Vacation

Planning a Vacation? Make Sure Your Expenses Are Covered

Summer vacation will be here before you know it. And if you’re planning a family trip, you might want to make sure all your financial ducks are in a row so you can relax about money and just enjoy your time away from home.

First, make sure you’re getting the most cost-effective deals. See if you can use credit card rewards to cover part of your family’s air fare or hotel stay – like with our VISA Platinum with ScoreCard® Rewards. And when you’re choosing a hotel, look for one that offers a variety of freebies, such as discounts on food or hotel amenities, so your hotel funds will go farther.

Also check your organization memberships to see if they offer discounts on the activities you want to do on your trip.

Next, if you plan to use a loan to help pay for the vacation, get that taken care of now. You can choose a personal loan with fixed payments or a home equity loan or line of credit. That way you’ll be set with the funds you need when you’re buying your tickets, plus you’ll have what you need when you start your travels. And you’ll have time to decide exactly how much you’ll need to borrow so you will have enough for all the things you want to do. Give us a call at 419.479.4040 to find out more about the options we’ve got to help you fund your vacation.

Finally, decide how you’re going to pay for things while you’re out of town. It can be a good idea to have a mix of cash and credit cards. Some establishments might take cash only, especially if you’re at an open air market or small mom and pop shop, so having a small amount of cash will help you make sure you’re able to pay no matter where you are. But credit cards offer fraud protection, and if they are lost or stolen on the trip, you can call and have them cancelled and replaced — if you lose cash, you’re usually out of luck. Having one or two credit cards also means you’ve got the means to pay if there is an unplanned expense — and you can earn more rewards to use on your next trip.

One important tip — give us a call and let us know what dates you’ll be travelling and where you’re going. That way, we can alert the fraud monitoring serve we use to keep your funds safe so they will allow the charges. (There are certain countries where U.S. credit cards cannot be used, and we can help guide you on payment methods if you plan to travel to one of these.)

Happy travels!

Categories:
Home Improvements

Home Improvements That Matter

When you’re looking to upgrade your home, tapping into the equity with a home equity loan or line of credit makes a lot of sense.

In some cases, the interest on the loan might be tax deductible — and even if it isn’t, home equity loans typically carry a lower interest rate than credit cards or other types of loans. And if the upgrades increase your home value,  you may end up with more equity than when you started.

But, a lot of upgrades don’t appreciably increase your home’s value, and they might be better paid for with savings or by earning extra money to cover the costs. Another option would be to trade services with a contractor, if you’ve got skills that can earn money.

Wise Home Improvements

Certain home upgrades tend to provide more value than the actual cost.

Kitchen upgrades can offer great value. New lighting, modern appliances, and better storage can really increase your home’s value while also making your kitchen easier to use.

Bathroom renovations can also be a safe bet. Tile, a tub refresh, and, again, new cabinets, are great options. Fresh paint is also useful.

Paint in any room — or on the exterior — can offer good return on investment if you’re covering a funky or outdated color, especially if you do a lot of the work yourself rather than paying a professional.

Outside, you might want to invest in landscaping or patio or deck upgrades.

Home Improvements That Are a Bust

Trendy upgrades that may be out of fashion in the next few years don’t tend to be a good bet.

Wall-to-wall carpeting can also be a bad investment, as many buyers may plan to rip it out and replace it with an easier-to-clean laminate or wood floor.

Expensive upgrades, even in the kitchen or bathroom, might also be a waste of money, if they don’t fit the style of the home or offer the type of experience that is out of step with the home values in your neighborhood. For example, a full spa shower in a 1,000 square foot ranch home in a modest neighborhood might be nice, but these upgrades are not likely to bring you a better sale price. Same with a commercial grade stove or $10,000 refrigerator may not be a great value.

Now, if you’ve got the money for these upgrades and would love them, by all means go for it, especially if you plan to be in your house using them for a long time. But don’t go into debt or decrease your available home equity for them.

Got more questions about smart ways to use a home equity loan or line of credit? Give us a call at 419-479-4040. We can’t wait to talk to you about your needs.

Credit Union Difference

Do you know the real credit union difference?

Here at ProMedica Credit Union, we talk a lot about the “credit union difference.” But what does that mean?

Ownership Matters

First and foremost, the ownership of a credit union differentiates it from other types of financial institutions. Rather than a for-profit organization run by a paid board of directors who report to shareholders, a credit union is a not-for-profit financial cooperative. That means you are the owners. And our volunteer board of directors — who you vote for — work to ensure that the credit union continues to meet the needs of all its member-owners.

