Making Smart College Decisions


high school studentsAre you ready to let your child make a $60,000 decision?  Or a $100,000 decision?

Think back to when you turned 18.  It’s both an exciting and scary time.  There’s a liberating sense of freedom.  “You can’t tell me what to do, Mom and Dad!  I’m an adult, now!”  But were you ready to make important life decisions at that age?

For many parents, the need to please their child is strong because we want to let them spread their wings.  So, if Junior decides to make a bad decision and pick the wrong college, his parents often sit back and let it happen.

A student definitely needs to be involved in the process, but a more collaborative process will lead to a better outcome for the entire family.

How Important Is Cost?

Ask students what factors are important when deciding on a college.  You will typically get some good answers such as major, location, Greek life, social activities and cost.  Cost is usually somewhat down the list.  This makes sense when you think about it.  Most high school students do not have firsthand experience with running a household budget, and they don’t understand how difficult it is to pay for college.

An average 18-year-old has difficulty visualizing their future self.  When they sign off on their loans, how many of them have mapped out how they are going to pay for them?

We don’t need to write about how expensive college has become.  However, there are many choices out there and there is a huge range when it comes to cost.

Your Role As a Parent

So what can you do as a parent to help make this important decision?

  • Start talking about the family’s financial situation early — ideally, by the time your child is 14 or 15.  If you can afford to pay for some or all of their college education, let them know.  But be clear about what your expectations are.
  • If you are not in a position to pay for college, you have no reason to be ashamed.  Set expectations early enough so your child knows that, if they want to go to college, they had better be ready to excel in school, get scholarships, etc.
  • If your child is accepted into their dream school, but you can’t afford it, don’t be an enabler.  Co-signing on a loan you can’t afford (especially a private loan) can have disastrous results.
  • Help your child understand the implications of their decision.  Discuss how they will pay for college and project how much they might be borrowing.  Show them how this will play out in their budget.

Don’t worry about being the bad guy.  Set up your children for success and they’ll thank you later.

Information courtesy of GreenPath Financial Wellness.

Members 1st offers Undergraduate Loans and Graduate Loans.

Plus, we can help with refinancing current student loans.

Visit members 1st.org or contact out 24-hour call center at (800) 369-4980 with questions or to apply!

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Making sense of tax reform


 

tax reform

You’re probably wondering how the new tax reform legislation is going to affect you. Rest assured, you’re not alone. Starting this month, many of you will begin to see withholding changes in your paychecks.

To help you understand more of what’s going on, click here to access the IRS website. Click here for frequently asked questions. As always, we recommend that you consult with your personal tax advisor or preparer for additional information.


Members 1st members are eligible for a special offer from TurboTax. Click here for details.

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3 Reasons to have an Automatic Savings Plan


Money Transfer Icon“Save money” is a timeless bit of personal finance advice, but actually doing it can be another story. If you need a way to boost your savings and stay consistent with your goals, setting up an automatic funds transfer can help.

There are two ways you might do this. You can set up a transfer from your checking to a savings or investment account at your financial institution. Another method can be having a portion of your paycheck directed into a retirement or other account by your employer, if possible. Here’s a closer look into why saving this way might help you reach your goals.

1. No effort needed after setup

Once you start automatic transfers, which might be made every week or two, you don’t have to give it another thought. This can be helpful if you tend to second-guess your saving decisions, such as whether you actually need to save 5% or 10% of your income this month. This way you can avoid doubting yourself and keep the savings flowing.

2. Building the habit of spending less than you make

Automating the process lets your savings grow unattended. If you schedule the transfer around the time that your earnings arrive, the money for savings never really mixes with your spending funds. Over time, you may get used to living on that smaller amount too, making it easier to let your savings build.

3. Keeping accounts separate

Transferring funds this way can help you limit your spending based on what’s available in your checking account. Plus, if you want to tackle multiple savings goals at once, such as putting away funds for a vacation, retirement and emergencies, these transfers can help you contribute to them consistently. You can stay organized and not have to worry about forgetting a transfer one week or losing track of your goals.

For these reasons, using automatic transfers can empower you to save without investing much time or energy. Think about it: You can achieve a goal simply by sitting back and letting your money grow.


Check out all of the savings options at Members 1st!

Already have savings accounts? Set up your automatic transfers easily through Members 1st Online.


