Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Energy Saving Tips When Buying New Appliances

There’s no getting away from the fact that our dependence on energy increases daily. With energy-dependent technology driving our lives, ecologists continue to search for ways to save our environment. In fact, 30% of the charges on your electric statement stem from your appliances. Focusing on energy-efficient appliances is one way to do that.

Is one of your appliances on the blink? Before running out to purchase a new model, consider if it’s worth contacting a technician to fix your machine. Since prices for electrical appliances have decreased over the years, it might be worthwhile to buy a new model. Besides, the costs of a new part for your old apparatus and the technician’s visit can be high.

What Does Energy-Efficient Mean?
In simple terms, this means the process that is used to make the appliance function is using less energy. How can you be sure you’re getting the best product at the most cost-effective price?

Here are some tips to guide you in your search:

1. Determine the total cost. The first thing to consider is the operating cost. This amount, along with the actual purchase price, should give you the real cost of the appliance.

2. Check the energy rating. There are several reliable rating services that provide information about appliance energy consumption. The federal government uses the Energy Star Standard sticker to inform consumers of the operating cost and the annual energy consumption of each appliance.

3. Select the right size appliance. Running a large machine, even the most energy-efficient one, uses more electricity than a compact one.

4. Look for economy choices. Many dishwashers and washing machines offer a variety of different cycles. If you find one with an economy cycle, you’ll save money when you only need to wash a small load of clothes or dishes.

5. Stay simple. When it comes to choosing a refrigerator, go easy on the add-ons. Top-to-bottom fridge/freezer models are more energy efficient than side-by-sides. Features like water dispensers, ice-makers and auto-defrost use lots of extra electricity. This holds true for self-cleaning ovens, too.

6. Contact your utility supplier. They can help you with the latest ways to save on utility charges. With today’s smart devices, appliances can be programmed to use less energy at certain times of the day.

7. Check out your home. Hire a home assessor to identify ways you can save on your overall energy and water costs.

8. Comparison shop. Never buy the first model you see. Household appliances are not cheap, and to find the most energy-efficient one at the best price, you’ll need to comparison shop. Don’t pay for the name in a specific model; compare the details of each machine.

Your Turn: Do you own an energy-efficient appliance? How much has this purchase trimmed from your monthly electricity bill?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Liberty Middle School Students Get Schooled in “Adulting”

Life Management teacher, Colleen Ramirez, helps students
make wise choices at the Mad City Money “Mall” station.
Seventh and eighth grade Life Management classes from Liberty Middle School in Canton participate in Mad City Money. This program is a reality simulation designed to engage students in making tough budgeting choices as if they were an adult. Students begin the simulation by picking a profession and are given a set salary.

Liberty Middle School staff member,
Trichelle Touma, helps students purchase
housing during Mad City Money.

They are also given credit card debt, student loan payments, and healthcare costs. During the simulation, students must purchase their transportation, housing, child care, home essentials, food, and clothing within their means. In the end, the goal is for students to have built a monthly budget that leaves $100 in their checking account.

Life Management students rotate to
stations to make all of their purchases.
Students vary in how they spend their money throughout the simulation. Some students end up with a lot of extra money (thinking they can now buy a luxury boat), only to realize that they have significant credit card debt that needs to be paid off first. Other students find that they are over-budget and have to get rid of their fun purchases (like that extra boat)! Overall, however, students get the sense of how “adulting” (as one student described it) is a challenge.

Check out some fun pictures of Community Financial team members assisting students with their budgeting:

Student Credit Union Members and Budgeting 
Student credit union members at Community Financial are also encouraged to have a plan for their money. Student members are given a goal sheet at the beginning of the school year that helps them to set a savings goal and to track their progress each month. This helps students to “budget” their money at an early age. You are never too young to learn budgeting skills!

