Tag Archives: finance

Save Smarter

Money Master or Financially Challenged?

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

With the inevitable uptick in holiday spending in sight, it’s high time to check in on your money management know-how. Many people might think they have a solid grasp of their finances, but there are certain key pieces you should have in place to truly be considered a financial pro. Below are five checkpoints to help determine if you’re really the money guru you think you are.

You’re aware of your income and expenses. If you track how much money is coming in and going out each month, consider yourself a smart money manager. Failing to be in tune with your income and expenses can lead to over-spending and debt, or missed opportunities to make the most of your money through investing. If you need to improve in this area, start by tracking your monthly income and expenses over a period of time and watch for trends. Ideally, you’ll have money left over at the end of a month to put into savings or in-vestments. If you’re consistently left in the negative, find ways to cut down on expenses.

You have a savings plan. Not only does this include having funds on hand to pay for emergency expenses, this includes long-term investments for a secure financial future. If your employer offers an investment plan like a 401(k), participate—especially if they match your investment. If you’re not investing and don’t know where to begin, your local bank or credit union is a good place to start. They can direct you toward low-risk investment opportunities. It’s never too early (or late) to begin investing.

You’re debt-free or making progress on paying off debt. There’s good debt, like a mortgage that provides a roof over your head, and bad debt, like credit cards near their maximum limit. Having some debt is fine, but it should mostly fall into the good category. If you have bad debt, get rid of it as quickly as possible by devising a plan to pay it off. Start by tackling the largest balance with the highest interest rate first.

You’re aware of monthly bills. Similar to an awareness of your income and expenses, you should know what bills you’re incurring each month. Even if you have automatic payments established, you should know when bills are typically deducted from your account, the amount, and the terms of the purchases. Billing mistakes can happen, and it’s your responsibility to make sure you’re paying the correct amount or take action to correct the charge if necessary.

You think about the big financial picture. When do you want to retire and what investments will help you get there? How many years are left on your mortgage? How will you pay for your children’s education? You don’t have to make all the big financial decisions right now, but you should remain mindful of your overall financial health. If you always consider how every major purchase or investment impacts your overall finances, you’re more likely to make smart money choices.

Join Member One here each month for more money-saving tips and financial advice! Be sure to visit their website, www.memberonefcu.com, for more info on their products and services. Member One Federal Credit Union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration.

Save Smarter

Six Tips for Keeping your Smartphone Secure

How your device could be just as vulnerable to hackers as your computer. Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

What’s shiny, contains some of your most precious memories, and is rarely out of sight? No, it’s not your child after being slathered in sunscreen at the beach. It’s your smartphone. You hear about the importance of securing your computer from hackers, but are you aware of how vulnerable your smartphone could be too? In honor of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, we’ve rounded up tips to help keep the sensitive data on your device safe. 

1. Set a personal identification number (PIN) on the lock screen. While it may be more convenient to keep your phone unlocked, setting up a PIN is one of your first lines of defense against fraudsters in the event your phone is lost or stolen. Many devices prompt you to complete this step upon setup. Pick a PIN that’s difficult for a criminal to guess but easy for you to remember. 

2. Make sure your software and apps are up to date.  Many devices will send a push notification when a software, app, or security update is ready to install. When you receive those notices, install them. It’s also a good idea to occasionally visit your phone’s settings to look for any updates you may have missed. 

3. Log out of applications when you’re done using them.  If you access mobile banking, email, social media, or websites that contain personal data with your phone, get in the habit of logging out when you’re done. You’ll be thankful that fraudsters won’t have easy access to your personal information in case your phone is lost, stolen, or hacked. 

4. Understand what apps you’re downloading.  Before installing an app, consider reviews from previous customers and look over the permissions before downloading it onto your device. Try to stick to only downloading apps from the mainstream app stores or from developers that are well-known and have high ratings. 

5. Be cautious about public wireless networks.  As a rule of thumb, never connect to an unknown wireless network. Cybercriminals may set up a network name that looks very similar to one established by a legitimate venue, so it’s best to ask staff for the network name and password. Avoid opening apps or visiting links that contain your personal information while connected to a public network. 

