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?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Ways to Reduce Stress this Holiday Season

The holidays arrive at the same time every year and still never cease to catch people by surprise. Gift-giving, entertaining and holiday travel expenses can all add up quickly. With crowded stores and an ever-growing list of people to shop for, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and to overspend. Read on for some holiday tips to reduce your stress this giving season.

1. Revise Your Gift List
A lot of the people you exchange gifts with would be relieved to be taken off your list. Talk to coworkers and acquaintances about just exchanging cards this year, or make a deal to only exchange homemade or inexpensive gifts. This way, you can focus on buying special gifts for those closest to you instead of generic gifts for everyone you’ve ever met.

2. Organize a Yankee Swap or Secret Santa 
Still got a mile-long list? Try one of these creative solutions! A Yankee Swap or a Secret Santa activity saves money and stress while adding a bit of intrigue to any party. Everyone involved only needs to bring a single gift within the same price range – and it’s always fun.

3. Stay on Track 
Amidst the hustle and bustle of the season, try to stick to your normal routine. Prioritize your workouts and healthy eating. You’ll have more energy for the holidays if you are taking care of and being kind to yourself.

4. Treat Yourself 
While you’re out Christmas shopping for everyone on your list, why not throw in an extra gift for you? Go get a massage or take some time to have lunch with old friends. Plus, if you use your Community Financial Platinum Rewards or World MasterCard between November 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017, you can earn 2x reward points on all of your net purchases! You can redeem those points for an extra treat after the holidays on gift cards, travel, merchandise, statement credit and much more!

5. Plan Ahead for Travel 
Do you plan on traveling to see family and friends over the holidays? In addition to packing light and leaving extra time for delays, let Community Financial know when you will be away so we can monitor your transactions. Having a travel alert set up on your account can help reduce stress of your credit card getting denied while you’re enjoying the holidays.

Your Turn: How do you get through the holiday season? Share your tips with us in the comments!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Warming Hearts & Homes is Back. You Click and We Donate!

Community Financial Credit Union is excited to kick off the holiday season with the return of our 6th annual Warming Hearts & Homes charitable campaign! Throughout the month of December, Community Financial will donate up to $40,000 to local nonprofit organizations that provide heat, food, shelter and clothing to low-income families.*

The winter months can put an extra strain on families and force some to choose between paying utilities and putting food on the table. That’s why the Warming Hearts & Home program was created and Community Financial remains dedicated to supporting the fight against cold and hunger in Michigan this winter.

As a member of our community, you’re invited to participate in this year’s campaign by getting social with us!

HERE'S HOW YOU CAN HELP 
  • Like or share our Facebook Posts – @Community Financial 
  • Like or retweet our posts on Twitter – @cfcreditunion #CFCUwarms 
  • Like our pictures on Instagram – @communityfinancial 

Giving back to your community has never been easier! Each week in December we will make social media posts about the different organizations below. Each Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram interaction equals a $25 donation to help the following:


Community Relations Manager Natalie McLaughlin said this is one of her favorite annual giving campaigns that Community Financial runs.

“Warming Hearts & Homes is an easy way for people to get involved and help others in their local communities. Each winter, local families are faced with challenges. Through this campaign, Community Financial is honored to help the community face the cold with heat for their homes, coats for their children, safe shelter and food.”

To learn more about the Warming Hearts & Homes Campaign visit www.cfcu.org/warms. Together we can make a difference in our communities this holiday season.

*Each charity will receive up to $10,000 during the month of December.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Growing to Serve You Better

If you are a credit union member, you already know the benefits that credit unions bring to their local communities. One of the greatest benefits is that the members of the credit union are also its owners.

By definition, credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives. In fact, years ago a common credit union tagline was, “not for profit, not for charity, but for service.” This still holds true today.

The more members a credit union has, the more value it can provide to its membership as a whole. As a credit union grows, it can offer better services at more competitive rates and with fewer or lower fees. That’s the power of community support.

With over $850 million in assets and over 65,000 members, Community Financial Credit Union continues to grow. We are committed to serving our members and making their communities better places to live. Last year, Community Financial donated over 4,400 hours and $450,000 to our local communities, and all of this was possible because of our members! We are able to grow and give back thanks to them!

This is why we are excited to announce that we will be expanding and opening a branch in the Westland community! 


The new credit union branch is being constructed on part of the former Quo Vadis Theater site across from Westland Mall. When complete, it will be a one-story 3,772-square-foot building on a 1.5-acre parcel and will be Community Financial’s 12th branch location.

The branch will be located on the east side of Wayne Road, just north of Warren Road, and is expected to be one of several changes in Westland's Shop and Dine District.

“Community Financial is very excited to become part of the Westland community,” said Community Financial SVP/Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Randy Penner.

“We already have many members who live in Westland, and our new branch will allow many more members of the community a more convenient opportunity to enjoy the benefits of membership.”

Our Westland branch is anticipating a January 2018 opening. Stay tuned for details on the grand opening! We can’t wait to show off the new location and meet with new and current members. Excited about the new location? Let us know in the comments section below.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tips to Control Your Holiday Spending

The holidays are upon us, so it’s a great time to get a handle on how much you plan on spending. Between gift giving, holiday treats, and parties it’s easy to lose track of how much you are actually spending. Here are some tips to keep your finances in control.

