Does a new car top your holiday wish list?

If you’re looking to drive into the new year on a new set of wheels, the timing is right to save some money on this big purchase! According to Kelley Blue Book, you can benefit from both year-end sales events and, if you wait until the end of the month, automakers and dealers looking to meet monthly sales targets.

But according to Automotive News, more Americans are likely to turn toward a used, rather than new, car for their next purchase. Both escalating vehicle prices and growing auto loan debt could be responsible for the growth of used car sales. Kelley Blue Book reported an average new car cost of $37,285 in June, up 3.1 percent from the same time the previous year. By comparison, Edmunds.com reported that the average price for a used car during the first quarter was $20,200 – up 2.5 percent over the previous year.

In fact, over the past five years, new-vehicle prices have risen by more than $4,000. Used car prices have also risen but at a slower rate of $2,000. In 2018, the price gap between new and 3-year-old used vehicles was 62 percent, meaning a customer could save an average of nearly $14,000 by purchasing used instead of new.

And financing carries its own rising costs. According to research by Lendingtree, Americans owed more than $1.16 trillion in auto loans as of March 2019, an increase of $47.7 billion over the same period in 2018. Fortunately, Ohio credit unions offer lower average loan rates on both new and used car loans. In fact, Credit Union National Association estimates that financing a $25,000 new automobile for 60 months at an Ohio credit union will save members an average of $109 per year in interest expense compared to what they’d pay at other financial institutions in the state.

So if a new or used car purchase is in your near future, don’t miss this opportunity to save with year-end sales or by financing through a credit union!

Tips for Buying a Car

  • Calculate which car buying option is best for you. Prepare ahead of your purchase by calculating and weighing your car buying options. Will you buy new or used? Will you lease? Every individual’s scenario is different, so you should choose the option that best fits your specific transportation, mileage, and budgeting needs.
  • Don’t buy more car than you want or need. If you can’t afford and/or do not need the expensive equipment or options many cars have, then don’t pay the extra dollars. Just because a particular car – without all the bells and whistles – is not on the lot you’re shopping doesn’t mean the dealer can’t order it for you.
  • Negotiate a lower price — or find a ready-made deal. Go into your car-buying experience knowing the price you want to pay by using one of the top car pricing websites such as Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds. Such sites reveal Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) sticker prices, dealer invoice prices, and average sale prices, so you know the true value of the vehicle you’re shopping.
  • Shop all your options. Car shopping has never been an easier process than it is now. With online inventories, car buying services, and more – dealers are no longer your only option. Make sure to shop different vendors, compare the cars you’re shopping, and compare associated pricing.
  • Decide what to do with your current vehicle. Selling your car to a private party can be cost-effective, but trading in your current car at the dealer might be easier. If you trade-in your car, make sure you know its current value and then evaluate the trade-in offer against a private sale to see which option would be the most beneficial to your situation.
  • Don’t forget the coupons! Many car manufacturers offer rebates and cashback incentive programs on new or used cars. Others offer additional specials such as student and military discounts. Research these incentive programs online at the manufacturer and dealership websites to ensure you save every penny you can.
  • Pre-approval – Apply for your auto financing from your credit union ahead of time. With a pre-approval, you’ll know exactly how much car you can afford, which can give you buying power, and prevent you from over-spending. To find a credit union near you, visit YourMoneyFurther.com

Figuring Out Tax Withholding

By Michelle M. Haas-Dosher, CCUFC

Are you getting more than $2,000 in your tax refund every year? If you are, you may be overwithholding, which means you’re giving the federal government an interest-free loan for the year. Underwithholding means that, when you file taxes, you owe the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) money.

Withholdings
If you’re getting money back, ask yourself two questions:

  1. Do you have credit card bills?
  2. Do you have an emergency fund to rely on if you become unemployed?

If you answered “yes” to the first question and “no” to the second one, getting a big tax refund is not the best plan. The refund is money you could have used all last year to pay off bills and to beef up your emergency fund.

To find the right amount of withholding so you break even on your taxes, look at last year’s tax bill. If the amount you had withheld was close (your refund was small) and you haven’t had major lifestyle changes, such as getting married or having a baby, then you’re probably safe to leave your payroll withholding the same. If you owed a lot or received a large refund, then you might want to adjust your withholding.

