Work Your Home-Improvement Plan

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Whether you’re remodeling a home you’ve just bought or adding value to your existing home so you can stay in it longer, now’s the time to work on your own home-improvement plan.

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) can help you finance a renovation or remodel. With a HELOC here are just some of the changes you can make:

* Add more living space: Redesign your kitchen, expand your home office, or turn your bedroom into a master suite.
* Accommodate your changing family: Create a separate living area for a family member, open up your kitchen and dining area, or update your bathrooms.
* Personalize to fit your lifestyle: Add an enclosed porch, a three-season porch, or swimming pool.
* Become energy efficient: Replace your roof or windows, change to geothermal heating, or add solar.

The advantages of using a HELOC include:

* Potential tax benefits: Home equity interest payments are generally tax-deductible.
* Lower monthly payments: Interest rates on HELOCs are typically lower than credit card or personal loan rates.
* Greater financial control: With a HELOC, you withdraw and pay interest on only what you need when you need it.

First decide how much you need by making an accurate estimate of what the project will cost. If you’re hiring a contractor, start with a firm bid and add 10% for surprises.

If you’ll do the work yourself, list your materials, including quantities and costs, permit fees and equipment rental costs to get an accurate total. Add a cushion of 20% to 30% to be safe.

However you want to improve your home, Hopewell Federal Credit Union has home equity loans to suit your need.

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Real Reasons to Hire a Financial Advisor

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Scott Webb
“Advice For Life”
Webb Financial Group LLC
“The Wealth Management Firm”

What is the biggest reason you hire a financial advisor? If you read and believe the media hype, you might think it is to outperform the stock market.  This is very difficult to do.  In fact, most fund managers can’t over a 10 year period.  I did a research paper back in 1988 and could not find any empirical evidence that a fund manager could outperform the indice they were trying to beat.

If a financial advisor can’t do this then why hire them?  Here are some compelling reasons from Sally Krawcheck(Former president of Smith Barney), Linked In, March 26, 2013.

1. Ask you questions you don’t want to talk about: How to take care of your aging parents? Do you have a will?  What would you do if you lost your job?  These are great questions you need to address by somebody that talks about this every day.

2. Put together a financial plan: When are you going to retire? How much life insurance is enough? Am I paying too much in taxes? How do all my investments work together?

3. Identify risks in your portfolio: You might own 5 investments all in one asset class.  You might have all your money in stocks at age 65 and not know how much risk you have.

4. Talk you through market volatility: Research has shown that historically the stock market has recovered over time.  It is important if you have long term goals to be patient on not sell at the bottom depending on your personal situation.

5. Identify your biases with objectiveness: This is a huge one.  In 1996 I met with a worker from Owens Corning with all his money in Owens Corning stock.  He would be a lot wealthier today if he would have diversified.  He had worked there for 30 years and told me the company wasn’t going anywhere…

These are some points that some people might not think about when they are planning their future.  My opinions are general in nature and not intended for any specific individual.  Hopefully you find a good advisor that addresses these concerns for you.

Webb Financial Group LLC and can be reached at scott.webb@lpl.com, (740)454-6113 or http://www.webbfinancialgroupllc.com.  Securities are offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. Insurance products offered through LPL Financial or its licensed affiliates.

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Not Credit Union Guaranteed
May Lose Value

Revived Auto Market, Great Rates Cue Car-Buying Season

Millions of consumers have been driving older vehicles through the economic downturn, reluctant to take on new financial obligations while their personal finances were unsettled. Finally, it seems, many consumers feel better about the economy—and low interest rates—to visit showrooms and buy cars.

If you’re in a shopping mood, you’re going to like what you see in the showrooms. Auto makers, competing for your attention, are stepping up with amenities, advanced technologies, and safety features.

Pair that environment with very low interest rates, and this is a smart time to buy a car.
According to industry forecaster R.L. Polk, Southfield, Mich., “New vehicle introductions in 2013 will escalate dramatically, with 43 new vehicle introductions in the U.S. planned for the year, up nearly 50% over 2012 levels.” And, 60 vehicle redesigns are expected in the coming year.

