Shop at Home for the Holidays

Does the thought of making your way through crowded malls and shopping at 20 different stores only to wait in long check-out lines have you feeling like the Grinch? Shopping online during the holiday season can save time and minimize stress, but know a few simple rules before you dive into the world of online purchasing.

1. Only buy from familiar companies. Confirm the seller’s contact information in case you have questions or problems in the future. Know exactly what you’re buying. Carefully read the product description. Remember–if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

2. Protect your privacy. Read and understand the company’s online privacy policy and keep any personal information, passwords, or PINs (personal identification numbers) private. Look for these signals indicating that you have entered a secure Web page:
* A screen notice that says you’re visiting a secure site
* A closed lock or unbroken key in the bottom corner of your screen
* The first letters of the Internet address you are viewing change from “http” to “https”

3. Pay safely. After you review all terms of the sale, such as cost for shipping, delivery date, and return policy, you are ready to buy. Credit or charge card payments offer consumers the most protection. Finally, print all transaction records and any other useful information pertaining to your purchase.

Although online shopping allows you to virtually load your sleigh with just a few mouse clicks, practice safe browsing this holiday season.

Nest in a New Home

Recent rule changes have made it easier for retired borrowers to qualify for a mortgage loan. Borrowing from mortgage lenders used to be fairly difficult for retirees due to lack of income.

Now, lenders can look at your IRA and 401(k) and lump-sum retirement account distributions as income. However, the money can only be counted if you aren’t currently using the assets for income.

If you haven’t retired yet, you also can apply for a loan before you retire so that your lender’s decision will be based on your working income.

Many people are hesitant to have a mortgage in their retirement—worrying about whether their retirement savings will last. In recent years, however, the amount of homeowners 70 and older with a mortgage to pay off has increased to 30%.

Creating a budget that will account for unexpected expenses is important as you plan for a mortgage in your retirement. You must have enough wiggle room in your savings so that you can meet monthly payments, even if medical emergencies arise. You should also plan for inflation and property tax increases.

If you decide to take the plunge, consult an investment adviser, a tax expert, and a lender to decide how to finance your new home. Wendy Bussa, Hopewell’s mortgage loan expert, can also provide you with the financial tools you need as you nest in a new home.

Know Your Priorities to Make Holidays Special

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or the solstice, the holiday season can be stressful—with financial stress often playing a large role.

Figure out what makes the holidays special for you and your family and allocate most of your spending to those things. Maybe there are other, less important things you can scale back or skip.

For instance, if you love hosting a lavish holiday dinner but are ho-hum about festive holiday clothing, don’t buy that new outfit. Budget more for your dinner instead. The key is to set priorities and identify the important things.

And remember that handmade or homemade goodies, charitable gifts, or the gift of time can mean much more to recipients than presents.

Here are some ideas:

* Give loved ones a framed photograph of a place or event that is special to both of you.
* Make a charitable contribution in someone else’s name. Give to a fund that person believes in.
* Offer to help with a project around the house, take a friend to lunch, or just go for a walk together.
* Give baked goods or premade dinners to family or friends.
* Offer to pet sit or babysit free of charge.

The holidays tend to bring people together. “So if you have a bad relationship it’s a great gift to mend it and make amends,” says Rob Severson, a financing coach in Deephaven, Minn. “You’ll be a lot happier if you don’t wait and it will probably mean a lot more than a box of candy.”

The holidays are about being focused on others, which actually makes it easier to budget. The less self-centered you are, the less likely you are to have financial issues from spending every nickel on yourself.

Generally the holidays require some gift buying. To help get ahead on next year’s shopping, set up a holiday account at Hopewell Federal Credit Union today. Call us at 740.522.8311.

Tempted by Low Balance Transfer Rate? Get a Hopewell Federal Credit Union credit card instead

A stronger economy has consumers more comfortable taking on debt. And, it also means credit card issuers are more comfortable extending tempting balance-transfer offers, according to the The New York Times.

Credit card comparison website CardHub looked at offers from 15 major issuers and found that longer zero-interest promo periods, up to 18 months, are available. After the promo period ends, card rates can rise substantially. With a household average of $7,126 in credit card debt, many consumers could save as much as $1,000 by transferring balances from high- to low-rate cards–with some significant caveats. For one, fee-free transfers are rare. Most of the zero-interest offers charge at least 3% of the amount you transfer and some charge more. Absent a transfer cap–also now rare–you could pay $150 to transfer a $5,000 balance.

A smart balance transfer can help you pay off debt at lower interest rates, as long as you have the discipline and the cash to pay off the balance in short order. Instead of being tempted by a low transfer rate which quickly can sky rocket, your best bet might be to simply apply for a credit union card.

Here are some other things to consider in a credit card balance transfer:
How can I avoid paying high interest on the transferred balance?
Pay the balance in full before the promotional period ends to avoid paying higher interest rates when the offer expires. If you make only the minimum payment and continue to carry a balance, or to add to the balance with purchases and cash advances, you will just perpetuate a cycle of debt.

Is everyone eligible for a zero-percent offer?
No. Card issuers offer these sweet promotions to borrowers with exceptional credit.

Can I transfer other debts to a credit card?
Some cards allow balance transfers of other types of debt, for example, car loans and even mortgages, as well as credit card debt. Credit card debt typically counts more on your credit score because it isn’t secured by collateral, so the shift could have a harmful effect on your credit standing. Car and home loans are available at far lower rates than credit cards so it makes little if any sense to make that kind of transfer.
If you’re attracted by a zero-interest transfer offer, make sure you also address your reason for being in debt in the first place. Beware of using the transfer as an opportunity to take on more debt.

In the end you are wise to shop around for the best sustainable rate on any loan. Hopewell Federal Credit Union is your smartest choice. Stop by or call today at 740.522.8311.