Rising Interest Rates: What Do They Mean For You?


If you read financial headlines, you’ve no doubt seen the news that the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates. These headlines can be accompanied with all sorts of hyperbole about the end of the stock market, the boom of bonds or any of a dozen other possible predictions. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when there’s this much information and so much of it is conflicting. Let’s set the record straight on what rising prime interest rates mean for you.
The prime interest rate is the rate that the Federal Reserve charges financial institutions to borrow from it. It influences a lot of other financial prices. Many of these are only of concern to investment bankers, professional investors and other economic enthusiasts. Here are some key ways the prime rate hikes can affect you!
1.) Think about your ARM
Many people opted for adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) when interest rates were historically low. These mortgages often have much better rates for an introductory period, usually five years (please note – a Destinations Credit Union ARM holds the rate for 10 years), before they adjust to a new rate. That new rate is determined in large part by the rate the Federal Reserve charges.
The Federal Reserve is planning to continue to increase interest rates as the economy continues to improve. This means the rate on your ARM may go up as well. Worse yet, the rising rates could make your monthly mortgage payment unpredictable, putting you in a bit of a budget bind. Fortunately, you can refinance your mortgage into a fixed-rate loan and take advantage of still-low interest rates. You may still be able to secure a low rate on a 10-, 15- or 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. As interest rates continue to rise, your fixed-rate mortgage will stay the same, meaning your savings will increase as time goes on.
2.) Balance your portfolio
The historically low interest rates over the past six years have done wonders for the stock market. Because companies could borrow at affordable rates, they could expand rapidly. That expansion fuels growth in stock prices.
As interest rates rise, that credit availability will decrease. Companies will find it more difficult to expand, and their growth will slow. This slowing of growth may lead to a decline in stock prices.
However, as interest rates rise, bond rates will also increase. That will lead to an increase in their price as more investors chase those rates. Individual investors need to ensure their portfolios are properly balanced to take advantage of changing market conditions. Speaking to a financial adviser to ensure your assets are where they need to be will help keep your investments growing at a healthy rate.
3.) Save more
The Federal Reserve interest rate also affects the rates that financial institutions are able to offer account holders. As it becomes more expensive to borrow from other institutions, it’s more profitable for those institutions to “borrow” from their members in the form of certificates and savings accounts. As interest rates continue to rise, it’ll be increasingly more profitable to sock your money away in an interest-bearing account.
If you’ve been putting off opening a certificate or increasing the deposits in your share account, now is an excellent time to consider it. With a 12- or 24-month certificate, you can take advantage of rising interest rates while still leaving yourself the flexibility to re-invest once interest rates rise again.
4.) Refinance your debt
The service charges on several kinds of debt are tied to the prime rate. Notably, credit cards and private student loan rates may increase as the prime rate continues to climb. That makes now a great time to think about refinancing.
Take advantage of currently low interest rates with several strategies. A home equity line of credit can help bundle your high-interest, unsecured debt with your low-interest mortgage. A personal loan for refinancing can also help secure a better interest rate. Other options exist, and the sooner you speak with a debt counselor or other financial professional, the better off you’ll be.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the financial terminology surrounding news events like rate hikes. That’s why it’s best to have an advocate in your corner to help you figure out what to make of a changing economic landscape.  Destinations Credit Union can do just that. Call, click or stop by to speak to a member services representative about how you can take advantage of this opportunity and put yourself on the path to financial wellness.

Your Turn: Got questions about rising interest rates? Leave your questions in the comments. Or, if you’ve got a handle on all things economic, share your wisdom with others!


7 New Year’s Resolutions For A Richer 2017


The New Year is a great time of renewal. That makes it a good time to make bold, decisive changes in your life. Leave behind the baggage that was 2016 and start fresh with a blank slate in 2017. If you’re looking for some resolutions to improve your personal finances, we’re pleased to offer seven ways to make 2017 the year of the dollar!

1.) Track your spending

If you’re looking to take your first steps toward financial literacy, figuring out where your money goes should be at the top of your list. If you don’t know where your money goes, it’s going to be tough to follow through with any other money plans. You may have a general sense of how much you spend, but after a month where you’ve recorded every dollar, you’ll have a much better picture. Using apps like Mint or Personal Capital can automate the process. You might even find that keeping track of what you do with your money encourages you to spend a little more judiciously.

2.) Make a budget

About 70% of Americans live financially spontaneous lives. They don’t make a plan for spending or saving. When asked why they chose not to do so, the most common response was that the family spent all the money anyway. This is a circular problem. If you don’t have a budget that includes setting aside money for long-term expenses and savings, you’ll end up spending all your money on unplanned things and events. The best way to stop the cycle is to sit down and make a budget that modifies your spending to be more in line with your priorities.

