Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Kick Off A Safe And Healthy Summer

Since June 21 is the official start of summer, meaning outdoor time, swimming, picnics and travel, here are some tips to keep your family happy and healthy.

Not Looking Forward To Swimsuit Season? 
If you want to lose weight, says Lisa Lillien of the Hungry Girl website, don’t use crash diets, just make healthy choices. Spend weekend time prepping proteins and veggies. Then for a hot dinner, just throw the ingredients together. Have smart snacks around: jerky, protein bars, nuts, fruit. Eating more often seems counter intuitive, but prevents overeating at mealtime. More about food: At picnics, keep mayonnaise salads cool. Enjoy them straight from the refrigerator; don’t let them sit more than 15 minutes in the sun.

Water Inside 
Proper hydration is important, especially in hotter weather. Drinking enough water improves body function and keeps you from feeling unnecessarily hungry. Eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily will maintain moisture balance, but if you’re a caffeine drinker, triple that. Bonus: Staying hydrated gives skin that healthy glow.

Water Outside 
Remember being told, “You’ll drown if you go into the water right after eating”? That’s too strong, but Sue Leahy, president of the American Safety and Health Institute, says during digestion, “There’s less blood flow in your body and this takes away from strength. So if you really had to use your strength for undertow, you might have a problem.” Best to wait half an hour after you eat. Children pose different problems. The National Safety Council says more than one in five drowning victims are 14 or under. Find age-appropriate swim lessons for your child, and don’t rely on lifeguards; never leave your child unattended.

Be Good to Your Skin 
Just one blistering sunburn doubles your risk of melanoma. You have to apply the right kind of sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher), frequently (every two hours), and enough: a teaspoon for the face, and about a shot glassful for the body. If you forgot, apply cooling botanicals generously at the first sight of a pink glow to reduce peeling and inflammation.

Be Good To Your Eyes 
To help prevent cataracts, as well as wrinkles, wear sunglasses that block at least 99% of ultraviolet A and B.

Watch For Heat Stroke 
This is a big problem for outdoor workers and older people in apartments without air conditioning, but can happen to anyone. “The first sign is cramping in the legs,” says Sue Leahy. “Cool off and drink fluids until it goes away. Cramping – especially in the leg – is a sign the body is losing salt and electrolytes, and you should heed it.”

Get Debugged 
Bugs can transmit Lyme disease, West Nile, Zika, and other illnesses. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend insect repellents containing DEET (10% to 30%), except on children under 2 months.

Move It But Don’t Lose It 
If your children travel by bicycle, skateboard or scooter, they need helmets that meet CPSC safety standards. Never let children ride near moving traffic. Don’t allow children too young to have a driver’s license on riding lawnmowers or off-road vehicles. Children are involved in 30% of ATV-related deaths and ER injuries.

Fireworks 
The Fourth of July is a big summer event,and emergency rooms brace for the injuries. Fireworks can cause severe burns, blindness, scars or worse – even sparklers can reach over 1000 degrees and can start fires. The National Safety Council says that in 2010, fireworks caused about 15,500 reported fires, including 1,100 structure fires. Families should attend professional community fireworks displays rather than using fireworks at home.

Your Turn: What’s most important to you about summertime safety? Have you had any close calls? Tell us what you do to keep the family happy and healthy in the hotter months.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Buying a Home in Today's Economy

The only thing certain about today’s economy is that it is uncertain. While things look relatively stable now, no one can guarantee what the next few years will bring. Fortunately, you don’t have to give up on the home of your dreams because of a fluctuating economy. Here are four steps you can take to make sure your money – and your house – are safe regardless of the state of the economy.

1) Maximize your down payment 
The magic number for down payments has been established at 20% of the home’s value. Often, though, new homeowners will put down a much smaller amount. If you can’t afford a down payment of at least 5% of the home’s value, you may not be ready to buy a house. Having little or no equity in a home could mean taking a loss should you need to sell it.

2) Get less than you qualify for 
It’s best to buy a house that comes in well under your approved mortgage limit. This will keep your mortgage payments from dwarfing your monthly budget. Also, if the economy worsens, you’ll have a smaller mortgage payment to scrape together each month.

