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.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Save Money While Vacationing Abroad

Exploring foreign shores and dining on exotic fare are what make up many dream vacations. But when you suspect a money changer has taken you for a ride or you’ve busted your budget after only two days, it can quickly become a nightmare. Here’s how to get the most for your money while vacationing overseas:

1.) Use credit cards 
Using credit cards while abroad will help you avoid the hassle and uncertainty of exchanging money. Before you board your flight, determine whether your card has a foreign transaction fee so you’ll understand the cost of using your card. Also, make sure your credit card company knows about your travels so they won’t flag purchases as fraud. Lastly, if you don’t have a chip-enabled card, carry your passport with you, as many European countries don’t accept magnetic-strip cards without identification.

2.) Know the local currency exchange rate 
While primarily using credit cards will minimize the hassle of exchanging currency, you will need some cash. That’s why it is good to know the current exchange rate before you set foot on foreign soil. You can access this information by downloading an exchange app like XE Currency or My Currency Converter. Also, always ask for the price in local currency so vendors don’t take advantage of your naivety by hiking up the price in American dollars just for you.

3.) Dining on a budget 
You haven’t experienced a city without trying the local eats, but you don’t have to blow your budget on pricey restaurants. Instead, get creative! Pick up some supplies at a local grocery, delighting in the strange food items on the shelves. Enjoy a light lunch at a street cafe for half the price of a dimly-lit restaurant. Or, make the rounds of the sidewalk vendors for a meal that will satisfy your craving for exotic cuisine without draining your wallet.

4.) Screen your car rental
 Before you book a car, ask yourself it it’s really necessary. If it is, search through discount booking sites like Priceline.com and Kayak.com. Next, find out if your auto insurance provider covers accidents while overseas. Lastly, review local traffic laws to make sure you drive safely and legally!

5.) Use cheap transportation 
If you aren’t booking a car, you’ll save even more by using the cheapest transportation available. Get the real feel of the city by walking to your destination. Hop on a bus or board a train to rub shoulders with the locals. And, be sure to check for any traveler’s discounts before purchasing tickets, as many hot-spots for tourists offer great deals for vacationers.

6.) Steer clear of the ‘only here’ mindset 
Don’t wind up broke! Create a detailed itinerary and a reasonable budget that includes all the things you want to do. Then, narrow it to just the attractions that are truly unique to your destination.

Working on putting together the funds for your dream getaway? Call, visit cfcu.org, or stop by a Community Financial branch today and ask how we can help. We’re here to turn that dream vacation into reality!

Your Turn: Just got back from a vacation abroad? Share your best money-saving tips with us in the comments!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Creative Ways to Save On Energy Costs

Are your summertime electricity bills astronomical? Check out our list of 10 creative ways to trim your bill in the summer and all year ’round!

1.) Plant trees 
If your home has lots of west-facing windows, you’re likely getting loads of sunlight each afternoon, and that’s making your AC unit work harder. Lower your energy consumption by planting trees or large shrubs in front of some of those windows.

2.) Go solar 
If you can’t afford to buy solar panels, consider leasing them instead. You’ll be given a set monthly fee which makes budgeting easier year-round. Also, the monthly payment is often 15% less than the local utility rate.

3.) Rethink your roof 
Is your roof dressed in black for 90-degree weather? By installing a sunlight-reflecting “cool roof,” you can reduce your roof’s temperature by up to 60 degrees. This will trim your AC use by as much as 20%.

4.) Keep your cool 
Large, heat-generating appliances can warm up a room quickly. Consider running your washing machine and dishwasher at night or in the early morning when it’s cooler outside.

5.) Lighten up 
Replace your light bulbs! By swapping out just five incandescent light bulbs in a high-traffic area of your home to CFL or LED bulbs, you can save $65 on annual energy costs.

6.) Seal all leaks 
If your home isn’t a new build, you likely have leaking windows and doors or shrinking caulking. Structural walls of houses also tend to shift with time. To check for leaks, run the match test. Shut down your AC unit and close all doors and windows. Hold a lit match near the windows and exterior doors of your home. If the flame moves, that will indicate an airflow, which means a leaky seal.

If you’ve got leaks, reseal your windows by weatherstripping the problem areas. A leaky door may need a door sweep replacement. Just peel off the old one and bring it to a home improvement shop so they can help you find a new one that fits your door.

7.) Get smart! 
By installing a smart thermostat, your home will be programmed to cool off at exactly the times you need.

8.) Pull out the plug 
Up to 75% of energy consumption by home electronics happens when they’re turned off. Save big by pulling out the plugs when you’re done with your electronics.

9.) Fire up the grill 
An oven cranked up to the standard 350° makes your AC unit work harder. Use your grill for dinner prep. You’ll keep the heat out and enjoy the sunshine at the same time!

10.) Laundry smarts 
About 90% of the energy used when doing laundry comes from heating the water. When possible, choose the cold setting on your washing machine. Hanging your clothes to dry will also trim your bill. If you must use the dryer, stick some tennis balls in there to make it more efficient and finish faster.

Your Turn: Do you have an energy saving hack that keeps your electric bill manageable? Share it with us in the comments section below!

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.