Organize Your Finances for the New Year


File-Folder-$$A new year brings a chance to start fresh with just about anything. If your midnight toast includes a resolution to improve your financial health, here’s how to make it happen.

Get on a budget

To get ahead, it’s important to know where you stand and to create a plan with realistic goals such as a comfortable retirement, education and home ownership. Budgeting may sound old-school, but it’s still one of the best ways to accomplish this. Start by totaling your income and subtracting your monthly expenses for a quick financial snapshot. Then set goals, reduce unnecessary spending and, if the situation calls for it, explore ways to increase your income.

Budgeting doesn’t have be time consuming or complicated. Downloading a budgeting app to your smartphone lets you track spending and financial progress effortlessly in real time. To take the work out of saving toward your goals, you may also want to sign up for an automatic plan that electronically deposits an amount you choose from your paycheck or checking account into your savings account at regular intervals.

Prepare for the unexpected

Life can throw you some scary curve balls. Challenges like job loss, medical issues or property damage can leave you drowning in debt for years if you’re not prepared. That’s why it’s essential to build an emergency fund that can cover at least three to six months of living expenses. Even if you can save only a little each month, with consistent deposits and compound interest you can eventually grow a sizable protective cushion.

Break free of debt

Making just the minimum payments on major debts means you’re paying mostly interest and barely even chipping away at balances. One effective approach for eliminating debt is to concentrate your efforts on your highest-interest balance first, while still making timely smaller payments on all other obligations. Once this first debt is paid off, focus on the most expensive remaining balance, and continue this way till you’re debt free.

When multiple debts are truly out of control, debt consolidation may provide some relief. This makes it easier to pay off debt faster and more affordably by streamlining multiple debts into one single lower monthly payment. Debt consolidation options include home equity financing, personal loans and low-interest credit card balance transfers.

Maximize tax deductions

Researching tax deductions and gathering appropriate documents can help you avoid paying more tax than absolutely necessary. You may qualify for tax breaks including:

  • Interest deductions for mortgages, home equity financing, business financing, student loans and loans for boats with living quarters.
  • Deductions for other taxes paid, including sales tax, foreign taxes and self-employment tax.
  • Home office and business insurance deductions.
  • Deductions for monetary and nonmonetary charitable gifts.
  • Pre-tax contributions to traditional IRAs and 401(k) plans.
  • Lifetime learning credit.

Re-evaluate your investments

Life conditions change over time, so it only makes sense that investment and retirement accounts should be adjusted periodically. In early years, it’s beneficial to favor an aggressive mix of securities, but as retirement approaches, gradually shift toward more conservative choices like bonds, CDs and mutual funds. It’s also smart to examine your estate plan and make sure your will, insurance policies and beneficiaries are up to date.

Financial housecleaning kicks off the new year just right. Over time, things that seemed out of reach become affordable, and every unexpected expense won’t seem like the end of the world. This change may be gradual, but by the next New Year’s Eve toast your improved financial wellness will be something to celebrate.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Members 1st logo

Financial Steps to Take Before Buying a Car


car-keys_9140296_xlBefore you begin your search for your next new car, be sure to take a few steps to make sure you are ready to take on the financial portion of the purchase.

Because loans typically come in 12-month increments, we’re talking about a decision that will affect your household budget a minimum of two years and probably more like five or six.

Here are a few things to consider while looking for the best financing option:

Assess your credit

Your credit score is most likely single biggest factor a lender will consider in determining what interest rate to offer you. Your score is based primarily on your credit reports. Remember that you can get a copy for free by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

Check the reports for errors and take action to dispute any that you find, because a higher credit score usually leads to a lower interest rate on a loan.

Decide what to do with your old car

If you are trading in a vehicle, that may be enough to cover the down payment or give you a credit toward you new purchase. Sites such as Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds can help you appraise the trade-in value.

Keep in mind that the the dealer may offer you less than you could get by selling your old car privately. It’s your choice if you would like to sell your car privately or trade it in.

Figure out how much you can afford

Take a look at your financial situation to determine how much vehicle you can afford. What other living expenses, such as mortgage or rent, utilities and other recurring payments already have a claim on your income?

Also remember that you will need to purchase insurance and have adequate coverage. Contact the Members 1st Insurance Services division to get your free quote.

Determine the best way to finance your new car

It’s easy to finance the car you want. You can apply for a pre-approval right online. That way you know what price-point you can purchase when you walk into the dealership. Plus, the transaction is smooth and quick.

Or, you may choose to finance with us right at the dealership. Be sure to check out our listing of participating dealers before you begin shopping. After you have chosen your car, simple tell them that you would like to finance with Members 1st.

Check our current vehicle rates here once you determine the year of the vehicle and the length of the loan. Remember that you will need to be able to afford the monthly payments. You may set up automatic payments to make your life easier. Plus, you could qualify for a rate discount with our Member Loyalty Rewards program!

Buying a new car is a major financial commitment, typically second only to purchasing a home. Taking time to figure out how much car you can afford and finding the smartest financing are well worth the effort.

Learn more about vehicle financing by clicking here.


Contact us if you need guidance or have questions.

Visit members1st.org or call TeleBranch (Customer Service) at (800) 237-7288.

You may also contact our Loan Center at (800) 283-2328, ext. 6040.


Members 1st logo

It’s Holiday Shopping Scams Season


santa hand-snowflakes-red box2

We’d like to share the following information as published in the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association’s daily newsletter, Life is a Highway, on 12/12/17.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro is warning Pennsylvanians to beware of scams and deceptive advertising while shopping at stores or online this year. He suggests that everyone become familiar with the following:

  • The Bait and Switch: Take retailers’ advertisements to the store with you. Unscrupulous retailers may advertise goods at low prices, but when you get to the store the price may be higher than advertised or the product might not be there at all.
  • Skimming Devices: During the holidays last year, police were called to a retailer at the King of Prussia mall to remove a skimming device from one store’s register. Sometimes skimming devices are placed on gas pumps or ATMs to capture data from the magnetic stripe on the back of credit and debit cards. If something looks out of place or easily wiggles, use a different ATM, gas pump, or register.
  • “Cybersquatting” Sites: Crooks try to impersonate well-known websites by inverting characters or slightly altering the name of a well-known website. The copycat sites may look similar to the real website – and they can steal your credit information. Carefully read website addresses to ensure you are shopping on a legitimate website.
  • Copycat and Fraudulent Websites: Fake websites set up by scammers target online shoppers during the holiday season. Sometimes appearing as an ad results in online searches, these sites may contain malware or steal inputted credit card data. Avoid making purchases from untrustworthy sites.
  • Security Certificates: To ensure you are shopping on a secure website, make sure the website begins with “https” and has a small padlock icon next to the webpage address. Keep your computer, tablet, or smartphone up-to-date and install security software.
  • Retailers Who Request Payment through Wire Transfer: Legitimate online businesses will not use wire transfer to collect payment for purchases. This is a sure sign of a scam.

Want more information about scams and consumer advisories? Here are some great resources for you:

 

Close up Coins in glass jar for giving and donation

Concerned about charitable organizations and giving? Want to know how your favorite charity uses the funds they receive? Click below: 

 

 

 

 

Money Management: A Family Affair


Oftentimes, there is one person in the family who handles the money – balancing the checkbook, paying the bills, providing allowances, etc. That job can be very stressful if that person does not have the support and understanding from every member of the family. Indeed, a healthy and open approach to money management is good for the entire family.

Set Goals Together

The most successful family budgets start with establishing goals. For example, if everyone agrees that the goal is to save for a vacation, developing that goal may make it easier to resist overspending on entertainment, shopping or dining out.

Goals need to be SMART:  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

Once the family agrees on a goal, post it in a place where the family can see it every day.  The refrigerator or a message board are good places. The idea is to encourage and inspire everyone to stay focused and on track.  Be creative by posting pictures of that vacation destination, and include attractions that the whole family will enjoy.

Involve Kids at a Young Agecounting-coins

Should you include children in the budgeting process? While your children may not need to know how much you earn, or how much your mortgage payment is, it is still important to teach them that money is necessary to provide for the needs and wants of the family.

A great way to teach young children about anything is through playing, and budgeting is no exception. There are all sorts of games available to help young children learn about money management and budgeting, from traditional board games to apps you can download on your phone for them to playReading books about money management written for young children is another fantastic idea. For many families, giving the children an allowance provides a great opportunity to teach about goal setting, making choices, consumerism, and of course budgeting.

Consider including your school-age child in the discussion of one budget category at first.  Select a category such as entertainment, and discuss choices that would help achieve or not achieve the family goal.

Teaching your children wise money management skills will give them a strong foundation to build upon. Too often, children are not taught these skills and are left to learn the hard way as adults — sometimes after making costly mistakes. We encourage you to teach your children wise money management, goal setting and budgeting. It may prove to be the greatest return on investment you will ever receive!

Article courtesy of GreenPath Financial Wellness.


Members 1st logo

Engage with us!


Do you have questions on how to make the most of your credit union membership with Members 1st FCU? You can connect with us on various social media channels! Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

If you’re interested in learning more you can also visit www.members1st.tv. Here you can find our most recent episodes of Fixing Your Finances, our commercials, or How To videos.

Tell us what you want to learn more about! We’re always listening.

Are You Who You Say You Are?


Computer hacker stealing information with laptopA challenge for any business involves proving the person they are dealing with is actually their customer. The business needs to gain assurance that the person is authorized to access account information and perform transactions. To assist, businesses use identity credentials to authenticate their customers, as a means to prove they are who they say they are. However, the challenge is complicated by the fact that criminals have access to much personal consumer information.

Everyone is familiar with passwords which are used to protect accounts. Unfortunately, passwords have been long-losing their effectiveness as the sole means for authenticating consumers. As a result, businesses often choose from many other factors to authenticate consumers. Those factors fall within three categories: something you know; something you have; and something you are.

“Something you know” is typically a password. It may also be a personal identification number (PIN), the last four digits of your social security number, your date of birth or some account-specific information such as your most recent debit card transaction. “Something you have” could be a cell phone, to which a special code (“out-of-band”) is sent by text message or email. “Something you are” involves using methods such as fingerprint biometrics, eye biometrics, facial recognition, or a voice sample that a system compares to a stored reference.

Members 1st employs many of the above layers of security to help protect your confidential information. Understand that at times you may only be required to provide a single factor to authenticate yourself. But other times, we may ask you to provide multiple pieces of information or use a combination of authentication factors in the above categories. Such “two-factor” authentication adds an extra layer of protection by requiring information beyond simply your username and password.  For example, in addition to your password, you may also be required to enter a one-time code which is texted to your mobile device. Such practices are more common when we do not have the opportunity to conduct your transaction in-person, like we would at one of our branch locations. Or, when we deem that your transaction is higher-risk and as a result, requires a higher level of security.

Our goal is to ensure your experience is properly balanced in terms of protecting your information and providing convenient, efficient service. We want our security to work for, not against our members. That often provides a challenge as members are not always comfortable or willing to learn new security procedures, or consider the security procedures to be inconvenient.

So how can you help?

One of the most important ways to help is by keeping your online and mobile banking login credentials (usernames, passwords, PINs, etc.) private. It’s quite frustrating to hear the weekly stories from the fraud and anti-money laundering team. Those stories involve members who relinquished their personal login credentials. Stories of the financial losses which resulted because members were involved in romance scams, work-from home “opportunities,” or lottery or inheritance scams. Simple fix. Do not share your online and mobile banking login credentials with anyone. Because if you do, you will likely be the individual directly responsible for the fraudulent transactions on your account.

In addition to securing your online and mobile banking login credentials, changing your password on a regular basis and keeping it secure will also help to protect your account. Establishing a Personal Identification Number (PIN) for transactions conducted through TeleBranch and other call centers provides comfort to us that you’ve met a certain security level. And maintaining up-to-date telephone and email contact information is critical to ensure you have the ability to receive a security code. That security code may be necessary to help authenticate you before processing your transaction.

Finally, we ask for your patience when we require multiple pieces of information to authenticate you. While it may take a bit longer, know that our relationship with you is built on your trust in us. For that reason, we view strong security as part of the exceptional service which we provide.


Members 1st logo

Face your fears, open your statements.


As we shop for the perfect gifts this holiday season it is easy to swipe your card and be on your way.  Whether it’s a debit or credit card you’re swiping, it can be scary to see how quickly the amounts add up.  Don’t let yourself become a victim of overdraft fees, empty accounts and charges that you didn’t authorize.

Multicolored and beribboned gift boxes in pile

With eStatements and online banking you are just a few clicks away from seeing your card activity. Routinely checking these can help you decide if your neighbor around the corner really needs that candle you picked up for them or if a friendly holiday greeting card would be sufficient. These routine checks can also help you be on top of a compromise to your credit/debit card or account. The longer an issue has been going on the more difficult it can be to resolve.

If you notice unauthorized charges to your account you should contact your financial institution immediately and they can help you take the proper steps to protect your accounts.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: