Should I Buy A House During The Holidays?

Q: I’m in the market for a new home and wondering if I should push off my search until door with holiday wreathafter the holidays. Is it a good idea to buy a new home during Christmas?

A: While spring and summer tend to see the highest volume of home sales, it doesn’t mean they’re the only time to buy a house.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the myths and lesser-known facts about timing the purchase of a home and explore the pros and cons of buying during the holidays.

The myth about buying in the spring

Contrary to popular belief, springtime can be the worst season to purchase a home. While the longer daylight hours do make it easier to check out the exterior, shopping for a new house during the hottest real estate season can mean facing all kinds of drawbacks and difficulties.

First, and most importantly, sellers tend to mark up their prices when they see heightened demand for their homes. Also, the flooded market can lead to expensive bidding wars with buyers who are also interested in the same property. Plus, if your search is successful and you find a new home during the spring, the closing process can drag out much longer than necessary as title companies, inspectors and movers may not be able to service you in a timely manner during their busiest season of the year.

Why Christmas can be a better time to buy

Shopping for a home during the winter, and especially during the holidays, offers the following advantages:

Homes are priced to sell

Most of the houses you’ll find on the market during the late fall and early winter will be holdovers from the spring and summer season. At this point, homeowners may be desperate to sell and get their property off their hands. Alternatively, the houses may have just been put on the market because of the owner’s sudden and urgent need to relocate due to unforeseen factors like a job change, divorce or another life-altering event. In either case, the owner is looking to sell quickly, and will likely be more willing to compromise on their original asking price than homeowners selling in the spring and summer. In fact, according to The Wall Street Journal, home prices can drop to a 12-month low in December.

Holiday spirit makes people more agreeable

People tend to be in a more generous frame of mind around the holidays. Let this factor work in your favor by shopping for a home during the holiday season. You can walk away with a dream home at a dream price, and you may even be able to negotiate some extras, like furniture or a fresh coat of paint, into the selling price.

Fewer buyers on the market

With more people looking to relocate during the spring and summer months, you’ll have less competition when house-hunting around Christmas time. This will give you an edge in bidding wars and it will make it easier for you to negotiate to bring down an asking price on a home.

Professionals of the field are more available

December is usually the slowest month of the year for home sales. This can work to your advantage if you choose to buy a home around the holidays. Your real estate agent will likely have plenty of time to show you around since fewer other people are looking to buy during this season. The various professionals you’ll need to hire during the home-buying process-including an attorney, home inspector, underwriter and mover-will likely be able to service you promptly as well.

Before you go house hunting

While buying a house during the holidays can be a great idea, keep these factors in mind before you give your agent a call:

  • Daylight hours are short during the winter, giving you a small window of opportunity to search.
  • You won’t be able to see a home’s property in its full glory during the winter months.
  • Some sellers may not be too keen on throwing their homes open to viewers during the holidays.
  • Unexpected inclement weather may delay some parts of the home-buying process, like the inspection or even the closing.
  • You’ll have fewer homes to choose from when house-hunting during the winter, as a cooler real estate market means slimmer pickings.

Shopping for a new home during the holidays may not be conventional, but it can mean finding your home sweet home quickly, easily and for a far better price.

If you’re in the market for a new home, make sure to stop by [credit_union] to ask about our home loan options. We’ll help you move into your dream home with the most favorable terms.

Your Turn: Have you bought a home during the holidays? Tell us about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://fitsmallbusiness.com/best-and-worst-time-to-buy-a-house/

https://www.thebalance.com/when-is-the-best-time-to-buy-a-home-1798329
http://www.freddiemac.com/blog/homeownership/20170129_pros_cons_buying_home_in_winter.page
https://loans.usnews.com/articles/reasons-to-buy-a-house-during-the-holidays
https://blog.nationwide.com/best-time-to-buy-a-house/
https://www.thebalance.com/selling-your-home-during-the-holidays-1799068
https://realestate.usnews.com/real-estate/articles/should-you-consider-buying-a-home-during-the-winter

All You Need To Know About Home Loans

Here at Destinations Credit Union, we provide a variety of products and services to meetimage of a mortgage application your specific financial needs and in the most ideal ways possible. One such example is our home loans. Let’s take a closer look at this product and how its application process works.

What is a home loan?

A home loan, or a mortgage, enables you to purchase a home without having to foot all the cash out of your pocket when purchasing. You will, however, need to make a down payment, which is typically between 3.5-20% of the home’s appraised value, along with closing costs and some other fees. The lender then finances the rest of the purchase. You’ll repay the loan, along with interest, over the course of (generally) 15 to 30 years.

Are all home loans alike?

Before you get started, you’ll need to choose a mortgage type. A conventional loan will necessitate a 5-20% down payment on the home.

There’s also an FHA loan, which only requires a down payment of 3.5%, but necessitates mortgage insurance. If you’re a military veteran, consider obtaining a VA loan, which lets you buy a home with zero down payment.