Watch for details about our new Goal Savings accounts! Coming Soon!


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What’s your Best Savings Option?


Pig with glasses 615283_xlWe all know how important it is to save, but sometimes it can be confusing when we see so many types of savings options. So what type of account is best for you and your situation?

This mostly depends on the amount of money of you are saving, how much money is coming in (cash flow), and how you want to use your savings.

Savings Accounts

The regular or basic savings account is what every member opens when they start their membership. This account is federally insured and requires only $5 to stay in the account. We put that $5 to the side, and then you start with a $0 balance. Members 1st does not require a minimum balance, other than your $5 opening deposit. Some financial institutions require a balance, or you will be charged a fee.

Once your balance hits $50, you will then begin to earn interest. You may withdraw funds without penalty, although federal regulation (known as Reg D) only allows 6 “electronic” withdrawals from a savings account. These do NOT include teller withdrawals. If you use Members 1st Online, you will see a Reg D alert at the top of the screen when viewing your savings account. This will tell you the number of electronic transfers you have remaining.

Members 1st also offers a Supplemental Savings account, which works similar to a Regular Savings. It’s simply an additional savings account. You may name this anything you would like.

The downside is that annual percentage yields (APYs) on regular savings accounts tend to be lower than the rates of return on other types of savings and investment accounts.

Both a Regular Savings Accounts and a Supplemental Savings Account may be used as an overdraft protection source. Overdraft protection is a service that allows funds to automatically be transferred from other Members 1st products to cover any overdrafts in your checking account. Unlike some financial institutions, Members 1st offers overdraft protection free of charge.

Money Management Accounts

This is another option which is sometimes called a money market account. (This is not a money market fund, which is a mutual fund. Those accounts are handled by our Investment Services division.)

This account works the same way as a regular savings and can be accessed at any time. However, the account has a “tiered” rate structure. It offers higher dividends based on your account balance.

A Money Management account is specifically designed to help you achieve long-term savings goals, but the funds aren’t “locked-in”.

Once again, we do not have a fee on this account if you fall beneath the required minimum for each tier.  Many institutions have a fee and only allow a certain number of withdrawals per once.

Holiday Club and Vacation Club Accounts

These accounts allow you to save for the holidays or vacation or anything other need. No minimum deposit is required and you are able to open either of these accounts any time during the year. You may make deposits in any amount at any time.

The funds transfer automatically to your regular savings account on October 1 for a Holiday Club and on April 1 for the Vacation Club.

There is a fee for early withdrawal, which is a standard at most financial institutions.

Share Certificates

If you are in the position to put money into an account and leave it for a longer period of time, you could consider investing in share certificates. These are also called savings certificates and certificates of deposit at other financial institutions.

The key benefit to certificates is that you can earn a higher return, depending on the term or length of the certificate.

You agree not to touch the money for a fixed period of  time, which can run from a few months to five years or more. However, if you decide to withdraw before the end of the term, you could face early withdrawal penalties.

The Bottom Line

Remember that the type of savings plan that you choose may not be the same as your friends or family. The choice comes down to how much money you want to put into savings, what kind of access you need to the money, and how long you can let it sit and earn interest. Take the time to compare rates, minimum balances and fees.

We are here to help you make your decision! Visit members1st.org, call TeleBranch (Customer Service) at (800) 237-7288, or stop into any branch.


Watch for our new Goal Savings account coming soon!


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Getting back to the basics


Members 1st Federal Credit Union enjoyed record growth in 2017 and looks to continue that trend in the year ahead.

“We were fortunate during the past 30 years to have worked with an inspiring leader whose heart was full of passion for making our Credit Union one of George Nahodil 101617-RESIZEDthe preferred financial institutions in the area. Now we continue to forge ahead to carve a new path and direction for Members 1st while remaining true to who we are. As we move into 2018, we want to reinforce the message that we are local. We’ve been here in this very community since 1950. Our associates are all local. We know this area and we pride ourselves on having very strong and solid roots throughout the region. Rest assured, we’re not going anywhere,” says George Nahodil, President & CEO of Members 1st.

Getting back to the basics is a solid strategy for the Credit Union in 2018. “People need to understand not only who we are, but what we do, how we do it, and why we’re different,” said Nahodil. Members 1st is one of many financial institutions in the area who offer the same types of products and services. Th e difference comes down to industry operating philosophies.

“We’re a credit union. We’re not a bank. We do not have shareholders who we pay dividends to. Our members reap the rewards of any earned profits in terms of fewer fees and better rates. We have a volunteer Board of Directors who do not receive any compensation. We live by the example of the founding principles of the credit union movement – it’s all about people helping people,” explained Nahodil. “You have to appreciate your roots in order to survive and move forward.”

Putting people first comes easy to Members 1st as its focus is on the customer (member) experience. “We’re fortunate that our annual membership satisfaction survey showed a score of 96.9%. That says a lot about our brand,” said Nahodil.

In 2017, Members 1st added 74,510 new members bringing its total number of members to 381,665. The Credit Union is forecasting that membership growth will again increase in 2018 while deposit growth and loan growth is projected to increase 9.52% and 9.11%
respectively.

The Credit Union has partnered with 9,056 businesses and organizations in the area to offer credit union membership to their employees. The Credit Union’s associates participated in 292 local community and charitable events resulting in 5,789 hours
volunteered.

What’s in store for Members 1st in 2018? As the Credit Union continues to grow, it will be adding more positions in its call center, information technology, member service and other areas. It is also considering additional branch locations. As with any business, the
Credit Union continues to watch the ever-evolving technology landscape.

“People are quite mobile and you have to accept that fact. There are many touch points involved in the service realm. Just about everyone has some sort of connection to the Internet. Customer service has become a multi-faceted experience. You need to understand the mobility of people and their expectations. In today’s customer service landscape, you have to be able to provide quality, consistent delivery across a myriad of
touch points including phone, online, and in person. We are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating our electronic and mobile channels to make things more attractive,
efficient, and convenient for our members,” added Nahodil.

The Credit Union continues to enhance its product lines including commercial lending and will introduce and a new Home Equity Loan product in the first quarter. “We also continue to look at technology and the resources we offer. We want to continue to offer our members the latest and most secure electronic banking services with ease of use,” said Nahodil.

Everyone talks about improving their customer experience and Members 1st isn’t an exception. “When it comes down to it, it’s about building relationships. It’s about the interaction within that relationship. Are you delivering what you say you’re going to deliver? Do you go above and beyond or do you do just enough to satisfy the moment? We pride ourselves on delivering unparalleled experiences with every member contact. How we treat our members is a huge testament to our brand. If we fail at any time during any delivery point, that’s a reputation risk we don’t want,” said Nahodil.

The Members 1st of 2018 looks to be introspective. “Taking a good fresh look at who we are and where we’ve been will help us clear the path and define where we’re going. Sometimes you have to step back to truly see yourself in order to move ahead,” added Nahodil.

 

Saving During the Big Game


A great party doesn’t have to leave your account empty or you credit card maxed out. A party should focus on the memories made spending time with the ones you care about and rooting your team onto victory!  We’ve come up with some tips to help you host a party while maintaining your budget.

Get the word out with out spending a dime! Electronic invitations, or evites, are a great way to save money and still send an invitation to your shindig. There are many different ways to do this, including creating a Facebook Event and inviting people that way! It’s a great way for guests to discuss carpooling, designated drivers and what everyone bringing.  For those not on Facebook a good old fashioned phone call can mean a lot.

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What’s a party without food? This piece of the party equation doesn’t need to require hours in the kitchen and a large grocery bill.  Stick with simple staples that don’t require too much attention like cold cut sandwiches, dips, chips and slow cooker items.

 

Don’t be afraid to let your guests contribute! You can help yourself and have your guests contribute by telling them a specific item to bring or by calling your party an exchange. This is a great way to exchange your favorite appetizer recipe or tell your friends about your favorite craft brew! Invite your younger guests to participate by encouraging them to bring their favorite snack or juice.

Paper Football

Don’t forget about your younger guests For a Big Game theme you can make the “Kids Zone” and have inexpensive entertainment for them like coloring sheets or teaching them how to make paper footballs so they can score their own field goals.

Getting it together in 2018


Monthly Budget Plan for Expenses and MoneyWe’re a few weeks into 2018. Are you still feeling empowered to make all of those changes you said you were going to make this year?

How many times have you said to yourself that you have to save more and spend less? How many of you have basked in the glory of instant gratification over that purchase made with a combination cocktail of store cash and coupons only to feel not so hot about it days later or the next month when the credit card statement shows up.

While there is no one magic formula to help you, there is something that you can do to get going in the right direction. It involves commitment. You and your finances are in a love-hate relationship. You love having money and probably love spending it. Then you hate it when you don’t have enough, make enough, or you get mad at yourself when you make some not so good financial decisions. A committed relationship involves compromise and collaboration for the good of the whole. You need to work together to achieve common goals. And, you need to commit to taking that first step to truly wanting to save more and spend less.

By now you’ve seen countless articles online or in print offering ways to help you get it together in 2018. Here are a few suggestions from us:

Assess your current financial institution. Is it giving you what you want and need? Has its name changed many times? What types of fees have you been paying? Are they easy to work with? How’s their service? Having a happy and strong relationship with your financial institution plays into how you manage your finances.

If you don’t have an account with Members 1st, consider experiencing the difference of credit union membership. You’ll benefit in terms of fewer fees and the fact that we’re not going to be bought out by some other financial institution. We have all of the products and services that other financial institutions offer. The one thing that truly sets us apart is that we are local. That’s right – we’re locally owned and operated from Mechanicsburg, PA. When you call us, you talk to us right here.  Our associates are always available to assist you with your personal or business financial needs. They’ll help you decide which products and services best meet your short and long term needs. And, they can put you in contact with our investment services and insurance services teams to help round out your complete financial picture.

Clean house. Review the plastic in your wallet. Look at all of your department store accounts and other bank cards you may have. Do you really know what interest rates you’re currently paying? Are you paying any fees to have those cards? Typical store cards have astronomically high interest rates. Do the math – you saved 10 percent on your purchase but because you’re now carrying a balance on that card at 27 percent interest, what did you really save in the end? Seems like that purchase is costing more than that discount you received. Consider consolidating your balances to a lower rate card with our fee-free VISA Balance Transfer program.

Make a list. Making a list holds you accountable. Pretend it’s a contract between you and your wallet. You agree to buy only what’s on your list. If you see something you think you can’t live without, wait 30 days to purchase it.  Or if you’re an online shopper and uses sites such as Amazon, make online wish lists or just hold things in your shopping cart and think about the purchase for a few days before you click process. Also, don’t store your credit card information on shopping sites. This way when you shop online it’s not as easy as hitting a payment button. You’ll have to physically get your card and enter the information. This may help you pause and think about that purchase you’re making and avoid spontaneous shopping.

Review your living expenses. Do you need cable TV when there are other options available? Have you shopped around for a new cell phone plan lately? Have you compared your electric supplier rates? Doing a little legwork and homework can pay off.

Budget tracking. Make an excel spreadsheet to track your monthly expenses. Record your income, your monthly bills, due dates, amounts, and so on. Again, having some sort of written document helps hold you accountable for your spending. Use a bill pay service to help you pay your bills on time to avoid any late fees.

Entertaining inexpensively. Invite your friends and family over for pot luck and game night. With the costs of food and beverages these days, it can be quite a strain for one person to foot the entire entertaining bill. With everyone contributing in one way or another, everyone can enjoy a good time without the huge expense. Interested in a movie? Wait a few months and rent it for a few bucks from your cable provider or watch it on popular services like Netflix. This way you’re only purchasing one “ticket” for the whole family or your guests to watch the same movie. And snacks at home are much less expensive than those at the theater.

Insurance premiums. Review your various policies at least once a year. Consider a free quote from Members 1st Insurance Services. We may be able to help you save money as we’ll shop around for you. Also, we offer insurance products such as long term care and final expense policies to help your family take care of costs associated with your funeral or long term care needs.

Set savings goals. Take advantage of the various savings accounts offered by Members 1st. We offer short and long term savings options. And look for our new Goal Savings account coming in early 2018. This way you can plan for your various needs throughout the year such as tax bills, education expenses, vacations, holidays, weddings, graduations, new babies, and so on. It’s also a good idea to commit to putting back at least three to six months of living expenses in case you have a job loss situation or a medical emergency.

Think about retirement now. Planning now will play an important role later in the lifestyle you’ll get to enjoy when you decide you’re done working. We have resources to help you plan for retirement.

While these are tips you’ve probably seen, heard and tried, know that we’re here to help you. Making the commitment to getting your finances in order is the first step. Once you’re committed, remember, we’re your resource for all of your savings and borrowing needs.

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