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.

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The realities of paying off student loans

College graduates in Ohio are entering the workforce with high hopes, bright futures, and years’ worth of student loan debt.

The average annual cost of tuition in Ohio was $14,804 for the 2016-2017 academic year, according to CollegeCalc. That’s $1,218 higher than the U.S. average and ranks Ohio as the 20th most-expensive state or district in which to attend college.

With the cost of college continually growing, student loans have become essential for attendance. According to an Ohio Credit Union League Consumer Survey, 43 percent of Ohioans who went to college used student loans to help pay for their degree. Another 26 percent have children who leveraged student loans.

Of those surveyed, 23 percent say they plan to pay off their loans in one to five years following graduation. Another 38 percent expect to have their loans paid off within 10 years, and 39 percent of respondents said they felt their loan payments were going on “forever” and wondered “if they’ll ever be paid off.”

This response isn’t surprising considering the average 2016 college graduate has $37,172 in student loans, according to Student Loan Hero. All that money can take a decade or more to pay off. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau considers a standard payment term on a student loan to be roughly 10 years, although borrowers with more than $30,000 in federal student debt could be eligible for payment plans of up to 25 years.

A NerdWallet study suggested student loan debt will hamper most new grads into their 60s and 70s, contributing to a longer working life. Most won’t be able to retire until age 75.

To circumvent this fate, here are some tips to help you pay down student loan debt:

  • Start paying as soon as possible. Use the six-month grace period, meant to give recent graduates time to look for a job before repayment begins, to get a jump start on payments. The sooner you can begin repaying student loans, the more money you’ll save.
  • Pay above and beyond. Paying more than the monthly minimum balance will save you money in interest over the life of your loan. Even rounding up to the next whole or even number takes money directly off the principal.
  • Allocate extra money. Your tax refund check is an easy place to start finding extra cash. You may also consider bonuses, an inheritance, settlement, or even birthday checks.
  • Set achievable milestones. Set-up a payment plan with achievable milestones throughout and reward yourself when you reach each milestone. Begin by paying off the highest-interest loan. When that’s paid off, celebrate with a small “splurge.”
  • Consolidating and refinancing your loans can help pay off loans faster. Credit unions typically offer lower interest rates on loans.

 

To learn more about credit unions in your community and what financial assistance they offer, visit www.aSmarterChoice.org and find a credit union in your area.

Happy Camping: Scout How Your Kids Will Spend Their Summer

After more than nine highly structured months with kids in school, summer can seem long and unwieldy. Camp is the answer for many parents.

Traditional sleep-away camps can give urban children a chance to relax and play in idyllic environments. Specialty camps can hone skills in sports, music, drama, religion, or other activities. Others just offer a variety of experiences day to day to allow kids to follow and cultivate their curiosity and imagination.

Here’s how to find the right camp for your child and ensure that he or she will have the best possible experience:
* Visit campparents.org. The American Camp Association’s parent-focused site offers a find-a-camp search tool, allowing parents to narrow choices by cost, camper age, location, length of stay, activities, and more. All of the camps in the database are accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA), Martinsville, Ind., which ensures that they meet minimum standards for health, safety, and program quality.

* Call camp directors. “As a parent, be prepared to articulate what you hope your children will gain from the camp experience,” says Dayna Hardin, owner of Lake of the Woods camp for girls and Greenwoods camp for boys in Decatur, Mich. “When we as camp directors know what parent expectations are, we do a good job of meeting or exceeding them.”

* Don’t offer to rescue. Hardin discourages parents from having some kind of pick-up deal. “Kids are going to feel a little homesick,” she says. “They’re supposed to miss their families, not forget about them. But one of the things about camp is that kids learn coping skills.”

* Visit if you can. Hardin notes that many camps—both overnight and day—welcome parents for visits while camp is in session. It requires planning; parents would have to tour camp the year before they want to enroll their children, but nothing beats that first-hand impression.

* Ask about financial assistance. Many camps offer early enrollment or sibling discounts, and some will arrange payment plans with parents. Every year, 90% of ACA camps offer some kind of financial assistance, often called “camperships,” totaling more than $39 million.

Hopewell Federal can help you save for camp and other family activities by helping create a spending plan. Call us today at 740.522.8311 or stop by for assistance in creating a plan.

