Cash selected as top gift

Image from Daily Finance, Shutterstock
Image from Daily Finance, Shutterstock

It appears that cash is the way to go this holiday season. A study conducted for Charles Schwab shows that more than half of participants, 53%, selected cash as their first choice for gifts.

Cash is a very universal gift that can be applied to anything — indulgences, a way to pay off bills or debt, or treat yourself to that cheesecake you have been eyeing for awhile. Everyone loves cash!

Below is a list other financial gifts to consider:

  • “Piggy bank. This simple gift can go a long way toward educating even the youngest children about money. They quickly learn the concept of putting coins in the bank, then using the coins to make a purchase later. Buy a cute bank and fill with coins or a few dollars. Some banks electronically add up coins each time a new one is deposited–seeing the amount grow can be motivating to kids. Another idea: Buy a small three-drawer container and set up a drawer each for saving, spending, and sharing;
     
  • Sessions with a financial adviser. Paying for a sit-down with a financial planner, if only for one or two sessions, can help someone learn personal finance basics and give him or her the groundwork for starting to invest. To locate a fee-only financial planner, visit the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors at napfa.org;
     
  • Cash toward a Roth IRA (individual retirement account). “In addition to using cash to pay off credit card debt, another smart way to use holiday gift money is to encourage a working recipient to put the money into a Roth IRA,” said Michelle Dosher, managing editor, Credit Union National Association Market Research and Consumer Education. “Roth IRAs can be really beneficial, especially when people start them at a young age,” Dosher said;
     
  • Electronic gadgets. Gadgets such as tablets and smartphones are popular gifts, but you can add a financially savvy twist with personal finance apps, many of which are free or inexpensive. “If you’re going to give someone a gadget, also give suggestions of financial apps that could help teach money management skills. Also encourage recipients to download their credit union’s mobile banking app,” Dosher added. This is a gift that teens and tweens can appreciate as well;
     
  • Books. Help family members and friends learn to manage money by giving them a book about the topic. One idea is “Money Rules: The Simple Path to Lifelong Security” by Jean Chatzky. It’s an easy read, broken up into sections about making and saving money, spending wisely, and investing;
  • A financial jumpstart. Maybe you know a new grad or someone just getting back on his or her feet. You could help by offering your home as a place to stay for a month or two or by helping to pay a security deposit or first month’s rent. This would be a great gift for parents to give young adult children as they learn financial independence; and
  • Credit union membership. Let family members know that because you’re a credit union member they can be members. Tell them about the benefits of credit union membership and about the ease of using automatic deposits, payments and transfers, and online and mobile banking.”

The full article can be found, here.

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

Before you rush to the stores, make a budget!

Image from Daily Finance, Shutterstock
Image from Daily Finance, Shutterstock

I can’t believe the holiday season is about to begin. It seems like yesterday we were relaxing in the sun and heat.

It is highly important to make a budget first and try your hardest to stick to it. It’s very easy for us, consumers, to get lost or tricked into merchant schemes. Don’t let the sales fool you!

Know how much you and your family can spend or splurge this year, given your financial situation. It’s not too late to create a budget. Below are 8 helpful budget tips from Lake Trust Credit Union that you can apply to your holiday spending.

“1.       Decide how much you can spend. Holiday money should come from your current disposable income. If you use credit cards for convenience, make sure you track your spending so that you don’t go over budget. Save some holiday money by cutting back on extras such as movies, dinners out or coffee drinks until the holidays are over.  

2.      Budget for everything. There are a lot of holiday expenses people don’t think about like the cost of shopping (gas, parking), decorations, food and drink for parties, greeting cards and postage, out-of-town gifts, travel expenses and charitable contributions. All of these items should be in the budget.

3.      Make a complete gift list. The list should include everyone to whom you plan to give a gift — relatives and friends, piano teachers, mail carriers, etc. And don’t forget the office gift exchange.

4.      Decide who’s getting what. For each person, set a firm “no more than” purchase price for that gift and be realistic. If disposable income is tight, think about giving greeting cards or “make or bake” gifts like cookies, pumpkin bread or handmade ornaments.

5.      Set expectations with family members, especially children. If gifts will be minimal, it’s advisable to talk to your children about their expectations. If it’s not too late, discuss reasonable and economically feasible gift-giving tactics with family and friends.

6.      Check your emotions at the store door. To keep the feelings out of shopping, keep a list of other financial obligations like credit card debt, car payments and mortgage payments on a slip of paper in your wallet. When tempted to overspend, remind yourself of what you owe.