Set a Budget 
Start by creating a budget that works with your plan and your wallet. Write a list of all the people you want to buy for and set a dollar amount for each person. Don’t forget smaller items such as stocking stuffers. If you think you will overspend with credit cards alone, consider using cash to stay within your budget.

Be Selective 
Once you have purchased a gift for someone, cross them off your list. You don’t have to buy for everyone you know! If your shopping list includes more than five people outside of your immediate family, cut down on the number of people on your present list. You can bake some cookies or make a small craft to give to others not on your original list.

Factor in Extras 
Beware of hidden holiday costs. Gift wrap and tags, holiday cards, wrapping supplies, taxes, and shipping costs all add to the price of your gifts.

Don’t Forget the Coupons 
Sales aren't the only way to get great deals on the gifts you want for your friends or family. Before you shop online, perform a quick web search for coupon codes for your favorite online stores. Before you shop in local stores, comb through the coupons you received in your mailbox before hitting the mall. While you search through the flyers, make sure to comparison shop for the item you're interested in.

Plan Ahead for Next Year 
Once this holiday season winds down, plan ahead for next year! Putting money aside each month will result in you having everything you need in time for next year’s festivities. A great way to do this is with a Holiday Savings Account from Community Financial. It’s only $5 to open, has no fees, and is a great way to establish your holiday spending goals for next year.

Want to start budgeting but unsure where to start? Why not try out our Money Matter$ eLearning Center? These free and self-paced modules cover key financial concepts like budgeting, saving, investing, and raising your credit score. Using these resources and helpful tips can help reduce stress for this season and beyond. Happy Shopping!

Friday, November 17, 2017

School Spotlight: Winchester Elementary Students Practice Leadership Skills

Student-Run Credit Union Volunteers are Leaders!

Education Partnership Coordinator, Julie Blaylock,
supervises the Student-Run Credit Union at Winchester. 
Here she is posing with a student volunteer. 
Community Financial’s Student-Run Credit Union program added Winchester Elementary School in Northville as a school partnership in 2007. Winchester’s fourth grade student credit union volunteers have been leading and assisting their schoolmates with saving their money ever since!

Here are some pictures of our Student-Run Credit Union volunteers from Winchester:


Winchester: A Leader in Me Lighthouse School 

Student Credit Union members
visit our tellers to make deposits.
Winchester Elementary students participate in a school-wide program called The Leader in Me. This program, created by FranklinCovey, engages students in projects involving leadership and life skills, and creates a school culture that embraces leadership. Our Student-Run Credit Union program aligns well to many of the key components in The Leader in Me program.

Being “proactive” is one of the skills taught through the program. Students who would like to volunteer at the Student-Run Credit Union at Winchester must be proactive in filling out a job application in the fall. Students who apply must also take part in an interview with Community Financial team members, where they are encouraged to highlight their leadership skills and abilities.

A Student Credit Union member receives
his prize for making a deposit.
Student members who are saving their money at the Student-Run Credit Union also align with The Leader in Me program. Students at Winchester are taught to “begin with the end in mind,” and saving money for their future does just that!

Leadership Practices at Winchester and Beyond… 

The Leader in Me program’s basic principles come from the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey. Through lots of research, Covey maintains that people who possess or acquire seven key habits are successful in their everyday endeavors. These seven habits include:
  1. Be Proactive 
  2. Begin with the End in Mind
  3. Put First Things First
  4. Think Win-Win
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the Saw 
Winchester Elementary students practice these seven habits regularly during the school year. Businesses throughout the country as well are training staff members to be versed in the “7 Habits.” If you would like more information about the “7 Habits”, check out these websites listed below:
Your Turn: How are you using the “7 Habits” effectively at school or at home? Tell us the ways that you are showing leadership!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thankful Thursdays are Back! What are You Thankful for?

Did you know that November is “National Gratitude Month?” With Thanksgiving almost here, it’s the perfect time of year to practice being grateful and appreciative for what we have.

At Community Financial we are so grateful for our members and the communities we serve. To help spread our gratitude this November, we are bringing back our #ThankfulThursdays program. Every Thursday through November 30 we will make a donation to local food initiatives in Michigan. In total, we will donate $50,000 to help feed our communities! Here’s a list of the organizations we will be donating to this November:

November 2 

November 9

November 16

November 23

November 30 

Be sure to check out our social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) every Thursday, for updates on the program and photos/videos from the selected organizations. #ThankfulThursdays is just one way we can show our appreciation. What are you doing this November to show gratitude?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

7 Ways to Save On Thanksgiving Costs This Month

Between your turkey, ingredients for the holiday meal, and décor to set the ambiance, hosting a Thanksgiving dinner is not cheap. If you’re looking for ways to cut back without compromising on quality, read on for seven easy ways to save on Thanksgiving costs this year.

1.) Verify your guests’ attendance 
Get an accurate head count of your dinner guests. Verify that all who are invited are indeed planning on showing, and only then begin planning your menu.

2.) Find out what your guests like 
While doing your inviting, find out your guests’ individual tastes and diets. Be sure to ask about particular foods your guests like to eat and those they won’t touch. If something on your menu isn’t very popular with your guests, skip it – even if you think it’s “obligatory” for a Thanksgiving table.

