Can I Buy A House When I’m Paying Off A Student Loan?

Q: I graduated college with a huge student loan debt. Since then, I’ve landed a decent jobfamily in front of home and I’ve been making steady payments toward paying down my loan. Is it possible for me to buy a house while I’m still paying off this debt?

A: Student loan debt that is managed responsibly should not hold you back from purchasing a house. There are several important factors to consider before making this choice and steps you’ll want to take before you start house-hunting.

Are you really ready to buy a house?

Before you take a look at your finances to determine if you can pull off this purchase, make sure this goal is in your best interest.

For starters, do you really know which city or neighborhood you’d like to live in at this point in your life? You are likely just starting out in your career and you might be better off with the flexibility that comes with renting. This way, if an excellent employment opportunity requiring a move arises, you’ll be free to accept it. You also may or may not have settled down in terms of a life partner. It generally does not pay to buy a home you’ll only live in for a few years before selling.

Next, think about the financial ramifications of this purchase. Are you really comfortable taking on another huge loan right now? Also, you will likely have to live with a bare-bones budget to meet your mortgage payments without neglecting your student loan debt. Do you really want to live with a no-frills spending plan in the foreseeable future?

Consider these questions carefully before making your decision.

Getting started: Boost your credit

Once you’ve determined if it would be beneficial for you to purchase a home right now, you’ll want to start improving your credit. Your credit wellness is the primary factor that home lenders consider when deciding if you’re eligible for a mortgage. It also figures into the rate they will offer you.

Here are some ways you can boost your credit score in the months leading up to your mortgage application:

  • Pay all your bills on time. Set up automatic payments to make it effortless.
  • Keep your credit utilization at less than 30 percent.
  • Pay your credit card bills in full, and before they’re due.
  • Don’t close old accounts or open new cards. You want your credit history to be lengthy, and both of these steps can significantly bring down your average.

How high is your DTI?

Lots of young college graduates think it’s impossible, or difficult, to obtain a mortgage when carrying student loan debt. In fact, a 2018 Student Loan Hero survey found that 43% of college-educated Americans with student loans postponed buying a home because of their student debt.

Lucky for you, there is very little truth to this concern. As mentioned above, a student loan that is handled well should not be a deterrent to getting a mortgage. To make sure you’re managing your student debt responsibly, set up automatic monthly payments on your loan so you never miss a payment or a due date.

In addition, make an effort to pay your student loan back as quickly as possible so it doesn’t reflect badly on your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Since taking out a mortgage means accepting more debt, lenders are careful to check that you aren’t carrying too much other debt. Ideally, your total debt payments, including your mortgage, should account for less than 36 percent of your income.

If your DTI is on the high side, you may not be eligible for a mortgage just yet. Consider refinancing your student loan to a loan with lower interest rates so you can pay it off sooner and then apply for a mortgage when your DTI improves. You can also look for ways to increase your income to tilt your debt ratio in your favor.

If you’re carrying any other debt, such as credit card debt, you’ll want to pay it down as quickly as possible as well.

Determine how much house you can afford

Before you start shopping for a home, find out how much house you can actually afford. The best way to obtain this information is by applying for a pre-approval from a home lender. This will tell you exactly how high you can go while showing sellers that you’re serious about buying.

If you won’t need your pre-approval just yet, but you’d like an idea of how much you’ll need to save for a down payment, you can use an online mortgage calculator to get your magic number.

Start saving for a down payment

Once you have your numbers worked out, you’ll need to save up for a down payment. Trim your budget in any way you can and look for side hustles to boost your income and make saving simple. Then, set up an automatic monthly transfer to your [credit_union] Savings Account so your money can grow while you sleep.

At this point, you may want to look into a local down-payment assistance program or a federal loan program, such as an FHA loan, which only requires a down payment of 3.5 percent. If you live in a rural area, you might qualify for a USDA loan, and if you’ve served in the military, you’re likely eligible for a VA loan.

When you’re ready to take this step forward, call, click, or stop by Destinations Credit Union to find out about our home loans. Our fantastic rates and hassle-free pre-approval process make a Destinations home loan an excellent choice!

Your Turn: Do you think it’s a good idea for college graduates to buy a house while they’re paying off a student loan? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.investopedia.com/personal-finance/save-down-payment-or-pay-student-loans/

https://www.cgsnet.org/ckfinder/userfiles/files/Denied-The-Impact-of-Student-Debt-on-the-Ability-to-Buy-a-House-8_14_12.pdf
https://studentloanhero.com/featured/student-loans-buying-house/
https://www.thebalance.com/rachel-morgan-cautero-4155623

How Long Does It Take To Become A Millionaire?

A million dollars. For many people, it’s the pinnacle of financial success. Fostacks of $100 bills forming stepsr others, it’s just the first stepping stone toward their outrageous dreams. But how long does it take to actually reach that goal? How much would you need to save on a monthly basis to net a cool million? And, most importantly, is achieving millionaire status even within the realm of possibility for most Americans?

If you’ve ever seriously considered these questions with the intention of implementing the answers in your own life, or you’re simply curious, we’ve got the inside scoop. We’ve crunched the numbers and worked out the math to help you find out exactly how long it takes to become a millionaire.

Who wants to be a millionaire?

Believe it or not, a million dollars is approximately four times the median net worth of retirement-aged people in the U.S. Even more incredible, a net worth of a million dollars is well within the reach of most Americans. You don’t need a six-digit salary to make it to the millionaires’ list; all you need is enough time and a sound investment strategy.

