There’s No Place Like Home: Plan Ahead with Age-in-Place Upgrades

Most older Americans want to stay in their homes permanently and live independently, according to AARP. Now that boomers are getting older, there’s a term for this: “Aging in place.” The trouble is, aging in place comes with a fair number of challenges, considering that most homes aren’t designed for accessibility. However, there are ways to age in place happily and comfortably, as allU.S. Credit Union explains below.

Make Modifications to Your Current Home

Aging-in-place modifications need not look institutional or awkward. These upgrades are simply about making your home adaptable for people of all ages and abilities. The focus is on planning ahead and preventing accidents before they happen. When you consider the rising costs of assisted living, money spent on modifications is money well spent!

  • Select durable, non-slip matte-finish hardwood floors. Smooth floors such as hardwood eliminate trip hazards and make it easier to accommodate wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers. Remove all hazards such as area rugs and electric cords.
  • Install a wheelchair-accessible ramp outside if necessary, along with handrails and grab bars in areas where falls are likely. (More than 30% of seniors suffer from a fall every year. Falls are also the leading cause of death and injury in aging adults.)
  • Pay special attention to the bathroom, and replace the towel bar with a weight-bearing handrail or grab bar. Also, use non-skid shower mats in the bathtub or shower. For those who must sit, have portable shower seats as well as movable shower heads. Consider remodeling your shower so that it’s curbless too. Upgrade your standard 17” high toilet to one that is chair height (19” tall), and you’ll find that everyone prefers it, mobility issues or not!
  • Remove thresholds from doorways to make passing through them easier and to prevent tripping. If it’s not possible to remove them, you can purchase ramps that make it easier to get over them.
  • Widen doorways for wheelchairs. Wheelchairs typically need at least 32,” but ideally 36” of space makes maneuvering easier. Also, make sure that countertops and cabinets can be accessed comfortably from a wheelchair.
  • Replace all door knobs with lever-style door handles. These handles are kinder on arthritic hands with less dexterity and will ensure that you won’t be inadvertently trapped inside your room. Using levered faucets in the kitchen sink are best for older hands too.

Some of this work may require professional contractors. Ask friends and family for referrals, and get written estimates. Keep in mind too that some home accessibility modifications can be deducted from your federal taxes. Widening doorways and halls, adding railings and grab bars, etc. can be considered medical expenses, so be sure to talk with your tax professional.

Downsize to a Smaller Home

Your current house made sense for you when you bought it, but it may no longer make sense for you today or tomorrow. Down the road, you may prefer walking or using a wheelchair to get to your nearest store or doctor’s office rather than driving. You may need a single-story home or access to an elevator, or you may no longer want to spend time maintaining two acres of land.

Familiarize yourself with real estate listings in your area now to get an idea of what it might cost to buy a new home. It’s also key to find a real estate professional who is savvy to the needs of senior buyers. A great agent will also walk you through different scenarios if you prefer to buy and sell at the same time or if you want to buy something new and then sell your home.

Being proactive by modifying your home now is not only a wise investment in your future, but it’s a wise real estate investment too. Age-in-place modified homes are one of the hottest trends on the market. Best of all, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’ve got a beautiful home that will work for you now and into the future.

By becoming a member of allU.S. Credit Union, you can reap the benefits of higher savings rates and lower fees and loan rates. Fill out an online application today!

What do you need to do to improve your finances in 2021?

I know all of us are looking forward to putting 2020 in the rearview mirror.  But as we do that it is a perfect time to prepare for 2021.

Other than the obvious COVID-19 circumstances, another topic on the minds of most Californian’s is personal finances and the stress that comes with it.  With all the job losses and the severe economic slowdown, getting your personal finances in order is a perfect way to prepare for any surprises that may pop up next year.  Below are some vital areas to consider for improving your financial wellness in 2021.