You Benefit from the Profits

When ProMedica Credit Union makes a profit, we are able to give you a better deal. We keep our loan rates and fees low, and we pay higher interest rates on deposit accounts.

We also reinvest profits into the credit union to ensure that you have access to the financial products and services you need. And we provide educational opportunities to ensure that every member has the information they need to make smart financial decisions.

The Local Economy Grows

Most important, though, the money you entrust to us at ProMedica Credit Union stays in our area. Our staff and leadership lives in this community, and we make all our lending decisions locally.

So every time you walk into a branch, use your debit or credit card, or take advantage of our low loan rates and fees, you know you’re helping the local economy thrive. The American Independent Business Alliance gathered various studies of the economic impact of local businesses, and on average, locally owned businesses recirculate 48% of the funds spent there, as compared to 12% from non-local stores.

So, your deposits can help your fellow members buy their first house or car, start a business, or fund their education. And when you use our auto lending program to buy your next new or used car, you’re likely to go to a locally owner car dealer. The salesperson will earn a commission that helps support his or her family. The owner will use the funds to keep the dealership open and pay non-sales staff. The owner will also advertise on local radio an in local newspapers. The salesperson and staff will spend their salaries at local grocery stores, shops, and restaurants, keeping those business afloat and the employees working.

If you like to buy local, you’re going to love banking locally at ProMedica Credit Union, too.

Healthy Eating

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

When was the last time you tried to eat cheaply? You probably focused on a lot of ramen, maybe some potatoes and rice, and occasional trips to the dollar menu. Although these foods are cheap, they are lacking in nutrition — and loaded with sodium.

Healthy food has a reputation for being expensive. And you may need to spend a little more than on a five-pound bag of potatoes and 25-cent packs of salty noodles.

But with a little careful planning, you can eat well without breaking the bank.

Here’s how.

Focus on fiber

Fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains are super-healthy — and cheap. Make these the centerpiece of your meal to save money. You don’t have to go meatless if you don’t want to, just cook smaller portions of meat and larger sides.

Want to get the best deals on whole grains and beans? Buy dry beans — these cost a fraction of the price of canned beans. And use the bulk bins to stock up on grains.

Skip pricey organics

If you prefer organic foods, make sure your organic dollars go to the most important items. The Environmental Working Group puts together an annual list of the Clean 15, fruits and vegetables that have the least pesticide residue and are safe to buy in the cheaper conventional version.

Buy in season

Why buy a pale bland tomato in the middle of winter — especially when it costs about four times as much as it would in the summer. Seasonal produce will be the best bargain.

Not sure what’s in season? Eat the Seasons posts a list of fruits and vegetables that are in season by month. You can also tell by seeing what’s got the lowest price in the product section at the store.

Want bonus points? Try shopping at your local farmer’s market or through a community-supported agriculture cooperative. Not only will your food be in season, it will be super-fresh.

Learn to preserve

If you’ve got a freezer, you can turn some of that in-season bounty into off-season delights. You can blanch (lightly boil) and freeze many fruits and vegetables. You can even make your own freezer tomato sauce and salsa so you can enjoy fresh tomato flavor in mid-winter. And your homemade frozen items will be much cheaper than the bags you find in the freezer section of the grocery store.

And consider buying meat in bulk and freezing it in meal-size portions. You can typically save more than a dollar per pound, depending on the type and cut of meat, when you buy the family packs. Ensure it will stay fresh longer by investing in a vacuum sealer. This affordable appliance will pay for itself easily — and you can use it to seal your frozen vegetables and fruits, too.

Stay home more

If you’ve been spending on eating take-out and sit-down restaurant meals, you’ll be amazed at how much money you can save by cooking at home. (As a bonus, many meals take less time than calling ahead and driving to pick up your dinner.) Can’t bear to part with your favorite take-out? Try a web search for “RESTAURANT NAME DISH copycat recipe.” You’ll be amazed at how many great recipes you can find that way.

Now, what will you do with all the money you saved on food?

Categories:
Rent or own photo

What is Your American Dream?

These days, the “American Dream” is no longer a universal idea; it means different things to different people. In previous decades, the American Dream meant doing better than your parents, which can include buying a home. But today, owning property isn’t necessarily everyone’s immediate goal.

During the Great Recession, between 2007 and 2014, 7.3 million consumers lost their homes, according to RealtyTrac. With so many families affected by this loss, it is no surprise that in recent years the home ownership rate has fallen from 69 percent in the early 2000s to 63.7 percent at the beginning of 2015, according to the Washington Post. As home ownership has declined, the 2010s are on track to see the fastest growth in renters in history.