3) Pick the right Realtor 
Here’s how to find the Realtor that’s best for you:
  • Speak to recent clients about their experience with this agent. 
  • Look up the licensing of your prospective agent. You can find this information online.
  • Choose a winner. A Realtor who has been recognized for their excellent work is one you want working for you. 
  • Research how long the agent has been in the industry.
  • Check the current listings under the Realtor’s name. Are they in the same price range as the house you’re hoping to buy? 

4) Look for red flags 
Aside from having a professional inspection done, check for the following yourself:
  • A sturdy roof. A flimsy roof can bring expensive repairs. If you don’t mind replacing the roof, use it as a negotiating point for a lower price. 
  • Efficient heating and cooling systems. These can be costly to fix and replace. Plus, inefficient systems can hike up your utility bills. 
  • Strong structural components. Don’t be fooled by a fresh coat of paint. Check beneath the surface for strong pipes, wiring and insulation. 
  • Overall functioning of the home. Try out everything! Open doors, turn on faucets, flick light switches, and flush toilets. If you find any major problems, rethink your decision to buy this home. Don’t mind a handful of minor repairs? Use these as a negotiating point. 
Stop by any Community Financial branch or contact one of our friendly Mortgage Specialists before you start your search. We’ll help you with the finances as you find the home of your dreams!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

How to Use Your Graduation Presents To Build Your Financial Future

If you’re graduating from college this year, congratulations! As a college graduate you’ve survived four (or more) years of nose-to-the-grindstone studying, years of ramen noodle breakfasts and frantic, last-minute papers. Your family and friends are eager to celebrate your accomplishment, and one of the ways they know how to do that is by giving you cash.

Money you don’t have a plan for has a funny way of turning into concert tickets, electronics and other splurge items. Making a plan to use your graduation money to build your financial future can prevent you from relying on debt to cover your lifestyle startup costs. Consider making space in your graduation gifting for these must-haves.

1) A professional wardrobe 
If you have a new employer waiting for you to show up to work, chances are they won’t be as sympathetic to sweatpants and band T-shirts as your TA was. Getting two or three professional items of clothing will help you hit the ground running on day one. And if you don’t yet have an employer, buying a good “interview” outfit is a wise investment.

2) Start saving for retirement 
It’s weird to think about how your career will end before it starts, but it’s never too early. Starting a Roth IRA will keep your money growing tax-free. You’ll need to start this some time, and it’s much less daunting to add to a retirement account than to start from zero. Though early withdrawal of IRA funds should be limited for many reasons, the money is available for major purchases like your first home, or if you need it due to a medical emergency.

3) Build an emergency fund 
Right now, your financial future is very fragile. You’ve spent a lot of time and money developing your ability to work and making yourself more attractive to an employer. What would you do if you found yourself unable to work for several months? What if you needed car repairs to get to work? 

Right now, before you have to worry about a rent payment or a utility bill, is the best time to start saving for those emergencies. Stashing away a little money in a rainy day fund is one of the best ways to insure the significant investment you’ve made in yourself. You could even open a separate Community Financial savings account to accomplish this goal.

Congrats to all of the 2017 graduates! We wish you a bright financial future.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Summer of Sharing is Back! What GOOD Could You Do with $1,000?

Temperatures are rising and so is our community support. As we launch our 7th annual Summer of Sharing Campaign, we want to know, “What GOOD could you do with $1,000?”

This summer, Community Financial will donate $60,000 to nonprofit, educational and community organizations throughout Michigan! That's $1,000 a day every Monday – Friday from June 12, 2017 – September 1, 2017.

Community Financial will start accepting nominations on June 1. At that time, members of the community are invited to visit www.SummerOfSharing.org to submit an essay-style nomination explaining how their favorite nonprofit helps the community it serves. These essays will stay live on the site for others to learn about how the nominated organizations are making a difference.

Community Financial's Summer of Sharing program is one of the ways we help give back to the communities that support us, but we can’t do it alone. We need your input to let us know which groups are making the greatest impact. Past recipients have included animal welfare groups, school music programs, food pantries, veterans groups and many more!

President and CEO Bill Lawton is excited to keep the tradition of sharing alive in 2017.