3.) Get out of debt

Easier said than done, right? However, there’s no bigger stumbling block to financial security and wealth building than debt. It’s hard to save for long-term goals when so much of your monthly income gets eaten up by interest and fees. There are a variety of methods you can use to help accelerate your payoffs. For instance, you can add an extra $50 or $100 to your credit card payments. Or, you can focus all your payment resources on the highest interest debt until it’s paid off and then move it all to the next highest for snowballing your way to freedom from debt.

4.) Start an emergency fund

The best way to avoid going into debt is to have some money on hand to handle the occasional, yet inevitable, emergency. Most Americans, though, can’t come up with $500 in such instances. Set a specific goal, like adding $10 per month to a savings account. At the end of the year, you’ll have more than $100 available in case something goes wrong.

5.) Start a retirement account

You can’t save for what you don’t think about. When retirement is years or decades away, it’s difficult to incorporate thinking about it into your daily routine. If you have a retirement account open, you’ll get monthly statements, which serve as reminders. The challenge, though, is taking that first step. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. While there are important differences between Roth and Traditional accounts, either one is better than no retirement savings at all. If your job offers a 401(k) matching program, sign up to get at least the full matching funds amount – it’s free money. Do a little bit of research, then open the account that seems like the best idea.

6.) Automate your savings

Saving money takes willpower. Because it’s hard to practice self-denial on a constant basis, that extra $5 you’ve earmarked for savings can very easily turn into a mid-morning coffee. Fighting that impulse is a constant struggle. That’s why it’s easiest to avoid the decision altogether. Change your direct deposit to put some of your paycheck directly into a savings account, where you won’t even think of spending it impulsively.

7.) Get educated

Knowledge is power, and that’s especially true in the world of personal finance. What you know about your money goes a long way toward determining how much of it you get to keep. There’s a lot to learn, but you’ve got a wealth of information at your fingertips. Resolve to read one personal finance article a week (subscribing to this Blog can be a great start). Not only will this give you good ideas for improving your personal financial situation; you’ll also spend more time thinking about your money. That will lead to positive results down the line!

Happy New Year from all of us at Destinations Credit Union. We hope you have a safe, happy, and prosperous 2017!

Your Turn: What resolutions are you making this year? Will 2017 be the year you join a book club, quit smoking or spend more time with your family? Let us know in the comments!.


When A Savings Account Isn’t A Savings Account


For many credit union members, a savings account is a formality. They know, in theory, that saving is important. Maybe they got a bonus at work and stuck $50 in a savings account. Other savings options  that come with higher rates, such as IRAs or 401(k) accounts, took priority and that initial deposit was quickly forgotten.


Tax-advantaged retirement accounts are fantastic, but it’s unlikely that retirement is your only savings goal. When it comes time to put a down payment on a house, buy your next car or plan an exciting vacation, the money in those retirement accounts will be locked up tight. There’s no way to get to it without taking on massive penalties and paying a lot in taxes.

If you want your money to be there when you need it, no matter when “it” is, now might be the time to take another look at the humble savings account. Even if it’s not your primary savings vehicle, a savings account can offer tremendous benefits. Let’s look at some ways to get the most out of it!

1.) Dividend rate isn’t the only consideration

Many experts shun savings accounts, citing low interest/dividend rates as their chief concern. If you’re looking to maximize your returns, putting all your money in a savings account isn’t the smartest plan. It’s unlikely that your financial plans call for maximizing returns on all your investments, though. While it’s true that higher return investments do exist, savings accounts offer unique benefits.

First, savings accounts are NCUA insured up to $250,000. If something unthinkable happens, you’re promised to be reimbursed for your losses. That’s quite a lot of security for your hard-earned cash.

Another benefit of savings accounts is their liquidity. If you need the money in your savings account tomorrow, you could get it. You can withdraw cash in person, at a branch or from an ATM. You also have access by using our online banking or mobile banking to transfer funds to another account to make payments on a loan. You can also transfer funds to your checking account to conveniently use your debit card without worries of overdrafting.

2.) Automate, automate, automate!

You know that exhausted feeling you get after you’ve been shopping? It never seems fair. Sure, there was some walking involved in your day, but the total amount of physical activity was fairly limited. All you did was make a ton of decisions.

That feeling has a name. It’s called decision fatigue. Making a commitment to something takes willpower and energy, and you’ve only got so much in your tank. Waiting until the end of the month to decide what to do with your household surplus can encourage splurging. Thinking about sensible decisions takes willpower, and you’ve already used your allotment for the month.

That’s why it’s great to know your savings account can be automated. You can set up automatic transfers between your checking account and your savings account or even make it part of your employer direct deposit. Make that decision once and then never have to think about it again. You can save your willpower for more important decisions, and let your cash reserve grow.

