, and the resources that we have provided to those in need of services. The Annual Report highlights our mission statement, provides our location information, the services Walden provides and the amount of increased clients we have provided services to. In 2014, Walden received 13,634 calls to our 24-hour hotline, there was a 150% increase in clients receiving recovery support through Walden Sierra: Cove location in California, MD, and we received many testimonials and feedback about the experiences our clients receive at our facilities throughout the year. Here are just a few:

“Walden is a very welcoming and open-hearted place. Treated each other like family and had an ear open at all times.”    — Anonymous

“All the staff have been incredible on my long road to recovery. They have not given up on me.” — Anonymous

“I am very happy with the treatment I have enjoyed and learned a lot by coming here. I feel stronger about the way I feel and how I’m control everything. My body and mind are more clear. The staff have been fun and have shown me so much. Thank you. I am grateful for the opportunity of a lifetime. There is no other treatment program I could have asked for to help me succeed.” — Anonymous

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: WAYS TO DONATE – Financial Donations

Every dollar makes a tremendous difference and is greatly appreciated. We rely on donations from individuals, groups and businesses as well as foundation grants to help us keep our underfunded programs going.  As a result, individuals and families can access many of our services regardless of their ability to afford them. Donations can be directed to a particular Walden program.  The majority of the general donations we receive go toward off-setting the costs of our crisis and emergency services and our services for vulnerable populations. All donations can be claimed for tax benefit. Donors are welcome to contact us to ask for a tour or to speak with a Walden staff member about our current needs and projects.  Thank you for supporting Walden!

Q: Do you have any upcoming events?

A: On Friday, September 18 at 7:00 PM Walden will be hosting our Second Annual Fundraiser! Starlit Night: Shining A Light On Hope at the Olde Breton Inn. This will be a fun-filled evening with wonderful food and entertainment. Tickets are $85 per person or $150 per couple. Donations appreciated. Please call Christine at 301-997-1300 x 889. We hope to see you there!

401(k)s and IRAs: Why you need a retirement savings plan

Planning for a financially secure retirement is most often ranked as the number one reason why people save and invest. Social Security and company 401postpension plans may provide some of the income you need during retirement, but contributions to your company retirement plan and your IRA may make the difference between enjoying the retirement lifestyle you want and relying on others for your basic needs.

Contributions to retirement plans and IRAs move you closer to a financially secure retirement in three ways:

You save and accumulate money. Having a portion of your wages deferred into your 401(k) or other retirement plan can be the simplest and least “painful” way to save. Often the amounts are not missed as you automatically adjust your spending accordingly. Contributions to an IRA also add up, especially over longer periods of time. Contributing $5,500 a year over 20 years will add up to over $202,000 with a 6% earnings rate.

Your earnings are tax deferred. Earnings on funds within your retirement plan and IRA are not subject to income tax each year the way your other savings are. This means you have more money working for you. You will have to pay tax on the earnings when you withdraw the funds (except for a Roth IRA), but most people are in lower tax brackets when they retire.

You reduce your current income taxes. The amount you defer into your 401(k) plan reduces your taxable wages and you pay less tax each year. For 2015, the limit on the amount you can tax-defer into your 401(k) is $18,000 unless you were age 50 or above and then it is even larger. Contributions to a regular IRA are deductible if you are not covered by an employer-sponsored plan or if your adjusted gross income is below $98,000 for 2015 (married filing jointly) or $61,000 (filing a single tax return). Contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax deductible, but distributions are tax-free.

If you’re thinking about planning for retirement, Community Bank can help! Visit your local branch or visit our website to schedule an appointment with one of our Wealth Advisors.