Budgeting

The top way to improve your finances is to create a budget comparing your monthly income with your monthly expenses.  This will help you live with the money you are bringing in and illustrates areas where you may be overspending or even have extra money to help pay off some debt.  allU.S. has free budgeting and money management tools to help you get started.

Personal Debt

The most common budget expense for people is debt, which could be credit card, mortgage, student loans, etc.  It’s very important to understand your debt and develop an action plan to keep your debt under control in an effort to meet your personal financial goals.  

If your debt is high it may be worth considering a debt management plan to help stop collection calls, lower interest rates or monthly payments.  Debt management professionals say people who utilize a debt management plan can usually pay off their entire debt in three to five years.  The most important thing to remember is don’t wait to ask for help until you’re in too deep.  Meet your financial crisis head on.

Taxes

Taxes are the number one area that people overlook when it comes to their personal finances.  There are many opportunities that can help reduce your taxable income like retirement plans, flex spending accounts, charitable donations and even Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).  It’s simple.  By planning out your pre-tax contributions for 2021, you can maximize your tax savings which may help to increase your disposable income.  It’s important to consult a tax professional to evaluate your options.

Evaluate Your Interest Rates

This next step may not be pleasant, but it is necessary.  It’s important to examine all the interest rates you are paying on your loans, which include credit cards, auto, student and mortgages.  You may be able to improve your finances and put more money in your pocket by evaluating how much you could save by refinancing or transferring some of your current debts.

Infuse Your Savings With Cash

Many people can’t handle a financial emergency because they simply don’t have enough money saved. This has become most apparent in this year’s economic decline.  According to bankrate.com over 37% of Americans would have to use a credit card or take out a personal loan just to manage unanticipated expenses.

I can’t express enough how important it is to make saving money an essential habit.  It’s easy to start by putting a little away each month.  As your income increases or expenses decrease start building up a cushion for rainy days.  

Investing

You may already be investing money each month for the future.  But, if you’re not this should be an essential part of your financial wellness plan.  Look to your employer first.  Many employers offer retirement plans like 401ks.  Your employer may even match the money you put aside which helps your balance grow even faster.  There are many investment opportunities to review.  It may make sense to contact an investment professional who can help guide you on what investments make the most sense for your situation.  The sooner you start investing, the more time your money will have to grow.

Make 2021 Your Best Financial Year Ever

By following these simple tips for budgeting your money, managing your debt, boosting your savings and planning for your financial future, you will hopefully be prepared for anything that 2021 may toss at you.  If you are looking for a financial partner that can help, consider allU.S. Credit Union.  We are dedicated to our members in support of ongoing education and financial well-being. We’re committed to being your financial advocate, providing you the necessary resources to better manage your money and make informed financial choices. 

Clean Up Your Finances for the New Year!

After a year of spending, saving, paying off bills and racking up rewards points, your financial life can get a little messy. The end of the year is a great time to regain control of your finances. When you de-clutter your accounts, paperwork and budget, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to make the most of your money.

Roll up your sleeves, dust off your statements and follow these tips for finances that sparkle:

  • Make a budget.  Take the time to examine your budget by detailing everything you spend money on each month, from gas and to dining out.  You’ll see how much you actually need to have on hand each month and what is left over for saving or spending.
  • Streamline your banking. Close up old accounts, switch to online bill pay and sign up for e-statements to reduce paper waste. Shred year-old bank statements, expired warranties, old Social Security statements and tax documents that are over seven years old.
  • Consolidate your debt. Consider rolling all of your high-interest payments into one low-rate personal loan. Close credit cards you don’t need and create a payment strategy to lower your debt. Plan to pay off credit cards with the highest interest rates first.  
  • Organize your savings. Many households have multiple savings accounts, including IRAs, CDs and 401(k)s. Consider moving all of your savings plans to financial institution and consolidating all IRAs to one account. Talk to your employer about moving old 401(k) accounts into the one at your current job, or rolling them to a self-directed IRA. Finally, increase your 401(k) savings so that at a minimum you are saving enough to earn a full match from your employer.
  • Check your credit report.  If it’s been awhile since you last checked your credit report do so now.  Checking your credit report every six months is a smart way to make sure you haven’t been a victim of identity theft. Click here to find out how to get a copy of your credit report.
  • Plan your estate. Update or create your living trust. It’s a fairly easy process that people often put off for obvious reasons. If you have any property (car, house, land, etc.), a living trust prevents lengthy legal battles and guarantees the right people receive your belongings upon your passing.

