Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Newlyweds: Don’t Let Financial Stress Take the Cake

Of all the things to discuss before marriage, finances are the least exciting. Statistically, money is the top reason couples argue and financial arguments are among the top predictors of divorce. So, how can you avoid becoming a statistic? Here are some ideas from the experts:

Talk to Each Other 
A 2013 poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found 68% of engaged couples have negative attitudes about discussing money. To 45%, it’s “necessary but awkward,” and 7% say it’s “likely to lead to a fight.” 5% predict it would call off the wedding. The result? Couples don’t talk finances. A Fidelity survey found that over one-third don’t know their partner’s salary, of which 72% think they communicate “very well” about finances.

It’s not surprising: What’s romantic about debt, budgets or taxes? Nobody can ensure newlywed happiness, but experts agree: Don’t wait. Discuss taxes now. If you’re both employed, the “marriage penalty” may cost you more; consider marrying in January. But if one spouse earns the majority, you’ll enjoy a “marriage bonus” and a December wedding might be wise. Whether you talk money weekly or monthly, agree on a system and stay open to change.

Get Started 
Start easy: “What’s your first money memory?” “How did you spend your allowance?” Then, go further with these questions:
  • “Are you a spender or saver?” – If one saves and one spends, create a budget considering both styles. Studies show that men and women spend differently. Women tackle daily expenses (groceries, utilities, clothes); men make larger purchases (TVs, cars, computers). Amounts might be equal, but perceptions differ. About 36% of partners don’t discuss big purchases; that’s a recipe for disaster. 
  • “Are you in debt?” – Your spouse’s debt doesn’t become yours, but it affects your choices. Heavy credit card debt complicates home buying. Make reducing debt a priority. A TD Ameritrade survey found 38% of partners unaware of the other’s debts. 
  • “What are your financial goals?” “Where do you want to be in five or 20 years?” – Goal-oriented people progress toward savings and investing targets faster. Decide on the targets: buying a home, starting a family, being debt-free. List your goals, then share and plan together. 
Know what’s important to each other: things or experiences? Saving for a house or for retirement? Clarify these values early on in the marriage.

Trust Each Other 
Be honest with your partner. If you made a foolish purchase, own up to it. Some 40% of partners have lied about the price of a purchase. Lying about money has huge repercussions. Support one another; finger-pointing or retreating won’t help. Instead, work together on a plan.

You’re Still Individuals 
Celebrate differences. Your bargain-hunter should do the spending while you invest the savings. Choose a monthly amount each can spend, no questions asked. Money claims the average is $150.

A joint bank account has pros and cons. SmartMoney found 64% of couples put all their money in joint accounts; 14% kept everything separate. Many newlyweds choose both: yours, mine, and ours. Calculate shared living expenses and then contribute your portion of those costs. The key is to take action now to ensure money won’t prevent your wedded bliss.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Kick Off A Safe And Healthy Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Buying a Home in Today's Economy

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

How to Use Your Graduation Presents To Build Your Financial Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Community Financial Credit Union, P.O. Box 8050, Plymouth, Michigan 48170-8050;
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