Tuesday, April 25, 2017

How to Get a Summer Job: A Guide for Students of All Ages

Summer is almost here. That means it’s time to start planning trips, camps and summer jobs.

Though most school years won’t end for a few more months, it’s wise to start thinking about summer work now. The time frame for hiring can take up to a full month, so waiting until school is out can really shorten your working time. Try these four tips to jumpstart your job search.

1.) Ask friends and family 
Disrupt the lengthy hiring process of most big employers by going after small business. Where better to get your foot in the door than with someone you already know? Ask friends and family if they need help with their businesses.

Parents can also help in the search. They might ask about summer or seasonal positions at their own workplaces. But, even if your friends and family can’t connect you directly to employment, let them know you’re looking. If you’ve got a friend of the family you’re close to, ask if they’ll serve as a reference, because a good reference can really boost a short resume!

2.) Think seasonal 
If you only want to work during your vacation, look for a seasonal job. Fortunately, such jobs are common in the summertime. If you live near a major tourist attraction, or a traveling summer festival, they’ll likely be bringing in extra hands during these months, as will nearby restaurants and shopping centers.

Other businesses, like construction firms and lawn-care services, do booming trade during the summer and will also need extra hires. City park districts step up their programming to serve kids who are also out of school and may also be looking for extra workers.

3.) Hit the pavement 
It’s convenient to do your entire job searching from the computer, but it doesn’t do much to showcase you to potential employers. Remember that most employers are looking for someone who will show up regularly and be presentable. Putting on your dress clothes and hitting the streets with a resume shows responsibility and drive. That’s something no online resume can convey.

4.) Make a plan for the paychecks 
Getting that first paycheck can be an exhilarating experience – and a very short-lived one. It’s too easy for that hard-earned money to disappear. Making a plan can keep you on track. Decide how much you’ll save and for what purpose. How much will you save for new clothes in the fall? What will help cover college expenses? Don’t forget to leave yourself a little fun money, too.

Once you’ve made the plan, Community Financial can help you stick to it. Youth savings accounts are a perfect complement to having a summer job. They offer competitive dividend rates combined with other features that make them ideal for those summer checks. Plus, they’re only $5 to open!

If you haven't started looking for a job yet this summer, keep in mind that your job search is about more than earning some extra cash – it could give you the competitive edge you need to get more and better jobs in the future. Happy hunting!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

It Costs How Much to Get Married?

According to a new report by wedding magazine, The Knot, the average American wedding cost has eclipsed $35,000. That’s more than half of the yearly median income! Most of that spending isn’t on lavish luxuries for bride and groom – it comes from the guest list. Couples are inviting more people and doing more for them. If you’re tying the knot this year, read on for five ways to save on the cost of your big day!

1.) Schedule smart 
Saturday is the most common date for weddings, since everyone has the day off and most churches aren’t available on Sundays. Consequently, venues are often more expensive on Saturdays.

Instead, pick another date that offers those benefits. Your special day can be the day before a holiday, or on the Sunday of a long weekend, like Labor Day. Your guests will still have time to enjoy themselves, and you’ll save as much as 15% on the cost of your venue.

2.) Untether yourself 
When picking a venue, look for a place that allows outside vendors to handle food, music, and photography. Places that host weddings often may have existing relationships with businesses who can charge more because they’re not competing with anyone else.

If you can get this kind of flexibility, shop around for better prices on catering, music and flowers. You’ll also be able to get exactly what you want from these services, such as a signature cocktail instead of a full bar.

3.) Keep the “W” word to yourself 
Every vendor has a “special” wedding price. Often, this means they charge more for any wedding-related service. You can save as much as 30% by keeping the occasion to yourself. For example, when shopping for a dress, buying a formal gown that’s not labeled as a “wedding dress” can translate to savings. Getting a custom-decorated sheet cake can save a few hundred dollars, too.

4.) Put your guests to work 
The biggest cost in most wedding-related items is the cost of labor. When you pay for flower arrangements, you’re paying about 10% for the flowers and 90% for the florist’s time. Instead of hiring professionals, consider putting your guests to work.

Many wedding guests would love to contribute to your special day. They’ll be happy to participate in making your wedding beautiful, and you’ll be happy to save a few bucks!

5.) Spread out the cost with a savings account 
A tremendous challenge for newlyweds is coming up with all that money, because all the wedding bills come due at the same time. For many couples, that means using consumer debt to finance the whole cost of their wedding. The ensuing interest and financing charges can make your wedding even more unaffordable.

Instead, consider opening up a separate savings account. Set up an automatic withdrawal from your checking account into an interest-bearing savings account. When the wedding bills come in, you’ll have money set aside to defray the costs and you’ll be able to borrow less.

Your Turn: What are your best cost-saving wedding hacks? Share your wisdom in the comments!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Keeping Friends and Finances: How to Deal with Financially Challenging Friendships

Friends are the family we choose for ourselves. But some friends can be a serious drain on your savings. If you recognize these kinds of people in your life, it’s hard to know what to do. Here are several examples of financially dangerous friends and how to handle them.

1.) The Party Animal It’s great to blow off steam with friends at a happy hour every once in a while, but the key word here is “occasional.” Party animal friends want an “epic” night, every night, asking you to join them for dinner, drinks, movies, concerts, and other expensive outings. These happenings add up quickly; a nightly $20 bar bill can cost more than $5,000 in a year! Without being rude, what can you do?

First, try suggesting lower-cost alternatives. Instead of drinking at a bar, you and your friends could go running or play tennis at the gym. These options are cheaper – and of course, healthier! If you do go out for drinks, look for “BYOB” events that will let you have fun without breaking the bank. You can also volunteer to be the designated driver, keeping your friends safe while saving money.

Second, set firm limits. When going out with a “party animal” friend, develop an exit strategy in advance: after one drink, call it an early night.

2.) The Sales Friend This friend invites you over for a fun get-together, and before you know it, some stranger is selling you expensive Tupperware. There’s no official pressure to buy, but you want to be supportive of your friend’s new business.

Worse yet, some people get suckered into selling low-quality financial products like high-commission life insurance. They expect you to trust their financial wisdom because you’re friends. If you do, you could hurt your current finances and put your retirement at risk.

The best thing to do in these instances is just say “no.” Of course, “no” doesn’t have to be direct. You can be too busy to go to a product party, or too broke to buy anything once you’re there. Be proactive about financial services so you can say you’ve got those needs managed.

3.) The Borrower There’s nothing that jeopardizes a friendship faster than lending to a friend. Just say “no” to friends who ask you for a loan.

There’s no guarantee you’ll get paid back, and the debt will create an uncomfortable tension in your relationship. You might need the money suddenly, and not have access to it, forcing you to become the needy friend to someone else!

That doesn’t mean you have to leave them high and dry. You can tell them about personal loans from established lenders or credit unions. This way, you help get them out of a bind without harming your friendship.

Your Turn: Do you have any bad financial friends in your life? How do you deal with them? Let us know in the comments section below.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Lessons for Kids During Financial Literacy Month

April is Financial Literacy Month, and a great time to teach children about finances. Whether you’re a parent looking to teach your children about money management or a professional looking for a few tips, here are a few lessons you can teach kids to encourage them to be financially responsible adults:

1. How Money Works 
Now that most consumers use credit or debit cards for a majority of their purchases, children may not realize they are actually spending money. For this reason, encourage young children to handle cash to pay for items. Take time to explain to them that products and services have different prices. They also need to understand that money can be spent only once, and that after buying something, a person needs to earn more money in order to buy something else. Play “grocery store” and take turns being the cashier and the customer.

2. Saving for a Goal 
Teach your children about the importance of saving and putting some money aside a bit at a time until they have enough to buy what they want. Kids can learn to keep money in a safe place and practice their math skills by keeping track of the amount saved for future spending. Consider opening a savings account just for them to practice this habit, and take them to withdraw the money and purchase the item they have been saving for. Community Financial also offers a Youth Club for members 12 and under, where children earn special rewards when they make deposits.

3. The Importance of Self-Control and Making Smart Financial Decisions 
 Help your children learn the difference between needs and wants. Explain that although everyone really wants things like toys and electronics, you have to pay for needs – things like food, shelter and heat – before you can buy items that are wants. Help them develop a plan to save and spend their own money that takes into account their wants and needs. Also, the next time you need to make a big purchase, talk it through with your child. Show them how taking the time to ask questions and learn about different choices helps you reach smart financial decisions.

How will credit unions celebrate Financial Literacy Month this year? During the month of April the Credit Union National Association will celebrate Youth Month. This year’s theme is “Give a Hoot about Savings.” To celebrate, we invite our young members to come into the branches, grab a coloring sheet, and enter a raffle. This year, Student and Youth Club members can enter to win a gift card to the Detroit Zoo (south branches) or to Avalanche Bay (north branches).

Remember it’s never too early or too late to learn about managing your personal finances! Find out more about our youth services and Student-Run Credit Union program at cfcu.org/youth.

From April 22-29 Community Financial will celebrate Money Smart Week. Money Smart Week is a public awareness campaign to promote financial education across all age groups. Launched in 2002 by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the program is now active in more than 45 states. Find local events by visiting moneysmartweek.org.

During Money Smart Week, student and youth club members will get double punches/prizes. So be sure to stop by any of our branches and make a deposit for 2 times the fun! Happy Financial Literacy Month!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spring Cleaning Your Finances

Springtime is about more than just cleaning out the attic and sprucing up your home. It’s about cleaning up and clearing out your finances as well. Here are some ways you can get your financial information in tip-top shape this spring.