Budgeting Skills
Creating a monthly budget takes time, effort, and organization. Students participating in Mad City Money learn quickly that there are multiple elements to consider in creating a budget as an adult. Luckily, these students are guided in how to make wise money choices during this simulation. Adults, however, must often navigate the world of credit cards, debt, loans etc. on their own with little help. The resources listed below can help alleviate some of that stress. Check them out to find more budgeting and financial help:
Your Turn: Which financial resources do you find the most helpful? Tell us below in the comments.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Understanding Regulation D and Withdrawal Limits

Do you know the real differences between a savings and a checking account? Most people don’t, so here’s a quick breakdown to help explain.

Since a credit union’s vault doesn’t hold all the money deposited by its members, there are requirements determined by the Federal Reserve which govern how much cash financial institutions must hold in reserve against the accounts at that institution. The federal regulation that contains these rules is called Regulation D (Reg. D for short).

The percentage of funds that must be kept by institutions is currently 10%. Deposit accounts are then defined as “transaction” or “non-transaction” accounts, with only transaction accounts considered when calculating this ratio. So what’s the difference?

Transaction Accounts 
Transaction accounts, such as checking accounts, can be used by account holders on a daily basis for their personal finances. With transaction accounts, depositors can make unlimited payments and transfers from the account to third parties and to their other accounts. They can perform these transactions by writing checks, at an ATM, using a debit card, and through online payment services.

Non-Transaction Accounts 
Non-transaction accounts, such as savings accounts, are intended for long-term savings, and the deposited funds are accessed less frequently. With non-transaction accounts, financial institutions must reserve the right to require seven days of written advance notice before account holders make a withdrawal. This right is rarely exercised, but it’s included in the account agreement. Since they're meant for long-term savings, regulations limit the account holder to six “convenient” transactions per month.

Convenient Transfers 
These “convenient” transfers include: preauthorized automatic transfers, transfers, and withdrawals requested by phone, fax or made online, checks written to third parties, and debit card transactions. Less convenient transactions, like those made in person, by mail or at an ATM, and phone withdrawals requesting a mailed check, are unlimited.

If a member tries to exceed the six-per-month limit on their savings account, the financial institution is required to refuse transfer privileges or convert the account into a transaction account. Unfortunately, when this happens, people are often unaware of the Reg. D restrictions and assume it’s a credit union policy.

Community Financial offers a simple way within its mobile banking app to monitor the number of Reg. D transactions a member can conduct each month. Each time a transfer is made from a savings or money market account, a Reg. D Counter will appear on the Transfer screen in the app. This will count down the number of withdrawals left in the month. If a member needs to exceed the six-per-month limit, they will need to complete the transactions in a less high-tech method like at a branch.

If you have any questions on what Regulation D is and how it affects you give us a call at (877) 937-2328.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Thumbs Up For Charity is Back March 12th!

We often give a “thumbs up” to things we like such as Facebook statuses and Netflix shows. During the month of March, Community Financial is making it easy for you to give a “thumbs up” to your favorite charity with our 5th annual “Thumbs Up for Charity!” program! So how does this program work?

Starting March 12th, 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 30th.

Once all the nominations have been received, five finalists will be chosen and voting will begin on April 9th. The community will be able to vote for one of the five nominees until April 20th, 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 25th.

Community Financial will be donating $25,000 through this exciting program:
  • 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 place 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’d 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 27, 2018

Mistakes First-Time Homeowners Make

Buying a house is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make, and there are common mistakes that many first-time homeowners regret making. Here are some of those mistakes, and how you can avoid making them.

1.) Not Knowing Your Housing Budget 
Avoid buying a home that is out of your financial comfort zone. After all, you don’t want to wind up being “house poor.” You likely already have a budget and some idea of your expenses for running your current household. Now is the time to review that budget.

Some of your expenses are going to increase in a new home – like utilities and insurance. Add up all your expenses, but leave out rent or mortgage payments. When you subtract the total of this list from your take-home pay, you will have a good idea of how much you have left for mortgage payments. Check out Community Financial’s mortgage calculator and use it to calculate mortgage payments based on various available interest rates. Generally, housing costs should be 30% or less of your before-tax income.

2.) Looking Outside Your Housing Budget 
Don’t even look at houses that fall beyond your budget; it’ll only set you up for disappointment. Even if you manage to buy the home, you’ll find yourself with too much house and too little money. After doing your research, you’ll know how much house you can afford. You can then pinpoint properties in that price range. Most home purchases require compromise. Maybe you’ll decide on a smaller house in a neighborhood with the best schools. If space is your highest priority, though, you might choose a larger house in a less-exclusive neighborhood. Every house has advantages and disadvantages, but keep your search within your financial comfort zone.

3.) Purchasing Based on Future Budget Changes 
If you are having trouble finding a house in your price range, consider ways to reduce your current expenses. This will mean having more money available to make a larger monthly mortgage payment. Many people mistakenly assume they will make these changes once they own a house. Ideally, these budget changes should be in place before you buy a house, even if it means delaying the purchase. Give yourself at least six months to see if you can stick to your new budget.

4.) Treating Your Home as an Investment 
First-time homebuyers often anticipate selling their house for a large profit in 5 to 10 years. The last decade has brought major changes to every housing market. While a house in certain areas was usually guaranteed to appreciate in value, that’s not always a sure thing anymore. Buy a house to live in and enjoy, not necessarily to make a profit from. 

Your Turn: Do you have tips for avoiding house buying mistakes? Share them in the comments.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Presidents’ Day: Who’s on Your Money?

Since today is Presidents’ Day, we’d like to celebrate the work and accomplishments of the 45 men who have served as Commander in Chief. Each of them has left their mark on the United States, but only a select few have left their mark on our currency. Currently, there are six presidents featured on the U.S. currency in circulation and they are:
  1. George Washington- The 1st president of the United States has his face featured on both the dollar bill and the quarter. Washington was first put on the dollar bill in 1869, seven years after it was put into circulation. In 1924, Congress decided to put his face on the quarter to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth.
  2. Thomas Jefferson- Our 3rd president is featured on both the nickel and the less popular two dollar bill. Jefferson’s image has been on the two dollar bill since 1869; failed attempts have been made to increase the bill’s popularity. In 1938, a competition was held for a drawing of Jefferson to be put on the nickel starting in 1943. The winner received $1,000.
  3. Abraham Lincoln- Our 16th president known as the “Great Emancipator," has his image on both the penny and the five dollar bill. In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned the penny to celebrate Lincoln’s 100th birthday. Lincoln has appeared on the five dollar bill since 1914.
  4. Andrew Jackson- Andrew Jackson, the 7th president of the U.S., replaced Grover Cleveland on the twenty dollar bill in 1928. However, Jackson will not remain the face of the twenty dollar bill for long. In 2016, the U.S. Treasury announced that Harriet Tubman will replace Jackson on the front of the twenty. However, Jackson will remain on the back along with an image of the White House.
  5. Ulysses S. Grant- The 18th president and famous Civil War general had his face put on the fifty dollar bill in 1913. Attempts to replace him with Ronald Reagan in 2005 and 2010 were ultimately unsuccessful after the legislation was voted down in Congress.
  6. Franklin D. Roosevelt- Our 32nd president had his image put on the dime shortly after his death in 1945, in honor of his work founding the March of Dimes Foundation to fight polio. 
Celebrating Presidents’ Day at Community Financial 
Community Financial hosts an annual Presidents’ Day essay contest for 4th, 5th, and 7th graders at our partnering schools. This year’s question was: “If you were designing a new coin or bill, which U.S. President would you choose to be on it and why?”

Through this essay contest, we hope to encourage students to think about Presidents’ Day and learn how to combine research skills with their creativity. The first place winner will receive $50 and a classroom pizza lunch with our president, Bill Lawton. The second and third place winners will receive $25 each. We look forward to seeing which presidents our participating students think should be on a new bill or coin!

Friday, February 16, 2018

School Spotlight: Orchard Hills Student-Run Credit Union Volunteers Excel at Organization!

Organization is one of the skills Education Partnership Coordinators strive for at our Student-Run Credit Union branches. It is important for students to understand the value of organization, especially when handling cash.