The large pickup truck segment, which has declined over the past five years, will likely grow with several important new launches in 2013 and into the 2014 model year.

“Recent redesigns of nearly every vehicle in the midsize segment are forcing more competition and continued growth,” says Tom Libby, lead analyst for North America at Polk. “The current array of options for consumers in the market for a new midsized vehicle makes it a great time to buy a new car.”

The luxury segment in the U.S. also will be one to watch in 2013, according to Polk, as it will see significant launch activity in compact sedans. And, if gas prices continue to decline, Polk analysts expect the small luxury crossover segment will continue to grow.

In addition, non-luxury compact crossover vehicles have grown by more than 50% in the past five years. Plus, increased competition in this segment has created pricing pressures—excellent news for consumers.

While the number of hybrid models in the U.S. will increase this year, Polk expects only a slight improvement in this category, due to the continued significant price differential between hybrids and traditionally powered vehicles, and the high number of traditionally powered vehicles that achieve mileage goals similar to those in the hybrid segment.

What to do now, if you’re looking to buy: Talk to a Hopewell Federal Credit Union loan officer and get pre-approved for a loan. This puts you in strong position to negotiate as a cash buyer at the dealership.

Sales are rebounding, although slowly, so competition will intensify. That’s another reason this is a great time to buy a car.

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5 Steps to Creating a Realistic Budget

ImageBudgets: we all agree that they’re good to have. However, despite our best intentions, they never seem to match up with our real-world spending behaviors. If that sounds like you, keep reading. The key to creating a realistic budget is to work with your habits, not against them. Follow these five steps to understand yourself and your money, so you can create a budgeting plan that really works.

1. Get to know your cash flow

Before you create a budget, you need to know how much money you have coming in each month. You probably have a general idea, but have you taken everything into account? Do you receive a regular paycheck? Are you getting any benefits from the government, or money from your parents? Do you have a deposit account that pays dividends, like a savings account or CD account? Every little bit helps. Don’t include money you might have in the future, like a scholarship you applied for or a promotion you expect to receive. Budget as if these things won’t happen, and if they do, you’ll have a wonderful dilemma: extra money!

2. Determine your priorities

It doesn’t matter how much money you have; when you’re budgeting, life necessities come first. Focus on setting aside money for things like food, housing, transportation and paying down debt before you worry about anything else. Determining your basic cost of living is 100% non-negotiable.

3. Know thyself

What we really mean is “know your spending habits”. You can’t create new habits unless you’re aware of the ones you already have. Pull out all your account statements and start looking for patterns. Are you buying coffee every morning, for example? Are you shopping online more than once a month? Add everything up. If the total amount of money you’re spending is more than the amount of money you have coming in, it’s definitely time to cut back. That being said, it’s also a good idea to leave some wiggle room in your budget for unforeseen purchases. You can’t possibly account for everything. If you leave room in your budget for surprise expenses like car repairs, you can roll with the punches and come out with your budget unscathed.

4. Make it social

Spending is social. When you’re shopping, you’re often buying things for people, or with people. Why, then, wouldn’t you make your budget social, too? Don’t leave it in a dusty notebook on your desk. Talk about it, and ask your friends and family for tips. Or, better yet, ask your spouse or a trusted friend to be your “accountability buddy”. Make a pact to remind each other of your budgeting priorities while you’re shopping together. It’s easy to make an impulse buy when you’re alone, but it’s harder when someone you trust is there to say, “Do you really need that?”

When someone else is helping you make financial decisions, it may be tempting to just accept their advice without thinking about it, especially if they know way more about money that you do. When you’re applying for a loan or a credit card, your credit union representative can make recommendations, but you always have the final say. If you don’t feel comfortable with a particular arrangement, or don’t think it will fit with your budget, say something! Your lender will approve your loan based on your debts and income, not your living expenses. Only you know your living expenses, and these can be a much better indicator of how much you can realistically afford to borrow.

Laura Edgar is a senior writer for NerdWallet.com, a personal finance website dedicated to helping you make smart money decisions.