1. Sort Through Paperwork. 
Tax season is the perfect time to go through all of your financial records since you have already gathered a great deal of paperwork to file your taxes. A number of experts advise keeping all returns and documentation related to your filing at least seven years. Discard papers if you have stored electronic copies. Download electronic copies of bank and insurance records and other important documents to your computer and back them up onto a separate hard drive or cloud storage.

2. Revamp Your Budget. 
Living within your means is an integral part of a healthy financial lifestyle. But we’re all human, and sometimes our wants overcome our needs or something unexpected comes along. Review last year’s budget and then recalibrate for this year. That may mean zeroing in on and consequently reducing purchases in a given spending category, such as eating out at restaurants.

3. Check in on Investments. 
If you have multiple 401(k) accounts leftover from various employers, take the opportunity to roll them over into one account or with one investment company where your money is. This will usually give you more flexibility when it comes time for withdrawals. Also, if you haven’t upped your retirement savings in a while, spring is a great time to check in and increase your contributions.

4. Consolidate Banking Accounts. 
Many families have multiple bank accounts – checking, savings, CDs, money market accounts, etc. You can often earn higher interest rates or qualify for loan discounts by moving all those accounts to a credit union. Spring is a great time to take a yearly look at all of those bank accounts. If you have too many, close the inactive ones. Shred any unused checks or registers from old accounts.

5. Create a Financial Calendar. 
It’s often too easy to ignore financial tasks right up until the last minute. That’s why it’s a great idea to setup a financial calendar. It’s simple: set reminders throughout the year to do things like review insurance policies, get a credit report or re-balance investments.

Whether it’s tweaking your budget or adjusting your withholding amount, there are plenty of ways to get organized this spring. Do yourself a favor by getting organized and saving for your future.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

2016 Community Matters Annual Report Available

A Message from CEO Bill Lawton 


During 2016, Community Financial proudly celebrated our 65th anniversary. Throughout the year we celebrated our members, with appreciation days, service focused on their specific needs and special rate bonuses. We celebrated our communities, by donating both volunteers and dollars to help enrich the lives of the people living around us.

We continued our support of local nonprofits through Summer of Sharing, Warming Hearts & Homes, Thumbs Up For Charity, Community Shares, and a new campaign called Thankful Thursdays. Our award winning Student-Run Credit Union program helped educate thousands of youth through our partnerships with local schools.

I am proud of the work we do and as a not-for profit financial cooperative, Community Financial has made a significant impact on the areas we serve. Our volunteer board of directors understands the importance of having healthy communities for our members to live and work in. They want local consumers and businesses to enjoy sound financial health, and for our communities to be enriched through our existence.

As we move into 2017, our focus will remain the same. We will continue to stand strong on our commitment to outstanding service and the financial well-being of our members. Together with the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), we will be conducting a consumer financial health assessment, funded in part by The National Credit Union Foundation. This assessment will help us better understand our members’ and employees’ financial health and provide insights to help improve their financial well-being. You make this all possible as a member-owner of Community Financial Credit Union. I hope you feel a sense of pride in being a part of a cooperative that is making a difference for our members and our communities.

We are proud to present Community Matters, our Annual Community Report for 2016.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Month to Month Guide on Best Time to Buy Items

When you’re mulling over a major purchase, the right price can often tip the scales. If you’re patient, you can save quite a bit of green. Here are the best things to buy during each month for the rest of the year!

January: After Christmas clearance 
With the Christmas season over, there are lots of deals to be found in stores! New furniture is usually released bi-annually – in February and August. So retailers will lower prices in January in the hopes of clearing space for newer inventory on the way. It’s also the best time to buy Christmas and holiday goods at a discount. So stock up on things like wrapping paper, Christmas bags, Christmas cards, etc. in January to save some serious cash and to be prepared when the next holiday season rolls around.

February: Prepare for winter 
February is a great time to take stock of your existing cold weather gear. If you have a coat that’s seen its final winter, now’s a great time to replace it. Retailers are looking to clear out the last of the season’s merchandise to make room for spring clothes, so you can snag a deal on thermals. You can also find a bargain on heaters and humidifiers to make your house more comfortable.

March: Get in shape 
If you’re looking to reboot your New Year’s weight loss resolution, March is a great time to pick up exercise equipment at a discount. Treadmills and elliptical machines are past their peak buying time, so retailers are looking to get rid of them. Sports equipment, like golf clubs and athletic wear, are also facing deep discounts.

April: Tech out! 
Japanese manufacturers’ fiscal year ends in March, so they’re typically ready to roll out new product lines. If you’re ok with being a year behind the latest and greatest, you can pick up a fully functional digital camera, laptop computer or big-screen TV in April. Tax refund-themed sales may also make it cheaper to upgrade your technological goods.

