Ways you can finance your graduate education


Moneymix suggests some ways you can finance your way back to school for your graduate education.

  • FAFSA – yes, it applies to graduate school. As you may recall from your undergraduate days, simply fill out the form to discover how much you can take out for a loan or discover if you’re eligible for the Pell Grant aka FREE money!
  • Assistantships – many schools offer teaching or research positions that offer a break on tuition as part of the gig.
  • Fellowships – these do not require a service agreement from the prospective student, instead these are simply grants for grad school. However, these are highly more competitive and will require recommendations.
  • Internships – check out to see if the school offers internships at the facility. Working at the university can give you great hands on experience while also gaining tuition remission or a stipend.
  • Credit unions – remember to visit your nearest credit union for the best loan option. Credit unions offer highly competitive rates and are in your corner! Visit aSmarterChoice.org to find the closest one to you!

Perks available only at Credit Unions


If you haven’t discovered the difference between a credit union and bank yet – no need to look any farther. Gerri Detweiler from Credit.com explains the top 6 perks you get by being a credit union member:

1. Competitive Car Loans – According to the National Credit Union Administration, in 2014, the average 36-month used car loan carried an interest rate of 2.72 percent. Contrast that with the typical bank interest rate of 5.26 percent.

2. FREE Checking – 72% of credit unions have NO feed with minimum balance, compared to 38% of banks, according to Bankrate survey.

3. Discounts & Special Deals – There’s usually a discount on some of deal – just ask!

4. Flexibility – Credit unions are more likely to take in consideration individual circumstances, such as starting a new job, when it comes to making lending decisions.

5. Money Required to Open an Account – Credit unions usually only require less than $10 to join! Banks charge more than $60 to join.

6. Competitive Credit Cards – Congrats to Pentagon Federal Credit Union for being selected as the Best Simple Credit Card in America.

Your local credit union personal finance professionals bring you this website and other tools to help you make the most of your money. To find a local credit union you are eligible to join click here or go to asmarterchoice.org  

Wash Post writer recommends credit unions

Michelle Singletary, writer for The Washington Post,  answers a recent inquiry she received regarding a young person’s intent to purchase a car for the first time.

Here’s the background: A 23-year-old has $3,000 saved and has chosen a used 2014 vehicle that costs $17,000 (no model specified). On his own, he qualifies for a $15,000 loan with a 9.9 percent annual percentage rate. With a parent co-signing, he qualifies for $18,000 with a 2.8 percent APR. His mother wrote, “I am willing to co-sign, as well as his dad, to get the better rate.”

Singeltary offers the following financial advice to parents:

  • DON’T co-sign on the loan! Yes, your child may have a great credit history or is responsible – but at the end of the day any late or missed payments will show up on your credit files, if you decide to sign.
  • Check out a Credit Union! Visit your local credit union by going to asmarterchoice.org and see if your child qualifies for a lower rate by getting financing through a credit union. Credit unions usually, offer lower rates than banks, so you’ll be saving more money by going through a credit union!

For more information on the article, check out:
So your son wants to buy a car

Your local credit union personal finance professionals bring you this website and other tools to help you make the most of your money. To find a local credit union you are eligible to join click here or go to asmarterchoice.org  

Emergency fund broken? Here’s how to fix it

Article originally appeared July 16, 2015 By Dan Rafter | Money Rates Columnist

Don’t have an emergency fund? Then you’re asking for trouble.

What happens if your home’s water heater bursts? What if your car needs a new transmission? Without an emergency fund, you might have to turn to credit cards to cover these surprises. And that’s never a sound financial move.
It’s why financial planners recommend that consumers build an emergency fund that allows them to cover between three and six months – ideally more – worth of regular living expenses.

“Most of our grandparents never owned a credit card,” says Marie Vanerian, managing director of wealth management with the Troy, Michigan, office of Merrill Lynch. “They paid cash and tracked all of the money they spent. Our grandparents always took a percentage of their income and saved it for a rainy day. They always had an emergency fund.”

Is your emergency fund today gathering more dust than dollars? Here’s some good news: You can repair your ailing emergency fund. And it doesn’t even take that much effort.

Start small

Staring at an empty emergency fund? Start small to rebuild it by cutting out excessive expenses.

Kimberly Foss, president and founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Sacramento, recently worked with her daughter on this. The two calculated that Foss’ 23-year-old daughter spent a whopping $1,814 per year on Starbucks coffee. Foss’ daughter agreed to make her own coffee at home. And the money that she was spending on Starbucks? She’s now depositing it into an emergency fund.

