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Money Matters Blog

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!

  • 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 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.