May: Around the house 
Now that the weather’s getting nicer, many home improvement shops will begin running sales on tools and other supplies. It’s also graduation time, which means dorm-stocking essentials will get some discounts. Check out basic pots, pans and cooking appliances in May.

June: Think thrifty 
Everyone’s gotten a chance to get their spring cleaning done. That means thrift stores are stuffed with donated second-hand goods. Be on the lookout for bargains of all sorts, but especially for used furniture and clothes.

July: School supplies 
The end of July marks back-to-school time, which means this is the month retailers start gearing up for back to school shopping. Look for promotions, like tax-free days, if you’re in the market for a computer. Otherwise, you can stock up on pens, paper and other standard office essentials.

August: Beat the heat 
If you’ve managed through the heat of the summer with a busted AC, August may provide some much-needed relief. Major appliance retailers are looking to shift their inventories from cooling to heating. Look for discounts on window AC units, dehumidifiers and other cool appliances.

September: Big-ticket 
The new models of most major appliances start to roll out in October and November, making September an excellent time to grab last year’s model. If you need a new dishwasher or refrigerator, try to hold out until September. Also, new Apple accessories, like iPads and iPhones, typically come out in November or December, so September can be a great chance to upgrade your device, too.

October: Cars and cruises 
The new model year begins for cars toward the end of summer, so there are a lot of leftovers from the previous year that need to go. Dealers are desperate to move inventory, so you can get a good price on the current year’s models. October is also a quiet season for cruise lines, so many of them run specials and sales during the month.

November: Game on 
Christmas season is in high gear, and major retailers are competing for gamer bucks. Expect to see the best bundles with the hottest games for the lowest prices in November. Whether you’re trying to surprise a gamer in your life or just get the newest games for yourself, November is the time to buy.

December: Cheers! 
In a paradox of economics, champagne demand is very high, so the price goes down. Champagne companies are competing for the New Year’s crowd. If you’ve got a major event coming up, like a wedding or anniversary, December can be a great time to stock up on bubbly.

Your Turn: What’s your best deal-nabbing tip? How do you find the lowest prices for the best stuff? Share your bargain hunting wisdom with us in the comments!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

“Thumbs Up For Charity!” is Back March 13th!

When someone does a great job, a common sign of approval is to give them a “thumbs up.” During the month of March, Community Financial wants you to give a “thumbs up” to your favorite charity. That’s why we are bringing back our 4th annual “Thumbs Up for Charity!” program! So how does this program work?

Starting March 13th, you can nominate a local organization to receive recognition for its good work in your community, and a chance to receive a financial donation up to $10,000! Nominations will be accepted at cfcu.org/ThumbsUp until Friday, March 31st.

Once all the nominations have been received, five finalists will be chosen and voting will begin on April 10th. The community will be able to vote for one of the five nominees until April 21st, so don’t miss this chance to give recognition to the group you think deserves it most!

Winners will be announced on cfcu.org by April 26th.
  • The charity that receives the most online votes will receive the grand prize of $10,000
  • Second and third place winners will each receive $5,000
  • Fourth and fifth runners-up will each receive $2,500
“The nonprofit groups in our communities work hard and we are proud to support them throughout the year,” said Community Financial's Manager/Community Relations Natalie McLaughlin. “We want to provide the residents of our communities a chance to tell us which groups they think deserve recognition, and ‘Thumbs Up for Charity!’ gives them that opportunity.”

If you would like to nominate a charity, please make sure that it is a registered 501(c)(3) organization, recognized community support organization, or associated with an accredited educational institution serving the communities within Community Financial's field of membership.

For complete contest rules and more information about the “Thumbs Up For Charity!” program visit cfcu.org/ThumbsUp. Now is your chance to make a difference in your community!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

3 Benefits of Using Community Financial's ePay

Have you signed up for Community Financial’s ePay service yet? This convenient service allows you to pay all of your bills online or through our mobile app from your Community Financial checking account.

Using ePay saves time, creates an electronic payment history, and deletes mounds of paper that usually go along with paying bills. What are some of the major benefits of using ePay?

1. Convenience 
Paying online or with your mobile device is fast and convenient and offers the benefit of scheduling. You can coordinate your payment dates with your paychecks. Our ePay lets you set recurring or one-time payments in advance with the ability to:
  • Include notes
  • View your payment history
  • Receive customized email alerts when payments are due or deducted from your account
  • View both pending and paid bills
  • Import billing statements with eBills
  • Make payments to businesses, individuals, or other financial institutions 
2. Saves Green 
Community Financial offers its members several ways to “go green,” and online bill pay is arguably one service that fosters an earth-friendly alternative to paying bills with paper checks.

