Monday, October 29, 2012

Credit Unions Come of Age with Technology & Service


In the past two years, the trend in banking across America has been towards credit unions and away from big banks.

According to reports, nearly 1.3 million people made the switch to credit unions in 2011, which was more than double the number who switched in 2010.   The fall out over Wall Street bailouts and news stories on how to break up with a bank have been a major reason for the industry’s growth.

Beyond the fact that people have been attracted to credit unions by lower fees and a better customer service experience overall, it appears credit unions’ products and services have come of age.

Technology has been a major factor in the growth of credit unions.  With services like online banking, remote capture and mobile apps, there are not many services that banks offer that credit unions can’t.  Technology has also lessened the need for a large branch network, a long-time strength of big banks.

Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter are also allowing credit unions to communicate and engage with members and potential members, particularly in younger demographics.  These cyber communities are increasingly important to not just communicate to members, but to create brand loyalty through two-way, open conversations.

That same sense of community in the digital world has taken root recently with the push to shop locally.  Events like local cash mobs and Small Business Saturday encourage people to support local merchants and small businesses.

By nature, credit unions are community based; engraining themselves in the  societies they serve, through philanthropy and other community engagement efforts. Modern credit unions have done a much better job in recent years to communicate these programs and thus increasing the exposure to the “people helping people” philosophy that goes hand-in-hand with the push to buy local.

Credit unions have grown up and with the record-breaking membership growth have proven  they are a valuable alternative to Wall Street banks.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Don’t let Halloween Scare Your Checking Account


Kemp with two of her three children
in front of the 2011 version of the
bonfire of pumpkins.

Ghosts and goblins have taken more and more of their share of Americans’ money over recent years, and there doesn’t seem to be a slowdown anywhere on the horizon.

According to a projection from the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend more than $8 billion on Halloween this year, for an average of almost $80 per person – an increase of 16% from 2011.  That $8 billion even includes $370 million on costumes for pets, which is an increase of 30% over the previous year.

The report also found that more than 70% of Americans will participate in Halloween in some way this year – also a record.

But is it necessary to spend that much money for the annual spooky holiday?

Dana Kemp, financial sales representative at the Community Financial Canton Center branch, has created a family and neighborhood friendly Halloween tradition, for less than $40.

Last year, Kemp visited a local pumpkin patch with about $35 in her pocket on Halloween morning and walked away with about 24 pumpkins for her décor that night, showing even Halloween decorating can be done on a budget.

Spending the next eight hours carving flames into those pumpkins, she created a “bonfire of pumpkins,” something she replicated from having seen it at another house during a previous Halloween.

“We try to make it a family friendly atmosphere, where even a toddler can come up and not feel fearful at all,” Kemp said.  “That was my whole goal to not make anything scary.”

By decorating for Halloween for less than half the cost of what the average American is expected to spent this year, Kemp’s check account isn’t going to scare her either.







Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Saving For the Future Can Start at Any Age


Getting started on saving for retirement is important at any age.  Of course, the younger you are when you start, the better off you’ll be, but there is never a bad time to start putting money away.

The importance of saving money is even being highlighted in what’s being called the “Roth IRA Movement,” started by financial planner and blogger Jeff Rose who provided some tips to begin investing. 

Why the focus on encouraging people to save for retirement?  According to a story from CNN earlier this year, a stunning 30% of people who responded to an Employee Benefit Research Institute survey, reported they have less than $1,000 in savings.

Of course Roth IRAs are just among many options available for people to begin investing – they are traditional IRAs, 401(k), and a variety of other options to get your saving started.  Not every option available is right for every investor, so a professional financial advisor can help you choose the right plan depending on your circumstance.

They most important advice is to stop procrastinating and start saving!  No matter your age or where you are in life, saving even a little bit now, can pay off with a more secure financial future.

How much do you need to save?  That depends on your age, your income and when you want to retire.  These are questions a professional financial advisor can help you with.  In the meantime, however, there are retirement calculators to help you get an idea of where you stand.

