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

All You Need To Know About Share Certificates

If the lump under your mattress is getting uncomfortably big and you’re looking for a two women looking at a laptop and bank statementsafer, more lucrative place to park your savings, look no further than Destinations Credit Union. As an institution that’s completely devoted to your financial wellness, we offer several secure options for savings, including Destinations Credit Union Savings Accounts, High Yield Accounts, Holiday Clubs, and Vacation Clubs.

Another excellent option we offer our members to help their savings grow is our share certificates and referred to by banks as CDs. These unique accounts offer the best of both worlds when it comes to your savings. First, you’ll be giving your money a greater chance at growth than it would have in a typical savings account. Secondly, you are not subjecting your savings to the inherent risks and potential for loss that accompanies investing in the stock market.

Let’s take a closer look at the way this fantastic savings product works and why it might be the perfect choice for you.

What is a Certificate?

A share certificate is a federally insured savings account with a fixed dividend rate and a fixed date of maturity. The dividend rates of these accounts tend to be higher than those on savings accounts and some money market accounts. Generally, there is no monthly fee to keep the certificate open.

However, unlike a savings account, your money will be tied up in a certificate. A typical certificate will not allow you to add any money to the certificate after you’ve made your initial deposit. You also won’t be able to withdraw your funds before the maturity date without paying a penalty.

Terms and conditions of Certificates

As a member of Destinations Credit Union, you can open up a certificate today. However, there are some basic requirements that must be met before you can do so, including a minimum opening balance and a commitment to keep your money in the account for a set amount of time.

The minimum amount of funds you’ll need to deposit to open a certificate will vary widely from one financial institution to the next and also depends upon the term you choose. Some institutions will accept an initial deposit as low as $50 for a certificate. Others, such as a “jumbo” certificate, will demand an opening balance of $100,000. In general, the more money you invest in a certificate, the higher rate of interest it will earn. At Destinations Credit Union, you can open a certificate with as little as $500 at an Annual Percentage Yield (APY) between 1.40% and 2.25% (as of 9/30/19 – rates are subject to change without notice) .

Certificate term lengths also vary greatly among financial institutions, with most offering a choice of certificates that run from three months to five years. Typically, certificates with longer maturity terms will earn a higher rate. Here at Destinations Credit Union, we offer our members certificates that can be opened for just 6 months or as long as 5 years.

To hear more about our certificate terms and rates, speak to a Destinations Credit Union representative today.

Is a savings certificate for everyone?

While keeping your savings in a certificate can be an excellent option for your money, it is not for everyone. Before you go this route, ask yourself these important questions:

  • Do I have an emergency fund set aside to help me get through unexpected events or circumstances?
  • Do I anticipate needing to access these funds during the life of the certificate?

Remember: Your money will be tied up in the certificate and you will not be able to access it without paying a penalty. A certificate works best for people who have money set aside for a rainy day and are fairly certain they will not need to access the funds in the certificate until its maturity date.

Why keep your money in a certificate?

Here are some of the most popular reasons people choose to open a certificate:

1)     Low risk. While nearly every investment carries some sort of risk, your money is always safe in a certificate. With each Destinations Credit Union certificate insured by the National Credit Union Administration up to $250,000 and independently insured up to $250,000 by Excess Share Insurance, you can rest easy, knowing your money is completely secure.

2)     Higher dividend rates. Certificates offer all the security of savings accounts with higher yields. It’s more for your money, just for choosing to invest it in a certificate.

3)     Locked-in rates. There’s no stressing over fluctuating national interest rates with a certificate. The APY is set when you open the account and is locked in until its maturity date. Instead of playing guessing games, you can determine exactly how much interest your money will earn over the life of the certificate the day you open it.  Plus, with Destinations Credit Union, we offer the opportunity to bump up the rate one time during the term of the certificate if rates rise.

If a certificate sounds like the perfect choice for you, stop by Destinations Credit Union today to learn more. We’re committed to giving your money its best chance at growth.