3.) You need an emergency fund

Even if you have a high-paying job, you’ve only got as much security as the economy allows. Your company could succumb to competition.Your job could be eliminated. You or a loved one could get sick, requiring you to leave your job or cut back to fewer hours.

Other emergencies could happen. Your car could break down. You could face a big medical bill or fall victim to a scam. What would you do to cover your costs in these situations?

Situations like these are among the leading causes of bankruptcy. People find themselves forced to rely on credit to get through such circumstances. With no way to repay those charges, people are stuck in a constant cycle of debt repayment that ruins financial plans for years.

The best way to avoid this calamity is with a strong emergency fund. How much should you have saved? Most experts agree that 6 months of living expenses is a good target, though that number may need to be higher if you work in an industry with a tight labor market. What’s a living expense? Count anything that you couldn’t cut if you absolutely had to do so. For example, your housing, utilities, insurance, debt maintenance and food. Don’t include luxuries like dinners out or monthly subscription costs that you could stop paying if money got tight.

It’s important to keep that emergency fund accessible. If it’s in a brokerage account, you risk needing to access that money when the market is down. A savings account provides the security and flexibility that you need for your rainy day fund.

4.) Keep your funds separate

If you already have an emergency fund, you may have some other savings goals. Suppose you plan to start a business, but need start-up funding to do so. You might want to put away money gradually over time to make your dreams a reality.

If you keep that money in your checking account with the rest of your funds, there can be a real temptation to spend it. Resisting that urge depletes some of that willpower, which makes it easier to make impulsive choices in other areas. Instead of relying on your self-control to keep those savings safe, you can build separate accounts for each specific savings goal. This will let you track your progress while also keeping the money safe from an Amazon splurge.

Look for ways to increase your dividends

At Destinations Credit Union, we have an easy way to increase your dividend rate – it’s our Kasasa® Cash Rewards Checking Account.  By doing easy things that you probably already do, you can earn a really high rate on your checking account and attach a high rate Kasasa Saver to that account.  Then, at the end of the month, your rewards are automatically swept into the savings account.


The Shoulds Of Retirement


When it comes to retirement, the variety of ways to save money can be so confusing that even the most diligent investors might wonder if they are looking at the right information, doing the right thing or if they’re even on the right track. Would you know if you should be using a fancy savings plan?  Should you put more in? Less?  Should you panic?  While we’ll get to the rest of the questions, the answer to the last one is no, you should not panic.  There is no retirement plan anywhere that does better when you panic.

For anyone confused about retirement, there are lots of sources that explain who, what, how, when and why, but very few places to turn for one of the most important questions – should.  This guide is meant as a quick reference to that really tricky word, with some of the most common “should” questions answered. Like any other guide, though, it can’t be as specific as you’d like, so if you have more questions, get in touch with us at 410-663-2500, or ask questions our Facebook pageAsk us your shoulds or see what shoulds other people are asking.  If you’ve got a question, it’s a safe bet you’re not alone. 
Question:  How much money should I have when I retire?
Answer:  This is the most common “should” question in America right now, probably because of its importance.  The answer that most experts give, “as much as you’ll need” isn’t particularly helpful.  A better, although still maddeningly incomplete answer involves some simple math you can do on the back of a napkin: take your annual income the year before you plan to retire and subtract your annual retirement income (Social Security, pension, trust, etc.) from it. Whatever that difference is, multiply it by the number of years you expect to live after retirement, probably 15-20.  That’s how much you need, give or take a bit.
For example, if your Social Security and pension pays you around $50,000 per year and you’re making around $150,000 before you retire, the difference is $100,000.  Multiply that by 20, and you’ll probably need around $2 million.  If that sounds like a whole lot of money, that’s because it is a whole lot of money.
Question:  How much should I be saving now?
Answer:  Another question that all-too-often results in a frustrating answer. You should save as much as you can, but not more than you can.  A better answer is that retirement should be your savings priority, ahead of college funds or other long-term savings simply because you can’t get a loan to retire, but you can for virtually everything else.  If you feel like your monthly contributions are just drops in the bucket, stop focusing on the bucket.  Instead, take a look at your monthly picture.  Make a pie chart with five big slices:  Bills, debt, spending, short-term savings and long-term savings.  This isn’t yet the time to go through and figure out how to trim your bills or refocus your spending, just look at those five. How much of your long-term savings is being used for retirement?  Could that number be higher?  If so, put more into retirement.  If you want to find ways to reduce your costs so you can save more money for retirement, look at those categories again and start making cuts from right to left.  First, cut some spending from other long-term savings.  Then short-term savings, spending, debt and finally bills.
Question:  When should I start saving?
Answer:  If you read the last two questions and have sharp pattern recognition skills, you might expect a frustrating answer, but this one is actually easy.  If you haven’t started, start today.  Like, right now. Seriously, either click this link for information on our IRA programs. It only takes a few minutes, and you’ll feel so much better.  Remember the motivational cliché: the best day to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best day is today.
 