Once you’ve chosen the kind of loan which is best for your scenario, you may be given a choice of repayment arrangements for that loan.

Here are the three common types of mortgages:

  1. 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. The interest rate on this 30-year mortgage will remain fixed no matter the changes to the national rate.
  2. 15-year fixed-rate mortgage. This mortgage will also have a fixed interest rate, but the term lasts just 15 years. The monthly payments will be higher, but the overall interest paid over the course of the loan will be significantly lower.
  3. Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM).  An ARM gives the borrower a lower interest rate in the early years of the loan, and then a gradual increase (adjustment) in rate over the rest of the life of the mortgage if rates are going up.

What do I need to know before applying for a home loan?   

A home is likely to be the largest purchase you will ever make. To qualify for one, you will need to prove that you are living a financially responsible life and that you can afford the monthly payments.

The primary way lenders gauge your financial responsibility is through your credit score. This number is like a grade that tells lenders how you’ve handled your past credit card accounts and other debts. It will include the length of time you’ve had your credit cards and loans open, the timeliness with which you’ve made your payments, the trajectory of your debt and the amount of available credit you might use. Most lenders will only grant a home loan to borrowers with a credit score of 650 or higher. You can check your score for free on Credit Karma. You might also consider ordering a free credit report from all three major credit bureaus once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com.

During the time leading to your mortgage applications, make sure to pay all your bills on time, don’t open new credit cards and work on paying down overall debt. A higher credit score will help you get approved quicker and it will net you a lower interest rate on your loan.

Another crucial factor in determining your eligibility for a mortgage is your debt-to-income ratio, or your DTI. Lenders want to know how big your collective outstanding debt will be in relation to your income if you receive the home loan. Most lenders will only allow a maximum DTI of 36%.

When should I apply for a home loan?

While you won’t need the loan until you are ready to close on a house, it’s a good idea to start the process before you begin house-hunting. Your lender will let you know whether you can expect to be approved for a loan and will provide you with an estimate of how much house you can afford so you don’t face disappointment later.

When initially applying for a home loan, ask your lender for a letter of pre-approval. This letter confirms you are pre-approved for a home loan up to a specific amount. Having this letter in hand shows real estate agents and sellers that you are serious about buying. Most pre-approvals are only good for 60-90 days, so make sure you’re ready to start house hunting before you get yours.

How do I apply for a home loan?

To apply for a home loan at Destinations Credit Union, visit our First Mortgage Center online – you can get information, speak to a Loan Officer or apply online. Make sure all of your financial paperwork is in order and hold onto all important financial documents in the months leading up to your application.

To make it easier, we’ve created a list of the information and documents you’ll need:

  • Name of current employer, phone and street address
  • Length of time at current employer
  • Official position/title
  • Salary including overtime, bonuses or commissions
  • Two years’ worth of W-2s
  • Profit & loss statement if self-employed
  • Pensions and Social Security check stubs
  • Proof of child support payments
  • Copies of alimony checks
  • Statements for all checking and savings accounts
  • Investments (stocks, bonds, retirement accounts)
  • Proof of any gifted funds from relatives
  • Car loan information

You will also need to explain any blemishes on your financial record; including bankruptcies, collections, foreclosures and delinquencies.

If you’re ready to apply for a home loan, visit our First Mortgage Center online.  We’re completely committed to your financial success.

Your Turn: How did you prepare for a home loan application? Share your tips with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.thebalance.com/before-you-get-a-mortgage-315700

https://www.rubyhome.com/blog/mortgage-loan-process/
https://thelendersnetwork.com/what-is-mortgage/

Don’t Get Scammed By Santa!

Someone’s been naughty this year-and we’re not talking about you! Those awful santa looking in mailboxscammers don’t take time out for the holidays, and if you don’t know what to expect you can be their next victim.

One of the oldest holiday scams, which is even more prevalent in the age of the internet, is the letter-from-Santa scam.

Here’s all you need to know about this Christmas-themed scheme.

How it plays out

In this ruse, scammers set up bogus websites where parents can order legitimate-looking letters from Santa for their children. The cost is less than $30. All they need to do is share some details about their child along with their credit card information, and the letter is supposedly as good as mailed.

Except that it’s not. Unfortunately, anyone who follows the instructions detailed on the site has just fallen prey to a scam. They’ll never see that promised letter, or the money they paid for the privilege of receiving a note from Santa. Worse, the ring of scammers now has the children’s information and their parent’s credit card details.

This set of circumstances can have all sorts of unhappy endings, from identity theft to emptied accounts. Sometimes, the scammers will go after the child’s credit, which will likely go unchecked for years. When the children are grown and try to open a credit card or take out a loan, they may find that their credit score has been destroyed by these scammers over the years, all without their knowledge.

Some sites will even offer to send the letter at no cost. All you need to do is share some details about your child, like their full legal name, date of birth and home address. Of course, this is also the work of scammers looking to steal your child’s identity.