In the Ohio Credit Union League’s 2017 Consumer Survey, 25 percent of all respondents do not own their home, and only 8 percent of all respondents are planning on buying a house in the next year. A CityLab article recently reported that renting is increasing nationally across an array of demographics, including age and income bracket. This indicates people are renting because they choose to, not because it’s their only option.

Some consumers want more flexibility and don’t want to be locked into a mortgage when they might want to leave in a few months or years. Some don’t want the responsibility of maintenance and shouldering costs of homeownership, and would rather rely on landlords to handle. To others, choosing a location, even if they can’t afford to buy a home in the desired area, is the deciding factor, and they are willing to forego ownership to live exactly where they want.

As for how Ohio consumers make their housing decisions, 67 percent of survey respondents said location plays the biggest role, followed by 23 percent who consider monthly rent or mortgage payment to be the most significant factor. The size and layout were the most important consideration for 10 percent of respondents.

So, will you put off those big life purchases or remain a mainstay of the American Dream with homeownership? For those weighing renting vs. buying, here are a few things to consider about where you want to live.

• Short-term future: Think about the lifestyle you want to live. If you’d like to stay in a place for at least five years and have enough savings to make a down payment, buying a house may be the best choice. Use a home affordability calculator to crunch the numbers.

• Consider the details: Moving to a new home isn’t just about the building where you’ll be living. Think about the neighborhood: what stores, shops, and restaurants are nearby? Is your new home close to public transportation? If you have kids, what sort of schools does the area have?

• Be prepared: Check your credit score and history before you look for a new place. If you’re going to rent, get renter’s insurance. If you’re going to buy, get pre-approved financing to ensure a smooth closing process. Fully understand the terms of your lease or purchase agreement.

• Take your time: Avoid waiting until the last minute to decide where you’ll be living next. Knowing what’s available in your market will help you choose well and save the trouble of moving again shortly.

ProMedica FCU will be hosting a home buyer seminar in the near future. Please keep a look out for dates and times.

Estate Planning

How can a little planning protect your assets and your family?

We make five-year life plans, savings plans, and even dinner plans, but what about the plan for when the unthinkable happens and we are no longer here to care for our families? Nationally, only 42 percent of adults in this country have estate planning documents such as a will or living trust, according to a Caring.com survey. The numbers in Ohio are slightly more encouraging; with 57 percent saying they have a will in place stipulating who will care for their children in the event of the parents’ death, according to results from the Ohio Credit Union League’s 2017 Consumer Survey.

Two things people don’t like to talk about are money and death. However, taking care of these uncomfortable subjects with a will can formally address the distribution of assets, and for parents, outline directives for the care and custody of their children. These formal papers communicate your wishes to the people who you want to care for your children and communicate your intentions to the state via legally recorded documents.

What many people don’t realize is that verbally stating your wishes to family members and friends is not enough to ensure those wishes are followed. Without a will, the state takes the responsibility of dictating the disposition of any property and the care of any children. People also sometimes think they don’t have enough assets to warrant the trouble and cost of a will. Regardless of how much or how little one has accumulated, most people would still rather decide what happens to their assets than have the government make that determination.

Most parents don’t want to think about dying or becoming incapacitated, but it’s a possibility that shouldn’t be ignored. It’s important to make sure children are provided for, and it’s imperative to clarify parents’ wishes for the children’s care and upbringing should they be unable to raise them. Even people without a lot of assets or a complicated financial picture should follow these basic guidelines to protect their children’s interests.

• Designate first responders: These people will go to your children in a time of crisis. Ensure these trusted friends or families have the appropriate documentation to establish their clear legal authority to care for your kids. This will guarantee your children go directly into the care of an adult of your choosing rather than into the foster care system until the courts determine who should have guardianship.

• Define guardians for long-term care: Parents can agree upon guardians for their children, and even verbally communicate their wishes to their families. But if those intentions are not communicated in a legally-binding, written document, every family member would have equal priority of guardianship, and again, the courts will be the final say in who raises the children. This legal documentation is especially important if you choose a friend, rather than a family member, as a guardian.

• Make sure the designated guardians know how you want your children raised: What educational, spiritual, and cultural path do you want them to take? The only way to ensure your children are raised with the values you would have instilled in them yourself is to make those values clear to the guardians you’ve chosen.

• Document your plan, regardless of your assets: If you have any assets at all, you should have a will. You’ll want to make sure the right thing happens to your assets, and to your children, in the event of your death. Simple estate planning can be done with online legal document services, but it’s still wise to speak to an attorney about drawing up your will.