Question:  What kind of retirement account should I get (or get next)?
Answer:  There are three major considerations when selecting a retirement account.  First, how many years do you have until you retire?  The answer to that question should help determine your risk.  The second question is how much money do you make?  The answer to that question determines whether you’d like to be taxed on the income now or in retirement.  Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay taxes on it at least once.  Finally, have you maximized the benefits of another account?  If you’re past the point of getting your employer to match your 401k, look at all of your options.  If not, put in as much as you can that your employer will match. You’re not going to find a lot of retirement plans that pay more than the 100% rate of return your employer is offering by matching funds, and if you do find one that can consistently outpace your employer’s contributions, it’s probably illegal.

Once you have the answers to those questions, check the link above or drop us a line at info@destinationscu.org and we’ll set you up with the best plan we can.

There are a lot of retirement guides out there, but most of them aren’t very good at those “shoulds” that matter so much in our daily lives. Hopefully, this guide has given you enough information to know what questions to ask.  We’d love the opportunity to talk about these shoulds or any others you might have. For now, check out our Facebook Page and join in the conversation!

Sources:

http://www.savingforcollege.com/articles/coverdell-ESA-versus-529-Plan
http://money.cnn.com/retirement/guide/basics_basics.moneymag/index7.htm

http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2014/12/19/7-retirement-savings-accounts-you-should-consider


How To Take Advantage Of An Interest Rate Hike

The last time the Federal Reserve raised interest rates, Barack Obama was a U.S. senator, but many prognosticators who watch the Fed say that a number of factors suggest we’re due for a rate hike sometime within the next few months.  If the Fed raises interest rates, it will mean a raise in the price of any new loan you take in the future as well as an increase in how much you pay every month on the adjustable-rate loans you already have.  So, even if the discussion leaves you yawning, it’s important to act quickly if you think the Fed will raise interest rates. That’s because taking the right actions before a rate hike can save you thousands of dollars in interest payments after the rate hike.  Here are some tips to protect yourself, save money and maybe even make a profit if interest rates go up this year:

If you have a high credit card balance, move it to a loan with a low, fixed rate.

Credit card rates have remained around 13 percent, on average, for several years, but a Fed hike would raise those rates.  To make matters worse for people with sizable credit card debt, those rates compound quite quickly on a revolving account like your credit card.  

One way to deal with your credit card debt is to move your balances from the cards you have now to a single high-limit card with a 0% introductory rate and pay it off in full before the introductory rate expires. However, using a credit card to pay off a credit card can be a dangerous strategy, because if you don’t pay off the principle by the end of the introductory period, whatever you have left will start charging interest again, and perhaps at a high rate (pay attention to the fine print).  You also run the risk of falling back into bad habits and filling your new card up to its limit again.  

You can also look for the lowest fixed rate card that you can find and come up with a plan to pay it off.  Destinations Credit Union offers a low-rate MasterCard with lots of benefits (ScoreCard rewards, no annual fee, no balance transfer fees, etc.).

If you want an even lower rate, you might consider a home equity loan or line of credit.  Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs) generally offer lower rates than Home Equity Loans, but the rate is variable so it may go up.  Destinations Credit Union offers its HELOC at Prime minus 1% with a floor rate of 4%.  Prime would need to increase by more than 1 3/4% before the rate on your HELOC will go up.  Home equity loans have a low, fixed rate, so you can avoid an interest rate hike and save money in interest payments every month.  While it might seem a little scary to borrow against your home equity, if you have accumulated significant credit card debt, your home might be the only source of wealth you can borrow against to cover it.  The loan payments should be less than you’re paying your credit card companies every month, so you’ll find it much easier to make your payments and get out of debt.  

If you’re interested in using your home equity to get out of credit card debt, you can find out more by calling a loan officer at 410-663-2500.

If you were planning on buying a house (or refinancing) soon, it’s time to make your move.

Fixed-rate mortgages will be unaffected by any interest rate hikes the Fed might employ, so if you think a rate hike is coming, get your mortgage now.  The difference of a few percentage points in the federal rate could mean mortgage payments increasing by as much as hundreds of dollars per month for some homeowners. Avoiding that fee is as simple as getting the paperwork for a new home loan finished before a rate hike occurs.  

If you wanted the extra few months to bulk out your down payment, or you weren’t sure about refinancing this summer, it’s time to sit down with a professional who can take you through the numbers and find out how much that indecision might cost.  You can speak to a mortgage specialist with our underwriting partner, Financial Security Consultants, or follow this link to get pre-approved right now.

If you’re investing, it’s time to look at conservative options.

As long as the Fed kept interest rates low, it was a good idea to invest more heavily in stocks than investment products offered by financial institutions.  Low rates meant easy loans to businesses and expansion was easy, so it was driving up stock prices.  As rates go up, credit markets slow down, and expansion becomes less profitable for all those corporations in which you own shares.  

At the same time, as the prime interest rate goes up, so does the return you’ll enjoy on your money market account, savings certificates, or any of a variety of investment products you may have.  Find out what we can do to put your money to work by checking out our insured deposit accounts, and if you’re trying to get some money put together for retirement, don’t forget about our IRA accounts.

No one knows for sure what Janet Yellen is going to do.  Predicting the Fed’s rates is a big-money business for a lot of powerful institutions.  In the end, you’re going to have to decide if you want to leave your money in places where a rate hike could increase your costs, or put it into more stable products.  If you aren’t sure what to do and want guidance, feel free to call or come by, we’d love to help you understand your options.

Sources:

Building A Bridge To Retirement: Leaseback Arrangements

Whether they want to get more sun, get closer to grandchildren or downsize their home to cash out some equity, Baby Boomers are moving more often during their first few years after retirement than did the previous generations of retirees. The final year in the workforce can feel a lot like moving, as individuals run themselves ragged trying to make last-second arrangements, finalize budgets and journey into a yet-unexperienced phase of life. So retirees who are moving often have twice the stress, too.  Leaseback arrangements, a staple of commercial real estate, have become far more popular as Boomers retire, allowing retirees to eliminate some of the stress and uncertainty involved in moving during retirement. 

How it works 

A leaseback is a financial arrangement in which an individual sells their home with the understanding that they will immediately enter a lease agreement with the new homeowners so they can stay in the house for an agreed-upon amount of time.  Leasebacks can work two ways for those nearing retirement. First, a retiree can sell the house in which they’ve been living and lease it from the new homeowner until they retire, or alternatively, retirees can buy the perfect retirement property as soon as it becomes available and lease it back to the previous homeowners until the retiree is ready to move in.  Leaseback arrangements don’t have to be complicated or intimidating, and they can provide security to both sides of a home sale. 

Benefits for home sellers 

  • Selling a home before retirement ensures retirees know exactly how much money they will get for their home.  One of the scariest parts of retirement planning is the fear that something will go wrong. Knowing exactly how much money a soon-to-be-retired individual will get for their home can help provide some peace of mind.
  • Leaseback arrangements let homeowners take a long time selling their home while having the confidence they can begin the process early without ending up without a place to live. The extra time ensures they don’t have to jump at the first offer that comes along, and can wait for a good bid.
  • With a traditional home sale, there is the potential that retirees won’t sell their home in time and then end up with two monthly mortgage payments.  A leaseback arrangement lets retirees sell their home first, guaranteeing they won’t end up with two mortgages.
  • Arranging a leaseback gives retirees cash in hand to improve their financial outlook.  By selling their home and becoming renters for a year, retirees can reinvest their home equity in the high-return parts of their portfolio, pay off high interest credit card debt or finance the business they plan to run in retirement.
  • The cash from a leaseback also helps reduce the uncertainty of the first year, when most retirement calculators ask people to guesstimate their expenses.  The first year of retirement is often the most expensive, as newly retired folks take celebratory vacations, buy hobby supplies or make COBRA payments while they await Medicare or Medigap eligibility.
  • Leaseback arrangements can also help retirees who are too young for full Social Security or pension payments by giving them cash up front to hold them over until they can receive full benefits.

Benefits for homebuyers

  • While leaseback arrangements offer more benefits to sellers than they do to buyers, they still offer buyers some pretty big advantages.  Most importantly, buying a home and leasing it back to the current residents ensures that retirees who can wait a little while to move in can get exactly the home they want.
  • Nothing says that homeowners need to lease their home at the same price as the mortgage.  By entering a leaseback agreement and waiting an agreed-upon amount of time, retirees can make a profit off of their retirement home while they wait!
  • Leasebacks give those near retirement the ultimate bargaining chip when they’re negotiating the sales price: By starting the process earlier and having more time to shop for a retirement home, those nearing retirement have the ability to walk away, helping ensure they get the best possible price.

Arranging a Leaseback

Arranging a leaseback is actually quite simple and only involves two steps, one of which you’ve done before.  First, arrange a home loan like you would for any other residential property.  If you already know what you want to buy, apply for your mortgage at Destinations Credit Union.

Then, talk to your realtor about a leaseback arrangement.  Many realtors offer temporary leaseback agreements as a standard part of a sale, so even if they haven’t arranged a long-term leaseback before, it should be a piece of cake.

Sources

Take Your First Steps Before They Take Theirs: Financial Planning For The New Parent

The first few days after you bring your baby home is an exciting time that can also be a bit stressful. So can the first few weeks. Many parents also find the first few months stressful, while others are stressed over their parental commitments a while longer. It’s easy to get caught up in sleepless nights, organic baby food, and reading every book you can find, but sometimes parents forget an obvious priority: teaching and helping your child to save money as they grow up.


1.  Set up a savings account for your child and make regular deposits.

You don’t have to know what you want to do with your child’s savings yet. However, the first step is as simple as opening a savings account for your child. Studies show that young adults who had savings accounts as children make better financial decisions, are more prepared for financial emergencies and plan better than their peers who didn’t grow up with savings accounts. So, for now, open a savings account, put a few dollars into it every paycheck and invite your child to participate by making deposits of their own when he or she is old enough. Destinations Credit Union offers savings accounts specially designed for kids. They offer dividend rates and we have educational resources so your child can learn to be smart with their money. You can find out more here: http://www.destinationscu.org/accounts/savings/youth-accounts.html.

2.  Start saving for college now.

Most parents know they need to save for their child’s college education, but few seem to realize how much college will cost. Education costs have been rising much faster than inflation, and if you’ve been out of school for a few years, you might be shocked by the costs. To make matters worse, and more expensive, many universities are receiving fewer public dollars, and getting a larger portion of their income from tuition, thus passing the cost on to students.

All told, experts expect four years of public school to cost around $250,000 by 2030. It could be even higher. While it’s difficult to imagine saving that much money, don’t give up or neglect to even try. First, think of college costs as a pie that’s been split into thirds. The first third will be paid for by your loans and awards your child earns. You’ll pay for the second third using the income you earn at the time. Only one-third needs to come from a college savings fund. Granted, one-third of $250,000 is $83,333.34, and that’s a lot of money. Take a deep breath, because you have decades to save it, and you have a secret weapon: compound interest, which Einstein called the most powerful force in the universe.

Destinations Credit Union offers Coverdell Education Accounts, which allow you to contribute up to $2,000 a year and withdrawals are tax-free.

3.  Focus on what you can control.

If you’ve been a parent for more than a few minutes, you’ve had at least one moment of pure panic while thinking about the future. Perhaps, on one of the few nights your baby allows you to sleep, you decided to keep yourself up by listing every terrible thing that could happen to you, your partner or your child. There’s so much you can’t control, of course, so place your focus on the things you can control.

Disaster sometimes strikes, and when it does, it’s usually unexpected. But there’s nothing you could do to prevent it. We don’t like to think about life ending, but it is inevitable. Instead of panicking over it, plan for it. While you’re at it, start planning for some of the less dramatic problems that might crop up. Start with life insurance, then look into other savings products and programs that are designed to protect your family.

One mistake many new parents often make is to immediately start throwing money at college savings while ignoring their overall financial picture. If you read the numbers in the previous point, it’s easy to see why. Start by building a nest egg that can carry you through 6 to 9 months of lean time, and then build your retirement fund. Money market accounts are a good way to build your short-term nest egg, because you can access your money if you need it.

As for retirement, you may not have given it much thought since your initial conversation with HR. Now is the time to see what else you need. Remember, you can take a loan to pay for college, but you can’t get a loan to retire. Even if you want to put college money away now, you can still get tax incentives if you contribute to your retirement at the same time. Browse Destinations Credit Unions‘s retirement options, or call us at 410-663-2500 if you want some help figuring out what’s right for you.
Sources:

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/why-toddlers-savings-accounts-much-170151606.html

Bubble Bursting

The economy has always moved in cycles. There are times of vigorous expansion followed by periods of slower growth or retraction. It’s been happening since the dawn of recorded history and will likely continue to go that way for generations to come. There are a million theories to explain this phenomenon, from sun spots to demographics, but the “why” is less important than the demonstrable fact of the business cycles.

When people talk about “bubbles” and “bursting,” they’re putting this widely observable fact into panic-inducing language for the purpose of sensationalism. A headline reading “Economy doomed due to bursting bubble” sells a lot more papers than one that reads “Economic cycles continuing as normal for past and foreseeable future.” Yes, some periods of economic retraction are more intense than others, but the sky is not falling.

Federal Reserve meetings have begun regularly discussing the possibility of raising interest rates. Such a move might make several investments that have been lucrative for several years, such as insurance companies and financial service providers, suddenly less attractive. Such a shift, particularly by investment-generating annuities and other managed funds, will drive down prices in these sectors.

