Tag Archives: save smarter

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: Spring Clean Your Finances

Put the shivering cold behind you and look ahead to warmer temperatures. Spring is coming! But this time of year isn’t just about rain showers and blooming flowers—it’s time for some spring cleaning, which includes tidying up your finances. Follow these tips to de-clutter your financial life and give you a fresh start for spring.

Close dormant accounts. A financial institution will typically send you a notification if you have an open account that hasn’t been accessed for a set amount of time. If you don’t plan on using the account, close it as soon as possible. This ensures that you’ll avoid any dormant account fees and recoup any remaining funds. It also helps simplify your finances by reducing the number of accounts you have to monitor, which makes maintaining your household budget easier.

Check your credit report and fix any discrepancies. By law, you’re entitled to one free credit report each year, which can be accessed by visiting annualcreditreport.com. You’ll receive a report from each of the three major credit bureaus. Review them to make sure the information looks familiar. If you see something you don’t recognize, like an account you didn’t open, contact the bureau directly to address the discrepancy.

Go paperless and set up automatic bill pay. If you find yourself tossing aside paper account statements, opt to receive electronic statements instead. Not only is it better for the environment, you’ll reduce clutter and receive your account information faster. Another way to reduce clutter and increase efficiency is to set up automatic bill pay, which can typically be done through your financial institution’s online banking system. This will help eliminate your chances of missing a payment and being charged a late fee.

Organize and shred financial documents. Save it or shred it? Experts recommend keeping tax-related documents for seven years, which should cover you in case of an audit. If you’re a homeowner, keep documents related to the purchase of your home, records from any major improvements, and mortgage paperwork. Things like receipts and bills can be safely shred once they clear your account. Rather than piling financial paperwork in one place to deal with later, set up a filing system so you can quickly store what you need to keep and shred what you don’t.

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

 

Transitioning from Double to Single-Income

Planned or unexpected, major life changes that result in less income like job loss, illness, or becoming a stay-at-home-parent, bring about many challenges. Not only can they throw you emotionally and even physically for a loop, they also have a big impact on your finances. We’re here to offer tips for handling your finances during this sometimes-inevitable life transition.

Review your household budget. Having an established budget while transitioning from a double- to single-income household is crucial. You need to be acutely aware of how much money is coming in and going out (and to where). This is the perfect time to find every way possible to cut down on extra expenses, like eating out or gym memberships, and truly focus on paying down debts or building up savings.

Consider the extras. If the loss of an income means losing benefits from a former employer, such as health or life insurance, you’ll have to consider the cost of taking on these expenses and add that to your household budget. On the other hand, you can also count on saving money on gas for your vehicle or a workplace wardrobe, for example, since you won’t be traveling to an office every day.

Reevaluate your savings strategy. If your former employer offered retirement savings, it’s in your best interest to figure out alternative ways to contribute to some kind of savings account or investment fund. Even contributing a small amount is better than nothing. And you’ll still want to ensure you have money put away in an emergency fund for unexpected expenses like home repairs or medical emergencies.

Forget about the Joneses. Keeping up with the latest fashion, home décor, and lifestyle trends is expensive! Reducing your household income means making sacrifices, which could include driving older cars, taking cheaper vacations, and searching for free entertainment. If you focus on putting your needs before your wants, you’ll be in much better shape financially.

Supplement your income. If you find that you still can’t make ends meet after cutting every expense possible, consider picking up a side job like tutoring or pet and/or house sitting. You could sell unwanted items at a yard sale or on Ebay, sell crafts on Etsy, or teach online courses. Every bit helps, and it could result in just enough extra funds to make transitioning from a double- to single-income household a little more affordable.

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

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

 

 

 

Make Your Money Work for You!

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

From a young age, you’re told to save money for the future. But when it comes time to actually put learning into practice, many of us just don’t know where to begin. A savings account is a great start, but are you aware of how easy it can be to earn more on the money you already have? Here are five tips to get going with investing.

Do your research. You can read books and online articles, listen to podcasts, and even attend classes to learn more about investing. While it’s important to arm yourself with knowledge, nothing beats face-to-face advice, especially if you’re new to investing. Meet with your financial institution to see what they offer and to get that personal, expert guidance.

Start with low-risk options. Money market accounts and share certificates are examples of low-risk investments that are available at most financial institutions. These can be good ways to jump-start your investment goals because the chances of you losing any money are minimal.

Save for retirement now. Whether it’s a long way off or could happen in a few years, it’s never too early (or late) to think about retirement savings. One of the best ways is to invest in your employer’s retirement package. Speak to the human resources department to understand how the package works and if your employer is willing to match contributions. If they do, max it out so you don’t leave any money on the table.

Budget for investing. This is where setting a budget comes in handy because it can help determine how much you can afford to allocate toward investments. Five percent of your take-home income is a good place to begin. You might need to make some adjustments or take money from your discretionary fund to get to that five percent, but don’t take this amount from your fixed expenses like bills, emergency fund, or savings goals.

Give it time. Keep in mind that there are many paths to building wealth. It generally takes years of disciplined and strategic financial planning to get there. If you have dreams of retiring, start saving as much as you can as early as you can. Set a goal and keep that in mind throughout your saving and investing journey. You’ll be making some sacrifices now, but it will be worth it when you retire someday.

 

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