How can I tell it’s a scam?

There are legitimate websites where you can order a letter from Santa for your child at no risk of identity theft or a ruined credit history. But how can you weed out the phony sites from the authentic services?

We’ve made it simple. Look for the following red flags, which should alert you to the fact that a site is created by scammers:

  • The fruadster reaches out to you repeatedly. Promotional emails and ads are one thing; targeted marketing that is so aggressive it borders on harassment is another thing entirely. If a company doesn’t stop sending you emails or alerts about its services, you may be dealing with a scam.
  • The site is not secure. As always, check for the lock icon and the ‘s’ after the ‘http’ in the URL; both indicate a site’s security. Also, look for security badges on the bottom of the webpage and click on them to see if they’re actual links to the security company they allegedly represent. Scammers often post static images of well-known security badges, which do fool people into thinking the site is safe.
  • You need to answer too many questions. Yes, a service sending your child a letter from Santa will need to know your child’s name and mailing address. They may even ask your child’s age so they can send an age-appropriate letter. But there’s no need for them to be privy to your child’s exact date of birth, and certainly not their Social Security number. If the questions in an online form are making you uncomfortable, opt out.
  • You can’t reach a representative by phone. Most websites will have the company’s toll-free contact number on the site’s homepage. If you suspect fraud, try the number. If the company is bogus, the number will likely be a fake.
  • You can’t find any positive reviews about the company online. An online search on a legitimate service should bring up basic information and some positive reviews about the service. If a search turns up empty, and of course, if it turns up any reports of past scams, the “company” is run by crooks.

If you’ve recognized a company as a scam, be sure not to click on any links that are embedded in their emails. Flag their emails as spam, and delete every email, message and alert it sends you.

You can still send your child a letter from Santa. Try a legitimate site like Portable North Pole or or better yet, create and send one yourself!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a letter-from-Santa scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/watch-out-for-the-letter-from-santa-scam-121214.html

https://news.yahoo.com/beware-the-santa-claus-letter-scam-155343661.html;_ylt=AwrEePCUWYJdWQkA6BsPxQt.;_ylu=X3oDMTByZnU4cmNpBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwM5BHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg–
https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2018/protection-from-holiday-scammers.html

Take Caution Before You Borrow Someone’s Charging Cable

You know the feeling. It’s like a bona fide coffee addict running low on caffeine, or like a young man charging phonehiker almost out of drinking water. You’re travelling and your phone is running low on juice. Frantic, you’re searching for a place to plug in and recharge. The last thing you want is to be completely stranded in a strange place with no way to order an Uber or pay for your dinner. In one last desperate move, you search through your bag for the charging cable you always keep there – and then you remember you lent it to your friend and never got it back.

What to do?

And then, like an angel, a stranger appears out of nowhere with a friendly smile on their face. They’re holding a wonderful, beautiful charging cable in their hands.

“Do you want to use this?” they ask.

What do you do?

A.  Smile your thanks, grab the cable and plug in your phone.
B.  Say “No, thank you,” before walking away, dead smartphone and all.

If you chose B, you made the right decision. Cybersecurity experts are warning against using a stranger’s charging cable or even borrowing one from an airport official or front-desk concierge at a hotel.

“There are certain things in life that you just don’t borrow,” says Charles Henderson, global managing partner and head of X-Force Red at IBM Security. “If you were on a trip and realized you forgot to pack underwear, you wouldn’t ask all your co-travelers if you could borrow their underwear. You’d go to a store and buy new underwear.”

Henderson heads a team of hackers that clients privately hire to break into their computers to identify vulnerabilities before blackhat hackers do. Henderson’s team will often send clients a compromised iPhone cable in the mail to see if the client will plug it in or if they’ve learned to be more cautious by discarding the charger instead.

Henderson warns that cyberhackers can easily implant charging cables with malware that can be used to hijack mobile devices and computers. This can spell complete disaster for the desperate traveler who graciously accepted the spare cable from their fellow passenger and plugged in their device.

At the annual DEF CON Hacking Conference in Las Vegas, a hacker known as MG showed the attendees how he had modified an iPhone lightning cable to serve as a hacking device. MG used the cable to connect an iPod to a Mac computer and then remotely accessed the cable’s IP address to take control of the Mac. These compromised cables are available on the Darknet for just $200 each.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that charging cables left over by previous guests in the front desk of the hotel are any better than a cable offered by a stranger.

“If the front desk had a drawer full of underwear,” says Henderson, “would you wear those?”

Unlike most scams aiming for as wide a target base as possible, using a charging cable to hack a victim’s device can only be pulled off on one victim at a time. Lucky for us, this means the charging cable hack isn’t as popular or widespread – yet. Henderson warns that the relatively inexpensive technology required for the hack and the fact that it is so easy to make the cable look completely innocent could mean an upsurge in these scams in the near future.

For now, it’s best to be aware of this threat and to practice caution when travelling.