Your Turn: Have you chosen to keep your savings in a certificate? Tell us why you chose this option in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/banking/cd-certificate-of-deposit/

https://www.thebalance.com/cd-basics-how-cds-work-315245
https://www.businessinsider.com/5-things-no-one-knows-about-cds-2012-10

4 Super-Scary Scams To Watch For This Halloween

Don’t let a Halloween scam spook you! Stay a step ahead of those crooks by looking out witch with pumpkin facefor these four scams this season.

  1. The shipping scam

The internet is brimming with Halloween-themed stores in the months leading up to Oct. 31. Lots of these retailers offer an impressive selection of costumes, accessories and decorations at great prices.

Unfortunately, though, some of the retailers that own such sites will never deliver the ordered goods. That’s because, though the company may exist, and will appear legit, at the end of the day there was never a real intent to ship the item(s). The delivery date may be postponed until after Halloween, or the order might get canceled without notification. Sometimes, the shopper will receive the promised package on time – only the package is empty!

Before placing an order with a seasonal store, look for the company’s physical address and phone number. Check what the  Better Business Bureau (BBB) has to say about it and look for information about return and refund policies in case things go south. Finally, as always, be careful about sharing your credit card information with an unsecure site. Look for the lock icon near the URL and the “s” after the “http” in the web address; both indicate you’re on a secure site.

It’s also a good idea to order your costumes and décor in September. This way, you’ll have time on your side if you need to return a costume or a product that didn’t turn out as expected. You’re also less likely to purchase goods from iffy retailers and vendors you don’t recognize when you aren’t pressed for time. Finally, you won’t be forced to spend a ton of money on last-minute shipping costs when you make your purchase early in the season.

  1. The fraudulent offer

In this scam, a bogus company advertises a “Super Special Deal” for “Today Only” offer, or something similar. It will offer amazing Halloween goods for prices that are too good to be true and lure lots of unsuspecting customers into the trap. Unfortunately, the company is bogus and the offer doesn’t actually exist. If you purchase the advertised product, you’ll never see the product – or your money.

As with all potential scams, check out a company’s authenticity and a website’s security before purchasing.

  1. The fake ticket scam

Planning to take a trip to an amusement park, attend a concert or take in another event on Halloween? Be wary of the fake ticket scam, in which third-party vendors sell bogus tickets to unsuspecting customers right before an event. They’ll also tack on an exorbitant commission, claiming that they need to charge extra because of the last-minute purchase. Of course, the ticket is bogus and they’ll pocket the ticket money, plus the commission.

Make sure to get your tickets to any event you’d like to attend well in advance. Contact the event organizers directly to make sure you’ve reached the right address. If you find tickets being sold online near Halloween time, do a quick online search to see if the event has already sold out. Check for spelling mistakes and erroneous information about the date and time of the event on the ticket, as well.

  1. The bogus purchase scam

In this scenario, scammers try to convince you that you ordered something you have no recollection of purchasing just to get you to share your personal information. Once the scammers have this data, they’ll do anything from emptying your accounts to taking out loans in your name or committing full-blown identity theft.

If you receive any emails, phone calls or text messages asking you about a costume you never ordered or a ticket you never purchased, do not engage with the sender or caller. Delete the emails or flag them as spam. Also, block the contact from calling or texting you again. With any luck, the scammer will get the message that you’re not an easy target and leave you alone.

Here’s wishing you and yours a safe and frightfully fun Halloween from all of us here at Destinations Credit Union!

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

SOURCES:
https://www.scam-detector.com/article/halloween-fake-shops

https://help-center.pissedconsumer.com/top-5-halloween-scams/
http://legalshred.com/halloween-scams/

DIY Halloween Décor

Don’t blow big bucks on your Halloween décor when you can two children making halloween craftsDIY for a fraction of the price! Check out our list of creative, fun and inexpensive projects to make your home the spookiest haunt on the block.

The mummified door

All you need for turning your front door into a bona fide mummy is a generous amount of toilet paper and a bit of masking tape. This project is easier with a helper, so get your kids or your significant other in on the fun!