Changes are likely coming in the economy and it makes sense to modify your investment strategy. Sensible investors respond to market conditions to protect their portfolio. There are a number of seasonal adjustments that can help to insulate you from the inevitable retraction. You should discuss these moves with a qualified financial advisor.

1.) Sell off risky investments

Most people who predict a bubble bursting have some idea of what industries are exposed to the greatest levels of risk. Popular choices include real estate, financial services and manufacturing. These industries are generally more exposed to volatility in the market, so it makes sense to shade your portfolio away from these sectors.

This isn’t a permanent move. This is part of the most basic wealth-building strategy: sell high and buy low. Stocks and funds that comprise these sectors are likely near a temporary high. Their prices will fall and investors who sell will have the opportunity to reinvest at much friendlier prices.

2.)  Shift to non-cyclical stocks

“Sell in May and walk away” is common stock market advice. Many sectors, especially cyclical consumer goods, tend to notice dropoffs in their stock prices during the summer months. Families choose to spend their discretionary money on vacations and other experience-related items instead of electronics or fancy clothing. While this advice is generally good, it’s incomplete.

Rather than leaving your investments in cash, move them into less volatile options. With interest rates poised to go up, bonds and other savings instruments can be a good way to shield yourself from risk. This is called “defensive investment.” When you expect stocks to perform slightly worse than average, investment vehicles, which are less influenced by market forces, become smarter picks.

3.) Adjust your retirement plans

One of the only dangers to the coming retraction is to people who are planning to retire in the next year or two. Those folks may experience a dramatic dip in their available retirement funds right at the time they need it. If retirement plans are flexible, it makes sense to wait out a market downturn. Postponing retirement by a year or two can improve your standard of living dramatically.

Otherwise, not only will you not be pulling out money from your retirement account at the time you can least afford it, but you’ll also lose out on years of buying cheaper stocks. Those prices will rebound eventually, which will magnify the return on those dollars. Earnings invested in down economic times are worth more in retirement than those invested in boom times.

4.) Stay calm

If you’re invested in managed funds, you may not need to take any action. Mutual funds, which are widely diversified, will likely continue to experience a similar rate of return. Individual securities will fluctuate wildly in price and sector funds will also be subject to some day-to-day volatility. Market-wide index funds will have slightly higher day-to-day changes in price, but on the whole, will still experience the same gradual rate of return. Odds are good your retirement account is in one of these funds if you selected it in consultation with a retirement planner.

As always, you need a certain amount of money available easily in case of emergency.  This is where Destinations Credit Union can help.  We have lots of savings options that will help you get the best return on your safe (insured) and liquid cash.  Payroll deductions or automatic transfers can help you save painlessly.  
You don’t need to panic about your 401(k) and put all your money in a mattress. You don’t need to quit your job and run for the hills. You may need to adjust your portfolio to take advantage of changing market conditions, but you shouldn’t stop planning for the future. Keep calm and save on!

SOURCES:

Financial Literacy Month – Celebrate Knowledge!


“April showers bring May flowers” goes the old saying. It’s also a great lesson about the importance of saving – where weathering some light showers can pay dividends during the nicer days that are to come.

April is Financial Literacy Month, and a great time to think about some important lessons everyone can learn about finances. Whether you’re a parent looking to make talking money with your kids easier or a professional looking for a few tips, there’s always something to learn. Here are some fun activities you can do to expand your financial knowledge.

1.) Make a financial date night

Most people dread doing anything with their money. Unless there’s a serious issue, they don’t think about their bills or their paychecks. When something serious comes up, they do little more than panic and figure out how much money to throw at it so it’ll go away. Money is scary, and not dealing with it is the easiest thing to do.

If you want to improve your knowledge of finances this month, schedule a financial date night. It doesn’t matter if you’re partnered or on your own, it works the same way. Pick a day when there’s nothing good on TV, no major social events and no serious distractions. Put some light music on. Pour yourself a glass of wine. Sit down with your bills, your paycheck and anyone else who matters to your finances, and figure out where you stand.

This can be a time to make dealing with your finances fun. You can do a little daydreaming and figure out what your future looks like. Jot down some goals and think about how you can achieve them through your monthly budget. Make a financial date night part of your monthly routine!

2.) Build a list of needs and wants

One of the best ways to build an efficient budget is to start from a list of priorities. What do you spend your money on each month? Make a list of all your expenses. Then, break them into one of three categories.

The first category is the essential, non-negotiable bills. These are your big-ticket essentials that have serious consequences for missed payments. Your auto loan, your rent or mortgage, your utilities and your taxes go here. This is the bare minimum you need to bring in each month.

The second category is the essential, negotiable obligations. These are unsecured loans such as credit cards and student debt. You need to pay them, but if you have to miss a payment, these are the ones to miss. Paying these off is a priority after you make your essential payments, and you may have some room to negotiate and reduce these payments if things get dicey.