One of the biggest advantages of paying your bills online, of course, is getting rid of all that paper. These days, pretty much any bill that can be mailed can just as easily (and usually more cheaply) be sent electronically. Less mail and fewer envelopes means less hassle for you -- and less paper waste in the landfills. Plus, you’ll save money on stamps!

3. Safety 
Online bill payment is safer than the traditional snail-mail method. Your personal information is much more vulnerable to theft if it's on paper and physically moving through the postal system.

Payments made online are safe and secure through Community Financial’s servers, and through the use of a username and password. Only you can set up payees and authorize payments. Plus with Touch ID on your phone, paying bills is at your fingertips.

Interested in signing up for ePay or want to see demo videos on how it works? Visit cfcu.org/epay or call us at (877) 937-2328 to learn more.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Rising Interest Rates: What Do They Mean For You?

You’ve probably seen the financial headlines announcing that the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates. These headlines are either accompanied by devastating or optimistic predictions, which can be confusing. What does this news really mean for you?

The prime interest rate is the rate the Federal Reserve charges financial institutions to borrow from it. It influences numerous financial prices, many of which only concern economic enthusiasts. Here are, however, some ways the prime rate hikes can affect you!

1.) Get Out of Your ARM 
Many people opted for adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) when interest rates were historically low. These mortgages offer better rates for an introductory period before they adjust to a new rate, which is partially determined by the Federal Reserve rate.

The Federal Reserve plans to continuously increase interest rates as the economy improves. Consequently, your adjustable rate will likely increase, and your monthly mortgage payment may become unpredictable. Fortunately, you can still refinance your mortgage into a fixed-rate loan and take advantage of still-low rates.

2.) Balance Your Portfolio 
The past six years’ low interest rates have done wonders for the stock market. With the affordable borrowing rates, companies expanded rapidly, directly fueling stock price growth.

As interest rates rise, that credit availability will decrease. Companies will find it harder to expand, their growth will slow and stock prices will decline.

Rising interest rates will also increase bond rates. Their price will rise accordingly, as more investors chase those rates. Speak to a financial adviser to ensure that your portfolio is properly balanced in accordance with changing market conditions.

3.) Save More 
The rising interest rate affects the rates financial institutions offer account holders. When it’s expensive to borrow from other institutions, it’s more profitable for those institutions to “borrow” from their members through certificates and savings accounts. As interest rates rise, it’ll be increasingly more profitable to stow your money in an interest-bearing account.

If you’ve been delaying opening a certificate or increasing the deposits in your share account, consider it now. With a 12- or 23-month certificate, you can capitalize on rising interest rates.

4.) Refinance Your Debt 
The service charges on several kinds of debt, like credit cards and private student loans, are tied to the prime rate and may increase along with it. That’s why you might want to consider refinancing now.

Avoid an increased debt rate by refinancing to a personal loan or a home equity line of credit, which bundles your high-interest debt with your low-interest mortgage. Speak with a debt counselor or other financial professional for other options – the sooner, the better.

The terminology surrounding financial news events is overwhelming. Community Financial can help you make sense of a changing economic landscape.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Reasons to Love Your Credit Union

It’s no secret that at Community Financial we love our members! In that same spirit, we’ve compiled a short list of reasons why you should love your credit union too.

1. Free Checking 
Some banks require a $1,500 balance, or a certain number of monthly transactions to get account maintenance fees waived. You may not need to make a large deposit or keep a lot of money at a credit union in order to avoid fees on checking accounts. In fact, Community Financial offers completely free checking accounts with no restrictions.

2. Better Interest Rates 
Credit unions work for their members. Since their members are also the people paying for their services, they don’t have much of an incentive to charge an arm and a leg in interest and fees. Credit unions also offer competitive rates on savings accounts and CDs. Because they don’t have to pay shareholders, they can return that money to their members.

3. Service 
Credit unions provide easy-to-use services and real, live human beings who can answer questions, make recommendations and help you understand the complicated world of finance.

4. Lending Practices 
Credit unions are community institutions, so helping people out is part of what they do. Their auto and home equity loan rates also tend to be lower than those of corporate banks. They also tend to be more willing to make exceptions for details that may not be reflected in the conventional lending formula.

5. Financial Education 
Credit unions want to make their communities a better place. Part of that mission includes financial education. If you need advice about home-buying, making a budget or using credit responsibly, your credit union will be happy to help. Community Financial offers resources like our Financial Resource Center and Money Matter$ blog to help keep people on track.

Community Financial is also deeply committed to the financial education of children through our award-winning Student-Run Credit Union Program. We now operate 48 student-run credit unions, impacting more than 20,000 elementary, middle, and high school students.

6. Free ATM Network 
Many credit unions belong to the CO-OP network, which provides member institutions with access to nearly 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs. These ATMs are located throughout the U.S. as well as some foreign countries, such as Italy and Japan. If you're a member of a participating credit union, you may be able to use these ATMs at no charge. Find surcharge-free ATMs associated with the CO-OP network using its ATM locator.