Henderson adds that using public USB charging stations is currently a larger threat than compromised cables. These stations can easily be compromised and open your device to all sorts of malware and vulnerabilities. It’s best to use your own charger at all times.

“In a computing context, sharing cables is like sharing your password,” says Henderson, “because that’s the level of access you’re crucially conveying with these types of technology.”

To avoid falling victim to this hack, always pack an extra charging cable in your handbag. If you forgot to take one along or you can’t seem to find it, purchase a new one to use while you’re away. You can find charging cables in almost any convenience store for under $10 – a small investment for your safety.

The next time you’re running low on juice and a stranger offers you the use of their charging cable, make the safe choice!

Your Turn: Have you ever been targeted by using a borrowed charging cable? Tell us about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/suzannerowankelleher/2019/08/15/why-you-should-never-borrow-someone-elses-charging-cable/amp/

https://www.headtopics.com/us/why-you-should-never-borrow-someone-else-s-charging-cable-7654695
https://frnews.ng/why-you-should-never-borrow-someone-elses-charging-cable/

What Is The Prime Rate And Why Does It Matter?

Q: What exactly is the “prime rate?” How does it affect me as an individual?Symbols of percent on falling red cubes

A: The prime rate is the current interest rate that financial institutions in the U.S. charge their best customers. These customers have excellent credit, and are eligible for this optimal rate because their loans carry the lowest risk for their financial institutions.

The prime rate is also referred to as the prime interest rate, prime lending rate or simply prime. You may hear this term thrown around a lot in the financial news or when reading up on loans and mortgages. That’s because the prime rate affects every level of the economy.

We have answers to all your questions on the prime rate.

How is the prime rate determined?

The prime rate is based on another rate, which is set by the Federal Reserve Board. It’s an interconnected system starting with the government and ultimately impacting each of us on some level.

The prime rate is determined in three steps:

  1. The Federal Reserve System, which is the central bank of the United States, sets the federal funds target rate, or the interest rate, it thinks is best for financial institutions to use when lending each other money.
  2. When financial institutions lend each other money to maintain their reserve requirements, they base the interest rates they charge each other on the federal funds target rate.
  3. The Wall Street Journal surveys the largest financial institutions in the country to determine the rate they are using and then publishes this rate as the prime rate. This number is generally 3 percent higher than the federal funds target rate.

The fed’s target rate, and consequently the prime rate, changes often. In fact, the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets the federal funds target rate, meets a minimum of eight times a year to discuss possibly changing the target rate.

The prime rate reached its peak of 8.25% in the second half of 2006 and then steadily decreased to a low of 3.25% at the start of 2009. It has increased over the past few years. You can check out the changes in the prime rate at Federalreserve.gov.

How does the prime rate affect the average individual?

There are two ways the prime rate affects you.

First, the interest rate on nearly every loan, including mortgages and credit cards, is affected by the prime rate. Financial institutions and large lenders will base their interest rates on the prime rate, generally establishing their current rates at an amount that is higher than prime to cover their larger risk of default. If the prime rate rises, the interest rates on your loans and adjustable-rate credit cards will rise as well.

Second, the prime rate affects liquidity in the financial markets. When the rate is low, liquidity increases. This means funds are more readily available because loans are less expensive and easier to qualify for. This, in turn, generates a growing economy as businesses expand.

Conversely, when the prime rate is high, liquidity is low and loans are hard to come by, thus slowing the economy down.

Is the prime rate the only factor used to determine individual interest rates?

While the prime rate is the starting point that financial institutions and large lenders use in determining an interest rate for a loan, it is by no means the only factor they’ll consider.

Your credit score plays a vital role in the interest rate you’ll be granted for a large loan. The higher your score, the lower interest rate you’ll earn. Keep your score high by using your cards responsibly and paying your credit card bills on time.

Here at Destinations Credit Union, we also consider your credit history and the general state of your finances when determining your interest rate on a loan. If we see that you’re moving on an upward trajectory and working toward paying down your debts, we’ll be more likely to grant you a favorable interest rate on any loan we offer.

Also, keep in mind that as an institution devoted to your success, we are always striving to help you achieve and maintain financial wellness. To that end, we offer our members a starting interest rate on all loan products that is currently lower than the interest rate offered by most banks in the U.S. While your specific interest rate may vary due to personal circumstances, you’ll know you’re always getting the best possible terms here at Destinations Credit Union.

The prime rate is an important element in the overall state of the U.S. economy and in your personal finances as well. While you have no control over the rate’s rise and fall, you can do your part in keeping your interest rates low by maintaining a high credit score, living with financial responsibility and taking advantage of the excellent rates on products offered at Destinations Credit Union.

Your Turn: How do you keep your credit score high and your interest rates low? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/primerate.asp

https://www.thebalance.com/prime-interest-rate-3305956
https://www.creditkarma.com/credit-cards/i/prime-rate/
https://www.federalreserve.gov/

Beware The Apple Support Scam!