Organization is the key to success
at the Student-Run Credit Union!
Fourth grade students at Orchard Hills Elementary in Novi are exceptional at this skill. Student tellers are taught to count cash and coins in ways that ensure accuracy. The tellers also rely on accountants and computer operators at our student branches to make sure their totals are correct. Dual control is the term we use when students are checking with one another to ensure absolute accuracy. This task is easier with a lot of organization.

Here are some pictures of Orchard Hills students ensuring accuracy at their Student-Run Credit Union branch.

Senior Education Partnership Coordinator, Jeremy Cybulski,
instructs students on how to perform their jobs.  

Student tellers record each deposit made, making
sure mistakes are minimal. 
Student volunteers work together to ensure organization
and therefore accuracy with members’ deposits. 
Student accountants ready to write receipts for members. 
Just another way to make sure that the team is organized and accurate!
The Importance of Organizational Skills in the Workplace 
Good organizational skills are an asset to any job. People who are organized are accurate, on-time, successful individuals! One of the key components to organization is having a to-do list. Student-Run credit union volunteers have detailed lists to help them perform their specific jobs. Our student branch managers, for example, are given a precise list of times to pick up student members from class to make their deposits. They are also trained in organizing the member line, making sure the line is not too long, and that volunteers are consistent in the service given.

At the end of our Student-Run Credit Union deposit day, volunteers organize cash, coins, and checks in a systematic way to ensure accuracy and to account for any mistakes. Believe it or not, part of having good organizational skills is to understand that you are NOT perfect! Preparing for mistakes is an excellent way to ensure habits to fix them!

All of these skills are part of the learning process at our Student-Run Credit Union branches. Orchard Hills students, shown below, are learning valuable organizational skills that will benefit them in their future!
Orchard Hills Student-Run Credit Union winter volunteers 
Your Turn: What types of organizational skills do you use on a daily basis? In what ways does keeping your money organized help you? Tell us some of your organizational successes!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Celebrating Westland’s Grand Opening with Guest Blogger Shawn

In honor of Community Financial’s Westland branch opening this month, we asked its new Branch Manager, Shawn Campion, to be our guest blogger. Shawn talks about the Westland team, his excitement for the Grand Opening, and what the new branch will bring to the community. 

About Me 
Shawn Campion,
Westland Branch Manager
I have worked for CFCU for nearly 11 years. I started in 2007 and spent 2 years as a Member Service Representative for what was, at the time, our new Michigan Ave. location. I moved back to the Plymouth location for 5 years as a Financial Sales Representative where I really found a passion for the job I get to do every day.

For the last 4 years, I’ve been the Assistant Branch Manager at our Canton Center and Hanford location. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance from Eastern Michigan University, and my wife and I just welcomed our first child, a daughter, in April last year.

About the Branch 
The Westland branch is located at 7440 N. Wayne Rd., Westland MI 48185. It is just north of Warren Rd. We are located on the site of what used to be the Quo Vadis Movie Theater that was pretty iconic to the city for 45 years until it was demolished in 2011. We are open from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. on Friday, and 9 a.m.- 1 p.m. on Saturday.

The Westland Team 
Our Assistant Manager Ashley has been with CFCU for a year and a half working as a Financial Sales Representative. She also has a business degree in Business Administration and a background in the mortgage industry.

Westland Branch Team (left to right):
Nicole, Anne, Shawn, Ashley, and Rachel
Our Member Service Representatives Rachel, Anne, and Nicole have a combined eight years of credit union experience here at CFCU. Rachel and Nicole have degrees in Communications and Business Management respectively, and Anne comes from a previous banking and management background.

Above all else, our team focuses on member service. After all, a passion for service is our commitment to you – our members. If we consistently deliver that personalized, high level of service we will continue to grow based on reputation, which is what we love most.

Being in a New Community 
Community Financial already has a solid member base that lives in Westland, but bringing a branch to the community will hopefully expand on that. We have heard from members who reside in Westland and visit our other locations about how excited they are to have a branch closer to them and we are happy to be here.

