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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