7. Ownership 
Credit unions, by definition, are not-for-profit cooperatives. As a member and owner of the credit union, you also have a say in how the credit union is run. In fact, we encourage you to join us at our annual meeting on March 9th, and make your voice heard. And, if you have the time and interest, we’d love to have you consider joining our board of directors. You’d just need to submit a letter and resume, no later than August 4, 2017. When members get involved, our credit union benefits from having new people join the board, to share in advising the smooth running of your credit union.

8. Commitment to the Community 
Credit unions are committed to giving back to the communities they serve. Last year, Community Financial donated over 4,000 hours and $480,000 to local events and organizations. 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.

If you are already a credit union member, thank you for being a part of the credit union movement and sharing the love with us!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Romance on a Budget: How to Woo For Less

Spring may be far away, but love is still in the air. It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and that means it’s time to start planning something special for that special someone in your life. How can you show someone you care without breaking the bank? Here are five low-cost romantic date ideas you can use to show your sweetheart (and your wallet) a great time!

1) A Home-Cooked Meal 
Food is love. It’s one of the most traditional ways to show you care. Paying restaurant prices for it, though, can add up fast. A typical meal out costs an average of $13 per person, excluding tip and drinks. Worse yet, getting a table at a popular spot may be a non-starter!

Instead, try making a meal yourself. For added fun, try cooking together! The meal will taste better with the knowledge that you made it yourself, and you’ll save the time and expense of going out to a restaurant.

2) Ice Skating 
Put that cold weather to good use and try ice skating! It’s a chance to be close together, hold hands, and it comes with a wonderful cup of cocoa at the end! Best of all, costs are low, so it’s a bargain-priced way to build memories. You’ll form lasting memories from the bumps and scrapes of falling down, and picking each other back up again will bring you closer than ever.

3) Picnic a Meal 
Somewhere between dinner at a restaurant and home cooking lies a pre-packed meal you can take with you to a special spot. Scope out a nice place with a view and pack up light fare: sandwiches, cheese and crackers, fresh fruit. Pack up your blanket and your basket and grab your sweetheart. With proper planning and an adventurous spirit, a snow picnic can be easily executed and every bit of fun, if not more, than a summer picnic!

4) Discount Theater 
Movies have always been a traditional date night trope, but a new release at the theater can cost a pretty penny! If you look, you can almost always find a nearby theater playing slightly older movies for dirt cheap prices. You can get the whole theater experience, down to the shared bucket of popcorn, and see a good movie you’ve both been waiting to see!

5) Learn Something New 
Find a new skill or activity you want to find out about and take a class together. Many local community colleges offer cooking, dancing and other romantic activities, but learning to play a sport or a fitness class could be a great fit, too. Whatever you choose, be sure it’s something just outside both of your comfort zones! Nothing builds relationships like shared experiences.

Your Turn: What’s your go-to for dates on a budget? Share your best ideas with us in the comments below!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Put Your Trust in a Trust Account

No one wants to think about estate planning. Like it or not, though, you’ll need to make a plan for what happens to your estate when the end comes. It’ll be a tough enough time on your family without adding the hassle of probate court, inheritance laws and asset management. You owe it to the people you love to do some estate planning while you can.

One way to establish a plan for your estate is through a will, which is a contract between you and your heirs that is enforced by the state. There can be some issues associated with wills though, including: going through probate court, cost, and the fact they can be challenged in court.

By contrast, a trust is a private contract that is living, revocable and accessible to you until you die. Then, your designated trustee is responsible for carrying out your wishes, which you articulate in a trust contract. This person is usually the representative of an institution.

Trusts have important tax, governmental assistance, probate, and personal ramifications, so an experienced estate planning attorney should be consulted at all stages of the process -- from preliminary discussions to execution of trust documents.

Here are four benefits a trust account has over a will.

1.) Privacy 
The probate process makes wills into public documents that anyone can look into. This includes the size of the estate and who got what. A trust, however, is a private document that never sees a courtroom. Only the trustee and people you designate can see a copy of the trust contract, preventing quibbling over who got what.

2.) Tax treatment 
There are several ways trust accounts lower individual and estate taxes. For example, they don’t include your life insurance benefits in your estate, which could easily push your estate over the threshold for federal income tax.

3.) Greater control 
A will is one document specifying a single action: one disbursement of assets to a collection of heirs. If some heirs are not financially responsible, this can be problematic. In contrast, a trust allows you to pay out inheritances in smaller payments and condition them on specified milestones, like a grandchild’s college graduation.

4.) Ease of use 
A trust doesn’t need witnesses, never has to be brought to court and can’t be challenged. It lets you pass your assets to heirs in the ways you think most appropriate without complicated legal maneuvering.