Need help tidying up? Stop by the allU.S. Credit Union branch or give us a call. We’d be more than happy to help you clean up your finances for 2016!

Protect Your Financial Health During and After the COVID Crisis

As we are all painfully aware, the Coronavirus has altered many aspects of our lives.  People are working and studying from home and shopping and intermingling in ways we never would have expected one year ago.  Simultaneously, millions of people have suffered a significant loss of income at an alarming rate through pay cuts, decrease in work hours and layoffs and furloughs.  These reductions came in response to the stay-at-home orders as businesses and other organizations were forced to close their doors.

The uncontrollable household debt and a continuing health crisis has a lot of individuals and families strapped for cash and need to learn how to manage their debt now and after the health crisis comes to an end.

If you find yourself in debt as a result of the COVID crisis, don’t despair, because there are many steps you can take to effectively deal with your debt.  Dealing with your debt now will put you in an even stronger position when the economy starts its recovery.  There’s no time like the present to buckle down by getting organized and start dealing with your debt in a few easy steps.

You need to know what you owe.

Create a list of all your creditors, your balance with each, your current interest rate and your payment schedule.  This list will allow you to decide how to eliminate your debt over a specific period of time.  This may also be a great opportunity to summarize your recurring monthly bills in an effort to see if there are any areas you could cut or reduce your expenses.

Act swiftly

Contact your creditors to explain how the health crisis has affected your ability to meet your monthly obligations.  There is no shame in asking them for some type of financial assistance.  When you understand your options, you will have the tools you need to help manage your debt.  Now is also a good time to research lower interest rates, balance transfers or other payment options that can help you confront your debt.

Make your payments in a timely manner

Your on-time payment history is the leading contributing factor to a respectable credit score.  Payments 30 days in arears or more negatively affect your credit score.  So, if you’re late, but within that 30-day period, pay up now before it is reported.  Even if you can only pay the minimum, it’s important to pay on time.  The other important reason to pay on time is the impact the late fees will have on your budget and overall debt.  Try automating your payments which can eliminate paying late fees.

Prioritize your debt

Pay off high-interest loans first.  This is called the debt avalanche theory.  This payment method will minimize the burden of compounding interest on your monthly payments.  By using this methodology, you make minimum payments on all but your highest-interest credit.  Once you’ve paid off your first balance, you move on to the second-highest interest rate, and so it continues down the line.

If you are daunted with the size of your balances, maybe a different tactic can be utilized.  Check out the debt snowball method.  

Don’t take on any unnecessary new debt

As you walk through your debt management process and your credit score improves, you can become a target for credit card companies to entice you with new cards with introductory rates.  Stay true to your debt management plan and in time it will work.

Pay yourself first

Make yourself a line item in your monthly budget and pay yourself.  Start by creating an emergency fund to deal with sudden expenses without falling back to credit cards.  Once you have a healthy emergency fund, focus on your retirement goals.  

If you follow these simple steps, you will be in a stronger financial position when the COVID crisis comes to an end or when another crisis comes around.  You’ll be in control of your debt instead of your debt being in control of you.  Talk to us and take advantage of allU.S. Credit Union products and resources.  Unlike the big banks, we’re committed to protecting the financially vulnerable.  If you need some personal guidance on how to navigate these challenging times, we’re here to help.  Ask about our Recovery Loan, skip-a-pay options, and payment extensions.  Always remember the health and success of your credit union depends on our members and your financial health is our number one priority.  So, let’s wash our hands and get down to business. 

What Can You Do With $20?