Adjusting your W-4
The more allowances you claim on your W-4, the less income tax will be withheld. The fewer claimed, the larger the withholding amount.

If you’re getting a large refund, visit your employer’s payroll or human resources department and change your W-4 form, which establishes how much your employer withholds for taxes each paycheck. Use this calculator and the tax form you just completed to answer its questions, and see how adjusting your withholding affects your take-home pay. By increasing your allowances, you could see a few hundred dollars more in your paycheck each month.

Now it won’t help much if that extra money just slips through your fingers. So, take one more step and set up direct deposit to put that newfound cash into your emergency fund account every payday. Trust me—a full rainy-day fund feels a lot better than a once-a-year tax refund.

Keep in mind that everyone’s tax circumstances are different. Work with an independent professional tax adviser or a tax specialist at your credit union before making tax-related decisions.

Understand Your Summer Paycheck

Ever wonder what happens to the money in your paychecks from your summer job? You’ll soon find out that you’re not the only one who has claims on what you earn!

Example: You work 25 hours over a two-week pay period. Your pay is $10.50 an hour. You figure you should see $525 on your paycheck, right?

Sort of. But not in your pocket. There’s a big difference between gross income—or your hourly rate times the hours you work—and net income, or your take home pay.

Your gross income is reduced by deductions. Look at your pay stub—the earnings statement—attached to your check. It includes:

  • Your identification information
  • The dates of the pay period
  • Your gross income
  • All your deductions, which include taxes and FICA
  • Your net income

You can’t control the paycheck deductions, but you can do two things to raise your pay, one for now and one for later:

  • For now—Keep your eyes open for opportunities to take on more responsibility. If you’re enthusiastic about your job and do it well, your boss may promote you. Even if that doesn’t happen, you’re developing skills that could lead to better pay in your next job.
  • For later—Make smart decisions about your education. Staying in school increases your chance of earning more money in life.

As you look to future classes, look for ways to earn extra credit, take advanced placement courses, form good relationships with your teachers, and volunteer for school events. All of these can get you good grades, a possible career experience, and excellent letters of recommendation for college.

Want more money now? Save some. Come in to Hopewell Federal Credit Union to set up a savings account and learn how to manage your money.

Travel Hacks to Keep You Out of Harm’s Way

Helpful traveling tips to ensure your vacation is a safe one.

Traveling to new cities and countries is fun and exciting. To make sure you have a great time and only create happy memories of your adventure, keep these travel hacks in mind.

Keep important medical information on your phone.

If you have a medical condition or severe allergies, consider using an app to display this information on your phone’s lock screen. You can use the Health App if you have an iPhone or Medical ID if you have an Android. This is especially helpful if you’re traveling alone.

Have a room reserved for your first day

Some people like to travel spontaneously, pulling into towns with no idea where they’ll stay. But what if there’s a special event going on and all the hotels are full? Prepare ahead of time and make sure you have somewhere to spend the night when you arrive. And don’t skimp too much – you’ll probably be tired the first day and not feel at your best, so choose a place that has good security and amenities.

Be willing to spend when you don’t feel safe

What if you did reserve a place to stay and your Airbnb rental or motel turns out to be in a neighborhood that doesn’t make you feel safe? Grab a cab and head to hotel or motel in a safer area for the night. The next day, look for something in your price range and stay there for the remainder of your stay. Saving a few dollars by lodging in an unsafe area is not worth the risk.

Be aware of your surroundings

Always be aware of your surroundings and keep your belongings close to you. Also, if you drink alcohol, drink responsibly. A drunk person is easy to rob or worse.

Hide cash in your shoe

If your wallet gets lost or is stolen, having a $50 or $100 in your shoe can be a lifesaver. Without a debit or credit card, you’ll have a difficult time getting food or even getting back to your hotel. The cash will help you get through the night until credit unions are open the following day.

Don’t keep all valuables in one place

Split up your cash, credit cards, and hotel keys so they’re not all in one wallet or purse. Put some in a pocket or money belt. That way, if you are robbed, you can hand over the wallet without losing everything.

Cap and Benjamins: Using Graduation Gift Money

So, you’ve graduated from college. While it may be tempting to take your graduation gift money and spend like crazy, using the money wisely will set you up for a healthy financial future.

Here are the best ways to use your gift money, ranked from most important to least important:

• Bad Debt—Pay off bad debt. This means paying off credit cards with high interest rates.