Friday Focus Interview: The Golden Retriever Rescue of Southern Maryland

The dog days of summer are almost over, but finding animals loving homes is a year-round task! Helping the effort in St. Mary’s County is the Golden Retriever Rescue of Southern Maryland.  When circumstances force a dog ownSONY DSCer to give up their canine companion, the Rescue steps in to help find a new, loving home for the dog. The Rescue takes in around 50 dogs each year, depending on caring foster families to provide temporary homes for them until they can be adopted. We spoke with Pat Johnson, Founder and President of this St. Mary’s County-based 501(c)(3) organization for this Friday Focus interview.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A:  Golden Retriever Rescue is a local organization that takes in golden retrievers at Tri County Animal Shelter or from owners who can no longer take care of their dog due to relocation, illness, death, lack of time or resources.

In addition, we are a resource to local dog owners providing information about nutrition, behavior, health, training, etc. via our website, blog, Facebook page, newsletter and at local events.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A:  My favorite moment is when we were contacted by a local vet who was concerned about a litter of golden retriever puppies who had been exposed to the deadly parvo virus. The owner could not afford the treatment for the puppies, and some had died.

We did not hesitate to bring the puppies into rescue where they were quarantined and treated at the vet’s office. A temporary or “foster” family then cared for each puppy until a “fur-ever”, or adoptive family was carefully screened. Pups were all placed with loving families and are all healthy and happy now.

We are a small rescue and most of our goldens are adopted locally, so we were able to watch the pups grow and become beautiful adult goldens.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Golden Retrievers are an expensive breed to own. They have been referred to as “lovable lemons”, as over 60% die of cancer. They also have a tendency towards orthopedic problems and allergies.

Golden Retrievers often come to rescue with expensive medical problems that the rescue pays to treat, so fundraising is a big effort.

We also often need loving, temporary homes for golden retrievers until they are adopted.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A:  The Golden Retriever Rescue of Southern Maryland has teamed up with Mixed Bag Designs for a new fall fundraiser. Beginning Friday, September 18 through the end of the year, the Rescue will receive 40% of online purchases when you enter fundraiser ID# 449566 at checkout.

We also have activities such as dog park meet ups, beach blast and hikes where you can bring your dog.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A:  For more information about joining Golden Retriever Rescue of Southern Maryland call 855-477-3728 or [email protected]. Annual membership is $30 per family.

Helping Students Prepare for College Life

The time has finally come: the day when your child will leave home for college. It’s the culmination of all your years of sacrifice, hard work and

Diverse group of college students in class.

 

preparation. And while it’s exciting to think about this new phase in your child’s life, it’s not uncommon to become emotional and worried about the prospect of your child living without you. Here are some easy ways to prepare your child (and you) for the big moment.

  • Teach your children how to do laundry. Having your college student come home for visits with a full laundry bag is pretty much a parental rite, but your children will still need to be able to do their laundry when they are away from home. You can give them a head start by teaching them how to do laundry before they leave.
  • Have them open a bank account at school. To successfully live on their own, your children will need to understand how to manage money. Have them open a bank account with a debit card. Be sure to teach them about overdrafts, bank fees and the importance of paying their bills on time. You may even want to help them apply for a low limit credit card, which will allow them to learn to use credit responsibly and start building their credit history for the future.
  • Get (them) cooking. Even if your child is on a meal plan, there may be times when they don’t have time to get to the cafeteria. Teaching them how to cook for themselves will ensure they don’t miss meals or spend money on fast food.
  • Go shopping for dorm room needs together. Make a list of all the things your child will need for school and go shopping with them. For a list of college must-haves, visit collegepackinglist.com.
  • Talk openly to your children about health and safety. Be sure to educate your child on alcohol and drug abuse. Encourage them to make healthy decisions.
  • Make a plan to communicate regularly. Whether your child prefers to talk on the phone or to text, make sure you establish a plan for staying in touch that works for them. Let your child establish the frequency and timing of your discussions. Remind your child that you will be there if they need you.

Once you’ve done this, make sure you take an important step, congratulate yourself. While it’s never easy let go, you’ve achieved a major step in being a successful parent. Enjoy the peace and quiet and the reduced laundry (at least until you child comes home to visit).

Friday Focus: St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League

The St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League helps cats, dogs and horses by providing veterinary, fostering and adoption services. We spoke with logosource_green_RESIZEDKatie Werner, President of SMAWL, who shared a favorite story about a particularly special dog and gave us the inside scoop on how you can help a local animal find a “furr-ever” home.