While it may not be for everyone, you owe it to yourself and your heirs to look at every option for estate planning. Leave your final days free for remembrance, not mountains of paperwork. A trust account may be a way to help you achieve that.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Fitness for Your Body and Wallet: Shedding Pounds without a Gym Membership

Did you know that 37% of Americans resolved to lose weight, and 32% resolved to stay fit in the New Year? The weight loss industry definitely knows and ramps up its marketing this time of year!

What these advertisements omit is that gym memberships are still expensive, averaging $58 per month. And that’s without counting any miscellaneous upfront charges. If you want to get fit without spending a ton, here are some budget- and body-friendly ideas to help you have a healthier 2017!

1.) Diet 
It doesn’t matter how much you exercise if you aren’t eating well. You won’t lose weight and you’ll still suffer the effects of a poor diet, like low energy and hypertension.

Nutritionists say that weight loss is 75% diet and 25% exercise. The biggest factor in losing weight is your basal metabolic rate (BMR), how much energy your body burns each day. For most people, this is approximately 2,000 calories. Running a mile burns 100 calories, or 5% of your BMR. Worse yet, exercise can have a paradoxical effect with a bad diet. After a vigorous workout, you’re more likely to snack, thinking you’ve “earned” a reward after a run.

Use a calorie-tracking app like Myfitnesspal to get a sense of where your calories are going. You can save a lot with some easy cuts!

2.) Body weight exercise 
One major draw of a gym is access to strength-training equipment. It’s true that cardio alone won’t help as much as strength training. It’s not true, though, that you need expensive machines for it!

Three simple exercises can help tone and reshape your body. Planks work your core, arms and shoulders. Squats work your glutes and legs. Toe raises work your calves. You can find tutorials for these and countless variations online. Pick a routine and stick with it!

You can also try yoga. There are tutorials online for strength-building yoga you can do at home at your own pace. Lots of yoga poses work on muscle building and flexibility, toning your body, and ensuring your weight loss focuses on fat, not muscle.

3.) Make your own groups 
Group classes in gyms force accountability and can make the exercise seem less taxing. Get these benefits outside the gym! If you have friends interested in fitness, start building fitness activities, like bike riding or running, into your regular social time.

If you’re on your own, use sites like Meetup to find exercise groups that work at your skill level. If you’re completely new, now’s a great time, as there will be lots of people also starting a new fitness journey. To take your fitness to the next level, join an advanced group. Get fit and make new friends without spending a penny!

Your Turn: How are you going to meet your fitness goals in 2017? Share your best tips on how to beat the gym and get fit with us in the comments!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

5 Scholarship Myths to Avoid and How CFCU Can Help

Scholarships can be one of the most underutilized sources of financial aid for college. With the cost of college tuition and room and board increasing, never underestimate the value in applying for scholarships.

According to scholarships.com, here are a few of the most common myths students believe when applying for scholarships:
  1. High school students should begin looking for scholarship during their senior year. It is not advisable to wait until your senior year to start looking for scholarships as many deadlines are in January. The sooner you begin the process the better. For students to have a good chance at winning the award, they should start searching by the middle of their junior year. 
  2. Most scholarship amounts are small and not worth the effort of applying. Every little bit counts. You might think that a $1,000 scholarship isn’t much in comparison to the rising cost of tuition and fees, but it definitely helps. The key is in trying to receive more than one source or scholarships. The more money you receive the less debt you will have when you graduate. 
  3. Scholarships are only for students with top honors and GPAs. There are many scholarships out there that are not based on academics. Often, you need a minimum of a 2.5 GPA to apply but that’s not always the case. There are plenty of scholarships that are based off your hobbies, the major you are pursuing, or your community service work. 
  4.  You have to be a high school student to win a scholarship. Scholarships are not just for current high school students. In fact, there are numerous undergraduate and graduate scholarships available. Current college students should visit their financial aid office or speak to their advisor on department-related awards. 
  5.  The application process is a one-time thing. Many scholarships granted through schools require you to reapply each year. You will also want to look for new scholarships and those you may have missed the previous year. 
The key to overcoming these myths and getting scholarships for college is to apply, and apply often! Prospective college students should also ask different local organizations if they grant college scholarships. Don’t overlook the ones offered in your hometown. Odds are you will have a better chance of securing the scholarship if it’s a local organization.

A great example of this is the Community Financial Scholarship Program! We give away thousands of dollars in college scholarship money each year to our student members.

This year we will award 21 students with $1,000 scholarships in honor of Ron Carlson and in memory of Margaret Dunning and George Lawton, all of whom epitomize the credit union's "People Helping People" philosophy. If you are a current student member or know someone who is be sure to check out our complete guidelines and application criteria at cfcu.org/scholarships.