3.) Make it a potluck 
Slash your spending and your stress in one step by answering an enthusiastic “yes!” to every guest who asks if they can bring something. Don’t just say “anything’s fine,” though, or you might have seven desserts. Instead, create a Google Sheet with your planned menu and let your guests input what they’d like to contribute to the meal.

4.) Serve on smaller plates 
Most people will load up their plates to capacity, regardless of the plate’s size. Curb the wasting at your table by using smaller dinnerware. They can always take seconds later.

5.) DIY décor 
You can set a beautiful holiday table without blowing your budget with a little imagination. Shop the local dollar store for discounted décor that still packs a punch, like colored vases, fake flower arrangements and other centerpieces. Look for easy, inexpensive DIY ideas online. Finally, get creative by using things around the house – or yard – as your décor.

6.) Shop the sales 
Supermarkets tend to run specials on Thanksgiving staples starting as early as Halloween. Plan your menu in advance so you can take advantage. You can also keep your menu flexible until you see the circulars and then base your dishes on the ingredients and produce that’s cheapest. Also, be sure to shop around for your turkey! Grocery stores tend to have the best deals on the birds, with some even running free turkey deals when you spend a specific amount on other groceries.

7.) Cook from scratch 
Most everything is less expensive – and tastes better – when it’s homemade. Start your cooking well enough in advance so you don’t find yourself relying on too many convenience foods.

You don’t need to spend a fortune in order to create the perfect Thanksgiving dinner. All it takes is a little planning!

Your Turn: What are your best Thanksgiving dinner hacks? Share them with us in the comments!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Steps to Take When Getting a Car Loan

Ready for a new car but not sure what steps you need to take? Getting a loan can seem daunting if you’ve never done it before, which is why Community Financial aims to make auto loans easy. Here are four steps you can take when applying for an auto loan.

1. Check Your Credit 
Before shopping around for loans be sure to check your credit report. The better your credit, the cheaper it is to borrow money. With a higher credit score, you may be entitled to lower loan interest rates, and you may also qualify for lower auto insurance premiums. If you have a lower credit score and would like to give it a bit of a boost before car shopping, pay off any credit card balances or smaller loans. Take some time to improve your credit score before you apply for loans.

2. Determine How Much You Can Afford 
Know what you can afford before visiting the dealership. If you don’t already have a budget, start with your monthly income after taxes and subtract your monthly expenses and how much you plan to put in savings each month. You’ll also want to plan ahead for new car costs, such as vehicle registration and auto insurance, and regular car maintenance, such as oil changes and basic repairs. Once you understand where you are financially, you can decide on a reasonable monthly car payment. For many, a good rule of thumb is to not spend more than 10% of your take-home income on a vehicle.

3. Get Preapproved 
Before you visit the dealership you might want to consider getting preapproved first. Research potential loans and then compare the terms, lengths of time, and interest rates to find the best deal. When you’re preapproved, the lender decides if you’re eligible and how much you’re eligible for. They’ll also tell you what interest rate you qualify for, so you’ll know what you have to work with before you even walk into a dealership. But keep in mind that preapproved loans aren’t the same as final auto loans. Depending on the car you buy, you’re final loan could be less than what you were preapproved for.

A great place to shop for a car loan is at your local credit union. For instance, Community Financial auto loans offer: competitive rates as low as 1.74% APR*, no application fees, and flexible terms.

4. Go Shopping for Your New Car! 
Now you’re ready to look for a new ride. Put in a little time for research, and find cars that are known to be reliable and fit into your budget. You’ll also want to consider size, color, gas mileage, and extra features. Use the Community Financial Auto Resource Center to start the shopping process. You’ll be able to research dealer inventory and car options, learn the market value of your trade-in vehicle, and calculate a monthly payment you can afford.

By following these steps, you’ll be ready to make the best financial decision when getting a car loan. Still have questions about acquiring an auto loan? Visit a branch or call us at (877) 937-2328 to learn more.

*Annual Percentage Rate (APR) of 1.74% is as of October 25, 2017 and is only available on 2017 or newer models. The stated 1.74% APR includes a 0.25% discount for automatic payments from your Community Financial checking account. Rates vary and are dependent on individual credit history and other factors including LTV and term. Visit Community Financial’s Auto Loans webpage for more details or see a Community Financial team member.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Steps to Take During Financial Planning Month

Did you know that October is National Financial Planning Month? Many of you are already saving for retirement, but are you planning for it? Planning for retirement and for other long-range financial goals is essential to achieving them. There are some steps you can take to make sure you achieve your goals.

1. Identify Your Goals 
What’s important to you and your family? Is it saving for your kids’ education? Traveling? Donating to a cause you care about? These things aren’t separate from the plan; they are key elements of it. Too many people save and invest money with no specific goal in mind. Identify specific goals that are important to you and your family.

2. Gather and Analyze Data 
Take stock of your financial situation. How much money do you owe? Make a list of all your creditors, your current payment schedule, and the annual percentage rate you’re paying in interest. Then list all of your savings. Estimate your monthly expenses for utilities, groceries, gas, insurance and other necessities. What goals do you want to accomplish is 5, 10, 20 years? Are you willing to accept a high relative market risk to achieve your investment goals or would a conservative portfolio be a better option for you?

3. Develop a Plan 
A good financial plan—created with the assistance of an experienced financial professional—addresses your priorities while defining your investment approach. It changes over time, to reflect changes in your life and your financial objectives.