Even more importantly, though, is to expand our reach to even more people who have not experienced banking this way. We are a full service financial institution, but one thing we do that really helps us stand out from the crowd is our relationship-based lending philosophy. Those with strong credit will appreciate our incredibly low rates, while those who may have fallen on hard times and have challenges with their credit could benefit from talking to us. We look at the whole picture, not just a member’s credit score.

We also look forward to being able to expand our Student-Run Credit Union program into the community. The program is in 49 schools currently, and we have great potential to introduce our way of teaching financial literacy to the youth of Westland as well.

Celebrating Westland’s Grand Opening
I’m looking forward to the celebration of hard work coming from so many people to make this branch a reality. The Westland Branch took contractors, builders, vendors, and team members from many departments within Community Financial months upon months to get to this moment. To celebrate our Grand Opening, the public is invited to stop by our new branch from February 19-March 10, where they can enter to win an iPad Mini. 

We invite current and potential members to come and see the new location and see how we can make banking easier for them. We are looking forward to seeing everyone soon!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

What to Look For In Your First Job After College

If you’re in your last year at college, you likely spend lots of time thinking about that first, after-college job.
  • What will your job be like? 
  • What kind of company will you work for? 
  • How big will your starting salary be? 
  • Will you get along with your co-workers? 
There are so many variables to think about when looking for that first job! Whether you’ve already started sending out resumes or you haven’t taken the first step, we’ve got you covered. Read on for a list of the most important factors to consider when looking for your post-college job:

1.) Room for growth 
You’re at the starting point of your earning potential and can’t be too hung up on salary. A respectable paycheck is nice and you definitely shouldn’t be working for pennies, but it’s more important to consider whether a position will offer you room for growth. After all, you don’t want the first few years of your career path to be stagnant. 

2.) Exposure to new skills and knowledge 
Experience is truly the best teacher. When looking for a job, be sure to choose one that will help you acquire new skills and broaden your knowledge base. This way, even if the job doesn’t end up being a keeper, you’ll be more marketable for future positions. 

3.) Varied responsibilities 
A first job will not necessarily match your skill set. You might find yourself being asked to assume responsibilities you’d never thought you could handle. Instead of stressing about this possibility, if it comes up at an interview, look at it as a positive factor. You still don’t know the extent of your capabilities. The opportunity to explore new tasks will help you tap into your true potential. 

4.) Benefits 
When considering your take-home pay, find out which – if any – benefits are offered. Standard employee benefits include health insurance, a 401K, paid time off and sick leave. Accepting a job with a higher salary but no benefits can actually leave you with less money in your checking account at the end of the month. 

5.) Company history 
No matter how exciting a position sounds, it’s crucial to find out all you can about the company itself. How long has the company been in business? Is there a high turnover among employees? Have they recently gone through a management shakeup? 

While you might be drawn to a young startup that promises tremendous room for advancement, a well-established company with a proven success track is less chancy and offers more stability. 

6.) Don’t expect perfection 
You likely have a list of everything that’s important to you in a job. Lots of these factors may be important, and you might even consider them deal-breakers at a prospective job. 

It’s important to remember, though, that no job is perfect. You certainly won’t find perfection at your first real job! Scan your list to determine what is truly a non-negotiable to you and what you would consider dropping if everything else fits well. 

Your Turn: Are you job-hunting now? Share your tips and thoughts with us in the comments!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Combating the Financial Mistakes of Our 20s And 30s

Early in their careers, people tend to focus on the here and now while ignoring the future. As you climb the ladder of success, you might think raises and promotions will never end and that you have forever to plan for the future. Surprisingly, though, the future comes faster than you can imagine.

Here are the six most common and avoidable mistakes younger people make:

#1: Not planning for retirement 
Retirement may be ages away, but the only way to make sure you have what you need to retire is to start planning early. If you start saving for retirement when you get your first job, even if it’s only a small amount, you will establish the habit and start building up savings. Short-term goals, like a new car, can overshadow what seems like the very long-term goal of retirement. If you get your priorities straight early on, though, you will reap huge benefits.