Taking the time to do your research on available scholarships could reduce the total amount needed through student loans. Just remember that every amount helps when you are paying for your education!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Financial Freedom: What It Takes To Free Yourself from Work

Everyone dreams of achieving wealth. Maybe you want to travel the world, quit a difficult job or to sleep in on weekdays. These ideas all center on different forms of freedom. Specifically, personal financial freedom: having enough money that you don’t need to work to cover your basic necessities.

Realistically, how much money would it take for you to be that free? It might seem impossible but it’s not. If it’s a goal, or if you’re just curious, consider the following.

1.) What’s your number? 
Traditional retirement planning assumes you withdraw money from an account for all of your expenses, so you expect to spend a certain amount each year. Multiply that number by the number of years you expect to live after retirement, factor in inflation and a modest rate of return, and that’s it. For financial freedom, though, the number is different.

Financial freedom before retirement, or interest-only retirement, means your capital is generating a stable rate of return, which is your only source of income. This is preferable, because you don’t know how long you’ll live.

The math is simple. Multiply your desired yearly income by 66.6 (a 4% annual rate of return, less a 3% rate of interest), and that’s what you’d need. For example, a $50,000 yearly income would require about $3.3 million. That’s a lot, but it’s attainable.

This is especially true if you’re willing to live on less. If you live simply in an area with a low cost of living, you can survive on $30,000. To get there, you’d need just under $2 million. It’s a big number, but it’s reasonable for a person to save in their lifetime.

2.) How can you get there? 
Two habits kill the move toward financial freedom: consumer debt and lifestyle inflation.

Consumer debt includes credit cards, auto loans and other big-ticket purchases. Anything that you’re borrowing money to get that won’t increase in value falls into this category.

Lifestyle inflation is purchasing goods based on the mistaken belief that you need them. Lowering your lifestyle expenses helps you reach financial freedom by lowering your savings target and leaving you with more money to save.

Financial freedom means living below your means for the rest of your life, saving at least half of every paycheck until you have enough to retire on the interest.

3.) Take a shortcut 
Financial freedom doesn’t have to be complete, or forever. Having enough money to last a year of unemployment, or to quit your day job and live off your investments and passion projects can also be a freeing feeling. Reducing your time-frame and increasing your freedom income cuts downs the amount you need to save.

You may not reach your full financial freedom number but don’t give up! You can still get a taste of the intoxicating freedom.

Your Turn: What would you do if you didn’t have to work? Write a book? Spend time with family? Sleep till noon? Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

7 New Year’s Resolutions for a Richer 2017

The New Year is a great time of renewal. That makes it a good time to make bold, decisive changes in your life. Leave behind the baggage that was 2016 and start fresh with a blank slate in 2017. If you’re looking for some resolutions to improve your personal finances, we’re pleased to offer seven ways to make 2017 the year of the dollar!

1.) Track your spending 
Determine where your money goes. Carefully record every dollar you spend for a month; apps like Mint can make this process automatic. Keeping track of where your money ends up may ultimately encourage you to spend more judiciously.

2.) Make a budget 
70% of Americans live financially spontaneous lives, without planned spending. This is a circular problem: If your budget doesn’t include setting aside money for long-term expenses and savings, you’ll end up spending everything on unplanned things and events. Stop the cycle by creating a budget that modifies your spending to be more in line with your priorities.

3.) Get out of debt 
The biggest stumbling block to financial security and saving towards long-term goals is debt. Make the move towards debt reduction this year by adding an extra $50 or $100 to your credit card payments. Alternatively, focus all your payment resources on the highest-interest debt until it’s paid off, then move on to the next highest.

4.) Start an emergency fund 
The best way to avoid going into debt is to have some money available to handle the occasional, yet inevitable, emergency. Set a specific goal, like adding $10 per month to a savings account. At the end of the year, you’ll have more than $100 available in case something goes wrong.

5.) Start a retirement account 
When you have a retirement account, your monthly statements serve as reminders to think about and plan for your retirement. The challenge, though, is taking that first step. Don’t get hung-up on perfection; any kind of retirement account is better than none. If your job offers a 401(k) matching program, sign up to get at least the full matching funds amount – it’s free money. Do a bit of research, then open the account that seems like the best idea.

6.) Automate your savings 
Fighting that impulse to spend what you’ve earmarked for savings is a constant struggle; it’s easiest to take the decision out of your hands. Change your direct deposit to put some of your paycheck directly into a savings account, where you won’t even think about spend it impulsively.

7.) Get educated 
Knowledge is power, and that’s especially true in the world of personal finance. There’s loads of financial information online; resolve to read one personal-finance article a week. This will give you great ideas for improving your financial situation. Happy New Year from all of us at Community Financial Credit Union. We hope you have a safe, happy, and prosperous 2017!

*Community Financial does not endorse the information, content, presentation or accuracy, nor make any warranty, expressed or implied, regarding the websites and/or apps mentioned above.

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