If you have an iPhone, iPad or a Macbook, you need to know about this recent, hard-to-apple logospot scam. Hackers are impersonating Apple support in an effort to scrape sensitive information from Apple users’ devices. These scams can be difficult to identify and are often successful.

Here’s all you need to know about the latest phishing scam and how to keep yourself safe.

How does this scam play out?

In the Apple support scam, hackers are spoofing Apple’s support number and calling iPhone users to offer them technical support. The scammer will tell the victim they’re calling about a data breach that needs immediate attention. They’ll claim the victim’s Apple iCloud account is compromised, hacked or has been showing suspicious activity. To fix the problem, they’ll say they need access to the victim’s device. They’ll go on to ask for the Apple user’s login credentials, passwords and other sensitive data. Their ultimate goal is to gain access to the victim’s iCloud account.

Sometimes, the scam takes the form of an automated message sent to the victim announcing that evidence of suspicious activity has been found in their iCloud account. The victim is instructed to call a specific number to reach “Apple Support.” Once victims makes that phone call, they’ll be greeted by a legitimate-sounding welcome message complete with estimated wait times, as if they’d actually reached the real Apple Support. They may even be directed to press the number one to reach a support adviser or supervisor. Of course, once they’re connected to a “representative,” they’ll be speaking to a scammer, who is waiting to ask for their iCloud account credentials and login information.

One of the reasons this scam often works is because of the sophisticatedway it’s executed. The scammers use high-level spoofing technology to make it appear as if Apple Support is actually calling the victim. Apple’s iconic logo even appears on the victim’s phone as the call comes in. Unless the victim is aware of this ruse and knows to be on the lookout for it, it’s difficult to determine this call is a scam.

How do I know the caller isn’t really an Apple representative?

In high-tech scams like this one, it can be challenging for targeted victims to separate fact from fiction. If you receive a call like the one described above, and you’re unsure if the caller is a legitimate Apple representative, it’s fairly simple to find out the truth. As soon as the caller starts asking for your Apple ID password, iCloud credentials or verification codes to provide you with support, you’ll know you’re talking to a scammer. Apple has made it clear that its reps will never ask for any of this information over the phone.

What is Apple saying about this scam?

The Apple Support Twitter feed is full of tweets from iPhone users asking if these calls are legitimate. Apple provides these users with a link to a helpful article about avoiding phishing scams. The tech giant has also warned users to verify a caller’s identity before providing any personal information over the phone. Unfortunately, though, this step can be difficult to carry out in real life when the caller ID makes it appear as if the scammer is calling directly from Apple Support.

Perhaps the best advice the company gives for avoiding this scam is, “If you get an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from Apple, hang up and contact us directly.” If you follow this advice, you’ll never run the risk of sharing your personal information with an alleged Apple Support representative who is really a scammer.

Apple also advises iPhone users to activate two-factor authentication as an added layer of protection for their accounts.

Scammers are always looking for new ways to hack the personal information of unsuspecting victims. Always be on the alert for scams like this one and never share sensitive information over the phone. Stay safe!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by the Apple Support scam? Tell us how you recognized the scam in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/daveywinder/2019/05/05/apple-warns-iphone-users-not-to-answer-apple-support-calls/#2945e1ca5f48

https://www.fox29.com/news/scam-alert-iphone-users-warned-not-to-answer-calls-from-apple-support-unless-they-requested-them
https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT204759

Life on Your Own: Protecting Yourself and Your Finances

By Christopher Haymon, Guest Blogger
Adultingdigest.com
Woman working on laptop

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Although there are some benefits to living on their own, a study of recent statistics from the Pew Research Center shows that young people are moving out of their parents’ homes later in life. While the reasons for living on your own may vary, there are certain things that you’ll need to pay attention to when living independently.

Choose the Right Place

Once you’ve decided to live on your own, you’ll have to make sure you’ve chosen the right place. According to Tough Nickel, young people have several things to consider when getting their own place, which include setting a rental budget based on your affordability, knowing what questions to ask a prospective landlord, and putting together the documents needed to prove that you can afford the rent. It will also be important to know your credit score and how the rental approval process works. The payment of utilities may be a new responsibility for you, so be sure to factor that into your budget and ask the landlord which utility bills, if any, are included in the rent. A clear idea of the costs involved may limit your housing options, or it could mean you’ll have to consider finding reliable roommates.

Keep Yourself and Your Property Safe

Now that you’re living on your own, you have sole responsibility for your safety. You can do that without spending too much money, such as ensuring you have appropriate lighting on the outside of the property and negotiating with the landlord to get new locks on the doors. It’s also advisable to install deadbolts on the doors. Another suggestion is getting to know your neighbors so it will be easier to identify a stranger. Additionally, if the property doesn’t come with a fire extinguisher, you should consider investing in one, as well as learning some basic fire safety skills.