How long does it take?

There is no pat answer to this literal million-dollar question. The amount of time it will take you to become a millionaire depends on the following factors:

  1. The amount of money you invest
  2. The rate of return on your investment

The table provided here gives you an idea of how much you’d need to save, and how many years it would take you to reach $1 million, at various rates of return.

Monthly Savings Years to $1 million with 10% annual returns Years to $1 million with 8% annual returns Years to $1 million with 6% annual returns Years to $1 million with 4% annual returns
$100 44.5 52.9 65.7 88.6
$500 28.8 33.4 40.1 51
$1,000 22.4 25.5 29.9 36.7
$1,583 18.4 20.7 23.8 28.4
$2,083 16.2 18 20.4 23.9
$3,166 13 14.2 15.8 18
$4,166 11 12 13.2 16.8

The amounts used after the $1,000 mark in this table represent the numbers that single and married employees can contribute to their IRAs and 401(k) plans, with $4,166 representing the collective maximum monthly contributions for a married couple. Note: Maximum contributions, as of 2019, are set at $19,000 a year for 401(k)s and $6,000 a year for traditional IRAs.

If you already have a tidy sum saved up, and/or you’d like to see how long it would take you to reach a million by socking away a monthly amount that is different than any amounts shown on this table, you can input your own formula into this calculator to get the answers you need.

Getting started

Now that you’ve determined how long it will take you to reach your first million, don’t waste any time getting started. If you’ve made this your goal, the sooner you begin investing, the less money you’ll have to put away each month, and the sooner you’ll reach $1 million.

The easiest and most basic starting point for your million-dollar prize is to maximize your contributions to your employer’s 401(k) and your own IRAs and HSAs. Next, look into investing with a low-cost index fund, mutual fund or lifecycle fund.

If you can’t spare the money you’d need for investing enough funds to achieve your goal, take some time to review your budget and to plug up any expensive holes. Look for pricey habits you’d be better off giving up, subscriptions you can do without and entertainment costs you can trim without feeling the pinch. It might not be easy to make all those changes, but with a million-dollar finish line in sight, you should have all the motivation you need to start living a financially responsible life today.

Two neglected factors

One crucial factor most people forget about when trying to invest their way toward a million dollars is the rule of inflation. Simply put, a million dollars today does not have the same value as a million dollars 30 years from now. When you adjust for inflation at 3 percent a year, $1 million in 2020 would need to grow to $2,427,262 to have the same purchasing power in 2050. For this reason, you may want to tweak the amount you invest as a way of accounting for inflation. This way, you can be sure you have a true $1 million at the end of your investment timeline.

Another point that is often overlooked is the fact that no one can accurately predict the future. There’s no way to know what life events you’ll experience over the next three decades. Some of those can significantly affect your finances in either direction, such as windfalls, expensive medical emergencies, market crashes and the like. It may end up taking you a lot less time than you’d anticipated to reach $1 million, or you may never get there at all.

Are you ready to start investing your way toward one million dollars? Speak to a representative at [credit_union] today to discuss our investment and savings products, as well as get some beginner investment advice. You can be a millionaire!

Your Turn: Do you dream of being a millionaire or did that goal never make it on to your bucket list? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.fool.com/amp/retirement/2019/07/14/how-long-does-it-take-to-become-a-millionaire.aspx

https://www.moneyhelpcenter.com/how-close-are-you-to-being-a-millionaire/
https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/how-to-become-a-millionaire
https://www.financialsamurai.com/how-long-does-it-take-to-become-a-millionaire/
https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2017/05/19/how-long-it-will-take-you-to-become-a-millionaire.html

All You Need To Know About Applying For FEMA

Q: I live in a coastal area that can see massive amounts of damage from storms and man viewing damage to his houseflooding each summer and early fall. I’d love to get government assistance to help cover some of the repair costs, but I don’t know if I qualify for funding. How do I apply for FEMA?

A: With the summer storm season at its peak, homes across the country are standing up to hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and more. Repairing the damages caused by these natural disasters can be expensive, but you don’t necessarily have to go it alone. The FEMA application, approval and fund-granting process may not be timely, but it’s not as complicated as you might think. Plus, the funds you may qualify for will be well worth the wait.

To help you out, we’ve broken down the process and answered some frequently asked questions about FEMA. Read on for all you need to know about federal disaster aid.

How can FEMA help me through a disaster?

FEMA assistance is intended to help make your damaged home safe, sanitary and secure for the residents who live there. Consequently, FEMA will not provide funding for any cosmetic repairs or for any non-essential living spaces, such as a family room, guest bedroom or rec room. The repair fund estimates are based on average material and labor costs.

You can apply for FEMA assistance with temporary housing costs, home repairs and other disaster-related expenses including medical bills, free meals or temporary SNAP benefits, funeral costs and assistance with reconnecting utilities and paying energy bills.

If you’re a small business owner and your business has sustained damage in the disaster, you may also want to apply for a long-term disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration. If you can’t afford to repay this loan, you may be eligible for additional FEMA assistance, but you’ll only be approved after you’ve applied for the loan.

How do I apply for FEMA?