If you found a twenty-dollar bill on the sidewalk what would you do with it?  Would you spend it on an unexpected splurge or something useful that lasts or that will make your life better in some way.  Below are twenty things I would do if I found a $20 bill.

Add to Your Emergency Fund

Your target is to have six months of living expenses sitting in a savings account for a rainy day. How do you add to that emergency fund? Adding these $20 windfalls to the pot when you have it.  That $20 you added to your fund will be there to help any emergency go easier.  Think of that $20 as a gift to your future self.

Buy Something in Bulk

If you have a household like mine, we go through certain nonperishable items (trash bags, dish soap, Kleenex) on a regular basis.  That $20 I just found allows me to upgrade to a bulk purchase of one of those items. For example, a box of 30 trash bags costs $7.50, but the box with 120 costs $24.  The cost of buying four of those 3-count boxes would be $30 but adding in the $20 I just found I’m only spending $24 for the jumbo box, giving me a savings of $6.

Buy Some Peace of Mind

When you are trying to decide what to do with the $20 think about what makes you sleep well at night. Is it paying down some of your debt or building your emergency fund?   $20 may not look like much but $20/week is $1,000/year.  Now that’s significant.  Little things can make a huge impact over the long term.

Start a Business

You may laugh at that statement but $20 can be the seed money for many businesses.  For example, $20 will pay for the domain name and maybe some hosting for your new website.  How about starting a landscape business?  $20 can buy you the gas you need to start.  That $20 and a lot of your own effort can turn it into profit.

Help Someone in Need

If you found that $20 how about paying it forward.  Just look for an opportunity to put that money to good use.  If you are in a grocery store and you see someone not able to afford their purchase, give them that $20 to help them out.  If you see a homeless person, buy them a sandwich. Just remember, that $20 can be a real life-changer for someone else.  

Visit a Thrift Store

Walk into your local Goodwill with a list of items you need for your home.  There’s a good chance that you will find several items on your list for that $20 and you will get them at a huge discount.  Need a new picture frame or a new toaster? Solved.  $20 has a lot of power at a secondhand store.

Beef up your tool kit

This may sound funny but there are always miscellaneous things you need in your kit.  An all-purpose tool that everyone needs is duct tape. A roll costs you about $2.   Another handy item is a 10-in-one screwdriver and they start around $9. How about an all-purpose hammer?  You never know when you need to hang a picture.

Give Yourself Clear Vision at Home

Christopher Lowell, a designer and author of Christopher Lowell’s Seven Layers of Organization, says the best buy for $20 is to clean your windows at home.  His pick for the job is a garden hose attachment that holds window cleaner and turns your hose into a window-washing machine.  There’s a real emotional uplift when you walk into your home and see clean windows.

Upgrade Your Ride

Auto detailing can make you feel like you have a brand-new car.  The best bargain for your four wheels and $20 is just getting the interior done.  There’s nothing like driving around with a new, fresh smell and a vacuumed interior. 

Spice Up Your Life

Fresh herbs are a great way to put a zing in your meals, but they are also one of the most expensive items at the grocery store.  Growing your own is a great way to save money.   Your $20’s can get you all the supplies you need.  Not only will you save money, but you will get the enjoyment of growing something you are using in your own meals.

Take Your Kids on a Field Trip

When you want to spend a great day with your kids go to a museum or the zoo.  $20 will usually pay for a significant portion of the entrance fee. You can always look for coupons or discounted days to visit.  These types of outings can provide great family time and learning opportunities.

Have Some Fun

Even though there is always something useful to do with a $20 bill, sometimes you can spend it on just fun.  Perhaps it isn’t the most useful way to spend the money but sometimes a little bit of fun gives you the boost you need to get back to useful spending.

If you decide to put that newly found $20 aside, allU.S. can help you make that $20 have a huge impact long term. 