Buy Life Insurance

It’s always a good idea to prepare for the unexpected. If you plan to have a family, you’ll want to make sure they’re financially secure when you pass away. That’s where life insurance comes in. There are different types of insurance plans, including whole and term policies, but they share the same end result: Financial assistance is given to your family to help pay off debts and funeral costs, as well as make up for lost income. Shopping for insurance can seem overwhelming, but fortunately, online calculators make it simple to choose the right coverage for you. Once you get an idea of rates, you can then buy insurance online instead of in-person.

Make Sound Financial Decisions

While you may have created budgets before, things are likely to be different now. You may have new or increased expenses such as food, travel, rent, and utilities. It’s best to create a new budget that will accurately show what your expenses and assets are. This budget will include monthly and other unscheduled expenses such as utility bills, which are monthly, and insurance payments, which might be quarterly or semi-annual. Your budget should make allowances for an emergency savings fund as well as long-term savings. It’s best if your budget is flexible, as having a rigid budget can affect your ability to adhere to it, and you’re more likely to blow your budget on unplanned fun activities. Above all, you need to make sure the figure you have allocated to each item in the budget is accurate so as not to throw things out of whack. You should manage how you use your credit card and protect your credit score.

Consider Your Next Move

In most cases, the next thing on the to-do list after moving out is to buy your first home. Doing this requires long-term planning, and you’ll need to decide where you’d like to live and the type of housing you’re interested in, as well as investigate your loan options. Many first-time homeowners choose to take out a FHA loan because these types of loans have less stringent credit and income requirements, and you may be able to buy with a down payment as low as 3.5 percent).

Once you have an idea of how much the home will cost, you’ll have to start saving toward the costs associated with buying a home such as the down payment and closing costs. When saving for your down payment, you may need to increase your income; this could include working overtime or taking on a side gig. You can also cut down on expenses by eating out less, carrying lunch, or cutting your cable package. Perhaps consider reverse budgeting, which is an aggressive saving strategy where budgets are built around how much money you need to save monthly to meet your goal.

Living on your own is a brave and exciting experience regardless of when you decide to do it. So, ensure you are making wise decisions that will keep you moving forward on this new path!

What To Buy And What To Skip This Black Friday

It’s the bargain-hunter’s favorite season-or is it? Before you brave the crowds this Blackblack friday shopping Friday, take a few minutes to read through our list of what to buy and what to skip so you come home only with true bargains.

Skip: Large home appliances

While you may find markdowns on large household appliances, like dishwashers and refrigerators, on Black Friday, you’ll find even better deals on long holiday weekends throughout the year, including Memorial Day, Labor Day and President’s Day. If your appliance is still working well and you’re just looking for an upgrade, you’re better off saving your purchase for a later date.

Buy: Small home appliances

You can score fantastic Black Friday deals on small household appliances like coffee makers, toaster ovens and blenders, which may see discounts of up to 65%.

Skip: Jewelry

If you’re planning on buying a special someone a gift that truly sparkles, don’t buy it on Black Friday. While some jewelry companies will offer slight discounts on their merchandise after Thanksgiving, prices on jewelry will fall significantly in December and even further in January. If you’re not in any rush, you’re best off waiting until July, when jewelry prices are at their lowest point of the year, thanks to the usual summer slump.

Buy: Electronics

Crazy-low prices on electronics are a Black Friday basic. In recent years, supersized TVs were marked down by several hundred dollars by retailers like Walmart and Amazon. Discounted Apple products are another Black Friday favorite, with shoppers waiting for this day to buy their MacBooks, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and Apple TVs.

While you might find fantastic bargains on electronics this Black Friday, be sure to read the fine print before finalizing purchases. Some deals may require you to sign up for a pricey phone plan to qualify for the purchase. Others may depend on a store gift card to net you the full bargain; if you don’t typically frequent this store, it may not be such a great bargain after all.

Skip: Toys

Don’t count on finishing up the gift-shopping for the little ones in your life this Black Friday. You’ll get much better prices on toys and children’s games in the weeks leading up to Christmas, when the shopping season is already winding down and retailers are looking to clear out inventory.

Buy: Online doorbusters

In an effort to attract customers, major retailers for years have been offering bargain Black Friday doorbusters. Many stores have recently started offering these deals online as well, so there’s no longer a need to camp out Thanksgiving night in Walmart’s parking lot to get the best picks, or to fight your way through crazed crowds. You can now shop at your leisure from the comfort of your home. The best items will still get grabbed quickly, so be sure to move fast!

Skip: Fitness equipment

It’s always a good season to stay fit, but in the world of retail, the prime season for fitness equipment is January, when New Year’s resolutions are still fresh and relevant. Push off the purchase of exercise gear until after the holidays for a better deal. You’ll score even steeper discounts if you wait until February, when the post-holiday inspiration for getting into shape starts wearing off and prices start falling.