Before you get started on your FEMA application, you’ll need to file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance provider, as well as with any other relevant insurance policies you might have, such as flood insurance. You are required by law to file a claim even if you know the damage will not be covered by your policy. It’s important to note that FEMA is never intended to take the place of insurance or to restore damaged property to its prior condition. It is simply meant to help victims of natural disasters meet some critical expenses which are not covered elsewhere.

Once you’ve filed your insurance claim, you can register for FEMA online at DisasterAssistance.gov, through the FEMA mobile app, or by calling 800-621-3362.

When you register for FEMA, you’ll need to provide the following information:

  • Social Security number
  • Address of the location where damage occurred
  • Current address and phone number
  • Insurance information
  • Annual household income
  • Destination Credit Union‘s routing number and your checking or savings account number(s)
  • A description of all damages and losses to your property caused by the disaster

After you’ve completed your application, you will receive a FEMA claim number. Be sure to store this number in a safe place, as you will need it when you check your eligibility and your claim status.

What happens next?

As soon as 24 hours have passed since you’ve applied for assistance, you can check your application status on the FEMA website, using your claim number.

Within 10 days, you’ll be contacted by a FEMA-contracted housing inspector to schedule an appointment to assess the extent of damage. You’ll need to have an adult present for the inspection.. You’ll also have to show proof of household ownership, such as a deed or a title, as well as copies of your homeowner’s insurance policy. You don’t need to hold off on cleaning up the disaster, so long as you’ve snapped some pictures of what your house looked like before you started putting it back together. Show these photos to the inspector when they show up at your door.

How do I know if I qualify for assistance?

After the inspection is complete, it can take up to 10 days for your claim to be approved or denied. You can check your eligibility through any of these media:

  • Using the address lookup feature on DisasterAssistance.gov or through the FEMA mobile app
  • Visiting FEMA’s Individual Disaster Assistance page
  • Calling FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 (TTY:1-800-462-7585)

If your claim is approved and you qualify for a FEMA grant, you will receive the funding through a check or via direct deposit to your [credit_union] account. Be sure to only use the grant funds for eligible expenses. If you misuse the money, you may have to refund FEMA in the full amount and you may not be eligible for financial aid in the future. Hold onto your FEMA receipts for three years after a grant in case of an audit.

Your FEMA funds are tax-free and do not count as income.

If your claim was denied, you can appeal FEMA’s decision in writing. Be sure to include all relevant information, documents and photographs, as well as your original FEMA claim number.

Here’s wishing you a safe storm season from all of us here at Destinations Credit Union!

Your Turn: Have you ever received FEMA funding? Tell us about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2018/05/08/4363/apply-now-federal-disaster-assistance

https://www.usa.gov/disaster-financial-help
https://cashmoneylife.com/how-to-file-a-fema-assistance-reimbursement-claim/

Should I Go Solar?

Q: My summertime electric bills are sky-high. For this reason, I’m really thinking aboutsolar panel installation on roof having solar panels installed on my roof. I figure it’s gotta help me save on energy costs, but I hear they can be super-expensive. Should I go solar?

A: Solar panels are popping up on roofs all across the country. This year, with a 30-percent federal tax credit on solar panels extended until the end of 2019, solar panel installation is especially popular. It’s also incredibly effective: A solar panel system can lower a three-digit energy bill to less than $10.

But, are they worth the price? Let’s take a closer look at the cost-effectiveness of solar panels and highlight some important questions that will help you determine whether a solar energy system is the right choice for your home.

The dollars and cents of going solar

Most residential homes will need a five-kilowatt solar panel system for meeting their energy needs. According to the Center for Sustainable Energy, this will cost homeowners between $15,000 to $25,000, or $10,500 to $17,500 after the federal tax credit.

That’s a whole lot of money! Let’s take a look at four ways you can pay for your solar panel system:

  1. Cash. If you can afford it, paying for your panels upfront will bring you the biggest return on your investment since, after the initial startup fees, your panels likely won’t cost you a penny. Depending on your system and your general energy consumption, your solar panels can reduce your electric bill by 70 to 100 percent. This means most systems will pay for themselves in five to seven years.
  2. Lease agreement. Solar leasing is available in about half of the country. Like a car lease agreement, you’ll pay a monthly rent instead of an upfront fee for your panels. The leasing company will then install your panels and collect the federal tax credit, as well as any government incentives available in your state, on your behalf.

    Leasing solar panels is generally not recommended for several reasons. For one, after the lease agreement is over, the company will either remove the panels or charge you full price for the privilege if you want to keep them. You also may end up saving less on your energy costs than you assumed since many leases contain an escalator clause, which increases lease payments by 3 percent a year. Finally, a leased solar panel system can scare off potential homebuyers should you decide to sell your house before the lease is up.

  3. Solar loan. If you’d rather not lease your panels but you don’t have the cash available to pay for them upfront, you can take out a loan created just for the purpose of funding this purchase. A secured solar loan will use your home as collateral and offer tax-deductible interest, while an unsecured solar loan will likely have higher interest rates. Prepare to pay high origination fees with any kind of solar loan as well.
  4. Home Equity Loan or Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). Excluding cash, the most financially responsible way to finance your solar panel purchase is through a loan or a line of credit taken out against your home’s value. Speak to a Loan Officer at Destinations Credit Union to learn about the low startup costs and interest rates on our home equity lines of credit. Interest is often tax-deductible (talk with your tax professional), and the funds you need can be available to you in very little time.

Are solar panels for you?