BUILDING A SOLID FINANCIAL FOUNDATION

I think it’s safe to say that most people crave to have a stable financial foundation but don’t feel satisfied with their current status.   Recent surveys from lending institutions found that less than 35% of respondents feel their personal finances are strong.  This tells me there’s a lot of people out there that need some guidance.  Hopefully after you read this blog you will feel more emboldened and ready to commence with building your financial foundation.

What is a Financial Foundation?

Building this type of foundation is a lengthy process.  Your goal should be to build a solid foundation that will take care of your current financial responsibilities while supporting your future financial goals. This means you have to be smart with your short-term purchases and think long-term.

If you want to help boost your financial confidence now and in the future follow these steps to get your started:

1)  GET ORGANIZED

Before you get started, make sure you know your current financial condition. This process will help you get a current view into your financial health.

Start by creating a personal balance sheet.  This is simply a summary of your assets (what you own) and liabilities (what you owe).  Your assets may include items like bank account balances, investments, your home, jewelry, etc. Your liabilities are your debts like your mortgage, vehicle loans, student loans, credit card debt and more. List each asset and liability you have, and this is your personal balance sheet – simple.  Once you have all your figures you will have a sense of your net worth by adding up all your assets and subtracting your liabilities. 

Next, take a look at your monthly cash flow.  This is every source of income you have and the expenses you have on a regular basis.  A budgeting form like this one from the FTCcan help make this process much easier.

And finally, check your credit score.  You are entitled by law to a free copy of your credit report from each major credit bureau.

2)  PROTECT YOURSELF

Now that you know where you stand financially, it’s important you put a plan into place to keep your financially safe while you build your financial foundation.

o   Build an emergency fund:  If you don’t already have one, it’s essential you build one. An emergency fund is essential to keep you financially buoyant, vs. dipping into debt when faced with unexpected costs like healthcare costs or loss of a job.

o   Insurance:  Do you have adequate insurance that can limit your out-of-pocket expenses when unexpected things occur like medical costs, car accidents, etc.?  

o   Estate Plan:  Make sure to create or update your estate plan (trust or will). This will provide a direction to your family or loved ones what you want done with what you leave behind upon your death.  

3)  PRIORITIZE YOUR DEBT REDUCTION

Maintaining some debt can be beneficial but be aware that over-extending yourself due to interest payments can be a deterrent to your long-term financial goals.  So, focusing on debt repayment can be a great way to free up cash and build your financial foundation.  You may want to consider implementing an enhanced debt repayment strategy or even knock down your interest rates by consolidating your loans or credit card debt.

4)  OUTLINE YOUR FINANCIAL GOALS

Now is the time to spell out exactly what financial goals you have for both the short-term and the future.  Write them down and make your goals SMART:  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.  Below are a few ideas:

o   Build an emergency fund

o   Pay off high-interest credit card debt

o   Save for a down payment on a home or condo

o   Review and improve your credit score

o   Learn how to invest wisely

o   Set up a vacation fund to avoid putting it on your credit card

o   Research a secondary stream of income

o   Retire by age 65

5)  LET’S MAKE IT HAPPEN

As soon as you have your balance sheet and goals completed, it’s time to put it into action.  Since your goals need to be achievable and realistic, don’t try to accomplish them all at once.  Step 1 might be as simple as opening a bank account to start your emergency fund or opening a retirement account or making contact with a lawyer to start your estate plan.

·     Have discipline: Stick to the plan

·     Budget: You can’t be financially healthy if you spend more than you earn.

·     Automate: Set up recurring money transfers from your checking to savings or automate your bill payments 

Building your financial foundation will take focus and effort.  If you follow the process outlined above or your own, you’ll see results and hopefully gain confidence in your ability to create and maintain a financially healthy life.

Helping you build a solid, successful financial foundation is of paramount importance to all of us at allU.S. Credit Union, and it begins now. Joining us is your first step. Working and growing together, you’ll see that your financial success will be in your hands.

What is your Financial Personality?