6. Don’t click on suspicious links.  This includes links sent through email or text messages. If it’s an email, flag it as spam or junk. If it’s a text informing you that you’ve won a prize or have a special offer awaiting you, delete it right away. Unless you’ve opted in to receive notifications by text, a legitimate company will typically not contact you with important information this way.

Taking a few simple precautions now to protect the data on your smartphone could mean fewer headaches and heartbreaks if your phone is ever lost, stolen, or hacked. Our smartphones aren’t nearly as precious as our children, but they contain plenty of sensitive data that needs to be secured. 

Join Member One here each month for more money-saving tips and financial advice! Be sure to visit their website, www.memberonefcu.com, for more info on their products and services. Member One Federal Credit Union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration.

 

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Financial Tips for Growing Families

How to maintain your family’s finances now & well into the future.

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

Whether you have a new baby on the way or already have children in your household, being financially stable should be a top priority. As vacation season winds down and the school routine ramps up, it’s a perfect time to reexamine your family’s financial situation to ensure you’re on track. We’re here to offer tips for setting your family up for success now and into the years ahead.

Ensure your household finances are stable. While it can be tough to determine what to make a financial priority, there are a few things that should always remain at the top of your list. These include meeting your basic needs like food and electricity, paying down debts, setting aside an emergency fund, and saving for the future. Maintaining a household budget is key to ensuring that you live within your means to meet these financial goals. If you’re finding it difficult to pay your housing costs or set aside savings, take a hard look at your budget to identify areas to cut down on expenses.

Take steps to protect your children financially. There are several ways to do this, but some options include investing in life insurance and establishing a will. Life insurance serves as a financial safety net for your dependents in case something happens to you or your spouse. A will ensures that the distribution of your assets and how your children are cared for after you’re gone are followed according to your wishes. While these investments in your future won’t yield a return right away, they’ll provide peace of mind and make certain that what’s most important to you is taken care of.

Save for your child’s future. It can be a daunting task figuring out how much you should save, especially when you add children to the equation. A good starting point is to decide what you’re saving for. For children, a popular long-term savings goal is higher education or even a wedding, but you may also want to consider short-term goals such as summer camps, family trips, or educational tools. All savings goals should be worked into your family budget to help determine what you can truly afford. To reach the long-term savings goals, look into education savings accounts, 529 plans, or even a Roth IRA. It’s important to research your options as each has specific criteria for contributing and unique benefits. Since there’s no best way to save for your child’s future, you may want to consult a financial advisor. As with any savings plan, the earlier you start the better.

Making sure your household is financially solid is one of the best ways to set your family up for success. It can be a difficult adjustment—in several ways—when a little one joins your clan. But following these tips could help guide you and your expanding family on the path to financial success.

Join Member One here each month for more money-saving tips and financial advice! Be sure to visit their website, www.memberonefcu.com, for more info on their products and services. Member One Federal Credit Union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration.

Save Smarter – Financial Fitness for Youth

6 Tips to Guide Children through a Healthy Relationship with Money

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

With school out for the summer, the kids are likely hanging around the house more than usual. Your little audience is watching and probably soaking in more than you realize—which includes how you manage finances. Healthy financial habits begin at a young age, so what better time to teach responsible spending and saving than during a break from the daily grind of school? Here are a few ways to help your kids get started on the path to financial success.

Set an example.  Parents who make poor financial decisions like impulse purchases, excessive credit card use, or have arguments about finances only confuse children about how to make smart money choices. Make a point to practice what you preach by not only explaining positive financial habits but demonstrating them as well.

Begin early.  Once children start saying, “I want,” it’s a good time to teach savings habits. While they won’t understand compound interest or annual percentage yield, you can explain how we sometimes have to wait for the things we want. Delayed gratification is an important lesson to learn.

Give commissions, not allowances.  There is nothing wrong with giving your child money each week, but it should be earned. Have them perform chores like mowing the lawn, taking out trash, or doing dishes. This will teach them the value of work and prepare them for adulthood, and starting a job outside of the home.

Make it visual.  For younger children, give them transparent jars to keep their money in so they can see their progress. For older children, it’s wise to open a savings account with a local credit union. Online banking can help them easily monitor their progress.

Set savings goals.  It’s much easier to put away money when you know what you’re saving for. If your child wants a game or pair of shoes, show them how much it costs and how long it will take before they can buy the item. You can also show them ways to reach their goal faster by earning more money through additional effort. 