With a plan, you can set short-term and long-term goals and benchmarks. You can estimate the amount of money you will likely need to meet retirement, college, and health care expenses. You can plot a way to wind down your business or exit your career with confidence. You can also get a good look at your present financial situation and gauge the distance between where you are financially and where you would like to be.

4. Implement It! 
Now you can put your plan to work! Many people find that implementation is the most difficult step in financial planning. The point is to make your financial strategies achievable and to consider slowly moving up to desired savings rates rather than jumping into something that may be challenging if implemented too fast for your comfort level and budget.

5. Continually Monitor Your Plan 
It's called financial planning for a reason: Plans evolve and change just like life. Your financial plan needs to be monitored and tweaked from time to time. Think of what can change in your life, such as marriage, the birth of children, career changes and more. Now think of financial changes beyond your control, such as tax law changes, interest rates, inflation rates, stock market fluctuations and economic recessions. Life changes and so will your plan.

If you are looking for help creating your financial plan but don’t know where to start contact our Investment & Insurance reps at (877) 937-2328 ext. 8868 for a no-cost, no-obligation appointment. As the saying goes, “a goal without a plan is just a wish.” Start making your financial dreams reality today!

Friday, October 20, 2017

School Spotlight: Smith Elementary and SMART Goals

The SMART Student-Run Credit Union Program is Back!

Community Financial’s award-winning Student-Run Credit Union program is back in full force again this school year! Our school partnerships have grown over the years, and we now partner with 48 schools in our neighboring communities. Our first partnership in the Plymouth-Canton Community School District was with Smith Elementary School in Plymouth in 1995. Here are some throwback photos of our partnership with Smith Elementary!

Smith Elementary Student-Run Credit Union, October 2002.  
Smith Elementary student volunteers and teachers, October 2002.  
What is the Student-Run Credit Union? 
The Student-Run Credit Union is a program operated by Community Financial where students, ages kindergarten through high school, can save their money monthly at their school. Students practice money management skills and develop a sense of ownership with their finances at an early age. Fourth grade students at Smith, under the supervision of Community Financial staff, operate the Student-Run Credit Union. Each student volunteer is assigned a job and assists young members of all grades to save their money.

Smith Elementary Student-Run Credit Union Fall Volunteers
Student volunteers working hard recording deposits and writing receipts.
SMART Savings Goals 
Our Education Partnership Coordinators help to educate students beyond just saving their money. One program highlight is helping student members have a SMART goal. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

Each student credit union member receives a goal sheet at the beginning of the year where they can track a specific savings goal throughout the school year. Here are some Smith student members receiving their goal sheets in October.

Your Turn: What types of SMART goals do you have? Tell us what you are saving for in a SMART way?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

International Credit Union Day: Dreams Thrive Here

Are you as excited as we are to celebrate International Credit Union Day on Oct. 19, 2017?

It’s a day to share your experiences as a member and to reflect upon all the benefits you enjoy by being a part of your credit union. It’s also a day to have fun! We will have cider and donuts at all of our branches on October 19 to celebrate ICU Day so make sure you stop by!

Each year, CUNA and the World Council of Credit Unions choose a theme for ICU Day. This year’s theme, which was selected via an online poll of credit union professionals, is “Dreams Thrive Here.”

As a credit union member, you know this statement is true. Credit unions help your dreams thrive by helping to make them possible. In the spirit of ICU Day, let’s take a quick look at four factors that make credit unions the best choice to allow your dreams to thrive.

1.) Members first 
As a member of a credit union, you own a piece of the organization. That’s why it’s often referred to as a cooperative. Your credit union only wants what’s best for you. This means we can focus on offering superior service and policies that are as member-friendly as possible.

2.) Lower fees 
Banks earn much of their profit through fees and pushing unnecessary products on their customers. While a credit union will also have fees attached to products and services, these tend to be lower than similar fees you’ll find at a bank.

3.) We’ve got your back 
A credit union will be willing to work with you through rough patches. While a bank is more likely to turn down a borrower who has a poor credit history, a credit union member representative will be happy to meet with you and work to find a loan that best suits your needs. If necessary, we can also help you learn the basics of budgeting and may offer programs to help you cover unexpected expenses.

4.) Better dividend rates 
Credit unions offer higher dividend rates on savings accounts and lower interest rates on loans. We only need to cover operating costs, and all the money we save is passed down to our members in the form of favorable rates, enhanced services, community giving, increased operations and more.

As you can see, we’ve got lots to celebrate! Stop by on Oct. 19 so we can show our appreciation and celebrate everything that makes a credit union special. Can’t wait to see you!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

7 Common Life Insurance Myths Debunked

Many of us let popular misconceptions about life insurance convince us that we don’t need it. Read on to see how seven of the most widespread life insurance myths are easily debunked.

Myth #1: I’m single and I have no dependents. I don’t need life insurance. 
Actually, you do. Every person should have funds to cover their funeral costs and end-of-life medical bills. Also, you can leave a legacy by choosing a cause to be the beneficiary of your death payout.

Myth #2: I’m a stay-at-home parent who doesn’t earn an income. 
My partner needs life insurance; I don’t. The tasks that currently fill your time will need to be outsourced to hired help should you suddenly pass on. Nannies, cleaning help, and cooks cost money. That money can come from the insurance payout of your homemaker’s policy.