Ask yourself these questions before you make a decision:

  1. Which way does my roof slant? In the United States, south-facing roofs are the best recipients for solar energy. Next up is west-facing, and then east-facing roofs. North-facing roofs are the least desirable for solar.
  2. How much sunlight does my roof get each day? Are there obstructions, like neighboring homes, trees or hills that block the sun from reaching your roof? It’s best for sunlight to hit your panels for a minimum of five hours a day.
  3. How large is my roof? An average residential solar system will need 20 panels to receive sufficient sunlight, which comes to roughly 500 square feet of roof space.
  4. What type of roofing do I have? The cheapest and easiest solar panel installations work on roofs made of asphalt shingles or corrugated metal.
  5. How old is my roof? It only makes sense to install your panels on a roof that has many more years of life left. Otherwise, you’ll need to pay to have the panels removed and then reinstalled when you replace your roof. Similarly, it’s not worth installing panels if you plan on moving out of your home within the next decade or so.
  6. How expensive is my electricity? The higher your local electricity rates, the more cost-effective your solar panels will be. You can determine the rate you pay per kilowatt hour by looking at your most recent energy bill.
  7. Are there any government incentives in my state? Aside from the  federal tax credit mentioned above, many states offer their own incentives for going solar. You can check for any available state credits on the  database of state incentives for renewables and efficiency.

The bottom line

Should you go solar? At the end of the day, it’s your call. If you can afford to pay for the panels or take out a HELOC to help fund the purchase, and all other factors are in your favor, you may want to consider getting solar panels. Especially consider it while the federal tax credit is still active.

However, if you don’t think you can afford another monthly payment and you don’t believe solar panels would be in your best interest, you can find other ways to cut back on your energy costs without going solar.

Your Turn: Is your home solar-powered? Tell us what drove this decision and how your solar panels are working out for you in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/considering-getting-solar-panels-here-are-the-right-questions-to-ask/2018/03/09/3190c71a-20c0-11e8-94da-ebf9d112159c_story.html%3FoutputType%3Damp

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/save-money-putting-solar-panels-roof/
https://www.tdworld.com/commentaries/5-reasons-why-i-don-t-have-solar-panels-my-roofyet
https://www.consumerreports.org/energy-saving/real-cost-of-leasing-vs-buying-solar-panels

Beware Emergency Scams!

“Grandma? Is that you?”elderly woman with adult grandchildren

“What’s the matter, honey?”

“Grandma, you gotta help me! They’re going to arrest me if I don’t pay the fine – and I lost my wallet! I don’t have a penny on me or any ID. Can you wire me some money?”

Does this sound like a phone call that can really tug at your heartstrings? It’s actually more like a diabolical plot by devious scammers. There’s no emergency, no imminent arrest and no lost wallet. In fact, it isn’t even your grandchild on the line; you’re speaking to a criminal who wants to get their hands on your money.

Family emergency scams, often referred to as “grandparent scams,” are some of the most nefarious around. They prey on the elderly and take advantage of the natural affection a grandparent has for their grandchild. They’re usually pulled off in the guise of a frantic phone call, though they sometimes show up as an urgent email, text, or social media post using the same panicky message.

Don’t be the next victim of this ruse! Read on to learn how to identify an emergency scam and what to do if you’ve been victimized.

3 ways to spot an emergency scam:

  1. The caller will insist upon absolute secrecy

Once your “grandchild” has had their say, the scammer will then take the phone, impersonating an authority figure who is out to make the arrest and demanding that payment be made immediately. They’ll stress the importance of keeping the entire business hush-hush so nobody gets hurt. But, of course, the real reason behind their need for secrecy is to keep you from doing too much digging and identifying the scam for what it is. Any true law enforcement officer would have no request for such secrecy.

  1. The “authority figure” will only accept certain means of payment

If you ever receive a phone call insisting that you wire money, send a prepaid debit card, cashier’s check, or certified check in return for helping your grandchild from a distressing situation, you can be certain it’s a scam. Criminals love these payment methods because they provide the victim with very little recourse once they’ve discovered the scam.

  1. Your “grandchild” does not know basic information about themselves or family

It’s hard not to be duped into helping out your grandchild when they sound so stressed on the phone. It can also be hard to recognize your grandchild’s voice over a phone that has iffy reception, or from an overseas phone call if your grandchild is abroad. To make it even more complicated, scammers will use any information they can find about your grandchild’s life to appear legitimate. If the scam is carried out through email, they may even hack your grandchild’s email account so their missive appears to be coming directly from your grandchild.

If you ever receive a call or an email like the one described above, simply ask the caller about some personal details that a stranger would not be able to scrape off of your grandchild’s social media accounts. Ask about specific family memories or even jokes that will immediately let you know who you’re really dealing with.

If you’ve been scammed

If you’ve gotten a frantic phone call from your grandchild and you believe it to be true, don’t react just yet. You’ll be urged to act quickly, but take a minute to call your grandchild on your own to verify his or her whereabouts. You can also call the grandchild’s parents to ask where they might be at this time. You may be surprised to learn that your grandchild is safe at home!

If you’ve fallen for the scam and you’ve only recognized the ruse after you’ve sent your money, you may still be able to reclaim some or all of your funds by reporting the scam to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP. Even if you can’t reclaim your lost funds, you’ll be doing your part to help the authorities put those crooks behind bars.