7.      Work the sales, don’t let them work you. If a gift on your list is on sale, buy it. If it’s not on your list, don’t buy it, because you’ll end up going over budget. Also, avoid the temptation to open new credit lines at retail stores just to save ten percent or more on your purchases. These cards generally carry higher interest rates, so your actual savings may be minimal.”

8.      Keep track of spending. Instead of stretching your budget with credit cards, try “the envelope trick.” Set aside budgeted spending cash in an envelope for each household member. When the money’s gone, the spending is done.”

You can view the full article, Tips for Sticking to a Holiday Budget, here. We also encourage you to visit Lake Trust Credit Union website to learn more about their services.

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

Small Business Saturday = Bank Local

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Credit Unions across America are gearing up for one of their busiest days, Small Business Saturday, on November 29th. Credit unions across the country will be hosting various events that include discounts for current members. Support your community by shopping, dining, and banking locally! #shopsmall

Below are some ‘bank local’ events, hosted by various credit unions:

San Francisco Federal Credit Union: 9AM -3PM

Ticonderoga Federal Credit Union: .25% off of loans

Community First Credit Union: 10AM-4PM

Lancaster Red Rose Credit Union

FORUM Credit Union

Community First Credit Union: hosted at Riverside Arts Market

Columbia Credit Union: 10AM-12PM

Didn’t see your local credit union listed above? No problem! Use our search engine to discover what your local credit unions will be doing this Saturday. Begin your search, here.

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

Know your budget before applying to college

education

Attending college is becoming more and more expensive by the day. For some, college is not feasible anymore due to the increase in tuition.

Parents need to advise their children before they apply for college what their tuition limit is. Telling them this from the beginning eliminates the situation of your child getting their hearts set on an institution that you cannot afford to send them to.

As stated in the article, Parents: Borrow for Kids’ College, Jeopardize Retirement, written by Jennifer Garrett:

“Parents need to let their kids know what they can afford to pay for college, and they need to let them know early in the process,” says Joe Orsolini, a certified financial planner with College Aid Planners in suburban Chicago.

This is critical, Tirukonda agrees, because it not only gives kids parameters to work within, but also gives them greater ownership of their decision. If they choose to apply to or attend schools that cost too much, they have to figure out how to make up the difference. That could include a private loan from your credit union, financial aid, or even deferring college for a year while they work and save money, says Jennifer de Thomas, a certified financial planner with New Outlook Financial in Portland, Ore.

Learn more about how to budget accordingly for your child’s college tuition, here.

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

What you need to know about myRA

myRA

President Obama launched a new retirement savings plan aimed for lower income Americans as well as millennials to take advantage of in orer to prepare for their retirement. myRA is similar to a Roth IRA (individual retirement account) in regards to it having the same tax treatment, annual income and contribution limitations.

Learn more about the benefits to an myRA below:

* “Low start-up cost. An initial investment can be as little as $25, with ongoing contributions as little as $5. By contrast, many IRAs require an initial deposit of at least $1,000.

* No fees, no market risk. The money essentially will be invested in government bonds paying the same variable rate as the retirement account for federal employees. As of April 2014, the rate for the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan G Fund was 2.36%.

* Tax-free earnings. As with a Roth IRA, all contributions are nondeductible, but qualified withdrawals are tax—and penalty—free.

* Penalty-free withdrawals. You can take out money you’ve put into the account at any time, but any earnings you take out before age 59 ½ will be subject to taxes and a 10% penalty.”

But before you begin, please be cautious of the drawbacks:

Once the balance in a myRA reaches $15,000, or you have had the account for 30 years, you must transfer the myRA to a private sector Roth IRA. And, you are limited to a single investment.”

Visit your nearest credit union for more help and guidance on setting up your ‘myRA’ or learn more in the full issue here.

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

Don’t fall for the attractiveness of extended car loans

borrow_r1

When looking to buy a car, you’ll be tempted to take out a car loan, which most Americans do. However, beware of how long you finance your car loan. Longer car loans prove to be in the long run detrimental your finances.

Most people fall victim to this scheme by the enticement of lower monthly fees. What they don’t realize is that they’ll end up paying  a lot more in interest.

Today the average car loan lasts 67 months, way up from a typical 3-4 year car loan.  ” Almost 25% of vehicle loans made in the second quarter of 2014 were for 73 to 84 months, according to Experian.”

Here’s why you shouldn’t commit to a longer car loan:

  • “The longer the term of the loan, the worse your interest is likely to be. Shorter-term loans generally qualify shoppers for a better rate;
     
  • There’s a greater chance you’ll end up underwater. Without a substantial down payment, if you total the car or need to sell it, you could up receiving less than you owe on the loan; and
     
  • You’re stuck with the car even if you don’t want it anymore. If you want to buy a different vehicle, you likely won’t be able to trade in your car because of the difference between what you owe and what the dealer is willing to pay for it.”