 

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: The St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League (SMAWL) is a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1990 that works to help the homeless, abused and neglected animals in our local community and — in times of extreme need — in our larger national rescue community. Immediate goals include aggressive campaigns to find homes for homeless cats and dogs and to curb pet overpopulation through spay/neuter programs. Future goals include the building of a no-kill shelter in St. Mary’s County. Services provided include pet adoptions, discount spay/neuter vouchers, monthly low-cost rabies clinics, humane education and the Pet Food Pantry. SMAWL is an all-volunteer organization and welcomes new members and volunteers. SMAWL offers a variety of volunteer opportunities, including fostering animals waiting for adoption. To contact SMAWL, call 301-373-5659, send an e-mail to [email protected], or visit www.smawl.org.

The Snowflake Society was created in 2006 as a division of St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League (SMAWL) to help horses and other hoofed animals. The mission statement of the Snowflake Society reads: “To provide shelter, care, rehabilitation and adoption services for abused, neglected, and unwanted horses and other hoofed animals; and to promote humane treatment of hoofed animals through education, investigation, and legal intervention.”

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: There are many favorite moments and all of our animal adoptions are reason to celebrate, but the most rewarding is when we are able to help those special animals that are considered “unadoptable.”  Once such recent rescue is Martha, a blind Beagle we pulled from Tri-County Animal Shelter.  We were fortunate enough to find a foster home that had a very special cat, Dutchess, who helped Martha adjust to her new home. The two became inseparable! Like so many of our foster family, Dutchess’ family became “failed” fosters and adopted Martha.  Having the ability to rescue animals such as Martha is why we do what we do.  We are able to continue our rescue mission because of the support we receive throughout the year from our friends, sponsors and the community at large.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Since we do not have a permanent shelter, our biggest problem is having foster homes for our animals.  We are limited in the animals we can take in due to the foster space we have available.  Foster homes are vitally important to help in the care and socialization of our animals.  SMAWL pays for the veterinary care and asks our foster families, in addition to providing a safe environment for them to live, to transport them to veterinary appointments and to adoption events so that they can find their “fur-ever” homes.

In addition, we do have many other volunteer opportunities such as working at our Rabies Clinics and Adoption Events.  We also need assistance in caring for some of our cats who reside at the Petco in California, Md. and at our “Cat Castle” in Callaway, Md.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: We have Adoption Events at the Petco in California on Saturdays between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and at our “Cat Castle” in Callaway on Saturdays and Sundays between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.  In addition, we have Rabies Clinics on the second Monday of the month between March and November at the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds in Leonardtown, MD between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.  We also hold adoption events at other locations such as the PetValu in Leonardtown, the Tractor Supply Co in Hollywood and Pepper’s Pet Pantry in Solomon’s.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: There are several things people can do to get involved:

  • Become a member – membership fees help us continue our mission.
  • Volunteer – there are many volunteer opportunities, from helping at an adoption event to helping to organize our Animal Fair.
  • Foster – the more foster families we have, the more animals we can save!
  • Have a pet food drive to help keep our Pet Food Pantry stocked.

Rewards are waiting for “U” with UChoose Rewards

Whether you’re ready to treat yourself to that summer shopping spree or get a jump on the back-to-school necessities for your little ones, you can turnCBTCCard-Beach-Large your everyday purchases into concert tickets, merchandise and more with the help of UChoose Rewards®!

With UChoose Rewards, it’s simple: you use your Checkcard to make purchases and earn points for the money you spend on anything and everything. When you’re ready to redeem your points, simply login to uchooserewards.com to select from a huge catalog of great prizes. There are no codes to enter, no hoops to jump through — just swipe your card and watch your points add up.

This month, we’re sweetening the deal even more with a special double points offer for our UChoose Rewards customers. From August 1 to August 31, whenever you perform a signed transaction with your card, you’ll earn double the points for your purchase!*

Not signed up for UChoose Rewards yet? It’s never too late to enroll, and getting started is easy. Simply visit uchooserewards.com to create an account, enroll your Checkcard and browse the rewards catalog. For more information, visit our website or ask your local branch manager how you can start earning rewards today.