When it comes to managing your finances, are you more likely to be impulsive and positive or stick to a formal plan?  Understanding your financial personality can be important on the journey to reaching your financial goals, whether it’s something short-term like buying a home or longer term like your dream retirement.  For some of us it’s simply about finding a better balance between spending and saving.  

According to Charles Schwab about 43 percent of Americans are “Dreamers” when it comes to their finances – they tend to live in the moment but can also feel unprepared for certain life events.

Only 10 percent are considered financial “Architects” – they not only imagine the future but take pen to paper and map out a plan to make it a reality.  Other personality types include Improvisers (18 percent), Organizers (11 percent), Mavericks (10 percent) and Philosophers (8 percent).

What are your personality traits?

  • Savers: Those who save now so they can enjoy their money later. Savers are debt averse; they pay off their mortgage early.
  • Spenders: People who want to enjoy their money now and worry about the future later. They don’t save much and tend to borrow.
  • Sharers: Those who want to share their money with family, friends, charities or their community.

Recognizing all these characteristics may help you understand why they make the financial decisions they do.

Here are some key themes to help determine your money personality and provide tips to help you achieve your goals:

  • Is juggling your monthly bills a breeze or a tornado?
  • Do you set goals or go with the flow?
  • Are you an engaged investor or a sideline saver?

Click here to take a money personality quiz and learn more about your money personality and tips and tricks to help reach your financial goals.

Once you’re invested, it’s important to stay engaged to stay on track.  Keep an eye on your investment fees and make sure to rebalance about once a year. It’s about understanding who you are, how you can get where you want to go and having a plan to get there.  

Money Management Apps to help boost your finances

Did you know that the average American has $6,375 in credit card debt and 77 million have debt in collections on their credit history?  With these staggering numbers, it’s clear that people need help managing their finances. 

No matter what your financial goals, saving money is always smart, but not always easy.  The good news is there are plenty of apps available to help manage your finances, save spare change and even set and monitor financial goals.

Trash your paper planner and those outdated spreadsheets in favor of these money management apps:

MINT has been one of the most popular personal finance apps on the market for a long time.  It connects to your bank account in order to track your spending habits and provide you with personalized money-saving tips.  You can connect multiple bank accounts, credit cards, and loans and allows you to see everything in one place.  It’s easy to use, great for budgeting and syncs with most banks.

QAPITAL takes the concept of saving money and adds a goal-setting component.  It offers lessons on the value of saving even small amounts and explains how doing so can make a big impact on achieving larger goals.  

WALLA.BY helps consumers think more intelligently about credit card usage and how to make credit work for them.  Walla.by offers a mobile app, browser extension, website and wearable device app, all to help keep you informed on what credit cards to get, how to use them and how to maximize the rewards programs.  

LEVEL MONEY connects with your bank account and provides a suggested monthly spending limit.  The app bases its suggestion off of your income and recurring bills and incorporates a savings plan as well.

LEARNVEST can act as your virtual checkbook.  You can link all your accounts together to track spending and input any cash transactions.

YOU NEED A BUDGET (YNAB) is based on the envelope method when people used to physically split up their cash into envelopes labeled with different spending categories.  The YNAB app makes this process digital by connecting to your bank, tracking your spending and helping you visualize how close you are to hitting your spending goals.

MONEYLOVER is a budgeting and expense tracker that allows you to set limits on spending categories and displays your spending habits in the form of helpful pie charts and bar graphs to help you understand your financial life.  It’s very simple to use and includes bill reminders, debt and loan tracking, and budget forecasting.

HONEY is for people that routinely overspend and do unnecessary shopping.  Using coupons and discounts can help and that’s where Honey comes in.  It’s a free browser that automatically finds and applies coupon codes at checkout on more than 30,000 shopping sites.

BUDGET BOSS allows you to be your own financial planner. Budget Boss links to your bank account and predicts what your spending and savings pattern will be into the future. It can project debt payoffs and savings calculations, which will help you, stick to your budget.