Grandparenting is a wonderful experience. Don’t let scammers abuse your relationship with your grandchild by pulling the wool over your eyes. Stay one step ahead of them by being alert and knowing how to spot these scams. Show them that no one messes with grandma!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by an emergency scam? Tell us all about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/07/scammers-create-fake-emergencies-get-your-money

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0204-family-emergency-scams
https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/family-finance/articles/most-common-phone-scams

Beware Natural Disaster Scams

When disaster strikes, so do the scams. It’s the season of hurricanes, earthquakes, man and woman sitting on sofa in flooded hometornadoes and more. If you live in an area that’s prone to storms and flooding, or you volunteer to help the victims of natural disasters, beware of these four post-disaster scams so you’re not taken for a ride.

Bogus charities

As soon as a major natural disaster hits, fake charities spring up like dandelions after a spring rain. You might get solicitations for donations via email, social media posts, text messages or phone calls. These appeals are usually accompanied by a tear-jerking story designed to play on your emotions and get you to loosen your purse strings. Unfortunately, these scams are often successful at swindling victims out of thousands of dollars.

Never take a request for monetary aid at face value. Check out the charity’s authenticity at Charitynavigator.org and see what the Better Business Bureau has to say about them. If you find the charity does indeed exist and is a reliable organization, double-check that the website address (URL) is correct so you can be sure you’re not handing over money to a copycat site. If you want to be absolutely certain that your donation is going to the right address, you can simply contact the charity or The Red Cross on your own.

FEMA imposters

The days following a natural disaster can be chaotic, as victims try to put their lives and their homes back together.

Devious scammers capitalize on this misfortune to impersonate FEMA representatives to collect victims’ personal information and/or their money. They’re counting on victims being too preoccupied to check their legitimacy.

If you applied for FEMA, stay one step ahead of the scammers by remaining alert and cautious. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to represent the federal organization, only share your FEMA claim number over the phone, keeping all other personal details to yourself. If the caller is legitimate, they should already have any other information they need.

If a FEMA representative shows up at your home, ask to see a FEMA-issued photo ID badge. The “representative” may promise to speed up your claim if you pay a deposit, but this is completely false, as FEMA does not offer any such arrangement. Do not give the “FEMA rep” any of your money – or any of your personal information.

Shady repair contractors

Many so-called contractors will make the rounds of neighborhoods that have seen storm damage to offer their services to homeowners seeking repairs. They may ask for upfront payment for any work you need and then do a sloppy job or never complete their task. You won’t realize you’ve been conned until the worker has left your home with your money in their pocket. To avoid getting caught in this scam, carefully research any contractor you’d like to use before hiring, and never agree to pay for all or most of the repairs before the work is done.

In a different variation of this scam, someone may show up at your door claiming to represent a utility company you use. They’ll threaten to shut off your service if you don’t provide immediate payment for any repairs you might need. Ask to see proof that they indeed represent the company they claim to work for and do not make any upfront payments until you have checked out their authenticity.

Damaged cars

It’s not only homes that can be heavily damaged by storms; vehicles can get hit hard, too. Sometimes, a car that’s been in a flood or hurricane can be fixed up so it looks fine on the outside despite a heavily damaged interior. Shady car salespeople might try to sell these vehicles to unsuspecting consumers who have no idea the car has been in such a storm.

If you’re shopping for a car in an area that has recently been hit by a natural disaster, be sure to check out the car’s history on sites like Carfax.com.

Don’t let scammers make a natural disaster more difficult than it already is. If you suspect fraud, let the FTC know at FTC.gov.

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a natural disaster scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.ridester.com/doordash-vs-grubhub/amp/
https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2019/03/04/defend-against-disaster-related-scams#
https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/disaster.html

Why You Should Finance Your Next Car Loan At Your Credit Union

When shopping for a new set of wheels, your first stop should be right here, at cars in dealer showroomDestinations Credit Union. Though many people start their process on the dealer’s lot, you’ll enjoy a lower rate, a simpler loan application and other benefits by choosing to finance your car with your credit union. And, if you prefer to shop online before making your decision, check out our Car Buying Service – you never have to leave our site to research, find all available inventory, compare your vehicles and more!  Best of all, you can avoid the pesky ads and phone calls.

This is why people are increasingly choosing to finance their cars directly through credit unions. In fact, auto loans comprise more than a third of all the active loans across the 5,600 credit unions in the U.S.

Let’s take a look at the differences in the auto loan process at a car dealership versus Destinations Credit Union.

Financing an auto purchase at a car dealership

When you visit a dealer’s lot with the intention of purchasing a car, the dealer will likely ask you how much you’re willing to spend on your vehicle of choice. You may have already worked out your numbers, or, you may just have a vague idea of how much you can realistically afford. Either way, the dealer will probably try persuading you to push your self-imposed limits to the max or even to go over your ceiling price.

But, if you’re financing your car through the dealer, that’s only the beginning. Once you’ve chosen the car you’d like to buy, you’ll need to submit a complicated auto loan application form, which the dealer will send to the finance companies it partners with. This can include lenders and financial institutions. The dealer will then share the lenders’ offers with you and ask you to make your choice.

However, in most cases, the dealer is only the middleman. This means they are going to present your options in a way that most benefits them – and not you. Thanks to this practice, even a fantastic offer from another lender will be presented as higher than it actually is, or may not be presented at all.

For example, say your dealer contacts three lenders: Lender A, Lender B and Lender C. Lender A agrees to offer you a 5% Annual Percentage Rate (APR), Lender B offers a 6% APR, and Lender C offers a 7% APR. But the lender will not automatically present you with Lender A’s offer. Instead, they will first determine which lender would afford them the greatest profit.