Don’t Ignore That $1 Charge on Your Card

It can be easy to dismiss that $1 charge you don’t remember making on your debit or credit card. But you should be paying attention: Scam artists often make $1 “test” charges to see if you’ll notice and take action. If you don’t, crooks know it’s safe to continue using your card, sometimes spending hundreds of dollars in a short time period. If you think you may be a victim of fraud, contact your card issuer and Hopewell Federal Credit Union, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

Fraud Prevention Awareness from HFCU

FRAUD DEFINITIONS
Phishing is a way of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Vishing also called (Voice Phishing) is the voice counterpart to the phishing scheme. Instead of being directed by an email to a website, the user is asked to make a telephone call.
SMiShing is a spin-off version of Vishing. In this instance the victim receives a text message via their cell phone with the implications that there is a threat to their account and request a callback to a number provided in the message. The social engineering tactics used are the same as the phishing and vishing attacks; the only difference is the delivery method.

PREVENTION
• Remember….Hopewell Federal Credit Union will never call, email or text requesting your account number, social security number or last four digits of either.
• Ignore e-mails or pop-up messages that request personal or financial information
• Don’t use links in messages, even if the message appears to come from your credit union. Enter your credit union’s Web address in the browser yourself. Phishers can make links look like they go one place, but it actually send you to their legitimate-looking fake site.
• Read carefully. Typically, phishing messages are not personalized, whereas official credit union communications are. A typical warning sign is that the communication presents an urgent nature to the request.
• Call Hopewell Federal Credit Union at 740.522.8311 to confirm the message. Always use the phone number printed on official statements or credit cards. Do not use the number that appears in the message.
• Keep your home and work computers safe with current technology solutions, including gateway routers and virus/malware/spyware detection software, which will help prevent virus infections and warn when you are attempting to access a known phishing site.
• Don’t e-mail personal or financial information.
• Review credit card and account statements, as well as online transaction, as soon as they are available to check for unauthorized charges.
• Only open attachments or download files that you have requested or subscribed to.
• Forward phishing e-mails as an attachment to spam@uce.gov and the impersonated organization impersonated.
• If you’ve been scammed, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Web site at http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft for assistance. Also, file a complaint on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center Web site, http://www.ic3.gov/.

Smart Spending Puts Holiday Shoppers in Control of Cart

If you aren’t smart about holiday spending, you could find yourself in trouble before the icing dries on the cookies.

You can avoid financial mishaps by using simple spending strategies for this year’s shopping season:

* Create a spending plan—To track expenses you need a budget: Who are you buying for? How much will you spend on each individual? Have specific gifts in mind.

* Shop before leaving home—Comparison shop online to find which stores carry the items you’re looking for and the best price. Flag items in flyers and catalogs and bring with you to the store.

* Limit time at the mall—Shop during lunch hours or during your child’s basketball practice so you don’t have “too” much time.

* If you use a credit card, be committed—Ideally don’t charge more than you can pay off when the bill arrives. If that’s not possible, don’t charge more than you can pay off in the first quarter of next year.

* Beware store cards—These cards generally have higher interest rates than general use credit cards.

* Disregard “buy now, pay later”—It’s easy to bring a big purchase home without much thought when you don’t have to pay for it for six months. Be cautious: If you don’t pay off the item by the due date, you’ll be socked with outrageous interest expenses.

If you need help with a holiday spending plan, talk to the professionals at Hopewell Federal Credit Union. Call us today at 740.522.8311.

Credit Union Blogs – NerdWallet’s Picks

We were thrilled to read, NerdWallet selected our Blog as a top pick among Credit Union blogs.  Nerdwallet.com is a great website loaded with information.  Take a moment to review the article featuring Hopewell Federal Credit Union and be sure and sign up for their mailing list.

Credit Union Blogs – NerdWallet’s Picks.

How to keep your New Year’s financial resolutions

ByJill Schlesinger /MoneyWatch/ December 28, 2012, 6:55 AM

(MoneyWatch) When you think about it, New Year’s financial resolutions may be easier to keep than losing weight or quitting that smoking habit. According to a study by Fidelity Investments, 62 percent of consumers say they stuck with their financial resolutions in the past year, compared with only 40 percent who kept their other resolutions.

View the entire cbs.com article.