“Anybody can do that,” Foss says. “Apply it to whatever you are buying too much of. Cut that down. Kick the eating-out habit, or at least eat out less often. You need to be aware of what you are spending too much on, and then you need to put that money into an account where you won’t touch it.”

Pay yourself first

Too often, people wait until the end of the month to contribute to their emergency funds, said Carolyn Dunlavy, owner of Jade Tree Retirement Planning in West Hollywood, California. But when they reach the last day of the month, they find that they don’t have anything left to deposit.

“The key is a strategy called ‘pay yourself first,'” Dunlavy says. “If you wait until the end of the month when the bills are paid and all the shopping is done, you find that you don’t have much, if anything, to contribute to yourself because it’s very easy to spend your paycheck down quickly.”

Dunlavy recommends that you set up an automatic withdrawal from your paycheck that is deposited immediately into your emergency fund. Then you won’t spend that money on anything else.

The numbers back this up. NACHA, an electronic payments association based in Herndon, Virginia, says that consumers who use direct deposit and automatic withdrawals tend to save $90 more every month than those who try to save their dollars manually.

“When it comes out the same day as your paycheck is deposited, you don’t have a chance to see it, never mind to spend it,” Dunlavy says.

Don’t strive for a big tax refund

You might think that receiving a big tax refund from the IRS each year is a good thing. It’s not: It means that you’re sending too much money to the IRS each year. It’s better to keep that money yourself. You might even invest that extra money into an emergency fund.

Michelle Dosher, managing editor of the Home & Family Finance Resource Center at the Credit Union National Association, says that if you are receiving a tax refund each year, it’s time to submit a new withholding form to your payroll department. This will send fewer of your dollars each paycheck to the federal government. It will also leave you with a larger paycheck and a chance to put those dollars to better use.

“Put the extra cash into paying off bills and building your emergency fund,” Dosher says.

A refinance can help

If you’re paying off a mortgage or car loan, you might be able to save money each month by refinancing these loans to ones with lower interest rates, Dosher said.

Say you refinance your mortgage loan so that your payment drops from $1,500 per month to $1,200 per month. You can deposit the $300 extra that you’ve been sending to your lender into an emergency fund – a move that will allow you to refill an empty fund quickly.

“Unless you have credit card debt,” Dosher says. “If you have credit card debt, put some of that extra money toward credit card bills.”

Don’t spend (all) of that bonus

Getting a bonus or a raise at work is certainly something to celebrate. It might also be an opportunity to repair your broken emergency fund.

Foss says that whenever you get a bonus, you should deposit at least half of it in an emergency fund. And if it’s a raise? You should deposit at least half of the extra money you are now receiving with each paycheck into your fund.

“You’ve been living without that raise or bonus already,” Foss says. “So you should be just fine with depositing some of it in an emergency fund. Take half and do whatever you want with it. Buy yourself whatever you want. Take the other half and put it into your emergency fund.”

Keep at it

The biggest key to building an emergency fund? You need to be persistent. Even if you can’t deposit much, deposit something. Financial planners say that depositing $50 at the end of the month is better than depositing nothing.

Don’t let a big number – say your goal is to save enough to cover nine months of expenses – intimidate you.

“Don’t get hung up on how big this number is,” Dosher says. “Just steadily keep adding to your fund. By being persistent about adding to your fund, your savings will grow faster than you think.”

Are you achieving your own emergency savings goals or have a long way to go? Share your progress in the comments.

Perks you can get at a credit union

Article originally posted July 10, 2015 by  on Credit.com

If you’re not a member of a credit union, you may wonder why anyone is. You don’t see their ATMs all over town, nor do you hear much about their state-of-the-art mobile capabilities. Yet some people sing their praises, and prefer them to banks. Both kinds of financial institutions typically offer checking accounts, savings accounts, CDs, car loans, mortgages, credit cards and other financial products. So really, what’s the difference?

First, banks are in business to make money, and credit unions are nonprofit. If you do business with a bank, you are a customer. Banks exist to earn a profit for shareholders. If you instead use a credit union, you are a member (and the credit union operates for the benefit of its members); there are no shareholders or customers. And credit unions tend to use money from fees and interest rates for the benefit of members, who may also serve on their governing boards.

But as financial institutions they can look very much alike from the outside. Here are some things credit unions offer that banks have a hard time matching:

1. Competitive Car Loans

According to the National Credit Union Administration, in 2014, the average 36-month used car loan carried an interest rate of 2.72%. Contrast that with the typical bank interest rate of 5.26% and you can see why some people look to credit unions for their car loans. The rates for 48-month new-car loans were 2.63% for credit unions and 4.76% for banks. Getting pre-approved for a car loan can save you money, keep you on track for how much you planned to borrow and help you avoid additional credit inquiries on your credit reports. (You can see how credit inquiries are affecting your credit by getting your free credit report summary on Credit.com.)

