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Money Matters Blog

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Financial success: Setting goals to becoming Financial Fit

By: Helen Miller-Padden, Accounts Payable Accountant

Helen Miller-Padden, Accounts Payable Accountant
Learning to set a goal for my fitness helped change my life around. The doctor told me I needed to lose weight. Concerned for my health and my future, I needed to get into better physical shape.

I decided to learn how to run. I told my coworkers and friends about my decision. I made the commitment and wanted their support. One of my coworkers was a high school cross country coach and volunteered to help train me.

The first thing she told me was that it wouldn’t work if I didn’t set a goal. This was the first and most important step to becoming physically fit.

I set a goal. Within the first week of running, I decided to run a 5K race in November. I trained a little bit each day for 12 weeks and felt healthier and stronger as each week progressed. I completed my first 5k race. Not only did I finish the race, but I reached my goal of losing weight and learning to run.

Setting the goal was an important first step and it is just as important for becoming financially fit. I knew if I didn’t set a goal I would avoid the training, put it off, or make excuses. Getting into good financial shape takes the same commitment as getting into physical shape.

Experts recommend setting savings goals and then including small steps to help you reach your goal. Training a little bit each day helped me lose weight. Packing a lunch instead of going out to eat can help you save money.

Like training for a run, it helps to ask for help and vocalize your goals. Let others support you. It helps you stay on track and reinforces that you will be successful.
Making a budget can also help you reach your goal. There are many simple budgeting tools you can use to assist you. Try this tool to help create your budget.

Community Financial Credit Union offers tools to help you reach your financial goals. We even have a high-rate Goal Setter Savings Account that can help you put money aside monthly to reach your goals.

Remember to celebrate your success –it makes it all worthwhile!

Check out Community Financial’s financial podcasts on our home page.

For more detailed tips on saving money

Fox Business article on using Goal Setter Savings accounts

For a quick savings plan visit

Savings federally insured by NCUA.

Posted by: Helen Miller-Padden, Community Financial Accounts Payable Accountant.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Retirement and the Accumulation of “Stuff”

A cautionary tale by Karen Alexander, 
Community Financial Education Partnership Coordinator

At a recent family get-together, a newly retired relative complained about how little he received from his pension.  He stated that he only gets a 1/3 of his income from his former employer.  The reality was sinking in - it is difficult to survive an extreme reduction in income if you have not planned for the future. 

I’ve known this person my entire life; he was constantly buying “stuff.”  He loves books, collectibles and other unique items.  He was sure that in buying these items, they would increase in value and he would be, essentially, a very wealthy man. 

Unfortunately, his plan didn’t work as he anticipated.  Most of the items he bought are worthless, and along the way, he failed to plan for his retirement.  He never saved a penny of his own money.  Now, as he contemplates getting a post-retirement job, he is bitter about having to pay taxes on what small income he will earn.  

He is not the only one who neglected to save for retirement. Research indicates people ages 55 to 64 have save a median of $100,000 in retirement accounts and those 65 or older, about $60,800(Survey of Consumer Finances, 2007). Many baby boomers are unprepared to retire and face the possibility of outliving their money.     

These are stunning statistics, but where do we go from here?  There are a few choices available to those who have not saved, or have not saved enough for retirement:

Start now:  The main reason people say they haven’t saved for retirement is they don’t know how get started. It is never too late to begin saving.   Find where you can save money monthly, and put the funds away into an account. Where you keep your retirement funds depends on your age and options so ask your tax advisor.

Work Longer:  If you have not saved enough for retirement, you may consider working longer.  You can claim Social Security at the age of 62.  But if you wait, the payouts increase by 7 to 8 percent each year you delay, up until age 70 (Brandon, Emily).  

Share Expenses:  Based on your situation, you may want to move in with family or live with a friend.  Sharing basic expenses such as utilities, food and lodging may assist in reducing your basic costs of living. 