Buy: Travel deals

If you plan on traveling for the holidays, or for a mid-winter getaway, look for markdowns on Black Friday and Cyber Monday on airfare, hotel reservations and car rentals. Make sure to check popular travel sites multiple times over the weekend, as the best travel deals are usually only live for a limited time.

Skip: Bedding

Is your bedroom in need of a facelift? You’ll have to wait for January’s legendary “white sales” for the year’s steepest discounts on bedding and linens.

Buy: Video games

If you’ve got a serious gamer on your holiday gift list, you’ll want to shop for discounted video games on Black Friday. You’ll find deals on the newest games at the big-box stores and online at Playstation.com, Nintendo.com and Xbox.com.

Skip: Winter clothing

You’ll always get more bang for your buck when you purchase clothing toward the end of the season or even mid-season, and winter is no exception. You’ll see lots of splashy sale ads from your favorite clothing stores in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, but these are typically modest markdowns of 30% or less. For the real steals on winter apparel, you’ll have to wait until the calendar hits January.

Now that you know what to buy and what to skip this Black Friday, you can go ahead and hit the stores knowing you’ll walk away with the best deals.

Your Turn: What do you shop for on Black Friday? Share your best buys with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://bestblackfriday.com/user-guide/sorting-through-phony-black-friday-deals

https://www.finance.yahoo.com/amphtml/news/buy-skip-black-friday-151858321.html
https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/black-friday-what-to-buy-skip/
https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/articles/10-products-you-should-not-buy-on-black-friday

Can I Trust Credit Karma?

Q: I’m trying to increase my credit score ahead of applying for a large loan, so I’m Credit Karma Logoconsidering signing up for Credit Karma to track my score. How accurate are the credit scores it shares? Is there anything I need to be aware of before signing up for this service?

A: Credit Karma is a legitimate company; however, for a variety of reasons, its scores may vary greatly from the number your lender will share with you when it checks your credit.

We have answers to all your questions about Credit Karma.

What is Credit Karma?

Credit Karma is an online credit service that operates under the principle that everyone is entitled to a free and honest credit score. To that end, the site allows you to check your credit whenever you’d like without paying any fees-a privilege that can cost you about $20 a month from its competitors. You’ll need to sign up for the service and share some sensitive information, like your Social Security number and your financial goals, but you won’t be asked for any credit card numbers or account information.

Scores are updated once a week, and the company only performs a “soft inquiry” on your credit to get the necessary information.This means your score is never impacted by it checking your credit on your behalf. Credit Karma also offers lots of credit advice, customizable loan calculators and reviews on financial products of all kinds.

Credit Karma earns its profit through targeted ads. As you learn your way around the site and start to frequent it more often, you’ll see ads that are geared toward your specific financial situation. For example, if your credit is excellent and you’re looking for a home loan, you’ll probably find loads of ads from mortgage companies. While this may seem like a breach of privacy, it’s no different than the way much larger online platforms you likely use, including Google and Facebook, earn a profit.

How does Credit Karma calculate my score?

The online credit company uses information from two of the three major credit reporting agencies, TransUnion and Equifax, to give you a VantageScore 3.0. While this type of credit score is gaining popularity among lenders, you may not recognize it-and for good reason. The FICO scoring model is by far the most widely used credit score among financial institutions and lenders across the country, with 90% of lenders using this score to net potential borrowers.

The atypical scoring model used by Credit Karma, coupled with the absence of information from Experian, the third of the three major credit reporting agencies, tends to make Credit Karma scores differ from scores pulled by other companies and financial institutions. The credit service is usually within range and a good indicator of your overall credit wellness. You can also get a report with a thin credit history through this model, which is super-helpful for those seeking to build their credit from nothing.

How do other lenders calculate my score?

Most financial institutions use a FICO scoring model to measure consumers’ credit scores. As mentioned, this number will likely be lower than the score you see on Credit Karma, but will fall within the same general range.

It’s also important to note that, each time you apply for a specific kind of loan with an individualized lender, it will likely also use its own customized formula. For example, if you were applying for a mortgage with a home loan company, it would probably use a score that is specifically developed for mortgage loans. Similarly, if you were to apply for a car loan from an auto lender, it will use its own score designed to predict the likelihood of you defaulting on an auto loan. This can result in an even lower credit score from these lenders.

Is there any other way to get my credit score?

If you’re looking for a more relevant credit score, you have several options. You can ask a potential lender to pull your credit, though this might cost you both in fees and in a knock to your credit for the hard inquiry. You can order your free credit report with information from all three credit bureaus once a year, at AnnualCreditReport.com. Lastly, for more frequent monitoring, you can sign up for access to your FICO score and 3-bureau credit report on Experian.com, where packages start at $19.99 a month. There are other similar services out there, but most are not legitimate or are grossly overpriced.

How does Destinations Credit Union decide if I’m eligible for a loan?

We use the FICO model to calculate your credit score when you apply for a loan. While this number will likely differ from your Credit Karma score, it gives us a broader picture of your credit as it includes information pulled from all three credit bureaus. We’ll also review your full financial history and trajectory to determine if you are eligible for the loan.

