Utah credit unions give $91,800 to local schools

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The Utah Credit Union Association’s 100% for Kids Credit Union Education Foundation awarded more than $91,800 in grants to state schools during the last school year.

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Students at Columbia Elementary School in Utah received iPads through a 100% for Kids Credit Union Education Foundation grant. (Utah Credit Union Association photo)

Nineteen districts received the funding for various projects throughout the year.

The foundation grants go mostly toward supplies for the schools’ core curriculum. “We review several grant applications each quarter, looking for those that will impact the greatest number of students in the greatest possible way,” said Liz White, foundation director. “As we’ve watched the trend lean toward technology-based resources, the foundation has awarded several grant requests for iPads and similar equipment.”

In addition to iPads, schools across the state received funds for musical instruments, books and science equipment.

“People helping people is what it’s all about,” said Scott Simpson, Utah Credit Union Association president/CEO. “In the true spirit of the original credit union philosophy, Utah’s credit unions are giving back to the people in their communities through 100% for Kids. Every donation, large or small, goes directly to help teachers create the best classroom experience they can for their students.”

The 100% For Kids Utah Credit Union Education Foundation was formed by the Utah Credit Union Association with a mission to improve education in Utah by enhancing and expanding classroom level resources and programs. The foundation has donated over $5 million since its inception in 2002, contributing to all of Utah’s 40 school districts. All of the funds donated go directly to teachers for use in their classroom.

How and When to Trade In a Car

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Original Post by  Chuck Smith, TDECU 

Car advertising can definitely be seductive and you may be in the market for a new vehicle.  But before you go out shopping for the car you’ve been eyeing, you should do some homework – particularly if you plan to trade in your current ride.

What is Your Current Car’s Value?

You are probably counting on selling or trading in your current vehicle and using the proceeds to help you purchase your new car. Before you head to the showroom, though, you will want to evaluate what your current vehicle is really worth

Using Kelley Blue Book  and NADA Guides

There is some dispute about which of these pricing sources is more accurate. It is worth checking both, since neither is consistently higher or lower, but bear in mind that Kelley Blue Book allows you to take into account the condition of the car. This flexibility can go a long way toward giving you a more realistic price, since a dealer will definitely evaluate a trade-in’s condition before making you an offer.

What if You Are Upside-Down?

Being “upside-down” simply means that you owe more on your current car loan than your car is worth right now. The dealer may try to talk you into using that upside-down car as a trade-in.  If you agree, you will end up financing the outstanding balance of your current care on your new car loan. To avoid adding your car’s negative equity to your new car loan, you can make a cash down payment and make up for your negative equity. There is no magic formula to get you out of the upside-down position, except time or money. Try to pay more than the minimum payment each month or delay that new car purchase until you are right-side-up again.

Private Sale or Dealer Trade-In?

The big advantage to trading in your car to a dealer is convenience. They make the process pretty painless, taking care of paperwork and removing all the hassles of posting ads, making appointments, allowing potential buyers to test-drive it, negotiating payment, and so forth. Consider whether you have time to invest in a temporary part-time job as a car salesperson. If you have the time to advertise and sell your current car privately, you could end up with a better price. Also, remember that if you trade in the vehicle, the value the dealer gives you on the trade will lower your sales tax on the purchase of the new vehicle. This can be up to 8.25% or as low as 6.25% of the trade value, depending on where you purchase the vehicle. However, if you really just need to get into a new car ASAP, just give the car a deep cleaning and arrive at the dealer with all repair records in hand so you can negotiate the highest possible trade-in price.  Also, it’s a wise strategy to negotiate the price of the new vehicle before you let them know you have a trade in.  It often results in the best possible situation on both cars.

Your 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

Half Way Point: Budget Check Up

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Every now and then, it’s important to take some time and evaluate your budget to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your financial planning. You might find that you’ll be able to save money in certain areas, or that you need to commit more money to specific items.  July, being the half way point of the year is a great time to evaluate the goals you set at the beginning of the year.  Remember, a budget isn’t something that you “set and forget.” Be sure to keep checking back and making sure it’s doing its job for your financial goals.