First, open your front door to a 90-degree angle. Take a roll of toilet paper and tape the first piece to the upper right-hand corner of the door. Then start wrapping your door tightly from top to bottom, carefully pulling the ends through the crack between the door and the doorpost. If you’re working with a partner, it’s easiest if each person stands on opposite sides of the door as you pass the toilet paper back and forth. Use the masking tape as necessary.

Once your door is completely wrapped, secure the end of the toilet paper roll to the door with another piece of tape. Your door is now mummified! To dress it up, stick on some supersized felt or googly eyes.

The bat chandelier

Are those real bats hanging from your chandelier? This spooky centerpiece will add just the right touch to your Halloween tablescape!

For this project, you’ll need the following supplies:

  • 12-inch metal wreath form
  • 14-inch metal wreath form
  • Black spray paint
  • Black glitter felt
  • Black bead thread
  • Black tulle
  • Sewing needle
  • Hot glue (optional)

Here’s how to turn your wreaths into a chandelier being attacked by a swarm of bats:

  • Spray paint the wreath forms in black.
  • Cut out bat shapes from the glitter felt. Use this bat template to make this part easier.
  • String the bats together using the black bead thread.
  • Cut out two strips of tulle that are large enough to cover the wreath forms. Fold one piece of tulle in half, and attach it to the smaller wreath form by sewing it on, or using hot glue. Repeat with the larger wreath form.
  • To make a hanger for the top circle, tie one strip of tulle to opposite ends of the circle. Repeat with another strip of tulle.
  • Use the thread to attach the smaller wreath form to the larger one in multiple places, so when the 14-inch form is lifted, the 12-inch form hangs below it. Make sure the attachment is secure.
  • Hang your chandelier by attaching it to a light fixture or to a hook.
  • Tie the strung bats to the hanging chandelier until you have an entire family of bats soaring across your house.

Glammed-up pumpkins

Get ready to dazzle the neighborhood with your cluster of studly pumpkins! All you need to turn your gourds into sophisticated centerpieces is black acrylic paint, white acrylic paint, paintbrushes and round, gold studs. For the studs, you can use cheap costume jewelry. Gold thumbtacks will also do the trick.

To dress up your pumpkins, start with stripes. Take one pumpkin and use the white paint to create stripes on every other ridge or raised section of the gourd. Let the paint dry for at least 30 minutes.

When the paint has completely set, use the black paint to fill in the remaining spots until you have black and white stripes covering your entire pumpkin. How’s that for chic Halloween décor?

Now you’re ready for your studded pumpkin. Simply press your gold studs into a pumpkin, creating stripes that run parallel to the natural lines on the gourd. There’s no mess or extra tools involved, and the entire projectshould take just a few minutes. Prettied-up pumpkin, done!

Create several of each glammed-up pumpkin and set them up together for an adorable centerpiece or an outdoor decoration.

Floating light-up witch hats

This one takes a bit more time, but the end result is a real show-stopper on your front porch!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 6 cheap witch hats. Depending on your porch space, you may want to make more or fewer floating hats. Adjust all quantities for this project as necessary.
  • Fishing line (Approximately 18 feet)
  • A long needle
  • 6 LED light sticks. Look for a battery-powered, lightweight LED light stick that has a clip. Battery-powered tea lights will also work well.
  • Safety pins
  • 6 outdoor Command hooks

To hang your witch hats:

  • Decide where you’re going to hang your hats, measuring spaces as necessary.
  • Attach the Command hooks to the ceiling of your porch. Let the hooks set for 15 minutes.
  • String three feet of fishing line onto the needle. Push the needle through the outside point of a witch hat and gently pull it to the inside of the hat, being careful not to pull the line all the way through.
  • Remove the needle from the inside of the hat and tie the fishing line around a safety pin.
  • Use a safety pin to attach the fishing line to a light stick, making sure it’s secure.
  • Tie a loop around the other end of the fishing line (on the outside of the hat) and hang it on a Command hook.
  • Repeat with the remaining hats and lights.

Your floating witch hats are ready to scare the living daylights out of the neighborhood!

Tip: Your LED lights will likely not last for a full month. You can turn yours off each night, or leave the floating hats up all month and only turn on the lights on the night of Halloween.

Make Halloween décor a family project this year instead of an expensive shopping trip. It’s fun, creative, and easy on the wallet!

Your Turn: Do you have a fabulous DIY Halloween craft? Share it with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.dashofsanity.com/best-50-diy-halloween-decorations/
http://eastcoastcreativeblog.com/2013/10/fall-halloween-porch-decor.html
https://www.brit.co/chic-pumpkins/
https://crazylittleprojects.com/25-halloween-decoration-ideas/

3 Ways to Prevent a Limited Budget from Limiting Retirement

Guest Blogger:  Karen Weeks of Elderwellness.net
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Are you trying to make ends meet and still make the most of your retirement? If so, older man holding binoculars in the woodsyou’re not alone. Recent statistics show that up to 40 percent of retired seniors are living on a fixed income, with many at or below poverty levels. This is a serious epidemic that requires serious changes to remedy. But if you are just looking to boost your retirement income and have more left over for the activities you enjoy, there are much simpler steps you can take.

Making Sure You Have the Right Medicare Coverage

Do you know what causes the most financial stress for retired seniors? If you guessed home expenses, taxes, or entertainment, you’re close, but not quite correct. The rising costs of healthcare are what place the most strain on the income and savings of older Americans, even with the benefits of Medicare. Senior couples typically spend $400,000 or more on their combined medical needs over the course of retirement, but those staggering expenses can be offset by selecting the right Medicare coverage. For example, you can trim your long-term health costs by investing in a more comprehensive Medicare Advantage plan. In fact, the plans like those offered by Anthem provide additional coverage for prescription medications, dental, and vision exams, and preventative care, all of which can improve your health and savings. Another step you can take to improve your Medicare costs is to combine your benefits with Medicaid. If you are dual-eligible for Medicare and Medicaid benefits, you can get help with the out-of-pocket medical expenses that can drain your retirement income, so be sure to research your options.

Taking Steps to Lower Your Major Living Expenses

While medical expenses far outrank other financial stressors for seniors, housing costs are a close second. Many seniors find it difficult to pay for their mortgage, taxes or other expenses related to their homes, and many of those struggling seniors are getting creative to solve their financial woes. One such solution involves finding a roommate to help share those monthly living expenses. With a roommate, whether he/she is the same age or younger, you can cut down on the cost of your mortgage and also get some financial assistance with utilities and bills.

Another benefit of sharing your home with a roommate is that you are less likely to experience feelings of depression related to social isolation. Taking on a roommate at an older age is not for everyone, so you may need to look for more traditional means for reducing your cost of living. If you’re also stressed out about maintaining your home, downsizing may help reduce that stress while also reducing the monthly costs associated with a larger home. You can also look into senior assistance programs that can help out with utilities and other expenses.

Find Low-Cost Ways to Have Fun During Your Retirement

Budgeting for a limited retirement income can take some work, but you also need to leave a little room for fun. After all, these are your golden years, and you deserve to spend these years relaxing and enjoying your life. Thankfully, you don’t need to splurge in order to make the most of your retirement. You could always take up a budget-friendly hobby, like writing, sewing, scrapbooking, or gardening. Growing a garden can be an especially budget-savvy choice for seniors on a fixed income since edible gardens can help lower grocery costs as well.

Another easy way to have fun during retirement without spending too much is to look for the saving opportunities provided by senior citizen discounts. Many retailers, restaurants, and travel companies advertise discounts that can help seniors save, but if you don’t see a discount posted online or in-store, it never hurts to ask and score a deal on travel, food and more.

Stressing out over your income and finances is no way to spend your senior years. So, use the tips above to balance your retirement budget, and make cutting those big retirement costs easier. That way, you can stop stressing and get back to making the most of your golden years.

 

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/