2. Free Checking

While it’s not impossible to find no-cost checking at a bank, you’re more likely to find it at a credit union, since 72% of credit unions have no fees with no minimum balance, compared with 38% of banks, according to a Bankrate survey. Likewise, fees at credit unions tend to be lower. Still, you have to check. Not all credit unions offer free checking, and not all banks charge for it. At the same time, check for fees, which tend to be higher at banks — and while you’re at it, see if there are ways to avoid them. Here are some of the questions you should ask before you open a bank account.

3. Discounts & Special Deals

Credit unions may offer special deals on everything from amusement park admissions to cellphone plans. Ask. We checked several and found discounts for concert admissions, insurance, cars, flowers and more.

4. Flexibility

Banks are more likely than credit unions to have hard-and-fast lending requirements for credit scores, income, debt, etc. that must be adhered to. If you are an investor with shares in a bank, that can be reassuring. But if you’ve just started a new job and need a loan, it can be frustrating. A credit union may be more likely to consider individual circumstances in making its lending decisions.

5. Money Required to Open an Account

You can typically open a checking account for less than $10 at a credit union, according to Bankrate’s survey. Banks typically required more than $60. So if you have little to deposit, a credit union may be your best option.

‘Differences’ That May Not Exist

Those are not all the factors to consider, though. Banks typically offer a wider choice of financial products, and they may have many more locations and ATMs (though credit unions may belong to networks where withdrawals are free). Credit unions have long claimed to offer more personal service, and that can be true — or not. As credit unions have expanded their memberships, the relationships that have long been a selling point may not be as strong. And Americans consistently prefer the personal touch. We like being known and recognized. Surveys show people prefer community banks to larger, regional banks because of the personal service. Yet, if the staff at your bank doesn’t change as your bank grows (or merges with another one), you may get the same recognition and smiles from the same people you’ve been doing business with for years.

Banks have also been leaders in mobile banking, but credit unions are catching up. Most now have mobile apps.

Finally, both insure up to $250,000 on deposit. They do it through different agencies, but the maximums for insured accounts are identical.

Money habits you DON’T want

bankrate pic

Bankrate lists out the top 10 financial habits that can lead you into debt. In order to avoid the lure of financial promises, keep these common pitfalls in mind:

  1. DON’T: Put bills on autopilot – you can forget to keep enough money in your account which can lead to overdraft fees or penalties!
  2. DON’T: Not have an emergency fund set up – you never know when a unexpected financial situation will arise next (e.g, loss of job, car repairs, house repairs, etc.) having money set aside of this won’t put you in debt. Always be prepared for anything!
  3. DON’T: Forget to budget – without a budget, you’re more likely to fall into a financial disaster. Remember a budget is your friend, it’s there to protect you.
  4. DON’T: Spend more than you earn – always live BELOW your means. Step away from the plastic and carry cash, a physical reminder of how much you should spend.
  5. DON’T: NEVER CO-SIGN A LOAN – because when you do, that debt is now yours legally. Until the loan is fully paid you are held responsible for payments.
  6. DON’T: Make late payments – your credit score will drastically drop if you pay your bills late. You need your credit score to be perfect – if not, average in order to make future purchases.
  7. DON’T: Ignore your credit report – whether you do it or not, someone will view your credit report. So why not view it for yourself? There are FREE tools out there to view your credit score – take advantage of them!
  8. DON’T: Use home equity as an ATM – it’s one thing to miss a payment on your credit card, image what would happen if you miss a payment on your home – you put your house at risk!
  9. DON’T: be adequately insured – too much insurance will drain your budget.
  10. DON’T: wait to invest in your retirement – starting earlier, the better, and the sooner you can retire!

Want to learn more? Check out the full article: here

Your local credit union personal finance professionals bring you this website and other tools to help you make the most of your money. To find a local credit union you are eligible to join click here or go to asmarterchoice.org  

Perks of a Credit Union Credit Card


Have you been shopping around for the best credit card for you? If so, have you considered getting a credit card through a credit union instead of a bank? You’d be smart to find out that you’re better off getting a credit card from a credit union.

The biggest reason to consider a credit union credit card: LOWER interest rates. Credit unions can offer lower rates because of their non-profit status. Which is great news for you, that leaves you more money in your pocket!

According to CUNA, an average interest rate for a basic credit card from a credit union was 11.81% vs 15.77% from a bank.

Another reason to consider a credit union credit card: LOWER late fees. In 2015, CUNA reported an average late fee for credit unions was $24.56 compared to $34.18 at banks. Do you see a pattern yet (hint: lower rates and lower fees at credit unions)?