Here are a few questions to keep in mind when you evaluate your budget:

What are your goals?

Your financial goals are going to change over time. When you’re in your mid-20s like me, your biggest financial goal is likely to be paying off the remaining debt that you have for student loans or other types of debt. When you’re a little older, it could be saving for a house. Maybe you’re looking long term, and are trying to save for retirement. Whenever you take a look at your budget to evaluate it, you need to do it with your specific goals in mind.  Also make sure your goals are realistic.

Are you reaching those goals?

If you’re on a good path toward achieving those goals, then great! Chances are, you don’t need to make any big tweaks to your budget. But if not, then clearly something needs to change.

If you’re not reaching your goals, how can you improve?

Are there specific areas of your budget that you could allocate more money toward, or that you could remove money from? Basically, you need to determine the steps you need to take to make sure you’re able to achieve your financial goals.

Rinse and Repeat. Are you making progress?

You might not find the right tweaks to make to your budget right off the bat. Therefore, keep evaluating your budget so that you can figure out if you’re making the right changes and to measure the effectiveness of the changes you are making.

Your 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

Credit Unions: A Better Name for Banking

Looking for more information about how a credit union is better for your personal bottom line?  Check out A Better Name for Banking, where you can see the differences in rates between credit unions and banks; understand credit unions cooperative nature that gives you access to over 5,000 locations and 30,000 ATMs; and learn more about our democratic governance structure that gives each member one vote.

Convinced?  Find a credit union you are eligible to join by clicking here or visit asmarterchoice.org

Image from Daily Finance, Shutterstock

Credit Unions are your guide away from bank fees!

When ditching a big bank and all the charges and fees that come with it, a credit union can be a great alternative when picking a new financial institution, a recent article in Daily Finance said. 

Are you tired of paying fees for basic banking services to one of the mega-banks that dominate the American financial scene? With a little effort, you can keep more of your money.

Fees tend to be significantly lower at a credit unions because they are cooperatively owned, not-for-profit organizations that exist only to serve members, explained Daily Finance ‘s Carol Kopp.  “Historically, membership in a credit union is open to people with a common interest–members of a union, employees of a company or worshipers at the same place,” Kopp said. “But many are open to an entire community.”

Credit unions offer lower fees and better rates because they answer to their members and not profit driven shareholders.  All profits, after ensuring the financial security of the credit union, are returned to members in the form of lower or fewer fees, better savings returns and often dividends.  If paying less to your bank to hold your money sounds like an idea you like, visit asmarterchoice.org to find a credit union you are eligible to join!

50 kids become billionaires at financial summer camp

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The Pink Team at the Mini Billionaire’s Academy captured all five flags, each one tied to their credit score, allowing them to get “approved” for a loan. (Tallahassee-Leon FCU Photo)

It’s summer camp for kids, with a twist.

Is there capture the flag? Yes, but a captured flag improves your credit. Are there egg-carrying relay races? Of course, but the faster you run, the faster you invest in the stock market, which can be a risky play. 

These were the types of games, and financial lessons, played and learned by the nearly 50 kids who attended this year’s Mini Billionaire’s Academy, a five-day overnight camp hosted by Tallahassee-Leon Federal Credit Union, Tallahassee, FL

The academy, geared towards kids ages 8 to 16, educates participants on personal financial management using entertaining and engaging games. In its third year, this year’s academy was the largest class yet. 

“Students are graduating high school, and even college, with almost no formal training on personal money management and we are proud to be able to fill that gap in our community,” said Lisa Brown, Tallahassee-Leon president/CEO. 

The camp, which started as a one-day event in a community center, has become so popular that it has been moved to the expansive Wallwood Boy Scout Reservation in Gadsden County where campers can canoe, bike, go zip-lining and more.

Other activities included a s’mores store competition that challenged campers to run their own businesses; campfire skits about budgeting; and a reality fair where campers were assigned careers and had to make financial decisions based on their unique financial situations.