CLARITY MONEY helps you do away with wasteful spending that you’re probably not even aware of.  This app helps determine where money is being wasted on things like unused or unnecessary subscriptions.  It searches for opportunities to negotiate lower interest rates on existing loans and recommends credit cards that may better fit your needs.  Clarity Money also includes a feature to track spending and help you stick to a budget.

BLUECOINS can help you plan and stick to a budget while providing alerts and reminders to help you avoid missing a bill or over drafting your account.  You can sync data across different devices, customize your budget and get a complete picture of your cash flow and net worth.

DEBT FREE CALCULATOR can figure out the optimal payment strategy for your loans and credit cards.  You’ll be able to figure out what’s best to tackle first:  highest balances, lowest balances, highest interest rate, etc. and prepare a payoff schedule that’s best for you.

MONEYDESKTOP from allU.S. Credit Union provides you access to a personal financial management software program whereby online banking becomes a “hub” of financial activity.  With this service you can aggregate accounts from almost any financial institution, allowing you to:

·     Track spending

·     Create budgets

·     Manage your debt

·     …..and more!

This is all available within your allU.S. online banking account for FREE!

REMEMBER when using your phone or other devices for financial purposes, it’s important to make sure you have a PIN for accessing the device, no auto-login for apps and a way to remotely shut down your device, if you can.

If you’ve been struggling to budget or even save, a combination of some of these apps can help you get started by establishing a comprehensive budget to manage your income and expenses.  If you’d like help improving your financial situation, reach out to allU.S. or take advantage of our financial calculators to help you understand your financial relationships.

How’s Your Financial Vocabulary?

In order to improve your financial wellness it is necessary to understand your financial literacy vocabulary.  Do you know the difference between a credit score and a credit report?  A debit and a credit card?  A routing and bank account number?  Below we have highlighted some of the most common financial terminology to help improve your financial literacy.

BUDGET:  A tool that can be used to track income and expenses within a certain period of time.  Managing your budget can show you where your money is going.  Clickto see other money saving techniques.  

CREDIT SCORE:  A number assigned to individuals that determines their creditworthiness.  Lenders use it to estimate how likely a person would be to pay back a requested loan. Scores range from 300-850, 850 being a perfect score.  The higher your score the more access you have to lending opportunities at lower rates. We recommend aiming for a score above 720, which is based upon your credit history and your credit report.

CREDIT REPORT:  A collection of a person’s entire credit history. Everyone is permitted to view a free copy of their report at each of the three major credit bureaus.  It is recommended to routinely check your credit repot for mistakes or fraud that should be reported.  You can get a free copy of your personal credit report an annualcreditreport.com.

DEPOSIT ACCOUNT:  A liquid type of checking account available at most banks and credit unions.  These types of accounts make it very easy to access your funds through withdrawals at the financial institution, ATM or debit card.

ACH TRANSFERS:  ACH stands for Automatic Clearing House, which is an electronic network used by banks and credit unions to make financial transfers in the U.S.  This type of network is mainly used for direct deposits and direct payments from bank to bank.  

DEBIT CARD:  A card that is attached directly to checking accounts. You can pay with a debit card, which pulls funds directly from a checking account to make purchases or pay bills.  These cards are a substitute to paying with cash, checks or credit cards. 

CREDIT CARD:  This other plastic card is also issued by a financial institution, which allows you to make purchases or pay bills up to a certain amount and pay back that same amount at a later date with interest.  

EMV OR CHIP TECHNOLOGY: A secure transaction that utilizes encrypted chips to reduce fraud on those plastic cards listed above.  These cards come with a small chip that can be inserted into a point-of-sale machine to complete a payment transaction.  Each transaction is coded uniquely by the chip.

PIN NUMBER:  A personal identification number used to validate the identity of a person for electronic transactions.  It is simply an extra layer of security.

ROUTING NUMBER:  This is a 9-digit number that is located on the bottom left of a personal or business check.  It is sometimes called the electronic address that is unique to the financial institution.  