“We are inviting the community to tell us which organizations are doing great work and deserve additional financial support,” Lawton said. “It is part of our culture to give back to our communities, and we are proud to bring the Summer of Sharing back once again.”

Throughout the next three months, Community Financial will announce the winning recipients beginning in June on www.SummerOfSharing.org. Community Financial has donated over $365,000 through its Summer of Sharing program since 2011.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Pros and Cons of Bridge Loans

Buying your next home is nothing like buying your first. This time around, you're coming to the table with the experience of being a homeowner. You know what to expect throughout the buying process, you know what to look for in a home, and you know what you can afford. After all, experience is truly the best teacher.

Another major difference this time around is that you're likely counting on proceeds from the sale of your first home to help cover the down payment and the closing costs of your new home. But what happens if selling that home is taking a bit longer than you'd anticipated? What if you need to move immediately because of a job opportunity, or because there's a great home on the market that will be snatched up if you don't grab it quickly? How are you going to come up with the funds if your own home isn't selling quickly?

This is where bridge loans come in. A bridge loan provides temporary financing until more permanent financing can be obtained. When taking out a bridge loan, it’s understood that once permanent financing is in place, some of those funds will be used to pay back the bridge loan. Bridge loans are most commonly used to help the borrower span the gap between the sale of one home and the purchase of another.

Terms vary tremendously, so take the time to talk with your loan officer. Some will completely pay up the outstanding mortgage on the old home, while others just pull out equity, leaving the borrower with two mortgages, or simply lumping the loans together.

Bridge loans understandably have shorter terms than other loans, and are typically more expensive as well. Also, a lender will usually only extend a bridge loan if the borrower agrees to finance their new home's mortgage through the same institution.

Bridge loans seem to provide the ideal solution to a less-than-ideal situation: You can now house-hunt freely and without waiting for your current home to sell. However, bridge loans are not as simple as they may seem. Let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of taking out a bridge loan.


Pros 

1.) Freedom to house-hunt 
The most obvious benefit of taking out a bridge loan is also the most significant. With this financing in place, you'll be free to buy the home of your choice, without being bound by the sale of your previous home.

2.) Short lending term 
Another big benefit of bridge loans is their short lifespan. In most cases, low interest only payments are required. The interest accrues for as long as you have the loan and is added to the payoff when you sell your home. This, in turn, can give rise to further financial challenges as the borrower is hit with various penalties and fees, or is forced to take out another loan. The short payback term of bridge loans assures that this loan will not be a source of financial stress for years to come.


Cons 

1.) Total debt increases 
Any loan a buyer takes out will cause their total debt to climb. Sometimes, a bridge loan will split the purchase of the second home into two mortgages, leaving a buyer with three monthly mortgage payments; one from their previous home, and two from their new one. Other times, the buyer will be left with two mortgages to pay, which can also be a strain on their budget. In either case, an increase in debt means an increase in monthly financial obligations.

2.) High interest rates and fees 
 To compensate for their short lifespans and the amount of work the lender has to do for them, bridge loans generally have higher interest rates, than an equity or mortgage loan. There are also various fees involved, such as closing costs, origination fees and more. 

3.) Risky contingency 
Bridge loans are usually taken out with the understanding that the sale of your existing home will allow you to repay the loan. But what if your house doesn't sell before the loan is due? This can happen even if you have an interested buyer – they may not get the financing they need or they may back out. This will leave you with another monthly mortgage payment to pay.

It's important to speak to a Realtor about market conditions before taking out a bridge loan, even if you think you have a buyer. Make sure the odds are in your favor and that it is likely your home will be sold on time before committing to a loan that is contingent on its sale.

If you really need the funds from the sale of your home before the transaction is finalized, but the thought of taking out a bridge loan makes you uneasy, you may want to consider other options. You can borrow against a 401(k) plan or take out a loan secured by stocks, bonds or other assets. And of course, don't forget to call, click, or stop by Community Financial Credit Union for guidance throughout the process of buying and selling a home.

Community Financial Credit Union, P.O. Box 8050, Plymouth, Michigan 48170-8050;
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Federally insured by NCUA.