Explain responsible credit card use. As a teenager, getting your first credit card can be very exciting. Make sure your child knows how to use the credit card wisely and warn them that they should only make purchases if they can afford to pay off the balance each month. It’s also important to explain what credit is and how it affects their future—from buying a car to getting their first mortgage.

Financial responsibility begins at a young age. Use these tips to help teach your child healthy money habits that will set the foundation for success now and continue well into the future.

5 Tips for Getting your Finances Vacation-Ready

Learn how managing your money this summer can make travel season even easier

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

Planning for summer travel means choosing a location, booking your stay, and counting down until vacation time. It also means effectively managing and protecting your money so your anticipated getaway doesn’t turn into an unexpected staycation. Follow these simple tips for keeping your financial life in order before, during, and after vacation. 

Notify your financial institution before you hit the road. Nothing could ruin a vacation faster than a lack of funds due to a limited cash supply and/or a frozen credit or debit card because of suspicious-looking account activity. Letting your financial institution know that you’ll be traveling helps keep your accounts safe and avoids interruptions in your credit or debit card services, especially if you’ll be out of the country. Many financial institutions offer a simple online form that you can complete ahead of your travel.

Record card information and other important documents. Before you leave, record card numbers and customer service contact information, your passport, and insurance cards. Take photos of each item or write the information down on paper and keep it in a safe location, like a hotel safe. You can also store the information on your computer or email it to yourself. As long as you can locate an Internet connection, you’ll have quick access to this information in case you need to report that it’s been stolen.

Pay for larger purchases with cards. A credit card in particular offers the most security because, unlike a debit card, it’s not linked directly to your bank account—so there’s no risk of fraudsters gaining direct access to your money. Plus, purchases made with a credit or debit card might be replaced by the card company if the item is stolen. 

Don’t carry all your money at once. One tactic to keep cash safe is to split it up. Keep a certain amount in your wallet and another amount stashed away for later. Overall, the best approach is to carry a combination—a credit card for the majority of purchases, another card as a backup, and cash. While cash can be easily stolen, it’s a good idea to keep a small amount on hand in case you encounter a merchant or service that only accepts cash. 

Review your bank and credit card statements. Upon returning from your trip, look at your bank and credit card statements to check the accuracy of transactions. Get a receipt for every transaction made while on vacation and compare this to the total charged to your account. Receipts are also helpful to have on hand in case you have to dispute a charge with a vendor. 

Join Member One here each month for more money-saving tips and financial advice! Be sure to visit their website, www.memberonefcu.com, for more info on their products and services. Member One Federal Credit Union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration.

Save Smarter

Four Reasons to Buddy Up with a Credit Card

Combined with responsible spending, these tips could help improve your financial wellness.
Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

High-interest rates, nasty fees, or the inability to pay back debt—all can leave you feeling glum when it comes to credit cards. Cheer up! Credit cards don’t have to be your worst financial enemy. If you educate yourself, you’ll discover how befriending your credit card, while spending responsibly, could actually benefit your overall financial health. 

Build and/or improve your credit. Are you planning to get a loan for a car or a home? That loan will depend on your credit score. By using a credit card and making monthly payments (or better yet, paying off the entire balance each month), you’re helping to establish good credit. You’ll also want to consider your credit utilization ratio—the amount you owe compared to your credit limit. Keeping this ratio low, usually below 10 percent, will make you more appealing to lenders.

Maximize the value of your dollar. If you use your credit card wisely, rewards can be a good way to maximize the value of every dollar you spend by earning cash back, points, or miles that you can later redeem. Why not benefit from purchases you’re already making? Just be cautious—don’t charge more to your credit card just to earn a certain reward, such as an airfare ticket or hotel stay. This could lead to significant debt if it gets out of control. One way to keep track of spending is to use your credit card for specific things like groceries and gas.

Keep your budget in check. Credit cards can be a great way to consolidate your debt. You can save yourself some money over time by rolling all of your debt onto a single credit card; however, make sure the card you’re putting debt onto has a lower interest rate than your other cards. This could make your life simpler by paying one bill each month instead of several, and the lower interest rate could help you save money.