• Plan to provide sufficient financial support: When you have children, you are responsible for supporting them until adulthood. With sufficient life insurance, even if you pass away, you can still fulfill that responsibility and financially provide for your family. It’s not just the main breadwinner who needs life insurance. Even stay-at-home parents who don’t earn an income should be insured. If they pass away, everything they do without getting paid needs to be done by someone like child-care providers, which require weekly fees.

Categories:
Emergency Savings

Nearly a Quarter of Americans Have No Emergency Savings

Nearly a quarter of Americans have no emergency savings, according to a new report from Bankrate.com.

However, the percentage of those without an emergency fund currently sits at a six year low, down to 24% this year from 28% last year.

Additionally, Americans with an adequate savings cushion – enough to cover six months’ expenses or more – jumped to 31% (from 22% in 2015 and 28% last year), a new high during the seven years Bankrate.com has been polling on this subject.

Overall, Americans are doing a better job at saving. Those with some savings, but not enough to cover three months’ expenses, increased from 18% to 20%. Americans with enough savings to cover 3-5 months’ expenses nosed higher from 16% to 17%.

Bankrate.com chief financial analyst Greg McBride, CFA commented, “With all the spending that is not happening in the economy, something else apparently is – Americans are putting money in savings! We’re still not out of the woods yet – everyone should strive to have at least six months’ expenses socked away for the unexpected – but it’s encouraging to see progress being made.”

The tendency to have no emergency savings is highest among those ages 53-62, who seem to be all-or-nothing, as they have an equal propensity to have no emergency savings and enough to cover six months’ expenses (32% for each).

After that, the likelihood of having zero emergency savings declines substantially; the oldest Americans (63+) report the lowest likelihood of having nothing set aside for a rainy day (17%) and the highest probability of at least a six month reserve (44%).

While one quarter of Millennials and Generation Xers lack any emergency savings, younger Millennials (ages 18-26) seem to be well on their way; they have the highest propensity to have enough to cover 3-5 months’ expenses (31%). Generation X is most likely to have some savings, but not enough to cover three months’ expenses (28%).

Not surprisingly, those with enough emergency savings to cover at least six months’ expenses tend to be higher income and more highly educated, while those with no emergency savings are more likely to be lower income and have lesser levels of education.

That being said, lower-middle income households ($30K-$49.9K per year) are more likely to have enough savings to cover six months’ or more of expenses than to have no savings at all.

Residents of the Midwest are most likely to have enough to cover six months’ expenses or more, while residents of the South are least likely.

If you are looking at jump-starting your emergency savings, talk to a representative at ProMedica FCU. ProMedica FCU has several products and services to assist your savings plan including a save your change account that makes savings easy and automatic. ProMedicaFCU also has financial counselors on staff to assist with other important financial areas such as budgeting and credit. Contact ProMedica FCU at 419-479-4040.

Categories:
Mortgage Rates

Mortgage Rates Remain Near 7-Month Lows

Mortgage rates touched seven-month lows early this month, and stayed there last week.
According to Bankrate.com’s weekly national survey, the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate inched lower last week, moving from 4.04 percent down to 4.02 percent.

The larger jumbo 30-year fixed nosed up to 4.00 percent, and the average 15-year fixed mortgage rate settled at 3.25 percent. Adjustable mortgage rates were mixed, with the 3-year ARM slipping to 3.48 percent while the 7-year ARM climbed to 3.60 percent.

Bankrate points out that, despite another interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve, mortgage rates are hovering at the lowest point since mid-November and are little changed from where they were 18 months ago when the Fed started boosting interest rates.

The common theme then, as now, has been a slow growth economy with low inflation. This week brought additional evidence of low inflation and the recent softening has garnered the attention of the Fed, who noted in their statement that they are “monitoring inflation developments closely.”

Mortgage rates are closely related to yields on long-term government bonds, which appeal to investors any time uncertainty, or low inflation, is in the air.

Car Prices

Car Prices: Something Funny Is Going On

People are paying way too much for new vehicles these days, with average transaction way out of whack with average household incomes.

According to Kelley Blue Book, the estimated average transaction price (ATP) for light vehicles in the United States was $33,261 in May 2017. According to the government, the median household income in the U.S. was $56,000 in 2015.

This is just too much, once we apply the time-tested “20/4/10” rule.

Use This Rule to Determine How Much Car You Can Afford:

This rule stipulates that a car is affordable when a buyer can make a down payment of at least 20%, use financing lasting no longer than four years — with principal, interest and insurance not exceeding 10% of a household’s gross income.

If a median-income household cannot buy a median-priced new vehicle using the “20/4/10” rule, then we have a problem with affordability.

So, why are new vehicle sales so strong? The answer to this is simple: people aren’t following the “20/4/10” rule, and automakers keep coming up with ingenious new financing strategies that ensure they won’t.