#2: Spending too much on a car 
It might make financial sense to buy a new car, but don’t buy more car than you need. Choose a car that serves your current needs without sabotaging your long-term goals and savings.

#3: Not using a budget 
You might look at a budget as unnecessary because you’re not making enough money. Or, you may view it as something that will restrict your spending, or as just too much trouble. In truth, a budget can help you at any level of income and can provide you with financial freedom. Budgets allow you to track spending and determine where you need to be more careful. Also, budgets can be as simple as tracking money in and money out. As you earn more and your expenses get more complex, you can adjust your budget to fit your needs.

#4 Overusing credit 
Credit cards make it far too easy to fall into the debt trap. You start carrying a little balance on your credit cards and it builds up, sometimes forcing you to dip into savings to pay your credit card bills. Avoid this situation by using credit sparingly and only for identified and planned purchases. Implement a plan to save for major purchases and pay for most, if not all of them, in advance.

#5: Having no emergency fund 
In our 20s and 30s, we think we’re invincible, but illness or job loss can happen at any time. Start a small system of saving to build an emergency fund that covers your expenses for at least three months.

#6: Not having adequate health insurance 
While health insurance is expensive, it’s irresponsible and short-sighted not to have sufficient coverage. Health insurance isn’t optional, and young people are the first to ignore this rule. The cost may seem prohibitive, but it comes back to priorities and future planning.

Your turn: In your 20s and 30s, did you make some money mistakes you regret? Or, are you in this age bracket now and have questions about setting your priorities? Share your questions or words of wisdom here!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

How to Reach Your Goals in 2018

How are your New Year’s resolutions going so far? Was your goal to lose weight, get a new job, or save more money? A goal or objective sounds much more concrete than a New Year’s Resolution, which almost nobody sticks to past January anyways. If you’re having trouble achieving the goals you’ve set for yourself this year, heed the following advice to keep moving forward.

Aim High, But Start Low 
Big goals can seem daunting, and the best way to counter this is to break down your big goal into a series of small goals. Starting off with small, attainable goals and building yourself up over time helps to cement your new habits in your mind.

If one of your goals for the new year was to start saving more money, you can start putting a little away every month to reach your goal. One way to do this is with a Community Financial Goal Setter Savings Account. With terms available at 24 or 60 months and only $5 to open, this account can help you reach your savings goals through small obtainable goals.

Know What Success Looks Like 
Have you ever heard that a goal without a plan is just a wish? If you don't know what success looks like, how will you know when you have achieved it? Start writing your goals down and develop a concrete plan to achieve them.

Wrap your head around why you want to achieve this goal in the first place. If your goal is to exercise and eat healthier, is it just to look better and reach a certain number on the scale? Or is the true motivation to have better overall health so you look and feel your best? Understanding your motivation for reaching your goals will help you feel more successful.

Invest in Education 
Make 2018 the year for gaining more knowledge. Read more books, blogs, or online articles that relate to your goal. Join a group or club that will encourage you and let you talk to those with similar interests. For example, if your goal is to find a new career, you could join a professional or public speaking organization to help build confidence and increase your network.

If your goal is to improve your financial well-being this year, check out our Money Matter$ eLearning Center. These free and self-paced modules cover key financial concepts such as: saving, investing, raising your credit score, identity theft protection, and obtaining a mortgage. Whatever your goal is, more education will help inspire you and keep you on track.

Track Your Performance 
Check in with yourself on goals regularly. Every time you work on them, mark your progress on a calendar. Stick your goal on the wall where the rest of your household can see it. This not only reinforces accountability, but also gives you a reminder. Tell trusted friends and family members what you are working on so they can also help hold you accountable and share in the progress you’ve made.

Your turn: How are your 2018 goals coming along? Do you have any advice for others on how to accomplish their goals this year?

Friday, January 19, 2018

School Spotlight: Webster Elementary Students Learn Interviewing Etiquette Skills

Even though Webster Elementary School is only in its third year of partnership with our Student-Run Credit Union program, the students at this elementary school in Livonia are already learning valuable, transferable work skills. Every student that would like to volunteer at our Student-Run Credit Union branch must fill out a job application and participate in a job interview.