For my priorities, I am placing my retirement savings above “stuff.  Once I have my retirement and savings goals met, I can buy all the “stuff” I want!

For further reading, please check out: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Social Security.

Posted by: Karen Alexander, Community Financial Education Partnership Coordinator.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Leasing vs. Buying a New Car: What to Know

Jill Cotter, Vice President/Lending,
Community Financial.
If you are looking for a new vehicle you may be torn between leasing or purchasing a new car. I know that everyone has different driving needs, but there are some financial costs and benefits to consider.

Leasing does offer several benefits. Leasing a car allows you to have a new, reliable vehicle which means less maintenance costs. Often your lease will last 2-3 years and you can change your vehicle at the end of the lease.

However, this option does come with limits. You are only using the vehicle, not owning it. Leasing sometimes requires a down payment and has mileage restrictions. You may end up paying extra on mileage or wear and tear fees. Repeated leasing can be more expensive in the long run.

Purchasing a car means you own your own vehicle. You have the freedom to choose any make or model. You will have a lower down payment and no mileage restrictions. Owning your vehicle means you can sell it for cash anytime.

Overall, it is typically cheaper in the long term to purchase a car. If you are okay with keeping your new car longer, you can lower those payments by financing it up to 84 months. Loans are a common route to financing a car purchase. According to, approximately 80 percent of auto consumers either pay cash or finance their purchase with a loan.

Interest rates for loans are a large factor that impacts buying and leasing costs. Today’s ultra-low loan rates, as low as 2.99% APR* at Community Financial Credit Union, make the difference in the payments between buying and leasing less of an issue. We all know the bottom line is – can I afford the vehicle? A credit union representative at Community Financial can run the numbers for you; they are trained to help you make the best decision for your situation.

*Consumer Loan Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) only available at Community Financial offices, the web or call center; not available through dealerships. *Quoted rates are based on 48 month term and include a .25% rate discount when payments are automatically deducted from your Community Financial checking account. New car loan payment example assuming: A $20,000 vehicle with 20% down, an excellent credit score, a 48 months term and a 2.99% APR would result in monthly payments of about $380.63. Rates vary and are dependent on individual credit history and other factors including: model year, loan amount and term.

Posted by: Jill Cotter, Community Financial Vice President / Lending.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Protecting Yourself Against Fraud

Community Financial understands the critical importance of keeping your banking information safe and secure. We take extra measures to ensure that your information is protected. In addition, there are steps you can take to help protect your personal information against fraud and identity theft.

The Federal Trade Commission describes identity theft as “the act of stealing your good name to commit fraud.” Unfortunately, attempts to commit identify theft are dangerously common. Personal information such as your address, phone number, driver’s license, social security number, credit card numbers, birth date, and mother’s maiden name should all be protected. Therefore, be extremely careful when giving out this information.

You can help protect yourself by carrying as few credit cards and forms of ID around with you as possible. For example, there is no reason to carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Make a list or photocopies of all information you carry, and store the list or copies in a safe place.

“Keeping photo copies of any cards and documents you carry is smart planning in case you ever lose your wallet,” explains Randy Penner with Community Financial. “If you lose a credit card it is important to notify the credit card issuer immediately to help protect yourself against identity theft.”

Randy Penner,  SVP / Sales & Marketing 
at Community Financial offers tips to 
prevent identity theft.

Also keep in mind that thieves may try to get a hold of your information through dumpster diving. You should always shred documents that contain any personal information, including account numbers, before throwing documents away. This includes unsolicited credit card applications as well.

Email can also put you at risk of identity theft. Be wary of any email messages that ask for personal information. Remember that Community Financial will never call, email, send a text or voice message to request your personal identifying information or account number, PIN, password or card number. Do not provide information to any unsolicited request.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Community Financial at (877) 937-2328. We will be happy to assist you.

Posted by: Community Financial
Community Financial Members Federal Credit Union is a not-for-profit, full-service financial institution owned and governed by its membership.