Here at Destinations Credit Union, our goal is to help you achieve and maintain financial wellness. Consequently, we are far more likely to approve a loan for one of our members than a random lender who doesn’t know the first thing about you or your financial history.

If you’re trying to increase your credit score before applying for a large loan, we can help! Stop by Destinations Credit Union today to speak to our HOPE Inside Financial Wellbeing Coach about steps you can take to improve your credit.

If you’re ready to take out that loan, make Destinations Credit Union your first stop! Our stress-free application process, low interest rates and reasonable terms make us the best choice for your next large loan. We’ll help turn your dream home or car into a reality.

Your Turn: Have you used Credit Karma to monitor your score? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/103015/are-credit-karma-scores-real-and-accurate.asp

https://www.moneyunder30.com/credit-karma
https://www.creditkarma.com/question/credit-karma-score-is-way-higher-than-experian-score-why-is-that/
https://www.thebalance.com/why-the-lender-s-credit-score-may-differ-from-yours-960525

9 Ways To Thank A Veteran This Veterans Day

Our service members past and present are the true heroes of our nativeteran holding dog tagson. U.S. veterans selflessly served our country, spending months or years away from home, undergoing grueling training and often putting their lives at risk, just to keep us safe. It’s time to say thank you!

Take a few minutes to show your appreciation for our country’s veterans on Nov. 11, Veterans Day.

Join Destinations Credit Union as we thank the members of our military this Veterans Day! Here’s a list to get started to celebrate our nation’s heroes.

Fly a flag-the right way

Veterans Day offers a wonderful opportunity to fly Old Glory. Just make sure you’re observing the proper rules for its display this time of year. Read up on all you need to know about flying the flag on the military’s guide to the flag.

Visit a VA Hospital

Call the closest Veterans Administration hospital to ask about their policies for interacting with patients or volunteering. Once you have that down pat, you can spend Veterans Day visiting a recovering vet or volunteering your services at the hospital. Lots of VA hospitals will host special events on Veterans Day, which are usually open to volunteers. It’s a wonderful way to give back to our service members.

Send a care package

Security measures make sending a care package to an anonymous soldier a near impossibility in our hyper-vigilant climate, but you can still show your gratitude. There are several organizations that will enable you to safely send a care package. Instead of putting the goodies together yourself, you’ll make a donation to one of these recognized organizations and they will assemble and send the package for you. You can find a list of these organizations and contact them directly here.

Lots of these funds are 501(c) (3) organizations, which makes your donation eligible for a tax deduction. To find out whether a charity is qualified charity, check out the IRS’ list of federally recognized organizations.

Make a donation

Sometimes, a monetary donation is the best way to show where your true values lie. There are loads of nonprofit organizations out there that offer a plethora of services to members of the military and gladly accept donations. Look through this list to find the one that’s right for you.

Donate your car

If you’ve just bought a new set of wheels and you’re looking for a way to get rid of your old vehicle, consider donating it to the military. There are lots of organizations, like the Veterans of Foreign Wars Foundation, which will happily take your old car, truck or RV and donate its value to the military. These services are free of charge, highly convenient, and many are federally recognized charities that can net you a tax deduction for your donation. Let your vehicle serve our country even after it’s retired!

Attend a Veterans Day event

Find out about the Veterans Day events and parades being hosted in your town and attend at least one of them to show your support for the military.

Bake some cookies

Sometimes, a homemade gesture is the best way to express your gratitude. Whip up a batch of your favorite cookies to share with a service member you know on Veterans Day. You’ll be showing the veteran how much you appreciate their service in the sweetest way possible.

Send a card or email

If you personally know a veteran, take this opportunity to send him or her a postcard or email that recognizes their contributions to the country. If you don’t know any current or past service members, you can look up the closest military station and simply send one there. An anonymous soldier will be gratified to know that the people of this country appreciate all they have done to keep us safe and protected.

Run for our veterans

If you like to get up and move it, consider running or walking for our vets. You can join a sponsored race that donates its proceeds to the military almost anywhere in the country. Get some friends to join you and work up a real sweat while supporting our vets. There are lots of organizations, like Veterans Day 10K, which will help make your race possible by providing you with logistics and fundraising web pages for your run. Look up more information about races around the country on Militarybenefits.com.

Veterans Day is about a lot more than a day off from school and awesome sales at your favorite store. This Veterans Day, make sure to thank a vet and show your appreciation for our country’s true heroes.

Your Turn: How will you thank a veteran this Veterans Day? Tell us about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.military.com/veterans-day/8-ways-to-express-appreciation-on-veterans-day.html|

https://militarybenefits.info/how-to-thank-a-veteran/
https://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2013/11/11/9-ways-to-say-thank-you-on-veterans-day-and-maybe-even-get-a-tax-break/#33cb2f769a26