• Insurance—Make sure you have auto, health, disability, and renter’s insurance expenses covered. If you have a significant other who depends on your income, add a life insurance policy to the mix.

• Starter fund—You need some money set aside for day-to-day living expenses. This includes rent, groceries, gas, and cell phone. This account should have two to three months of living expenses all the time.

• Emergency fund—Set aside some money for car repairs, doctor and veterinarian visits, job loss, or travel due to a family emergency.

• Down payments—Depending on where you live, you may have to think about buying a car or making a down payment on a house.

• Student loans—If you have private loans, pay them off before federal loans.

• Long-term savings—Plan for retirement by investing in a Roth IRA (individual retirement account) if you have earned income.

• Vacation—Thinking about going somewhere exotic to celebrate your accomplishment? If you can afford it, there’s value in experiencing the world.

If you have questions about the best way to save or invest your gift money, talk to the professionals at Hopewell Federal Credit Union.

Copyright 2019 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.

Tidying Up Your Finances

You’ve probably seen or at least heard about the show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” which aims to help people clear the clutter from their homes.

Marie asks participants to assess each item and determine whether it “sparks joy” for them anymore. If it doesn’t, it goes to a charity shop or to the trash. By clearing the clutter in one’s life, Marie says it not only creates a better home environment, but it has beneficial effects on one’s mood, thought processes, and abilities.

The same exercise can be applied to your finances. Is your spending out of control? Do you have little to no idea how much you spend on food, clothes, or entertainment per year? Do you hate looking at your account balance because you’re afraid of what you’ll see? Then you may want to tidy up your finances. Here are a few ways to help you get started:

• Create a budget. Start by adding up all the monthly expenses you MUST pay for – rent/mortgage, utilities, gas/transportation, groceries, credit card bills, out-of-pocket health expenses, insurance. Deduct that from your monthly take-home pay. What’s left is what you can either save or spend on non-essentials. Nerdwallet has an online budget sheet https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/budget-worksheet/  you can use to make these calculations. There are also many free apps, like Everydollar.com and Mint.com, to help you stay on budget.

• Get rid of credit cards with high interest rates. Their huge interest charges make them harder to pay off. For instance, say you bought a coat for $400 (on sale!) on a credit card with 16.99% interest. If you only pay $25 each month, that coat will end up costing you $456 because of the interest. The more expenses you put on that card, the higher your interest charges will go. Apply for credit cards with low interest and transfer the balances on these high-interest cards to the low-interest cards. Pay more than the minimum or the entire amount whenever possible.

• Control impulsive shopping. Yes, that new [fill in your latest obsession] may “spark joy” at this moment, but is it really worth the financial stress it may create? Postpone the purchase for 24 hours and see if you still must have it.

• Save for big-ticket items. Instead of using credit cards for expensive items, plan ahead and save for them. Getting into a savings habit will help you live within your means and avoid the stress of deepening debt.

Copyright 2019 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.

Couples start marriages in debt—then argue about it. How can you avoid financial fighting?

It’s not uncommon for couples to stress about money. According to an Ohio Credit Union League 2019 consumer survey, 38 percent of Ohioans say finances have been a main cause of stress in their romantic relationship.

According to a study published in the scientific journal Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 50 percent of divorced couples interviewed listed financial problems as a major factor that contributed to their divorce. That puts financial problems third on a list of 11 contributing factors—behind only “too much fighting” and “lack of commitment.”

Couples struggling with debt have a higher propensity to argue about money than those who aren’t. According to a study by Ramsey Solutions, 41 percent of couples who have consumer debt say most of their arguments center around money. By comparison, 25 percent of couples who are debt-free say they argue about financial matters.

In fact, money doesn’t make the top-five list of things in which debt-free couples argue.

Unfortunately, an increasing number of American couples are beginning their marriages in debt—and doing it, willingly. The OCUL 2019 consumer survey shows that 57 percent of Ohioans believe finances should be combined when a couple marries. That leads to more income and assets, but also more debt. According to the Ramsey Solutions study, 86 percent of couples married five years or less reported starting their marital lives with debt. That’s compared to only 43 percent of couples married more than 25 years ago.

However, there’s good news for those couples living in the Buckeye state—Ohio couples fair better than any other state. According to a Value Penguin study, the average Ohio household has only $5,446 of credit card debt—the least of any state.