Tuesday, January 9, 2018

De-Stressing After the Holidays

Now that the holidays are over, returning to real life can be a grind. Now is a great time to take a deep breath and find some time to relax, unwind and de-stress. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1.) Calming techniques 
A great way to decompress is to engage in yoga or breathing techniques. Taking deep inhalations and long exhalations encourages brain activity and stimulates effective blood circulation while soothing your inner soul. Deep breathing will help you transition from a state of exhilaration to a normal level of existence. Meditation has also been proven to help reduce the stress of returning from a holiday.

2.) Enjoy the sunshine
If you traveled over the holiday season, it's no fun when your sleep-wake cycle is disrupted by jet lag. To minimize this effect, doctors advise travelers to get out into the sun as soon as possible upon disembarking. When the sunlight hits your eyes, it helps readjust the sleep-wake cycle. Even if you didn't fly anywhere for the holidays, you may have similar symptoms from coming down from a heightened experience. A 15-minute walk in the sun can help you decompress.

3.) Physical exercise 
Exercise releases endorphins which flood us with happy feelings while decreasing stress hormones. A win-win solution to the blues!

4.) Your next vacation 
Some therapists suggest that planning a vacation immediately after the holidays can help you overcome the post-holiday blues as it gives you something to look forward to. 

5.) Talk it out 
If you’re still having difficulty re-entering your pre-holiday existence, have a heart-to-heart with a friend or relative. They can act as a sounding board, help you sort out your feelings, and offer solutions you may not have considered.

Your Turn: How do you de-stress after the holidays? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Help! I Overspent on Christmas

It’s easy to go overboard for Christmas. Giving extravagant gifts to your family members seems like a great idea … until you’re facing a huge credit card bill in January. However it happened, approach this problem rationally. The important thing now is to get things right financially. Check out these 4 ways you can patch up your finances and set things on the right track.

1.) Budgeting advice 
It’s very tempting to make only the minimum payments on the credit card you used to buy Christmas presents. Unfortunately, it’s also the best way to ensure you’re in debt for every Christmas to come. Making minimum payments on credit cards prolongs the length of time you’re in debt and spikes the total amount you pay, adding an extra $175 to a $10,000 balance at 21% APR.

What you need is an aggressive debt repayment plan. Instead of looking to pay the smallest amount possible, identify the most you can afford to pay. Commit to an extreme budget until you make headway on the debt. Coming up with an extra $35 or $50 a month is tough, but it’s the easiest way to get things moving.

You might also consider transferring your credit card debt. New and existing Community Financial MasterCard cardholders can take advantage of 2.9% APR until 8/31/2018 on balance transfers made between 1/1/18 and 3/31/18. There are no balance transfer fees for this promotion. Learn more at cfcu.org/cards.

2.) Refinancing major purchases 
If you splurged on one or two major purchases, it may not be credit card debt you’re facing. Slick car dealers offer crazy-sounding incentives to entice people to give cars for Christmas. Unfortunately, when you realize you’re in over your head with a car payment, there’s no undoing the deal.

Community Financial can help. Our auto and other major purchase loans often feature better rates. You may need to finance the purchase over a longer term or restructure the loan to pay less now. Either way, it could pay to research refinancing with us. Learn more about our auto loans by visiting cfcu.org/auto.

3.) Debt counseling 
Does reading those credit card statements each month fill you with despair? Community Financial can help you make sense of them. Make an appointment to speak with one of our friendly representatives about debt management. You’ll learn about your rights and responsibilities and create a realistic plan to pay off your debt to avoid falling into the same trap next year.

4.) Personal loans 
Focus your debt into one manageable plan through a debt consolidation loan. The advantage to these loans is they’ll have lower interest rates than the original debt, and allow the borrower to make only one lower payment per month instead of several. Our loan specialists can help you organize and simplify your payments, working toward a debt-free life. Visit cfcu.org/personal for more info.

If you need help managing your debt this new year, give us a call at (877) 937-2328 and let us help you get back on track.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Financial Preparation for 2018

2018 is almost here – are you ready? Usher in the new year with plans for financial improvement and resolutions to do more. Here are some tips to get you started:

Tune your budget 
It’s great to start off the new year with a plan. A budget is a plan that starts with the income you expect and your fixed expenses such as your mortgage or rent, insurance, and utilities. The plan incorporates your savings goals, and the remaining money is designated for your other expenses. A realistic budget will help you set your financial goals and will remind you to stick to them. Now is the perfect time to assess last year’s budget or create a new one if you don’t yet have one in place.

Reviewing how you spent last year’s money will help you make better financial decisions for the year ahead. While thinking about it, include a method for tracking your spending. You can do this on a spreadsheet or tag items in your checking account. Even with a solid plan, there can be surprises along the way, so be sure to build an emergency fund into your budget.

Plan ahead to meet your goals 
Consider how you will accomplish your goals. You might have shorter-term goals, such as purchasing a new home, as well as longer-term goals, like retirement. Each set of goals requires different kinds of planning and saving. Financial planners recommend setting up a separate savings account for each goal. This way, your progress toward that goal is clear.

It’s best to work backward for determining how much you need to save for each goal. Determine the cost of your goal and then establish a reasonable time-frame as well as how much you’ll need to save each month to reach it.

Spend mindfully 
Make your financial future more secure this year by identifying your needs versus wants. Your needs are necessary for survival and include food and shelter. Your wants are simply things you desire, like a new TV or a luxury car. Tend to your needs first. Then, if there is money remaining, consider your wants.

This might sound obvious, but for many of us, the lines between wants and needs are blurred.

Maximize tax contributions 
Tax deductions can be a valuable source of savings. If you have employer-matching funds available, take advantage of them. Also, verify with your HR contact and your accountant that you are contributing the optimal amount to your 401K and IRA.

These are just a few of the many ways you can prepare financially for the coming year. With a little attention to some often-overlooked details, you’ll be moving forward with a strong foundation and positive outlook for 2018.

Your Turn: What are some of the things that you’re doing to prepare for 2018? Share them with us in the comments!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Chances are you or someone you know has had their identity stolen at one point or another. Identity theft can be expensive, stressful, and extremely complicated to recover from. Here are seven ways to protect yourself and your important data from identity thieves.

1. Secure Your Hard Copies 
Most people think of identity theft as a digital crime, but many thieves are just as eager to get their hands on your paper documents. While online accounts are password-protected, important paper documents are often left in a drawer or simply tossed in the trash, where thieves can find them.

What’s the solution? Buy a safe and a shredder. Every sensitive document should be shredded or kept in the safe. The same level of care should go into protecting your physical credit cards. Don’t put your wallet in your back pocket. Make it a habit to check that you have all your cards and IDs at the end of the day. It’s best to be aware of missing items earlier so you can take appropriate action before much damage is done.

2. Examine Your Financial Statements 
Reviewing your financial statements is a good practice. Not only will this help you track financial habits, it will also alert you to any fraudulent charges. Credit unions and banks do a lot to protect consumers from fraud and identity theft, but only you know what you purchased and what you didn’t, so look closely at those statements!

3. Choose Strong Passwords 
Many people have one password they use for all devices and platforms. That’s convenient, but it’s also dangerous. Having multiple hard-to-remember passwords may make it more difficult for you to access your own accounts, but potential identity thieves will have a more difficult time, too.

If you’re worried about remembering your own passwords, check out these easy and safe ways to store your passwords from Gizmodo.

4. Protect Your Computer 
Malware is just one way identity thieves steal your data. Invest in a strong anti-spyware program to make sure your hardware is safe from invaders.

Another way to protect your computer is to encrypt your hard drive. Most computers allow you to easily encrypt all data in your hard drive by choosing to activate the encryption option in your security settings.

5. Be Aware of Suspicious Emails and Websites 
If an email looks suspicious, it probably is. If you have too many promotional emails, choose to unsubscribe. This will help you spot suspicious, unsolicited emails. Also, your browser or antivirus software may warn you about suspicious websites before you enter them; pay these warnings heed!

6. Use Two-Factor Identification 
Two-factor identification for important online accounts adds an extra step to the security process for log-ins, most often making use of your phone number as well.

7. Secure Your Wi-Fi and Avoid Public Wi-Fi 
Public Wi-Fi is often unsecure and a great hunting ground for thieves; steer clear if you can. At the very least, avoid all online banking or password logins while using public Wi-Fi. Additionally, secure your own home Wi-Fi with a strong password.

Taking these steps can help keep your personal information safe. By securing your data at home, online, and when you're out and about, you can help reduce the opportunities for identity theft to occur.

Friday, December 15, 2017

School Spotlight: South Canton Scholars Students Learn Needs Vs. Wants

NHA Partnerships with Community Financial
Community Financial’s school partnerships extend to National Heritage Academies in the Plymouth and Canton areas. Our NHA partners include: Plymouth Scholars, Achieve, Canton, and South Canton Scholars Charter Academies.

South Canton Scholars, located on South Canton Center Road, has been a partner with us since 2011. Here are some pictures of SCS fifth and seventh grade students volunteering at their school credit union.
7th grade fall volunteers are ready to assist middle school members.
5th grade fall volunteers actively helping members save their money.
Fifth grade student volunteers making posters and
operating the computer for the Student-Run Credit Union. 

Needs vs. Wants 

Education Partnership Coordinator, Karie Gonczy,
teaching kindergarten students about needs and wants.
What are your basic needs? What do you want? These are important questions that students ponder every day, without even knowing it! These questions come up in speaking with kids at our Student-Run Credit Unions and during classroom presentations with our Education Partnership Coordinators. Frequently, our coordinators help students to be conscious of their needs and wants, and their spending decisions. Do you really need that piece of candy? Do you really want to spend all of your money on a souvenir at Disney world? Do you need to save your money for college? 

Karie Gonczy helping students decide between needs and wants.
Recognizing our needs and wants is a common curriculum goal in Michigan. It is important to have a basic understanding of needs versus wants in applying simple and complex budgeting plans. Students learn through our Student-Run Credit Union program that your basic needs come first (food, clothing, shelter, and water).

After our basic needs are met, you can then begin to get the things that you want. Sounds easy, right?! Well, in our complex world of spending (where credit cards and loans enter the equation), needs and wants may become blurred. That’s why it’s important to have a strong sense of your needs and wants at an early age.

Here are some pictures of South Canton Scholars kindergarten students with their completed needs and wants activity.

Your Turn: What are you saving for? Tell us some of your “wants?” What are some ways that you budget for your needs and wants?

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