Myth #3: Why would I waste money on insurance when I can invest it to earn higher returns? 
You’re better off putting your money somewhere safe with a guaranteed payout – like a life insurance policy. You don’t want to leave your dependents with an iffy source of funds when you pass on. The only exception to this rule is for the truly wealthy, who have more than $1 million in liquid assets and already have their funeral costs and medical bills covered.

Myth #4: I can’t afford life insurance. 
A recent Life Happens study revealed that 80% of uninsured people who claimed life insurance is too expensive, had overestimated its cost. In fact, a 20-year level term policy for a healthy 30-year-old usually falls in the ballpark of just $150 a year.

Myth #5: I’m too young to worry about life insurance. 
Actually, there’s no better time to purchase a life insurance policy than when you’re young. The premiums are far less expensive for those under age 35, and most people in that stage of life do not have sizable assets to pass on to their dependents. Most importantly, dependents of the 25-35 age group will be too young to be financially independent and will need the death payouts for basic survival.

Myth #6: My children are independent adults. Why would I need life insurance? 
Leaving your dependents with an inheritance that helps them purchase a home, start a business or put some money away for a rainy day will keep you in their thoughts long after you’re gone. Also, you don’t want to burden your children with funeral expenses and medical bills when they’re grieving.

Myth #7: My job offers a life insurance policy for employees. If I leave my job, I can take it with me.
Unfortunately, this is false. Most employer-offered life insurance policies are not portable. Since there’s no way to know that you’ll remain at your current workplace forever, it’s best to purchase a separate life insurance policy.

Your Turn: Which of the above myths did you always believe to be true? Do you know of any others? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Fall Into Tax Planning

The leaves are changing. The nights are getting longer. There’s a cool breeze blowing, and apples are falling off the trees. Everyone knows what that means: It’s tax planning time!

While most people don’t start thinking about their taxes until February or even April, the best time to make changes is this year. If you haven’t thought about your taxes since you paid them in the spring, you’re still in good shape. For most tax matters, changes made by Dec. 31 are assumed to be in effect for the whole year. Let’s look at 3 areas of tax planning you should aim to tackle as quickly as you can.

1.) Make any necessary changes to your retirement accounts 
If there’s anything that is further off than tax planning, it’s retirement planning. Still, one of the most compelling reasons for making contributions to your retirement is preferential tax treatment. For starters, you should be contributing the maximum to either a Roth or a Traditional IRA.

From there, it gets a little trickier. If your income dropped this year, say, because you or your spouse lost your job or had a significant reduction in hours, you might not get much benefit out of the tax deduction that is presented by a Traditional IRA. You can take this opportunity to switch a portion of your Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. Essentially, you’re “paying” the tax on a portion of your IRA in a year when it won’t cost you as much, then switching it into a tax-free growth account.

You also need to make sure you’re contributing to your employer’s 401(k) program. Those contributions are also made pretax – so you can deduct your portion of the matching funds from your tax burden. If you haven’t been contributing, see if you can make “catch-up” contributions to take advantage of the preferential tax treatment.

2.) Spend your “use-it-or-lose-it” funds 
Many employers offer plans like Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA). These programs also offer preferential tax treatment, but many of them empty out at year-end whether you’ve used the funds or not. These programs are a great way to save for unplanned medical problems, but if you were lucky enough to avoid those costs, you’ll need to spend that money before it goes away.

There are a few common tricks you can use to spend the money without wasting it. Obviously, if you’ve been putting off a minor medical procedure (a mole removal, an eye exam, new contacts) that’s the easiest place to spend. Otherwise, you may need to get creative. A few staple goods are FSA eligible. Over-the-counter painkillers, first aid kits and supplies,bb and some disaster preparedness supplies are generally eligible for reimbursement. Consider getting first aid kits as Christmas gifts for young children or donating them to community programs.

3.) Plan your charitable contributions 
If you’re going to donate to a charity, you can give in a way that maximizes your tax benefit. One of the easiest ways to do that is to give stock. Not-for-profit organizations don’t have to pay the capital gains tax, so they can sell it for the full amount. This means you get to take credit for the full value of the gift. This is also true if you plan to give real property (houses, buildings, land, etc.) or use another complex giving strategy to maximize the value of your contribution.

However you give, make sure you keep detailed records about your gifts. You want both a receipt from the organization and another form of proof, like a copy of a check or a bank record. Not-for-profit organizations are almost always overworked and understaffed, so counting on their bookkeeping can sometimes be an exercise in frustration. Keep your own records just to be sure.

Remember, no one can offer you accurate tax advice without a careful review of your finances. If you have questions about filing your taxes, you should speak to a tax planning professional. For most people, though, a little bit of knowledge is enough to get started paying less to Uncle Sam and keeping more in their retirement funds.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

How to Spot a Credit Repair Scam

Credit repair scammers tell you they can make credit repair quick and easy. Unfortunately, when they’re done, your score may still be low, you’ll have lost a nice chunk of change, and you could even be facing criminal charges. Here are the warning signs of a credit repair scam:

1.) Upfront payment
Under the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA), credit repair companies are forbidden to request or receive payment until they’ve completed the services they’ve promised.

