Getting Hitched Doesn’t Need to Mean Marrying Finances

Marriage generally implies that two homes and lives become one. Should it also involve a complete merging of earnings, assets and expenses? With money arguments being one of the leading causes of failed marriages, combining finances can be scary. For some couples it’s the right approach, but there are several other options.

The traditional approach

Just a few generations ago, one spouse was generally the breadwinner who paid all the bills. Although today most marriages involve two people who work, the traditional approach isn’t entirely obsolete. It can be effective when one partner is a stay at home parent or full-time student, or one spouse earns much more than the other. It’s also appropriate for couples choosing to bank one income to save for shared goals, such as a down payment for a home. Single breadwinner couples may merge assets or maintain separate accounts.

This type of arrangement works best when both partners have similar financial styles so that no one ends up feeling like a child having to ask for spending money or resenting the other for spending too much.

The share-everything approach

With this option, couples completely merge financial assets and responsibilities. All investments and debts are in both names and bills are typically paid from one joint account. Sharing everything works particularly well for couples that enter marriage with similar incomes and limited assets. As with the traditional approach, it’s vital that spouses have compatible styles to avoid feelings of resentment or deprivation.

The four-accounts approach

Sharing is beautiful but sometimes it’s also nice to have a little something of your own. With this arrangement, both partners contribute equally to a joint checking account used to handle household expenses and joint savings to reach shared goals. Their remaining income is deposited to individual accounts to be saved or spent at each partner’s discretion. This approach makes sense for couples with comparable incomes and debts, or when one partner is much more frugal than the other, since it lets both manage money as they see fit without straining the relationship. In cases where one spouse earns substantially more than the other, couples may want to contribute a percentage of their income as opposed to a fixed monthly amount to the joint accounts.

The what’s-mine-is-mine approach

Some couples may simply be more comfortable maintaining totally separate assets and liabilities. With this approach responsibility for household expenses may be split equally, divided according to ability to pay, or each spouse may pick which bills to cover. Keeping finances separate may make sense if one partner has a much larger income, net worth or debt than the other. When entering into marriage with vastly different financial positions, it’s also a good idea to consider a prenuptial agreement, whether or not separate or joint accounts are maintained.

Which way is best?

Whether and how completely to merge finances is ultimately a matter of individual style. With honest communication and trust, any of these vastly different approaches can work, giving those who choose what feels right a good chance at avoiding the bitter money conflicts that plague so many married couples.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

A Personal Debt Assessment: Your Financial Life Preserver

Do you feel like you’re drowning in debt? Trust your instincts.

The national average credit card debt per household is $7,087. About 47% of households carry a balance on credit cards from month to month. Our reliance on plastic and other forms of credit makes life difficult for families struggling to make ends meet.

Even if you’re still in shallow water, a personal debt assessment may be just the financial life preserver you need to keep your debt from spiraling out of control.

How do you know if you need a debt assessment? Ask yourself whether you’re experiencing these warning signs:

* Do you frequently pay bills late?
* Do you pay only the minimum due on your credit cards?
* Do you use credit for necessities like groceries?
* Have you ever used one credit card to pay off another?
* Do you find yourself paying off holiday debt for several months or years?
* Have you been contacted by creditors?
* Do you use high-cost loans such as payday loans as “quick money” for desperate circumstances?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may benefit from a personal debt assessment from Hopewell Federal Credit Union. We can help you plan a strategy for getting out–and staying out–of debt, develop a sensible spending plan, and communicate effectively with creditors. And, if you don’t know which debts to pay off first, we can help you figure that out, too.

Call us today at 740.522.8311. A personal debt assessment may be just the financial life preserver you need to keep your debt from spiraling out of control.

Copyright 2014 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.

What Everyone Should Know About EMV Cards

Americans report billions of dollars in credit and debit card fraud each year. A new technology using microprocessors called EMV chips could help curb future losses.

The chips are embedded on the front of credit and debit cards and exchange information with chip-card readers. Used together, the two make it harder for fraudsters to copy card information and make bogus in-store purchases.

Here’s what you need to know about EMV cards.

How EMV works
If you have an EMV card, you’ll insert the chipped end into a slot on an EMV-enabled reader, instead of swiping. Leave the card there for a few seconds, while the chip exchanges information with the payment processing system and authenticates the account; then remove it. Depending on the account, you might also sign for the purchase or enter a personal identification number, or PIN, to verify your identity and complete the sale.

How chips protect you
Named for developers Europay, MasterCard and Visa, EMV chips encrypt your information and generate a unique code each time you use your card. Each code can be used only once — so they’re useless to hackers.

Traditional cards use a magnetic strip that transmits the same unencrypted information every time you swipe. If someone copies the data, he or she can easily duplicate your plastic and use it to make fraudulent purchases.

Where they’re used
EMV-enabled cards are already the standard in parts of Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. In the U.S., where credit and debit card fraud losses have risen steadily over the past few years, retailers and issuers are slowly catching up. Many issuers have sent new EMV cards to customers, and chip-card readers are becoming more common at stores across the U.S.

Banks, credit card companies and merchants in the U.S. picked up the pace of adoption last fall, when new fraud liability standards went into effect. Before Oct. 1, credit card issuers had borne the brunt of fraud losses, but responsibility now could fall to the retailer, if its system is less secure than the card used.

What it means for you
There’s a good chance you’ve already received an EMV card. If you haven’t, call your financial services provider and ask for one.

Using an EMV card at a retailer that has a chip-reading system should make your purchase more secure. It will also make it easier to use your card in the myriad countries that already have the technology. Traditional cards can still be used most places too.

Although EMV technology helps you shop more safely, it doesn’t thwart thieves entirely. Hackers can still pilfer your card information online or over the phone, or simply steal your card. So it’s wise to exercise caution when using your credit or debit card. If your card goes missing or you spot suspicious activity, notify your financial institution immediately.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

8 Financial Safeguards for a Natural Disaster

You hope you never encounter the kind of natural disaster that requires you to abandon your home and places your property at risk.

But if you do, don’t let it catch you unprepared. Here’s what you need to do.

• Know your insurance. You don’t want to be surveying the damage to your home, car, and all your possessions and not know exactly what’s covered or whom to contact.

• Have a photographic memory. Literally—take a photo of everything in your house, room by room. Video is even better. This will make the claims process much easier.

• Back up everything. For your critical financial records, industry experts recommend backing up everything in two different formats. Keep one offsite or in the cloud.

• Consider a safe deposit box for original documents. For documents such as birth, death, and marriage certificates, Social Security cards, adoption papers, stocks and bonds, and wills—consider a safe-deposit box.

• Prepare a financial “go-bag.” In case you have to evacuate on a moment’s notice, put in enough money for three days of expenses.

• Don’t fall for scammers. A natural disaster attracts all kinds of scammers. Don’t let the stress of the situation lower your guard.

Going Away? Save Stress and Money

Whether it’s protecting your identity or your financial well-being, invest time to learn about safe practices that you can do before and during your vacation. One example is to create a list of emergency contact numbers for your accounts at Hopewell Federal Credit Union and your other credit cards. Take that list with you, but keep in a safe place while traveling. Protect your identity before you leave home, and decide in advance how you’ll manage your finances while abroad.