*Enrollment required. Offer valid between 8/1/15 and 8/31/15. To make a qualifying signed purchase, cardholder must select “credit” at point of sale. The UChoose Rewards program is available to active and open accounts as designated by Community Bank of the Chesapeake. For more information, visit our website.

Friday Focus: The Humane Society of Calvert County

Helping stray animals find permanent, loving homes is the mission of this week’s Friday Focus organization. The Humane Society of Calvert County  works to place animals in responsible homes, increase awareness through education and outreach, reduce animal overpopulation and eliminate cruelty. They serve as an advocate for animals by promoting humane standards, and seek to enhance the relationship between animals and people.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: The Humane Society of Calvert County is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization specializing in placing homeless animals into loving homes throughout Southern Maryland.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: A few years back, we brought in a very thin dog. He had been left chained out in the back of an abandoned home. He was thin, malnourished, hairless and had obviously lost hope. We brought him into our organization, fattened him up, made him healthy again and found him an amazing home. This is a story that repeats itself all the time within our organization and each and every time, it is special to us, but this guy really stood out as he was one of the first that I took part in.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Our biggest challenge, by far, is the constant frustration that there are still so many animals in need of homes and we are unable to take them in due to space limitations. We look forward to a day when there are no more homeless pets.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

 A: The Society’s 13th Annual Pet Day 5k is coming up on Saturday, September 12 at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Solomon’s Island. Race registration starts at 7:00 a.m.; the race begins at 8:30. You’ll enjoy a beautiful view of the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay for the duration of the walk/run. Dogs are welcome!

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

 A: We have many volunteer opportunities available. We are always in need of volunteers to walk dogs or help at events. We welcome visitors and, as always, the number one way to help is to adopt a pet!

6 Money Mistakes to Avoid as Newlyweds

Summer wedding season is in full swing and many newlyweds will soon be managing their finances as a pair. While planning a wedding is exciting, don’tfinance_marriage

wait to have the discussion on how to handle money issues as spouses and financial partners.  Here are some common post-wedding money mistakes couples make, and tips on how to avoid them.

  1. Avoiding the money talk. Discussing your finances can be a bit uncomfortable for many couples, but those who tackle it head on will be better for it. Understand your partner’s financial goals and spending habits. While you may have different answers, this conversation can help you develop an approach to money management that works for both of you.
  2. Not setting a budget. A mistake many couples make is not establishing a budget early on. After assessing your finances as a pair, determine how you’ll spend your money each month. Are there certain expenses that you should be cutting back on and others you should be saving up for? Coming to an agreement on these things and setting a budget will be beneficial for the health of your bank accounts and your relationship.
  3. Not having a plan for your accounts. There is no ‘right’ way to manage your accounts. Couples can choose to have exclusively joint accounts, a joint account as well as separate accounts for saving or personal spending, or keep things entirely divided. Discuss your preferences together and decide what makes you both the most comfortable.
  4. Failing to set up an emergency fund. Life is full of surprises and unfortunately, some of these surprises can be expensive. Having an emergency fund will help you avoid precarious financial situations should something come up. It’s important that you decide together how you’ll set aside the money.
  5. Not establishing a minimum cost for discussing big expenses. While not all purchases demand a conversation, more expensive ones that impact the family budget should. Determine what that threshold is as a couple. For any expenses above that cost, you both should be in agreement on whether it’s a necessary purchase.
  6. Forgetting to update your beneficiaries. Now that you’ve officially tied the knot, you should likely identify your spouse as the person who will receive the benefits of your will, life insurance policy and financial accounts like your 401(k), checking and savings. Don’t make the mistake of waiting for an emergency to arise to handle this.

If you have questions about managing finances with your spouse, Community Bank is here to help! Stop into any of our convenient branch locations to speak with a representative, or make an appointment online.