The rates presented by the above lenders are known as the “buy rates,” or the lowest possible rate the lenders will grant the borrower.

Lender A might offer the dealer a flat fee for each new loan the dealer nets them at the buy rate, with more profit granted for each new tier of a car price, such as $10,000. Lender B, on the other hand, allows the dealer to increase the buy rate by 3% to a new “contract rate.” The dealer then pockets the difference as his own profit. Lender C allows the dealer to offer a contract rate at 2% higher than the buy rate.

In the above scenario, it isn’t hard to picture the dealer pushing you to accept an offer from Lender B or Lender C at the new contract rate of 9%. If you complain that this rate is too high, the dealer may then suddenly “remember” that Lender B is willing to finance the loan at a 7% APR. In either case, there’s very little chance you’ll end up being presented with the offer that is truly in your best interest. And you’ll never even know you’ve been duped!

Financing an auto purchase at a credit union

Getting an auto loan with your credit union is a completely different experience. Why? Because we exist to serve your best interest.

When you walk into Destinations Credit Union with the intention of taking out an auto loan, you’ll be dealing with people who know who you are and what your financial reality is like. No one will try to push you into a loan you can’t afford.

The process of applying for a Destinations Credit Union Auto Loan is simple, quick, and easy. You can even apply for a loan online. Also, as a member of Destinations Credit Union, you already have a headstart on getting that pre-approval.

One of the biggest advantages you’ll have when financing an auto loan through your credit union, though, is a lower APR. Because you’re working directly with the lender, you’ll only hear the actual rate we offer instead of a marked-up rate the car dealer presents to you.

Also, as member-owned and operated institutions, credit unions famously offer loan rates that are consistently lower than those offered by large lenders and banks. In fact, according to Bankrate, the average APR on a credit union auto loan in the beginning of 2019 was a full point lower than the rates offered by banks.

Another key advantage you’ll enjoy from a credit union-financed auto loan is a more relaxed setting when determining how much you can afford to pay each month toward your new car. There’s no rush and no pressure when you’re sitting at Destinations Credit Union and working out your budget. In contrast, when you’re standing in the dealer’s lot surrounded by cars you wish you could afford, you’re far more likely to make a decision you’ll later come to regret.

If you’re in the market for an auto loan, make your credit union your first stop. You’ll enjoy a lower rate and the friendly, professional service you’ve come to expect at Destinations Credit Union.

Your Turn: Have you financed a car purchase through your credit union? Tell us about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.magnifymoney.com/blog/auto-loan/why-you-should-avoid-financing-a-car-through-a-dealership/

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/loans/auto-loans/auto-financing-before-dealership/
https://www.bankrate.com/loans/auto-loans/6-reasons-to-get-a-credit-union-car-loan/amp/

Do My Child’s Activities Really Need To Make Me Go Broke?

It’s back-to-school season and you’re just about ready to zip that backpack closed before children with uniforms posing for cameratossing that supply list into the trash. You’ve been shopping for weeks to get the right pencils and pens, binders and the dozens of other must-haves. This, of course, is in addition to the perfect school shoes and autumn wardrobe. But now you’re done, done, done! Your sanity and your budget are ready for a breather – at least until the holiday shopping season starts.

But then your darling daughter comes home breathless from school telling you she’s made it onto the school’s soccer team. She’s thrilled and can’t wait to start attending practices and games! Oh, and did she mention she’ll need some money for her uniform and equipment?

Before you can finish digesting this piece of news, your son barrels through the door and announces he’s decided to take drum lessons. It’ll only be, say, $600 for the drum set, plus the price of lessons. But that’s not a big deal for you, is it?

Extracurricular activities are an important part of a child’s development. They allow students to shine in ways that may not be possible for them in the classroom. Plus, it helps kids step out of their social circles to forge new and lasting friendships. They serve as a creative outlet and can improve your child’s physical and cognitive health. If you have a real prodigy in your family, they may even be your child’s gateway to a college scholarship, and possibly a lucrative career.

But there’s no getting around the truth: Extracurricular activities are expensive. If you’ve got several school-aged children at home and each one wants to participate in two activities, you can be looking at an investment as high as $10,000 or more because of fees, equipment, uniforms, instruments and supplies.

No worries, though; you don’t have to choose between your budget and your children’s happiness. Here are some ways you can save on your kids’ extracurricular activities this year:

  1. Limit the number of after-school activities you allow for each child

If you’ve got several over-ambitious young ones at home, consider limiting extracurricular activities to just one per child. You’ll actually be doing your children a favor by forcing them to pick one activity of focus where they’ll be channeling all their energy in one direction.

They’ll also be more dedicated to perfecting their game or hobby when they own their choice. Plus, it’ll be easier for them to keep track of just one practice and performance schedule – and a lot easier on your carpool calendar, too! Finally, you’ll help your children avoid taking on too much so they are less likely to wind up neglecting their schoolwork or not having any time to spare for family and friends.

  1. Register early

Lots of children’s sports programs offer discounts of up to 30 percent just for signing up early. Speak to your children about after-school programs and sports teams months before the official season launch so you can register early and snag those early-bird specials. You might also be able to net a discount by pre-paying for the entire season instead of paying on a monthly basis.