A Webster 5th grade student
(dressed for success) posing with
his completed job application!
Our Education Partnership Coordinators teach students the importance of filling out their applications legibly, truthfully, and accurately. Some students at Webster even turn in attached resumes with their job applications! There are some amazing students at Webster Elementary!

After all the applications are turned in, students undergo a “best fit” interview. Students are taught to highlight their skills through a variety of questions that Community Financial team members ask. They choose three jobs they would like to perform. Depending on their highlighted skills and communication during the interview, students are assigned a job that is the best fit for them and the credit union. Here are some Webster Elementary students going through the job application/interviewing process.
Senior Education Partnership Coordinator, Jeremy Cybulski,
reaching out to shake a student’s hand before his job interview.
  A fifth grade student actively interviewing for a
Student-Run Credit Union position at Webster. 
Job Application/Interviewing Tips 
It's official! This student got the job!
Filling out a job application and going through the interviewing process is a life skill. Giving students the opportunity to do so at an early age helps them to become more comfortable with the technique. After all, it is a nerve-racking process!

Some interviewing tips our Education Partnership Coordinators stress to students include: dressing for success, offering a firm hand shake (using your right hand), being aware of body language, asking relevant questions, and being positive! Smiling is another skill coordinators communicate to help students relax. Smiling is a huge help in alleviating stress during an interview!

Here are some pictures of Webster’s Student-Run Credit Union volunteers. These students successfully filled out a job application and went through their first job interview. Success looks good on them!
Webster Elementary Student-Run Credit Union fall volunteers.
The Webster Student-Run Credit Union marketing team.
Webster's Student-Run Credit Union in action!
Your Turn: What interviewing tips have you found to be helpful? Tell us some of your successes and/or failures when interviewing for a job.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Ways to Pay for College You Might Have Overlooked

Whether you are paying for college yourself or getting help from family members, college is an expensive endeavor for everyone. Here are some often-overlooked ways to consider when paying for higher education.

1. Start a 529 plan 
Ideally, a tax-advantaged 529 account is opened for a young child, so the savings can accrue over time. While this is an attractive option for families with younger children, experts say it's still worth opening a 529 account even if your student is already in high school.

2. Fill out the FAFSA 
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as the FAFSA, is the key application to determine college financial aid. Filling it out not only unlocks access to federal aid such as student loans or the Pell Grant, but many institutions also use this form to determine their own need-based financial aid awards.

3. Negotiate financial aid awards 
Colleges, especially private institutions, might be willing to increase a financial aid package based on a reevaluation of need-based aid due to a change in income or a special circumstance, financial aid experts say. In some instances, institutions may even increase merit-based aid to entice a student to enroll.

4. Join the military 
Joining the military offers incoming college freshmen an alternative to the more traditional means for defraying costs. The Reserve Officer Training Corps (“ROTC”) turns everyday college students into military cadets, promising not only a guaranteed job as a commissioned officer upon graduation, but also considerable financial help as a student.

5. Consider a work study program 
Work-study programs give some students a nice source of income while they are in school. The federal government’s work-study program is the one most widely used by students. Universities like this program because the federal government covers half of the wages that the students are paid. While the pay isn’t great, many students like work-study because the jobs are actually pretty good and offer hands- on work experience. In addition, the universities that employ them generally understand when students need to take time off for class and study.

6. Apply for scholarships 
Scholarships can be one of the most underutilized sources of financial aid for college. Many students don’t bother applying because they think they don’t have a chance in winning. The key to getting scholarships for college is to apply, and apply often! Prospective college students should also ask different local organizations if they grant college scholarships.