Think about the number of “0 Down” financing schemes on offer; think of all of the factory leasing deals.

Leasing used to represent a tiny portion of new vehicle transactions. Today, more than 50% of all new vehicles are leased in certain vehicle categories.

In short, car companies are making it easier than ever to help Americans drive away in vehicles that they cannot really afford (according to the “20/4/10” rule).

Don’t Buy the Payment

Car salesmen are trained to “sell the payment” to buyers. If the monthly payment is do-able, a sale can be made. The trouble is, getting that monthly payment down to an “affordable” level often means stretching payment out to 60 months, 72 months or even more. It also means factory lease deals that may seem cheap, until you factor in that they leave you with nothing at trade-in time.

Before You Shop for a Vehicle, Go See ProMedica FCU

The simple truth is that following the “20/4/10” rule is still an excellent way to buy a new vehicle without threatening your long-term financial health.

If you’re considering a new vehicle purchase, do yourself a favor and go see ProMedica FCU before you drive to a dealer lot.

ProMedica FCU will help you to see how different car buying scenarios fit in with your other financial goals – such as saving for emergencies and retirement. It’s the best way to ensure that you don’t buy yourself a shiny new mistake.

Categories:
Identity Theft

Consumers, be wary: Identity theft is on the rise

If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you’re not alone. Thirty-three percent of Ohioans reported that they’d been victimized by fraud and/or identity theft in a year-end 2016 survey conducted by the Ohio Credit Union League. More could have suffered at the hands of fraudsters without knowing it yet.

In 2015, Ohio had the twelfth greatest number of identity theft-related complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission. Dayton ranked 34th and Cleveland/Elyria ranked 38th among the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas with the most identity theft-related consumer complaints.

According to a study by Barclays, most identity theft that occurs happens in the United States (about 47 percent); 55 percent of these identity thefts are caused by a malicious outsider, followed by an accidental loss of the card (25 percent). EMV chips (which stands for “Europay, MasterCard, and Visa” and is a global standard to authenticate and secure global card transactions) have caused a decline in the use of counterfeit cards.

These days, 45 percent of identity theft is committed online. Online fraud gives hackers and predators a multitude of ways to get your information. From creating fake forms to posing as legitimate companies, the internet has spawned a wide array of tactics to get your personal and financial information, which means consumers need to remain vigilant.

Some of the most common forms of identity theft are:

• Child ID theft: Children’s IDs are vulnerable because the theft may go undetected for many years. By the time they are adults, the damage has already been done to their identities.

• Tax ID theft: A thief uses your Social Security number to falsely file tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service or state government.

• Medical ID theft: This form of ID theft happens when someone steals your personal information, such as your Medicare ID or health insurance member number, to get medical services or to issue fraudulent billing to your health insurance provider.

• Senior ID theft: These ID theft schemes target seniors. Seniors are vulnerable to ID theft because they are in more frequent contact with medical professionals who gather their medical insurance information, or caregivers and staff at long-term care facilities who have access to personal information or financial documents.

• Social ID theft: This type of thief uses your name, photos, and other personal information to create a phony account on a social media platform.

Despite the prevalence of identity theft, only half of the League’s survey respondents closely monitor their accounts to check for fraudulent transactions. On the other hand, 10 percent figure that someone will let them know if any of their accounts have been compromised and just leave protecting their identity and accounts to their financial institutions.

Here are some steps savvy consumers can take to protect themselves from identity theft:

• Guard your (and your children’s) personal information: Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your number on your checks. Only give out your Social Security number when absolutely necessary. Ask if there is an alternative way for you to verify your identity. Don’t respond to unsolicited requests for personal information and store personal information in a safe place.

• Keep an eye on your accounts: Pay attention to billing cycles. If bills or statements are late, contact the sender. Collect mail promptly and put your mail on hold when you’re away for several days, so thieves don’t have a chance to get to account information on mail left in your box. Review your receipts and compare them to your account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions. Shred receipts and credit card offers and other paperwork you don’t need, but that could contain personal information.

• Be vigilant online: Install firewalls and virus detection software on your home computer and create complex passwords that fraudsters can’t easily guess. Change passwords often, especially if a company or organization has your information and has suffered a database breach.

• Order your credit report once a year: Review it to make sure it doesn’t include accounts you have not authorized. Check it more frequently if you suspect someone has gained access to your account information. You can pull this information for free at sites like www.CreditKarma.com and www.annualcreditreport.com. If you are having trouble reading your credit report, please contact ProMedica FCU for assistance.

ProMedica FCU’s Pinnacle Checking Account includes identity theft protection for up to 3 generations of family.

Categories: