Why & How to Plan Ahead for Health Care Expenses

Health care is something that most Americans overlook when budgeting. Medical debt child with nursecan get out of control if you don’t have health insurance or you don’t plan ahead for unexpected health care expenses.

But how do you plan ahead for health care expenses?

Here are a few tips that can help you start the planning process:

  1. Research health insurance plans and medical costs. To plan ahead for your health care expenses, you will need to understand what type of health insurance plan you have and the medical costs that you may incur in the upcoming year.
    • Determine how much to save based on your deductible, co-payments/co-insurance and/or out-of-pocket maximums. You can contact your health insurance provider to find out the amount of your deductible.
    • Estimate how much to save based on any medical bills you received in the previous year.
    • Calculate how much to save based on any prescriptions you had to pay for in the previous year.
    • Attend workshops and seminars presented by your employer or health insurance organization to get a better understanding of how to get the most out of your health insurance plan (and spend the least amount of money out of your own pocket).

Everyone’s situation will be different. Use what you think will be best for you to determine how to save money on your health care costs.

  1. Start the planning and budgeting process. A best practice is to use a budgeting tool to outline all of your monthly expenses, including any estimated health care costs. A visual map of your financial plan will give you something to follow to ensure you are meeting your savings targets every month.
  2. Consider Opening a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA). These enable you to save for health care expenses in advance (on a pre-tax basis). Not only are the funds untaxed, they can also be used to cover the cost of co-payments, co-insurance, out-of-pocket maximums, and prescriptions.

The Bottom Line: You’ll Save Money in the Long Run

Ultimately, planning ahead for health care expenses is like planning ahead for retirement. With retirement, you plan ahead to cover all of your bills in the future. The same concept applies for health care expenses. The money you save will enable you to cover the costs of any medical expenses you incur in the future.

Courtesy of Accel Members Financial Counseling, Destinations Credit Union’s partner to provide its members free unlimited financial counseling.

Newlyweds: Don’t Let Financial Stress Take The Cake

There are so many things to think about when you’re just married, or about to be, and no Wedding ceremonyone would rate finances as the most exciting of them. In fact, studies show that money (not relatives) is the number one reason couples argue. Those financial arguments (again, not relatives) are one of the top predictors of divorce.

So, how can you avoid becoming a statistic? Here are some tips.

Talk To Each Other

A poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found that 68% of engaged couples held a negative attitude about discussing money. 45% considered it “necessary but awkward,” while 7% said it was “likely to lead to a fight.” Five percent said they thought it would cause them to call off the wedding.

The result? Couples just don’t talk about finances. A Fidelity survey said more than one-third don’t even know their partner’s salary. The irony is that 72% of those same couples said they communicate “very well” about financial matters.

It’s not surprising, when you think about it. What’s romantic or sexy about debt, budgets, taxes, wills, and the like? But, while there isn’t a plan to keep every newly married couple happy, experts agree: Don’t wait to talk about money.

Taxes, for example, are boring (and scary), but they may be important right now. If you and your spouse are employed, the “marriage penalty” may force you to pay more taxes when married than while you were single. So, think about marrying in January rather than December. But if one spouse earns most of the money, you’ll enjoy a “marriage bonus” and pay less than two singles; a December wedding might be wise in that scenario.

Speaking about money now is definitely important, but so is how. A 2004 study by SmartMoney found that more than 70% of couples talk about money at least weekly. So what’s the problem? “Most of us don’t know how to talk about money,” says Mary Claire Allvine, a certified financial planner. “People tend to be emotional and reactive, not strategic.”

Whether you talk about money weekly, monthly or on some other schedule, what matters is that you agree on a system and stay open to changing it.

Get Started

Taking the first step can be difficult, so start off easy, with questions like “What’s your first money memory?” or “How did you spend your allowance?” Then move on to some of these:

  • “Are you a spender or a saver?” – If one of you is a saver and the other a spender, create a budget that considers both styles. Studies show that men and women spend differently. Women often take care of daily expenses (groceries, utilities, clothes) while men make larger purchases, such as TVs, cars or computers. The amounts might be the same, but the perceptions are very different. About 36% of partners don’t talk to each other about big purchases, and that’s a recipe for disaster.
  • “Are you in debt?” – A TD Ameritrade survey found that 38% of couples were “only somewhat” or “not at all” aware   of their partner’s debts. When you get married, your spouse’s debt doesn’t automatically becomes yours, but what he or she owes will affect both your choices. For instance, heavy credit card debt could make it more difficult to buy a home. Make reducing debt a priority.
  • “What are your financial goals?” or “Where do you want to be five or twenty years from now?” – People who identify specific goals make faster progress toward savings and investing targets. But first, you need to agree on what those targets are: buying a home, starting a family, being debt-free? List your individual goals, then share them with each other and make a joint plan.

Know what’s important to each of you. What do you value more, things you can keep or experiences to remember?       Maybe one of you wants to buy a house while the other thinks saving for retirement is essential. Get these things out in the open early.

Trust Each Other

A recent Money survey revealed that couples who trust their partner with finances feel more secure, argue less, and have more fulfilling sex lives. That level of trust, though, isn’t common among newlyweds. “We’re intimate with our partners in so many ways before marriage, and yet money remains off the table,” says Paula Levy, a marriage and family therapist.

Be honest. If you made a purchase you shouldn’t have, own up to it. Some 40% of men and women confess they’ve lied to their spouse about the price of something they bought, and lying about money can have huge repercussions.
Support each other. Retreating doesn’t help, and neither does finger-pointing. Work together to come up with a game plan.

You’re Still Individuals

Celebrate the differences. If your partner is a bargain-hunter, put him in charge of the spending while you invest the savings. And decide on a monthly amount each of you can spend, no questions asked. The average amount couples say this should be, according to Money, is $150.

There are pros and cons to opening a joint bank account. SmartMoney found that 64% of couples put all of their money in joint accounts, while 14% kept everything in separate accounts. For many newlyweds, the ideal choice may be both: yours, mine, and our accounts. Once you’ve determined shared living expenses, both of you can contribute your portion of those costs to the joint account based on your share of household income.

Ask For Help

If you and your spouse find money conversations tough, you might want to bring in a financial planner or other professional. Your credit union can help – that’s why they’re there. Take steps now to ensure that money won’t put rocks on your path to wedded bliss.

SOURCES:
http://time.com/money/4776640/money-tips-married-couples/
http://www.moneycrashers.com/money-management-newly-married-couples/
http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Personal-Finance-for-Couples
https://www.moneymanagement.org/Budgeting-Tools/Credit-Articles/Love-and-Money/Ten-questions-to-consider-before-you-commit.aspx
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/05/financial-advice_n_3391292.html
https://www.thespruce.com/financial-advice-for-married-couples-2302874
http://www.wife.org/love-money-25-financial-tips-for-couples.htm 

On Valentine’s Day, we take time to remember those we love.  But, this Valentine’s Day, I’d like you to take some time to show yourself a little love.
There are many ways to do that – taking time for yourself, indulging in a little splurge, being with friends or family, or spending time on your favorite pastime. One way that you may not have considered is by securing your financial future.

Poor control over your finances can affect your emotional well-being.  A study by Quicken found that 52% of the American workforce lives in fear that they will not be able to retire by the age of 65. 33% lose sleep over their financial situation and 20% hide their debt out of embarrassment.

So, this Valentines Day, show yourself a little love by making a commitment to get your financial life under control.  Destinations offers many ways to help you find the financial solutions you need.

  • Free unlimited financial counseling is available by phone through our partnership with Accel.  
  • We can take a look at your loans from other financial institutions/dealerships and see if there is a way to lower your interest rate and/or payments.
  • You can save systematically through payroll deduction or automatic transfers from your accounts.
  • Use loan products designed to help you improve your credit, such as our Expressway to Success and Second Chance MasterCard.

The road to a secure financial future requires some time, commitment and may involve sacrificing some things now for security later.

Posted by:
Carol Szaroleta
Destinations Credit Union

Your Down Payment On A House

Q: I’m hoping to buy a house in the next few months. How much of a down payment should I have saved up?
A: When you think about your down payment, balance is key. If you think you might sell the house within just a few years of ownership, having a large down payment exposes you to greater risk if real estate prices fall. However, a larger down payment can also mean lower monthly payments.
The value of $1,000 is pretty hard to quantify, especially in a real estate market that might have $30,000 homes and $300,000 homes. Instead of thinking about the amount of money, think about a percentage of the value of the house. When making these decisions, here are three questions to ask yourself.
Can I put 20% down?
A down payment of 20% is something of a magic number. With 20% down, borrowers are no longer responsible for carrying Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). PMI is a protection most lenders require to cover their investment in you should you not repay your loan. The premiums for this insurance are paid by you, either as a lump sum at closing or included with the mortgage payment, and thus make your monthly payment higher. PMI usually costs between 0.5% and 1.0% of the value of the loan, though prices vary based upon several factors. Using this model, on a $100,000 loan, expect to pay around $83 more per month.
20% is also a magic number for interest rates. Lenders see a 20% down payment as a sign of a responsible borrower. Meeting that down payment amount means the borrower typically has a lifestyle of spending responsibly and saving money, both of which are signs of a solid credit risk. Regardless of your credit score, a 20% down payment can help save on the costs of the loan.
Can I get help to get there?
There are a wide variety of home buyer assistance programs designed to help people reach that 20% threshold. These come in two forms: grants and delayed repayment loans. They’re offered by housing departments at all levels of government and frequently go unused because home buyers don’t think they qualify.
Grants are no-strings-attached checks that you have to use for a specific purpose, in this case, the down payment on a home. Many are limited by income level or region of purchase, but they are definitely worth exploring. Even more options are open to first-time home buyers, former or current members of the armed forces and people in public service-oriented professions.
Delayed repayment loans are similar. These are second mortgages held by an organization for a portion of the total cost of the house. They do not begin accruing interest until after you’ve paid off your primary mortgage, and some of them are forgiven after you’ve owned the home for a certain amount of time. These are available from housing authorities and private organizations all over the country.
One important note: While you can get a lot of help, you cannot use another loan, even one from your parents or relatives, as part of your down payment. Doing so is a federal crime and can get you in serious trouble! In the best case, lenders will be suspicious of large deposits you can’t explain, and may even refuse to issue the mortgage loan.
If you can’t get to a 20% down payment, there are several options. You could make the smaller down payment, understanding that you’ll have to pay higher interest rates and PMI. You could also look at houses in lower price ranges. You might also decide to postpone home ownership and focus on saving so you can get there the next time around.
Should I go over 20%?
Making a very large down payment is an investment. Think of your mortgage like a savings account. You make an initial “deposit” when you make a down payment. A portion of your payment goes into your account each month while the rest goes to cover interest, which is the price you pay for living in your savings account. The return on your investment in the large initial down payment is the lower total interest you’ll have to pay.
When deciding if you want to put more than 20% down, think of your mortgage rate like the rate of return. If you can put another $1,000 down, that’s $1,000 less you’ll need to borrow. If your interest rate is 4%, then the return on that investment is $40 in interest you don’t have to pay. On the other hand, you don’t have that $1,000 to invest somewhere else now. If your retirement account earns 5%, then that same $1,000 will earn $50 if invested there. Making the larger down payment will end up “costing” you $10 in the long run.
As with any other investment decision, weigh the pros and cons. It may have a comparatively low rate of return, but the risk is negligible. Unless the value of your house drops dramatically, you won’t lose your down payment. It can be a smart move to put down as much as you can, but make sure to leave your retirement fund and emergency fund intact.

Three Questions, Then Three Questions


As 2015 draws to a close, it’s time to figure out if you’re in your best possible financial shape.  While performing a self-audit can seem a daunting task, we’ve created a simple way to get started. Below, we ask three questions about where you are now compared to where you were a year ago. Your answers should help you understand if you made the right choices in 2015.  After that, we’ve got three more questions to help guide your 2016. 

2015:  Do you have less debt than a year ago?

2016:  Could you pay off your credit cards this year if you had to do so? 

December can be a rough month for our credit card statements, so you might already be dreading the daily arrival of the mail just as much as your kids eagerly anticipate it.  But debt is part of life, and the kids can’t unwrap a copy of the family credit score, so you grit your teeth and swipe.  Don’t let the fact that you have credit card debt be a source of guilt or shame, and definitely don’t assume that burden even if you are carrying some credit card debt into 2016. Instead, take a look at where you are now, then compare it to where you were a year ago.  Have you reduced your debt in 2015?  If not, why not?  Maybe you had an emergency you needed to cover.  Maybe this was the year you installed the home theater you’ve been wanting.  The important thing to ask yourself is whether you’ve reduced your credit card debt, and if not, is what you bought with that debt worth it to you now?

With other forms of debt, the questions can be more complicated. While you’d like to have a smaller outstanding balance on your mortgage or car note, reducing the amount you owe might not be the best idea.  After all, mortgage rates are incredibly low right now, so turning your credit card debt into a home equity loan is a smart move (provided you don’t rack up new credit card debt!). You might have a new debt balance that you didn’t have at this time last year if you bought a new car, upgraded the kitchen, or went back to school. 

If it’s time to clear up your debt, try one of our home equity or personal loans. Or, if you have higher rate credit cards, transfer the balances to a lower rate Destinations Credit Union MasterCard Credit Card.  If you reduce your rate and make the same payments, your debt will dwindle more quickly. 

2015:  Do you have more money saved than you did a year ago?

2016:  What would happen if you didn’t get paid next month? 

Again, the best way to determine your financial position today is to compare it to where you were a year ago, and savings is important.  If you have more saved this year than you did last year, it means your budget is working and you’re headed in the right direction.  If you have less saved than you did a year ago, try to determine why that is.  Did you have to dip into savings to pay the down payment on a long-term purchase?  Did you have to cover a gap in employment?  Just like with debt, figure out how much less you saved, compare it to what you bought, and determine whether or not the purchase was worth it.

Just like with debt, however, simply looking at the bottom line probably isn’t enough to tell you if you’re making the right moves.  Having an emergency fund that represents six months of your income is incredibly important for easing your family’s mind and protecting them if something unfortunate happens. But having an emergency fund much larger than that isn’t necessarily better.  You don’t want to be a dragon, sleeping on a hoard of gold simply because it’s pretty. Instead, put that savings to work for you in the form of a retirement fund, college savings or even the down payment on a second home to use as a rental property.

If you’re looking to add to your savings, check out our savings plans (hint: if you want to earn a really high rate, attach a Kasasa Saver to a Kasasa Rewards Checking and earn more every month you qualify!). To save for a child’s education, take a look at our Coverdell IRA Plan. 

2015:  Is your credit score higher than it was a year ago?

2016:  What will you do this year to improve your life? 

These questions might not look like they go together, but they do.  This is the section where you take a big-picture look at your financial world. If your credit score is improving, then you’re probably making the right choices overall.  If not, it would be good to find out why that is the case.  Make sure all of the charges on your credit report are accurate, work to tackle your debt, and try to bring in more income.  If you work to improve your credit score, you’ll almost certainly have to improve your overall financial standing. Destinations Credit Union Members can get unlimited free financial counseling to help you with this through our partnership with Accel.

But your credit score isn’t your life.  What are you going to do this year?  Are you going to take a trip to Europe?  Get started in a new career?  Buy a vacation home on the lake?  Learn a new language? What is it you’d like to actually do?

Once you know what you want to do this year, figure out what it’ll take to make it happen.  Can you save for it?  Will you need a loan?  Is your credit score too low for a second mortgage?  Whatever is in your way, make that your next financial goal.  Get your savings and debt into good positions, and then try to live your life.  After all, that’s what the money is for.