Tag Archives: money

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.

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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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Is Your Family Prepared for a Disaster? 

Being disaster-ready is easy. Follow our few simple tips.

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

From tornadoes to house fires and floods—all are disasters that can devastate our lives. If you’re ever in one of these situations, the last thing you want to be doing is picking up the disorganized pieces when a little preparation could have helped alleviate some of the chaos. Hopefully you’ll never experience a disaster, but if you do, our tips on what to collect and how to keep important documents safe could help put your mind at ease if the unexpected happens. 

Collect key documents. This includes personal identification for everyone in your household such as birth certificates, social security cards, passports, and pet identification tags. Also gather insurance policy numbers and the insurance company contact information for each type of coverage. You’ll also want to store a copy of property records like deeds and mortgage documents, medical information including prescriptions, estate-planning documents, and legal and financial records including taxes from the past few years. Record contact information for family and friends in case you don’t have access to your cell phone and need to reach out for help. 

Invest in storage. Select a way to store the items that’s easy to grab in a hurry. Options include a fireproof and waterproof safe, a binder with sleeves to hold all documents, or a safety deposit box at your local financial institution. You could also opt to store everything electronically on, for example, a memory stick, external hard drive, or the cloud. It may be wise to combine a few options—a safe for paper documents plus an electronic storage option. Whatever you choose, place it somewhere that can be quickly and easily grabbed as you head out the door. 

Take inventory of your possessions. This is especially helpful if you need to file an insurance claim. Go through your home, room by room, and record your belongings. Make note of household valuables, such as jewelry, antiques, or collectibles, and write down their worth. Take photos or videos of your home’s contents so you have proof of your possessions. Store your inventory list and photos or videos with your other important documents. 

Set money aside. If a disaster impacts your whole community, it’s likely that your local financial institution could be affected as well, making it difficult to access your money. Additionally, merchants may not have electricity, making a quick swipe of your debit or credit card impossible. Set aside enough cash to cover essentials for a couple of days, which might include a few nights in a hotel, food and water, and basic amenities like clothing. 

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.

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.

Don’t Lose Sight of Your Money

Millions of people have embraced the convenience of managing their finances online. If you haven’t yet taken the plunge into this digital land, you may wonder how it works, if it’s safe, and why it could be better than traditional methods. Even if you’re savvy online, these five tips could help make it a little easier to manage your money while you’re away from your local branch or your home.

Sign up for online banking. Check in on your accounts from the comfort of your couch, the convenience of your office chair, or when you’re miles away from home. Online banking gives you around-the-clock access and is a great way to monitor activity, check balances, and make transfers, as well as providing other useful features that you perhaps thought had to be done in person at a branch. Contact your financial institution for instructions on how to sign up. 

Get electronic statements. Let’s face it—account statements from your financial institution clutter up your countertop and eventually end up in the shred pile. Stop the cycle and sign up to receive them by email instead. That way, you can opt to look them over and move on, or print them out yourself. Plus, it’s faster than waiting on the mail, and you’re helping the environment by reducing waste.

Enroll in online bill pay. Never forget to pay a bill on time again with online bill pay. This can especially come in handy when you’re away from home. You can schedule automatic payments at the same time each month from any account.

Set up digital wallets. This is a feature on your phone, tablet, or smart watch that allows you to enter your credit, debit, and reward card information to make payments at eligible vendors. Payments are made by hovering your device over the payment terminal, then entering a code or using fingerprint recognition to confirm. It’s more secure than carrying your cards and can be shut down if your device is lost.

Notify your financial institution. Before you hit the road, hit up your financial institution to let them know your plans, including your destination and travel dates. Nothing could ruin a vacation faster than a lack of funds, and doing this helps keep your accounts safe and avoids interruptions in your credit or debit card services while you’re out of town or the country.

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

Member One: Credit Score Quick Guide

It’s one of the most important numbers linked to your identity: your credit score. But are you fully aware of why it’s so significant, and what constitutes a good credit score? Read on for a brief explanation of what it is and tips for improving it.

What is it? Your credit score is a number that ranges from 300 to 850 and, along with repayment history, is an indication of your creditworthiness. Anything above 700 is generally viewed as good credit and signals to potential lenders that you’re more likely to pay back your debts on time.

Why should I care? A credit score helps determine whether you’re approved or denied for a credit card or loan and your interest rate. On-time payments have a big impact on your score, and just one or two late payments can significantly lower it. If you’ve ever had a bill go to collections, declared bankruptcy, or had a foreclosure, your score will go down. The number of loans in your name matter and the more accounts you have (in good standing), the better, because it shows that multiple lenders have approved you.

How do I find out my score? The three major credit-reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—are required by law to provide you with a free credit report every 12 months. Keep in mind that this is just the report and not the actual score. In order to receive your score, you typically have to purchase it. Visit MyFICO.com to buy your official FICO score. Also, check your monthly credit card statement as some lenders now include your credit score as an added service.

What are some quick ways to improve it? One of the best ways is to consistently pay your bills on time. Other ways include paying down a credit card balance to improve your utilization rate, and keeping lines of credit open with zero balances. Both of these strategies show lenders that you’re able to manage debt and aren’t biting off more than you can chew.

As a general rule of thumb, you should review your credit report along with your score at least once a year. Not only is it beneficial to keep yourself informed and aware, it could help protect against fraud or identity theft.

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

 

Totally Selfish Reasons to Practice Sustainability

Okay, so unpopular opinion time: I love the idea of trying to save the planet, but when it comes right down to it, I typically make decisions that are most convenient for me.

When I started working for the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team (HEVT), I made more of an effort to keep the environment in mind when making daily decisions. I found that practicing sustainability didn’t just help the environment, it also made my life much easier.

Don’t believe me? Here are three totally selfish reasons to practice sustainability:

vtgreen31) More space
Do you know what DOESN’T maximize space in your apartment? The ten thousand plastic grocery bags sitting on your washer and dryer. Carrying a reusable grocery bag immediately solves this problem (and HEVT gives these away for free, so if you need one hit us up). Also, most reusable grocery bags carry more groceries than plastic bags, which means less trips from the car. As for the stack of plastic bags already robbing you of your closet space? Micah’s Backpack and other organizations collect plastic bags so they can use them when packaging food for donation.

2) Money money money (monaaayyyy)
Even with gas prices going down, I still get that sinking feeling when the numbers at the pump go up and I can picture my balance at the bank going down. Opting to walk or take the bus a few times a week can make a large difference. If you are in the market for a new car, hybrids have been proven to save consumers money over time. Unplugging items such as coffee makers when you are not using them can also cut down electricity costs, which creates less of a burden on the environment.

3) Locally-grown food tastes better
Buying local is a good idea all around. Less travel means less pollution and gas consumption. Supporting local business means keeping money in the community. Seeing where your food comes gives you control over what hormones do and do not enter your body. But the biggest reason I buy local? It tastes So. Much. Better. Nothing can compete with a tomato picked fresh off the vine.

vtgreen1Written by Sara Lepley, the communication manager of the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team of Virginia Tech (HEVT). HEVT competes against 16 other universities in a four year competition in which they transform a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro into a hybrid electric vehicle. Their two headline sponsors, General Motors and the Department of Energy, challenge HEVT to reduce petroleum usage and greenhouse gas effects, while maintaining safety, performance and customer acceptability. They also help in mind cost and innovation. This is Sara’s second year on the team.