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;
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Federally insured by NCUA.