Protect your money. With credit and debit card fraud on the rise, using a credit card as opposed to a debit card could help protect you and your funds. Debit cards are linked to your checking account, so fraudsters could drain your account quickly if your card is compromised. With credit cards, you have the advantage of fraud protection. Review your credit card provider’s fraud protection policy to learn more. Another great feature of credit cards is purchase alerts that notify you when your card is used. 

Credit cards don’t have to be a foe. With a little willpower and a bit of know-how, they can help you achieve financial ease and security. 

Join Member One here each month for more money-saving tips and financial advice! Be sure to visit their website, www.memberonefcu.com, for more info on their products and services. Member One Federal Credit Union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration.

Six Ways to Optimize Your Tax Refund

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the average taxpayer received a $3,000 refund in 2017. This chunk of change—depending on how you allocate it—could make a big impact on your bottom line. Before you’re tempted to spend it on impulse buys, consider these options for maximizing your tax refund.

Boost your emergency fund. Financial experts say you should have three to six months’ worth of living expenses saved in an emergency fund to protect yourself in case of a job loss or another unexpected financial hardship. Stashing your tax refund into an emergency fund could get you well on your way to reaching that dollar goal.

Pay off high-interest debt. Doing this results in an instant return on your investment because you’re saving yourself from paying interest to the lender. If you have several debts to tackle, aim for the one with the highest interest rate first. If you can’t pay off the entire balance, look into transferring the remaining debt onto something with a lower interest rate, like a credit card or personal loan.

Prepay your mortgage. Putting extra money toward your mortgage payment is a great way to save money over time. Use your tax refund to make one additional, full mortgage payment. If you do this every year, you could shave off thousands in interest, shorten your repayment years, and build equity faster.

Fund an investment account. If you’re new to investing, a great place to start is at your local financial institution. Many offer competitive, low-risk investment options like money market or share certificate accounts. You could also consider putting your tax refund toward a Roth or traditional IRA, which can be great ways to save for retirement.

Save for the future. The IRS allows you to split up your refund into several accounts. Consider putting some, or all, into a special savings account to help fund a future purchase, like a vacation or next year’s holiday gifts. This is also a great opportunity to jump-start a college savings fund for your child.

Make home improvements. While your refund won’t cover an entire kitchen or bathroom remodel, you could make minor improvements such as painting cabinets, updating hardware, or installing a new backsplash. Look into replacing old appliances for more energy-efficient models or installing new windows to save on heating and cooling bills.

 

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

 

 

 

Warm Up to Responsible Spending

With warm, sunny days upon us, it’s time to plan for more than just your tan: summer spending. Vacations, airline tickets, dining out, and entertainment—it adds up. If you haven’t budgeted for these expenses in advance, a quick swipe of your credit card takes care of it. But if responsible credit card use isn’t your strength (or you just need a refresher), these tips could help curb the temptation to overspend this summer.

Be selective. There are several factors to look at when picking a credit card. First, you’ll want to see what your limit is. If you don’t think you can handle the freedom of a credit card, start with one that has a lower limit, like $1,000. Additionally, look at the credit card’s annual percentage rate or APR. That interest will add up if you’re not planning on paying off the total each month, so shop around for a low APR. Finally, look out for cards that charge annual fees just for keeping them open.

Monitor your balance. You should keep credit card payments to 10 percent of your monthly take-home income. For example, if your monthly income is $2,000, your monthly credit card payment should not be more than $200. This doesn’t mean your balance should not exceed $200, but make sure your minimum payment is no more than that. Keep in mind, however, that paying off the entire balance each month is in your best interest financially.

Know the benefits. By making purchases with your credit card and paying the balance off each month, you’re proving to lenders that you’re a responsible, creditworthy consumer. It boosts your credit score and will help you in the future if you ever want to get a loan—or another credit card.

Stick to a budget. It’s important to set parameters for yourself when using a credit card. One simple way to do this is to use the credit card for one specific purpose, like gas or groceries, so it’s easier to keep your spending in check. Another way is to get a card with a low limit. This forces you to keep your spending under a certain amount.

Smart credit card use doesn’t have to be a mystery or limit your fun this summer. Follow these simple tips and your poolside lounge session (while possibly chasing the kids) will be that much more relaxing.

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union