  1. Purchase used equipment

Save big on sports gear by purchasing gently used equipment from sites like PlayItAgainSports and SidelineSwap. Some of these sites also allow you to sell your own used equipment.

  1. Swap equipment

If you have friends with kids who are (or were) also into sports and music, see if you can swap equipment and instruments from year to year. Maybe your friend’s son was into guitar last year and baseball this year, while your daughter’s interests ran in the opposite direction. Swapping with friends allows you to save on expensive equipment while putting your own unused gear to good use.

  1. Rent musical instruments

If you’ve got budding musicians at home, consider renting the instrument they’ve taken up this year. There’s no way to tell if that burst of passion they’re currently nursing for the oboe is just a passing phase or the beginning of a hobby that will last a lifetime. Why blow hundreds of dollars on an instrument only to see it lying forgotten in the attic in a few months time? Some instruments, like the French horn, can cost as much as $1,000 but can be rented for as little as $50 a month.

If your child is convinced they’ve found their instrument of choice or you’ve already been renting one for a while, you can purchase gently used musical instruments from resale sites like Craigslist and eBay or through Reverb, a site devoted to selling used musical instruments.

  1. Volunteer your time

If you’ve got the time to coach or manage a team, or even just to walk around selling refreshments during games, you might be able to nab a discount on the program’s fees and equipment.

Don’t let a tight budget stand in the way of your child’s creative and physical development. By making smart, frugal choices, you can turn your children’s dreams into reality without draining your wallet.

Your Turn: How do you save on your children’s extracurricular activities? Share your own tips and tricks with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/g27678115/back-to-school-hacks/

https://www.moneycrashers.com/save-extracurricular-activities-kids-after-school/
https://www.parents.com/parenting/money/saving/11-ways-to-save-on-after-school-activities/

The Ultimate Smart Shoppers Cheat Sheet

You’ve already perfected your monthly shopping schedule to get the best possible pricescouple looking at new appliances throughout the year: linens in January; luggage in March; household appliances in May; patio furniture in September and wedding dresses in December.

But, did you know you should be timing your shopping throughout the week as well? That’s because each weekday brings its own deals and specials. There are some items you can get the cheapest on Wednesdays, others that are best bought on Fridays and still others that will see their biggest markdowns on Sundays.

Here’s the ultimate cheat sheet for your weekly shopping.

Sunday: Large household appliances

Does your refrigerator need replacing? Looking to swap out your oven for a newer model? Home improvement stores, like Lowe’s and Home Depot, tend to mark down their large appliances on Sundays.

Monday: Deals on wheels and electronics

If you’re in the market for a new car, hit the dealer’s lot on Monday. Car dealerships are busiest over the weekend, and the comparative quiet of a Monday will put you in a favorable position to negotiate a great price on a new car. Don’t forget to get preapproved for your loan and use Destinations Credit Union’s car buying service to get great rates and terms!

You’ll also want to check out the large chain stores for discounted electronics on the first business day of the week. Stores like Best Buy offer exclusive manufacturer rebates on Mondays, which can significantly lower the price of an expensive product.

Tuesdays: Houses, airline travel and more

Tuesdays are the recommended weekday for making an offer on a house, particularly the first Tuesday of the month. This is when most sellers will review the activity surrounding their home from the last month and be more open to accepting an offer that’s considerably lower than their original asking price.

If you’re looking to fly in the near future, book your flight on a Tuesday morning. According to data analyses performed by travel-planning company Skyscanner, airlines mark down flight prices by 15-25 percent late each Monday evening. By Tuesday morning, competing airlines will offer matching or lower prices, giving you the best selection of affordable flights.

Tuesdays are also great for purchasing computers online from major retailers, like HP or Dell. Don’t look for discounted MacBooks, though, as Apple rarely marks down its products.

For a terrific way to end your Tuesday, go see a movie. Tickets to the latest blockbusters are usually discounted during the mid-week slump.

Wednesdays: Groceries, discounted apparel and fuel

Forget the weekend grocery run; the best time to restock your pantry and fridge is on Wednesday. Most supermarkets roll out their new sale events on this day, rearrange their aisle end-caps and slap discounts onto perishable products that are left over from the beginning of the week, such as meat, poultry and cheese. If you can swing it, shop early to take full advantage of the sales. Feel free to load up on the marked-down perishables, which will still be days away from their sell-by date. Stick them in the freezer if you won’t use them before they go stale. You’ll also get the biggest bang for your buck in the produce aisle on Wednesdays, when most groceries set out a fresh display of fruits and vegetables.

If you’re a fan of discounted quality clothing, you’ll want to hit TJ Maxx and Marshalls on Wednesdays, as this is when these stores post their new markdowns. Old Navy also features new discounts on Wednesdays.

Unless gas prices are on a downward spiral, fill ‘er up on Wednesday! Weekly gas hikes will take effect over the weekend, often as early as Thursday morning.

Thursday: Clothing, shoes and handbags

Get first dibs on weekend clothing sales at the big-name stores by hitting the mall late on Thursday. Shop for matching footwear with in-store coupons, which also debut on Thursday. Then, complete your new look with a new handbag, which see steep online discounts each Thursday.

Friday: Accessories

Pick up your costume jewelry, belts and scarves on Fridays to score the best prices. According to Lifehacker, online accessories see an average discount of 42 percent on the last workday of the week.