For instance, Community Financial offers scholarships each year to student members. This year we will award 19 students with $1,200 scholarships in memory of Ron Carlson, 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 and explore funding options could reduce the total amount needed through student loans. Just remember that every amount helps when you are paying for your education!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

De-Stressing After the Holidays

Now that the holidays are over, returning to real life can be a grind. Now is a great time to take a deep breath and find some time to relax, unwind and de-stress. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1.) Calming techniques 
A great way to decompress is to engage in yoga or breathing techniques. Taking deep inhalations and long exhalations encourages brain activity and stimulates effective blood circulation while soothing your inner soul. Deep breathing will help you transition from a state of exhilaration to a normal level of existence. Meditation has also been proven to help reduce the stress of returning from a holiday.

2.) Enjoy the sunshine
If you traveled over the holiday season, it's no fun when your sleep-wake cycle is disrupted by jet lag. To minimize this effect, doctors advise travelers to get out into the sun as soon as possible upon disembarking. When the sunlight hits your eyes, it helps readjust the sleep-wake cycle. Even if you didn't fly anywhere for the holidays, you may have similar symptoms from coming down from a heightened experience. A 15-minute walk in the sun can help you decompress.

3.) Physical exercise 
Exercise releases endorphins which flood us with happy feelings while decreasing stress hormones. A win-win solution to the blues!

4.) Your next vacation 
Some therapists suggest that planning a vacation immediately after the holidays can help you overcome the post-holiday blues as it gives you something to look forward to. 

5.) Talk it out 
If you’re still having difficulty re-entering your pre-holiday existence, have a heart-to-heart with a friend or relative. They can act as a sounding board, help you sort out your feelings, and offer solutions you may not have considered.

Your Turn: How do you de-stress after the holidays? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Help! I Overspent on Christmas

It’s easy to go overboard for Christmas. Giving extravagant gifts to your family members seems like a great idea … until you’re facing a huge credit card bill in January. However it happened, approach this problem rationally. The important thing now is to get things right financially. Check out these 4 ways you can patch up your finances and set things on the right track.

1.) Budgeting advice 
It’s very tempting to make only the minimum payments on the credit card you used to buy Christmas presents. Unfortunately, it’s also the best way to ensure you’re in debt for every Christmas to come. Making minimum payments on credit cards prolongs the length of time you’re in debt and spikes the total amount you pay, adding an extra $175 to a $10,000 balance at 21% APR.

What you need is an aggressive debt repayment plan. Instead of looking to pay the smallest amount possible, identify the most you can afford to pay. Commit to an extreme budget until you make headway on the debt. Coming up with an extra $35 or $50 a month is tough, but it’s the easiest way to get things moving.

You might also consider transferring your credit card debt. New and existing Community Financial MasterCard cardholders can take advantage of 2.9% APR until 8/31/2018 on balance transfers made between 1/1/18 and 3/31/18. There are no balance transfer fees for this promotion. Learn more at cfcu.org/cards.

2.) Refinancing major purchases 
If you splurged on one or two major purchases, it may not be credit card debt you’re facing. Slick car dealers offer crazy-sounding incentives to entice people to give cars for Christmas. Unfortunately, when you realize you’re in over your head with a car payment, there’s no undoing the deal.

Community Financial can help. Our auto and other major purchase loans often feature better rates. You may need to finance the purchase over a longer term or restructure the loan to pay less now. Either way, it could pay to research refinancing with us. Learn more about our auto loans by visiting cfcu.org/auto.

3.) Debt counseling 
Does reading those credit card statements each month fill you with despair? Community Financial can help you make sense of them. Make an appointment to speak with one of our friendly representatives about debt management. You’ll learn about your rights and responsibilities and create a realistic plan to pay off your debt to avoid falling into the same trap next year.

4.) Personal loans 
Focus your debt into one manageable plan through a debt consolidation loan. The advantage to these loans is they’ll have lower interest rates than the original debt, and allow the borrower to make only one lower payment per month instead of several. Our loan specialists can help you organize and simplify your payments, working toward a debt-free life. Visit cfcu.org/personal for more info.

If you need help managing your debt this new year, give us a call at (877) 937-2328 and let us help you get back on track.

Community Financial Credit Union, P.O. Box 8050, Plymouth, Michigan 48170-8050;
© Community Financial 2013
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Federally insured by NCUA.