DIRECT DEPOSIT:  An Automated Clearing House (ACH) transaction, where your payment is electronically transferred to a bank account.  This type of payment could be a paycheck, pension check, social security payment, etc.  This type of transaction can be used in lieu of a paper check.

OVERDRAFT:  An overdraft is when you attempt a transaction that would exceed the balance in your account.  Usually the bank or credit union extends a temporary line of credit that allows the transaction to be completed.  Be aware, if an overdraft does occur you are expected to bring the account balance up to a positive number but also pay the service fee.

SHARE ACCOUNT (SAVINGS ACCOUNT):  A basic account that earns interest on the money in the account.  At a traditional bank these accounts are called savings accounts and at credit unions they are called share accounts because they represent a member’s stake in their ownership.

ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE (APR):  Shows the annual cost of interest over the principal amount of a loan.  As an example, if the APR on a loan is 8.99% you can calculate that 8.99% of the loan amount would be paid in interest.  The APR helps compare rates at different banks.

ANNUAL PERCENTAGE YIELD (APY):  The APY shows how much interest will be earned.  It uses a very basic calculation to approximate the annual rate of return based on the balance in the account for a full year.  

PRINCIPAL:  The initial amount given to a borrower, excluding the interest owed during repayment of the loan.  

INTEREST:  The fee you pay for borrowing the money.  When a loan is taken out, you’ll not only owe the loan amount but also an additional percentage of the money, which is the interest.

VARIABLE INTEREST RATE: Interest rate that changes periodically based on economic conditions.  

FIXED INTEREST RATE: An interest rate that never changes during the life of the loan.  

If we missed any terms that you would like to know, tell us in the comments.  Try out our free loan calculator tool (https://alluscu.com/amortizing-loan-calculator/).  Just enter in loan rates and terms and see how much you may spend in interest over time. You can also use the tool to compare loans from other credit unions and banks.  

BACK TO SCHOOL SEASON IS UPON US!

That’s why we’re providing 10 tips on how to save for back to school shopping:

  1. Hold off buying trendier gear like lunch boxes and pencil cases.  Kids may love a version they find now, but once they start school and see that their friends are all using another kind, they will beg you to upgrade them – and that only results in wasted cash.
  2. Shop end-of-summer sales: You know as well as we do that kids wear short sleeve polo shirts all year long, so hit the huge summer sales and snap up discounted duds that can be worn well into fall.
  3. Stick to the list: The teacher’s supply list is daunting enough so don’t add to it by buying stuff that is not needed. By the end of the school year those items will be discarded anyway.
  4. Head to the supermarket for basic supplies! Check weekly circulars for great deals on pens and loose-leaf paper, and get your weekly grocery shopping done at the same time.
  5. Host a back-to-school swap.  Round up a couple of other moms with kids the same gender as yours but different ages, and host an annual clothes swap. Trade toys and books, too!
  6. Plan lunches.  When you are the one that is in charge of what your kid eats, the more money you will save.  Plan out weekly lunches in accordance with the school’s schedule so they don’t feel like they’re missing theme days.  Or another idea is to only pay for one at-school lunch a week of your kids choosing.  Then, brown bag the rest!
  7. Buy Bright!  That way it is harder for your children to lose their supplies and easier to find if they do!
  8. Shop the big three – Old Navy, Gap Kids, and The Children’s Place rotate merchandise often.  Ask when their markdowns are so you can grab the deals. Also, if you see an item you bought in the past 14 days on sale later, you can get the difference refunded; you don’t need the clothing, just the receipt.
  9. Browse Craigslist.org – Sometimes the cheapest things are the easiest to find. Just go to craigslist.org and find low-cost supplies!
  10. Let your kids raid the school supplies and then personalize them when they get home.

Going back to school can be an exciting time for your children, but it tends to bring a bit of stress for us and is never fun on the wallet.   Hopefully, if you follow these tips, back to school time will be a little less stressful, you’ll have extra money in your pocket, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll even have a ton of fun this year!