Saturday: Books and yard sale treasures

Amazon offers discounts on books and e-books on most Saturdays, so you’ll want to check out the e-tailer giant at the beginning of the weekend for the best selection at the best prices.

Saturdays are also prime time to pick up treasures at neighborhood yard sales and thrift stores. You’ll get the best picks in the early morning hours, but you’ll score the hottest deals later on in the day when the owners are itching to get rid of all their wares and close up shop.

Your Turn: Is there a weekday shopping hack that has worked for you? Tell us your secret shopping strategy in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.thekrazycouponlady.com/tips/money/back-to-school-shopping-hacks.amp.html

https://www.aol.com/article/lifestyle/2018/07/29/the-best-day-of-the-week-to-go-grocery-shopping/23491169/
https://www.dcrstrategies.com/shopping-guide-best-days-of-the-week-to-buy/
https://www.thekrazycouponlady.com/tips/store-hacks/retailer-clearance-markdown-cheatsheet.amp.html
https://www.rather-be-shopping.com/blog/2014/06/09/insider-tips-on-store-markdowns/

7 Steps To A Mid-Year Financial Checkup

It feels like you just packed away the holiday decorations yesterday, but believe it or not,man with laptop and phone 2019 is already half over. As we sail into the season of barbecues and beaches, take a few minutes to give yourself a mid-year financial checkup. A small investment of time can spur important changes that can affect your financial wellness for the rest of 2019 or even for years to come.

Use the seven steps detailed below to guide you through your checkup.

Step 1: Revisit Your Budget

Remember sitting down in December and crunching all those numbers? There’s no need for such a detailed job again, but take some time to review your monthly budget. Are you sticking to the planned budget for every category? Are you overspending in some categories or under-spending in others? Do you need to adjust your allotted budget in some areas or maybe trim your discretionary spending across the board?

Review your spending over the last few months and make any necessary changes so your budget can continue working for you. Be sure to account for any significant life changes that may alter your financial needs, such as a marriage, the birth of a child, a divorce or a job change.

By reviewing and adjusting your budget, you will avoid falling into the mindless spending trap and you will be taking proactive steps toward staying on top of your finances for the rest of 2019.

Step 2: Anticipate Large Expenses

Now that you’ve updated your monthly budget, take a moment to list any large expenses you anticipate having in the next six months. This can include household appliances that may need replacing, expensive car repairs that will likely become necessary or an anticipated medical expense that is not fully covered by insurance.

Once you have this information in hand, determine which spending category you will take the money from to cover these expenses. Do you have a rainy-day fund that can pay for one or several of these costs? Can you use the money in your emergency fund? Make the decision about sourcing this money now so you don’t make the wrong choices when you’re stressed and pressed for time in the future.

If you do not have enough money set aside for these expenses, build a savings plan into your monthly budget now so you have the funds available when you need them.

Step 3: Review Your Tax Withholdings

Review your tax withholdings to see if they need any adjusting. If taxes and numbers are not your thing, ask your accountant for assistance with this step. Your goal here is to pay the perfect amount so you’re not hit with a huge tax bill at the end of the year but also not lending the government your money interest-free.

Step 4: Check Your Credit Score

Your credit score is like your money grade, indicating the degree of your financial wellness and responsibility.  Visit AnnualCreditReport.com for your free credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

If your score has gone up in the last six months, you’re doing great! Keep up the good work.

On the flip side, if your score has dropped, review your report in detail. Are there any errors you’ll need to contest with the Federal Trade Commission? Is there a credit card bill or another line of credit you’ve been neglecting that is dragging your score down? Are you having trouble remembering to pay your monthly bills in a timely manner? Take the necessary steps to fix your score today, whether that means contesting a charge, setting up an automatic payment on some of your bills or lowering your credit utilization rate by paying with plastic less often.  HOPE Inside Destinations Credit Union can assist you in bringing up your credit score, paying down debt and saving more.  Call today.

Step 5: Review Your Investments

Now is the time to review and adjust all of your investments. This includes your contributions to your retirement funds, any stock investments, bonds, trust funds or savings certificates at Destinations Credit Union. Make sure you are maximizing your contributions when possible and that your other investments are performing according to plan, making adjustments as necessary.

Step 6: Tackle Your Debt

List every single outstanding debt you carry, including credit card debt and loans. Designate one debt to tackle first, either choosing the one that carries the highest interest rate or the one with the lowest balance. Next, work on a plan to get rid of your chosen debt, being careful not to neglect the others. See if you can trim your budget or boost your income in any way to increase your payments on this debt. Once you’ve paid it off, move to the next one on your list so you’re on your way to a debt-free life.

Step 7: Review Your Financial Resolutions and Long-term Goals

Which financial resolutions did you jot down at the end of 2018? What are your dreams for the future? Did you want to start socking away another $200 a month? Is your goal to retire comfortably at 55?

Take some time to review these goals and to determine whether you are indeed taking the steps necessary for making them happen. If you’ve been neglecting them for the first half of 2019, create a plan for working toward them for the rest of the year. Remember: With determination and proper planning, nearly any financial goal is possible!

Now that you’ve given yourself a thorough financial checkup, you can kick back and enjoy the sweetness and the sunshine of the season, guilt-free. Happy summer!

Your Turn: What’s on your list for your mid-year financial checkup? Tell us about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://money.cnn.com/2016/07/28/investing/financial-checklist/index.html

https://onebiteblog.com/its-time-for-your-mid-year-financial-checkup/