“People don’t always think of credit unions when they’re considering a new credit card, but they probably should. They’re an important option in an industry dominated by a relatively small number of players,” says Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com.

Michelle Dosher, the managing editor at CUNA, says: “A secured credit card trades access to credit for your commitment to keep a certain amount of money in a savings account. Once you’ve made, say, 12 months or so of on-time credit card payments, you’ll be eligible to apply for a conventional credit card.”

For more information, check out SelfLender article:
Looking for a Credit Card? Take a look at a Credit Union

Your local credit union personal finance professionals bring you this website and other tools to help you make the most of your money. To find a local credit union you are eligible to join click here or go to asmarterchoice.org  


Money-management skills improve American economy

Kyle Schwartz (R), a 3rd grade teacher, works with student Chris Flores in her classroom at Doull Elementary School in Denver April 17, 2015. Schwartz, who posted notes from her third grade class online and started a social media whirlwind under the hashtag #WishMyTeacherKnew said on Friday the assignment had been a revelation for her.  REUTERS/Rick Wilking - RTR4XT6H
Kyle Schwartz (R), a 3rd grade teacher, works with student Chris Flores in her classroom at Doull Elementary School in Denver April 17, 2015. Schwartz, who posted notes from her third grade class online and started a social media whirlwind under the hashtag #WishMyTeacherKnew said on Friday the assignment had been a revelation for her. REUTERS/Rick Wilking – RTR4XT6H

Financial literacy should be taught to all, especially to children at an early age, either at home or at school. It’s highly recommended that we begin taking steps in order to raise the financial literacy numbers among Americans, that will help with the economy.

Right before the 2008 financial crisis, economists discovered that American families were spending more than they were making AND not saving any sufficient funds. Americans were going into debt each month, a real recipe for financial failure.

These warning signs were obvious and clear and would soon predict the fall of the American economy in 2008. CUNA Senior Economist, Perc Pineda explains, “Citizens who are financially literate will have better coping mechanisms when faced with an economic slowdown.” However, most Americas are still living paycheck-to-paycheck.

In order to fix this financial crisis, it’s essential to implement proper money management skills – more significant than abstract math to children. The earlier you can teach children about saving, bargain shopping, using coupons, retirement, etc. the more likely they will sustain financial growth in the future.

For more information check out the full Quartz article, Teach kids money-management, not just abstract math, here.

Your local credit union personal finance professionals bring you this website and other tools to help you make the most of your money. To find a local credit union you are eligible to join click here or go to asmarterchoice.org  


Shreveport Federal Credit Union invests in community

Marks MS. Ribbon Cutting

Shreveport Federal Credit Union collaborates with Quitman County and regional leaders for the grand opening of the Delta Regional Mule Train Market and Museum in Marks, MS. The grand opening took place on Friday, June 26th. Mississippi Senator, Robert Jackson was in attendance along with other notable dignitaries.

The regional market provides opportunities to sell and purchase fresh farmers’ produce along with products from vendors. The museum tells the story of the courageous voyage the people of Delta took to meet the Mule Train in Washington D.C. in June 1968 and is an inspiration to local community members and visitors.

“We are proud to have collaborated with Quitman County, and regional leaders, to bring this economic development project to the Delta region,” said Shreveport Federal Credit Union President/CEO Helen Godfrey-Smith.

The market is open on the weekends and is managed by the Delta Regional Community Cooperative in collaboration with Shreveport Federal Credit Union. Wagon rides (pictured below

Kids Mule Wagon

How to achieve Financial Independence

fox usa flag


As we begin to celebrate our country’s independence this weekend, now is a great time to reflect how you can gain independence with your finances.

Here’s how you can get started:

  • Save money automatically
  • Round up your mortgage payments
  • Budget!
  • Personalize your accounts
  • Focus on the future

So what does this mean?  The first thing you should do when you get your paycheck – put a certain % into your savings! Doing this first, and automatically, will help ensure that you’re actually putting money aside. Plus you’ll get in the habit of doing it!

If you don’t qualify or haven’t refinanced your mortgage yet there’s something else you can do – round up your payments. Putting in extra money on your monthly mortgage payments will pay off years later!

Budget budget budget – for everything! Always spend less than you make, live under your means.

Personalize your banks account to clearly identify and organize your savings goals. For instance, are you saving for a summer vacation, wedding dress, house, etc? Listing out your goals and putting money into each sub-accounts will help you achieve them faster!

Focus on your future! You’re spending and saving habits are going to dictate your financial freedom. Connect your future aspirations with your present self to see if they are aligned.

For more information, check out FOX Business article, Take steps toward financial independence this 4th of July