2.) Big promises 
Scammers may claim they can remove negative information from your credit report, even information that is accurate and current. Don’t believe them; no one can do this. They might also promise to boost your score in just a few weeks. This isn’t true either. It takes at least 30 days for changes to be evident on your credit report.

3.) Offers a “new credit identity” 
In these scams, companies promise to create a new credit identity for a fee. After you pay, the company will provide you with a nine-digit number. They may refer to this number as a CPN – a credit profile number or a credit privacy number. Alternatively, they may direct you to apply for an EIN – an Employer Identification Number.

The company instructs you to use this form of ID to apply for credit, telling you it is legal. However, it’s not – and you’ve just been scammed. These companies are selling you a stolen SSN. They walk away with your money and leave you in hot water because you’ve just committed multiple federal crimes. Falling for a credit identity scam could mean facing fines or prison time.

4.) Tells you to dispute accurate information on your credit report 
Disputing accurate information on your credit report is illegal.

5.) Evasive when questioned 
The Credit Repair Organization Act made it illegal for credit repair companies to lie about your rights and their services. These companies must provide:
  • A written contract detailing your legal rights 
  • Your three-day right to cancel the contract without charge 
  • The anticipated time it will take until results are evident 
  • The total cost you will pay for their services 
  • Their guarantee 
If you’ve hired a credit repair company that hasn’t lived up to its promises, you can choose to sue the company in federal court. Along with other victims, you can file a class action lawsuit against the company.

Finally, it’s best to report the scam to your local consumer affairs office or to your state attorney general. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). File your complaint online at ftc.gov/complaint or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Need help understanding your credit report? Community Financial is here to help and will provide a free credit review. Simply visit a branch near you or call (877) 937-2328.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Dealing With a Financial Setback

Financial setbacks come in all shapes and sizes. It can be an expensive household repair, a medical emergency, getting laid off, or the birth of a baby. Whatever the situation, it’s impossible to plan for every financial hit you will take in your lifetime. But don’t fret. If you’re hit with hard times, here are some tips to keep in mind.

1.) Don’t panic 
Keeping calm will allow you to think more clearly and resolve your deficit quicker. As difficult as things seem now, they’ll always look a little better after some levelheaded planning.

2.) Crunch the numbers 
Sit down and work out exactly how much more money you’ll need to cover your new expense or to fill the gap of income loss.

3.) Work twice as hard 
The only ways for stretching a deficit to cover your needs are to either earn more or spend less. Since tightening your budget is almost always stressful, try finding ways to add to your income first. If possible, put in more hours at work. Consider freelancing or consulting. Take a side job for some extra cash. Do whatever it takes!

4.) Trim your spending 
Now it’s time to see which expenses you can trim. First, you’ll need to prioritize. List all the expenses you cannot do without and those that would be irresponsible to neglect. Then, take an honest look at your remaining expenses to see where you can cut back. Shop the sales to cut your grocery bill in half. Trim spontaneous purchases by only using cash. If you’re a two-car family, consider cutting back to one car for now. Push off your vacation plans until things start looking up.

5.) Contact your creditors 
If you cannot make some of your minimum monthly payments anymore, contact your creditors before they come calling on you. Most creditors will be happy to work out a reasonable payment plan with you.

6.) Reach out to family and friends 
Tell your family and friends what’s going on. They’ll support you and encourage you until you get back on your feet, and they may even be able to help out with employment opportunities or contacts.

7.) Be proactive 
Hindsight is always 20/20. Harness the urgency you feel now to get into the habit of building up an emergency fund. As soon as you’re back on your feet, start putting away money for protection in the event of future setbacks. Experts recommend having 3-6 month of living expenses saved up in case you can’t work for any reason.

Do you need help recovering from a financial crisis? We can help! Call us at (877) 937-2328 or stop by your local branch for help with money management or debt consolidation.

Your Turn: How have you maintained your equilibrium during a financial setback? Share your best tips and advice with us in the comments!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Can Living Frugally Make You Happier?

We all know that money can’t buy happiness. And yet, many people overspend on a lifestyle they believe will make them happy – only to rack up thousands of dollars in debt. This, in turn, leads to stress, worry and unhappiness. Incredibly, living frugally can make you happier than living lavishly.

If you’d like to live more frugally, establish a goal to keep you focused. Maybe you’d like to travel the world or buy your dream home. Write down your objective and place reminders of your goal where you’ll see them often.

There are so many benefits to living frugally:
  • Appreciating what you have. Instead of throwing away old items, you’ll learn to repurpose them.
  • Choosing experiences over objects. Instead of going to the mall for a new outfit, you’ll play board games with friends. These experiences provide memories and happiness that can last a lifetime.
  • Your debt will diminish. The burden of debt often ties people to jobs and locations they dislike. Once your debt disappears, you’ll have the freedom to choose a profession and location that makes you happy.
  • You’ll have more leisure time. When your debt is gone, you can work less and have more time to pursue hobbies.
  • You’ll be on the path to early retirement. Instead of working through your golden years, you can garden, travel and enjoy your grandchildren.
  • You’ll find joy in helping others. By reducing expenses and saving money, you can help support causes that are important to you. 
Here’s how to get started:

Start small 
Make a list of what you’d like to accomplish, how much money you’ll need to achieve it, and make a plan. Determine which expenses you can live without. Instead of buying gourmet drive-thru coffee, brew your own at home. Brown-bag your lunch instead of eating out. Make a weekly meal plan and cook your meals at home. Steps like these can save you hundreds of dollars a month. 