Florida State Rep. Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee) stops by to speak to the campers about the importance of responsible money management. (Tallahassee-Leon FCU Photo)
Florida State Rep. Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee) stops by to speak to the campers about the importance of responsible money management. (Tallahassee-Leon FCU Photo)

A grant from “Biz Kid$,” an award-winning PBS TV program supported by the National Credit Union Foundation that teaches kids about fiscal responsibility, helped Tallahassee-Leon put on the camp this year. Many campers received partial or full scholarships to attend as well.

“It’s so rewarding to see how responsible the campers are by the end of the program,” Brown said. “A little bit of fun will equip them for the rest of their lives.”

Many credit unions support their communities with programs like these.  Consider joining a credit union for additional benefits like financial education and community contributions.  At a credit union you’re not just an account number, you’re a member-owner who can impact the lives of those around you!

Your Adult Report Card: The Credit Score

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To help viewers understand how credit bureaus calculate credit scores, Sterling Nielsen, president/CEO of Mountain America CU, West Jordan, Utah, offered up some insight during a recent appearance on KSL-TV 5 ‘s “Studio 5 with Brooke Walker” in Salt Lake City. 

Nielsen’s Tip One: “First of all you need to make sure that you watch that credit history. Make sure that you make your payments on time” The credit rating agencies are going to look at how often you make a late payment, how late that payment is (and) how many accounts are late. These all play a big part in your credit score.” 

Nielsen’s Tip Two: You should pay attention to their levels of credit utilization and make sure you’re not using too much of your credit limits.    “A lot of people think, ‘Hey, I have a $5,000 credit card (limit), I might as well charge it all up,’” Nielsen said. “But that hurts your overall credit score. You’re better off keeping your utilization down to about 30%,” even if you pay off your balance every month.  

Nielsen’s Tip Three:  Consumers should work to build a strong credit history, “You want to show a period of time when, not only were you paying your bills on time, but you were managing credit responsibly,” Nielsen said. “The length of time is quite important in managing your credit score.” 

He adds that consumers with credit scores of 700 or above likely will receive the most advantageous interest rates earning you an A, while those with credit scores below 600 will likely have to pay higher interest rates.

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

Have a 529? Here’s how to best use it.

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College is just around the corner for newly graduated high school seniors, which means the first tuition bills will appear at any moment.

To help guide families who are using 529 plans to pay for tuition, the College Savings Plans Network (CSPN) offers these guidelines: 

  • Start early. Find out from your plan how long the funds transfer will take, whether the plan will send a check to you or directly to the college, and if there’s anything else you should know as you start withdrawing funds. Once your beneficiary decides on a school, the earlier you start the process, the better.
  • Know before you go. Tuition due dates vary–some are not until after the course add/drop period, some are before the semester starts. Check with your school to find out its due date for tuition payment, and make sure you start withdrawing your funds well in advance.
  • Do your homework. Make sure to check with your plan to find out what it defines as qualified higher education expenses. This generally includes tuition and fees, room and board, and the cost of books, supplies, and equipment required for enrollment or attendance. If you are unsure if any specific item qualifies, ask your plan administrators.
  • Keep a record . For tax purposes, keep records and documentation of higher education expenses for any withdrawal you intend to treat as qualified.
  • Be prepared . Make sure your distributions do not exceed your higher education costs. If the distribution does not exceed the amount of the student’s qualifying expenses, you do not have to report it as income on your tax return. But if the distribution exceeds those expenses, you must report the earnings on the excess as “other income” on your tax return.

Your 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

Don’t Give Your Money To A Fat Cat

Thanks to Affinity Federal Credit Union We know why the bankers are in it. We use a credit union because we like people, not profits. Why did you choose your credit union?

Credit unions are non-profit cooperative financial institutions that believe in fair and honest banking and are dedicated to the financial well-being of their members. They are able to provide superior service, lower fees and better rates because they don’t report to shareholders, making their members their number one priority. To find the right credit union for you and receive more information visit asmarterchoice.org.