Do your research! Visit your local credit union who can guide and pre-approve you for a loan before you begin the car buying experience.

Read 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 including financial education and other products to end the payday loan cycle. To find a local credit union you are eligible to join click here or go to asmarterchoice.org

Level of satisfaction with credit unions stay steady, above banks.

Tired of the poor service from your bank? Than switch to your local credit union!

In today’s poll released from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) more Americans are satisfied with the level of service, attention to detail, and lower fees credit unions provide. The level of satisfaction in credit unions continues to grow steady as bank satisfaction is down. The reason being over the use of fees.

A growing number of consumers are finding that the best way to avoid bank fees may be to avoid banks altogether,” says Claes Fornell, ACSI Chairman and founder. “Credit union membership growth broke records in 2014, and their customers are far more satisfied. The structure of credit unions means they can charge lower and fewer fees, but they still manage to provide superior service in nearly every area, from tellers to websites. Banks can’t easily give up the revenue that fees generate, but clearly the pressure is on to improve service.” via The ACSI.

The ACSI Finance and Insurance Report 2014 covers customer satisfaction with banks, credit unions, and other forms of insurance. Participants are asked to rate their level of satisfaction on a 100-point scale. Credit union scored an 85 (the second highest of the 43 industries listed in the index) while banks slump to a score of 76. 

 

The members have spoken and are happy they made the decision to finance with a credit union. Why haven’t you made the switch?

Download the ACSI Finance and Insurance Report 2014 here.

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

Ever thought of working at your local credit union? Credit union jobs have it all!

earnings

Not only are credit unions the smarter choice to finance with, but they are also serve as a great employer. There are more positions than you’d realize in areas of expertise that include communications, marketing, information technology, human resources, finance, business management, and more. Credit unions not only invest in their members but in their staff as well with professional development opportunities.

In addition, credit unions provide a generous benefits package to their employees:

“Credit unions are dedicated to taking care of their members and employees and offer competitive benefits packages that go beyond financial compensation. Benefits vary by credit union and position but, in addition to medical and dental benefits, some credit unions offer tuition reimbursement, paid time off and holiday pay, contributions toward retirement savings, bonuses, employee assistance programs, good work/life balance, and more.”

The question is: ‘Why not consider working for a credit union? They offer the same positions as other companies.’

Begin your job search by identifying the closest credit union to you or search the CU hire site.

More details about obtaining a career with credit unions are available here.

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

Unmarried home buyers soar as marriage rates drop

unmarried home buyers

In an article written by Lisa Schaefer, author of The Teashop Girls, more and more people are putting marriage off but are still committing to buying a home. It is important to note is to plan for everything and anything in advance and make sure it’s all in writing.

Below are some ways to take ownership of the title of the home loan:

“1. Individual vesting: In this case, only one individual of the unmarried couple owns the property and owns 100% of it. The other individual has no ownership involvement or rights.

2. Tenants-in-common: Tenants-in-common allows each borrower to delineate their ownership percentage of the home. Also, in tenants-in-common, each can leave his or her portion of the home to selected heirs.

3. Joint tenants: In joint tenancy, the owners own 100% of the property together. There is no delineation of who owns what percentage of the home. Joint tenants must both sign documents when transferring the property or using it as a security for a loan.

4. Community property (with right of survivorship): This vesting is intended for married persons or domestic partners. Similar to tenants in common, the tenants own 100% together.

5. Trusts: Unmarried people also may take ownership in the form of a trust. The trust documents will determine each trustees’ ownership percentage and will determine what takes place upon the death of a trustee.”

See which option best suites your situation and plan accordingly!

The full version of the article is available to view here.

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

College students invest now with these 4 options

college students

I found this article by Christa Deneault from The Collegian at Kansas State University very interesting & insightful because it reminded me what I could have done as a college student to begin investing in my future post grad.  Out of the four investment options listed, the one that stuck out the most for me was the stocks option.

“Stocks are shares of a corporation. Once purchased, the value of the stock changes depending on the health of the company. The value of stocks is determined by the profits received divided by the number of shares in the corporation. Investing in the stock market is risky. Most students do not have the money needed to do well in investing in individual stocks; stocks are not insured.”

As quoted in the article, “it’s never too early to start investing” — a motto that college and post grads should apply.

Read 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 including financial education and other products to end the payday loan cycle. To find a local credit union you are eligible to join click here or go to asmarterchoice.org

Credit Unions are a Smarter Choice!