For more information on investing and how Community Financial can help, visit cfcu.org or visit one of our eight convenient locations.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Keeping An Eye Out for Fraud


Often, we see stories in the news of major fraud scandals at large companies or payment organizations.  Fraud is a real issue, but it doesn’t always happen on that large of a scale, it can be as simple as an email claiming you’ve won a prize or been booked on a flight.

These attempts look legitimate – but they are far from it.

While fraud attempts on senior citizens make the news, the fact is that fraud take many forms and can be targeted at anyone with an email address or web browser.  For example, fraud can range from identity theft and email scams to counterfeit checks and phishing

At Community Financial, we look out for our members to ensure their money is safe..  In fact, due to our team’s attention to detail & alertness, Community Finanical has been able to intercept fraud attempts. .

For example, according to our Community Financial Risk Prevention Team:

“A member requested to send a large wire transfer, which was unusual activity for that member.  The name and location of the potential recipient was also unusual.  The member was contacted and advised of our concerns about the potential recipient, and that the wire had been temporarily delayed so that the member could further research the company.  The member called Community Financial the next morning to cancel the wire transfer.  The member was extremely grateful for our help in preventing the loss of a substantial sum of money.”

And another successful intervention by our tellers:

“A member brought in a check they had received as payment for a vehicle they sold on “Craigslist.”  Before the member turned the vehicle over to the purchaser, a Community Financial team member called the financial institution that the check was drawn on and determined that the check was counterfeit.  The member was contacted immediately and advised that the check was counterfeit.  As a result, the member did not give the car to the purchaser and was saved from being defrauded.”

The best advice to avoid fraud is it to keep an eye out on your finances and things like checks or emails don’t look right they probably aren’t.  Also, be watchful for fraud attempts on seniors and other loved ones.  The very young & very old can be very trusting and apt not to question others.

For more information on our Identity Theft program and policies, including tips on how to protect yourself from theft and fraud, please click here.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Don’t let your smartphone dramatically impact the family budget



By now, we’ve all heard the buzz about the new iPhone 5.  According to the folks at Apple, the new phone is bigger, faster and sleeker than any of its predecessors.

But is it worth it to upgrade to the “latest and greatest” phones when they hit the market?

A recent story in the Wall Street Journal reports more and more people are sacrificing their family food, entertainment and household budgets for mobile phones. The story highlights statistics from the U.S. Labor Department, which showed Americans’ spending on phones rose over 4% last year, the highest increase since 2005.  The average household spent $1,226 in 2011 during the same period, consumers cut back broadly on other spending.  With the introduction of shared date plans & new mobile devices in 2012, this average is expected to rise sharply.

According to Art Beard, vice president of information technology at Community Financial Credit Union, one of the things people fail to consider when getting a new phone in addition the data plan is the cost of the accessories designed specifically for that new device.

“Think about what people purchase to go along with their phones – new cases, car chargers, speakers, alarm clocks and power adaptors,” Beard said.  “These costs in addition to new data plans, can add up and can put an even bigger dent in your pocketbook.”

The old want versus need debate
So, remember to do your homework before going out to get the newest mobile device.  Some of the questions you could ask yourself, include:
  1. ·         How old is my current phone? Is it in good working order?
  2. ·         Does my current phone meet my needs?
  3. ·         How much will the phone, plan and accessories cost? 
  4. ·         How long is the contract? Can the contract be terminated? Are there fees associated with it?
  5. ·         How will I pay for any increases in my monthly bill?  What am I willing to give up to get the new phone?
  6. ·         Do I really need it now?  Can I wait for a birthday or Christmas?

“When it is all said and done, it is not out of the question for a family of four to spend upwards of $300 per month on smartphones,” Beard said.  “It’s important to make sure that cost fits in the family budget.”

New gadgets can be enticing, but it’s important to study the associated costs and make sure they don't take away too much from the priority of saving for the future.
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