Consolidate debt 
If you’re paying down multiple credit cards, consider consolidating them into one loan or into a single, lower-interest credit card to save on interest charges. Check out Community Financial’s low-interest credit card options and apply at cfcu.org. Once you’ve consolidated your credit card debt, keep your oldest card, but use it infrequently and close all others. 

Stretch your money 
When purchasing groceries, clip coupons and look for sales. Shopping for clothing? Check local thrift stores, yard sales, and clearance racks for the best possible deals. 

Look for ways to lower your monthly bills. Consider giving up your expensive cable service. Trim your electricity bill by hanging your clothes outside to dry and by unplugging electronic devices when they’re not in use. 

Give frugal living a try! You have nothing to lose, but debt! 

Your Turn: Does saving money make you happy? How do you save – and enjoy the process? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Shred Your Confidential Documents at Shred Day September 16th

Clues to your personal and financial information are often buried throughout your personal paperwork and mail. One search through your mailbox or trash could garner enough evidence for a thief to take control of your identity — and your finances. Thieves can use credit cards, financial statements, or utility bills to obtain and exploit that personal information.

The first line of defense is to destroy documents that contain your personal information before anyone can access it. Private documents and credit/debit cards, which contain sensitive information, should be destroyed once you no longer need them.

Join us for Shred Day! 

If you are looking for a way to securely shred and destroy your old documents, why not bring them to our Shred Day event on Saturday, September 16th from 2:00 – 4:30 p.m.?

We will have Shred-it trucks on site to securely shred documents at 3 of our branch locations:

Livonia Branch- 34000 W. Seven Mile Road
Canton Branch- 6355 N. Canton Center Road
Gaylord Branch- 1360 W. Main Street 

Shredding is a great way to destroy your personal documents to protect your information and your finances. As a general rule, it’s better to have as few physical documents on file as possible. Switching to online banking and opting-out of paper statements can also help keep your financial information secure.

Hosting Shred Day is just one way we try to help our members and communities, and make their lives easier. If you have questions about our Shred Day event please call us at (877) 937-2328.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Big News from Our Student-Run Credit Union Team

Student-Run Credit Union Team
Back to school time means another busy year for our Student-Run Credit Union Team. We partner with several Michigan school districts to operate student-run credit unions and expose thousands of students each year to money management skills. Selected students learn to run their own in-school branches as credit union tellers, branch managers, marketing representatives, computer operators and accountants.

National Recognition 
Community Financial recently received some national recognition at the National Youth Involvement Board (NYIB) annual conference in Boston. Several Community Financial team members were recognized for their financial education efforts in two different categories:

For Students Reached ($500-$999 million asset category)
Suzanne Sundberg- 1st place (4,427 students) 
Erin Ilg- 4th place (4,025 students) 
Jeremy Cybulski- 5th place (3,828 students) 

For Presentations Given ($500-$999 million asset category)
Jeremy Cybulski- 3rd place (202 presentations) 
Kristen La Forest- 5th place (105 presentations) 

Our classroom presentations reached over 17,000 students last school year. We’re aiming for even more this year!

We’re proud to be leading the way regionally, and nationally in financial education! If you know a school that is looking for financial education or some other form of partnership, please let us know. We also work with libraries, boy/girl scout troops, churches, and other community organizations to offer assistance with financial education.

Continued Growth
This year we are excited to announce we will have 49 school partnerships in the state of Michigan! Our newest school partners include Coolidge Elementary in Livonia and Ridge Wood Elementary in Northville. Due to our continued growth, we will also add another Education Partnership Coordinator to our team during the 2017-18 year. 

Our Priority 
We continue to make financial education a priority because we understand that children are the future of our communities. According to Sr. Education Partnership Coordinator, Jeremy Cybulski, “Community Financial is very serious about our commitment to education and as the credit union grows, so will our number of school partnerships. Whether it is through new classroom presentations, student credit unions, or some form of financial education event, we are always looking to break new ground and further our efforts in the communities we serve.” To learn more about our school credit union program please visit cfcu.org/scu.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Community Financial Named "Best and Brightest" for 12th Year

We are excited to announce that for the 12th year in a row, Community Financial Credit Union has been named one of Metro Detroit’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies To Work For™! This award recognizes companies for excellence in human resources practices that create exceptional work environments.

So how does a company receive this honor? Awards are based on detailed questionnaires completed by nominated companies and their employees. Companies provide information about things like: work place communication, work-life balance, employee education, diversity, employee recognition, and retention. The employees then fill out an extensive survey, and winners are selected based on independent research on key measures in those various categories.

So what makes CFCU stand out among our peers? We try to create a culture of team work and fun! Here are a few of the perks our team members receive:
  • Massage days 
  • Volunteer days off with pay 
  • Longevity program with rewards
  • Community involvement opportunities
  • Employee referral reward program 
  • College scholarships for team members and their children 
  • Tuition reimbursement 
  • Generous vacation time and 401k match 
  • Paid day off during birthday month 
  • Car detailing service days 
  • Fun activities/competitions throughout the year 
Community Financial team members use their
Volunteer Day with Pay at Forgotten Harvest
“Working for an organization that values the community and helping people makes me so proud! My colleagues and I were able to use our Volunteer Day Off with Pay to work at Forgotten Harvest. They are a group dedicated to relieving hunger in metro-Detroit and preventing nutritious food waste. They provide food for emergency food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless and domestic shelters, children’s homes, senior centers and group homes,” said Mary Kerwin, Education Coordinator at Community Financial.

“Being encouraged and offered the opportunity by Community Financial to assist those in need has had such a positive impact on our entire organization and culture.”

The credit union also conducts ongoing training and leadership development programs to maintain a talented and dedicated team. Team members and their families are provided with the resources they need to protect and enhance their financial security and to balance the priorities of work and personal life.

The 2017 award competition included 1,000 nominations and more than 400 applications. At Community Financial we recognize our employees as our greatest assets, and we are proud that they have chosen us once again as the “Best and Brightest.”

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Adjustable or Fixed-Rate Mortgage: Which is Right for Me?

If you’re mortgage shopping, you may be overwhelmed by the number of options. Dozens of lenders, each with their own rates, terms, conditions and costs, can make the decision feel that way. But it doesn’t have to be that difficult! The choice of which mortgage to go with starts with a simple question: fixed-rate or adjustable? There are many different terms, points and rates associated with each, but narrowing your search to a category can really simplify the process.

Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) have a segment of time during which the interest rate is fixed. After that, the rate is determined by an economic indicator. If you’ve seen the notation “ARM 5/1,” that means it is an adjustable rate mortgage with a set rate for the first five years of the loan, and then a new rate every year after that. There’s more to it than that, but this basic explanation will get us started.

If you’re planning on selling the property before the initial period is over, the ARM can save you significantly on loan costs. If you intend to “flip” the house, or if your career involves frequent relocation, an ARM could be ideal for you. In this case, the gamble you’re making is less about the performance of an index and more about the performance of your area’s housing market. If demand drops, you could wind up holding on to an expensive mortgage or selling the house at a loss.

So, which is the right one for you? The answer really depends on several factors.

How long do you plan to own your home? 
One thing you’ll notice right away when shopping for mortgages is that ARMs have lower interest rates, sometimes by as much as 0.50%. On a $200,000 mortgage, that saves you as much as $70 a month! The initial rates are lower because the lender is taking on less risk. With a traditional mortgage, if rates go up, the lender is stuck with a lower return. With the ARM, you’re agreeing to pay more as the lending market offers more.

That doesn’t matter as much if you’re not planning on owning your home five years from now. If you’re in a line of work that moves you from place to place every few years, taking the monthly savings on an ARM and sticking it in your 401(k) is a good move. If you intend to buy the house, make some improvements and resell it for a profit, the ARM will lower your costs while you’re living there. There’s still risk involved in the ARM even if you plan to sell the house. If demand drops in your neighborhood, you may have trouble finding a buyer. In that case, you’re stuck with the loan and a likely increasing interest rate. If you can find a buyer, but not for the price you paid for the house, the difference between the sale price and what you owe will follow you around, draining your monthly income until you finally get it paid off.

On the other hand, if you’re in your house for the long haul, the savings are likely to get wiped out once the adjustment period starts. Interest rates are at historic lows right now, and will likely increase in the next five years. The half-point savings in interest rates will seem trivial compared to the several-point increase you’ll face after the initial period.

How much can you afford to put down?
An ARM can be easier to qualify for and provides you with an interest rate that you might not get without a 20% down payment. If you don’t have enough cash on hand to make a large down payment, an ARM might give you some time to build equity. Refinancing your mortgage after the initial period is over can put you in a better position. You can use the equity you have in your home, plus whatever you’ve saved during that time, to put more money down and get a better fixed-rate mortgage.

Of course, this strategy is not without risk either. If the value of your home decreases, you may have a difficult time refinancing for the balance of the loan after the initial term. This would leave you stuck paying the higher interest rates of the ARM. If you can’t make the payments, you still lose your house, regardless of the equity you’ve established.

What’s your risk tolerance?
At the core of the choice between fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages, is a quick and dirty shortcut. Fixed-rate mortgages are the safer, more conservative choice. Adjustable-rate mortgages are the riskier alternative, but offer the possibility of savings.

If you have the room in your budget to accommodate a potentially fluctuating mortgage payment and enough security in your work, savings and other financial priorities, an ARM does offer the potential to lower your monthly payment. If you’re confident that the value of your home will increase faster than interest rates, an ARM might be a wise investment. 

If you’d rather have the security of a fixed-rate mortgage, there’s quite a bit to be said for that. If you’ve found the house you want to raise a family in, the stability of a fixed-rate mortgage may be desirable. If you’re trying to find the simplest path to homeownership, you may find the simplicity of the fixed-rate mortgage very appealing. It might be easier to be financially aggressive in other aspects of your life, and not put the place where you live at risk.

Fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages each have their advantages and disadvantages. Community Financial Credit Union can help figure out which one is right for you! Speak with a local mortgage specialist today by calling (877) 937-2328 or visiting a branch near you.
Community Financial Credit Union, P.O. Box 8050, Plymouth, Michigan 48170-8050;
© Community Financial 2013
Federally insured by NCUA.
Equal Housing Lender
Additional coverage provided by ESI.
Federally insured by NCUA.