The third category is the inessential spending. This is everything else you spend money on each month. This is the best place to make cuts when you want to shift your priorities.

Making a list of priorities is the first step to making solid plans and reshaping your own financial destiny. When you know where your money is going, you can start to move from financially existing to intentionally spending. That’s the beginning of improved financial literacy.

3.) Take charge of your retirement planning

Financial security means planning for the day when you can’t work anymore. Financial literacy is all about taking an active role in thinking about that future. There are a few concrete steps you can take in April to put yourself ahead of the game.

If you’re not already doing so, contribute to your employer’s 401(k) program. Most employers will match contributions up to a certain level. If you’re not contributing enough to get the full amount of that match, you’re leaving money on the table. Set up automatic contributions out of every paycheck to automate that savings.

April 15 is the last day to contribute to an IRA for 2014. Even if you’ve already filed your taxes, you can file an amended return to get credit for your contribution. More importantly, you can add to your retirement nest-egg and take advantage of the tax benefits of those accounts. Visit Destinations Credit Union to open your IRA today.

There’s also no shame in asking for help. Retirement laws are complicated, and it takes an expert to really understand their intricacies. Speaking with a qualified financial planner can take some of the guesswork out of it. This conversation can also help you clarify what retirement looks like: what your goals are, how much you need to save to achieve them and what programs are available to help you get there.

If you’re counting on Social Security to provide for your entire retirement, you’re in for a rude awakening. Benefits are shrinking and the fiscal solvency of the program is always in danger. Taking an active role in your retirement planning is the best way to get some peace of mind about your future. It’s never too late. Retirement planning you do at 50 is better than retirement planning that never gets done!

SOURCES:

Social Security Changes: What You Need To Know


About 46 million retired people and their dependents receive Social Security, and the average benefit is around $1,300. If you’re reading this, odds are good you either know someone who gets this benefit or are someone who does. What you may not know is that this benefit may be subject to change this year. 

Most experts agree that the Social Security program is in long-term trouble. By 2033, the program will only be able to fund about 75% of its current obligations. By 2083, that level drops to 72%. With these breakdowns in funding looming, changes had to happen. Imagine a current retiree on a fixed income being asked to give up 23% of her monthly check. That would mean poverty and destitution for millions of elderly people. 

Significant overhauls of the program are coming but involve a lot of complicated political maneuvering. In legislative circles, Social Security is known as the “third rail.” In subway language, the third rail is the one in the middle that carries all the electricity. If you touch it, you die.

In the mean time, a variety of smaller reforms have been implemented, designed to ensure the short-term survival of the program. In 2015, there are three significant changes to Social Security benefits. Note that most of these changes only apply to future beneficiaries and current recipients will continue to receive a benefit similar to the one they’re currently receiving.

If you’re worried about how your chances of collecting change, take a look at these three upcoming changes:

1.) Mail-in benefit statements

If your age ends in “5” or “0” in 2015, expect a letter from the Social Security Administration this year. The statement will explain how much you’ve paid in and what kind of benefit you can expect to receive. The benefit will be estimated based upon several retirement age options, starting with age 65.

The administration suspended mailed statements last year, but restored them for 2015 to allay fears about the short-term survivability of the program. Obviously, the numbers listed in the statement are estimates, but they should provide a helpful guide for those approaching retirement. They expect to send out 48 million statements in 2015.

If you’re already receiving Social Security, you’ll receive an annual statement unless you’ve already opted to receive online-only statements. That recipient statement will include the cost of living adjustment for the year, the monthly benefit and any survivor benefit your spouse will receive.

2.) Higher Social Security taxes

One of the biggest problems facing Social Security as a program is a shortage of revenue. The way income is taxed for the program is riddled with exceptions and exemptions. The Social Security Administration can’t encourage people to die sooner, but it can collect more revenue to make up for longer life spans.

Previously, employees were taxed on the first $117,000 of income. This year, that amount will be $118,500. To make up for the slightly increased ceiling, the maximum benefit will also increase. For people who wait until age 66 to take Social Security, there will be no maximum to their benefits. Also new this year, people who wait until 66 will receive an additional return on benefits they deferred during their 65th year.

3.) Windfall Elimination Provision

The biggest change facing Social Security is the attempt to correct “double pensioners.” People who work government jobs (as well as some kinds of non-government jobs whose salaries are carefully regulated) are enrolled in separate retirement programs outside Social Security. These individuals did not have FICA (the tax that pays for Social Security) deducted from their paycheck. They instead paid into a different retirement system.

Previously, such employees received the same spousal benefits as those who paid into Social Security. They also received additional Social Security benefits if they held a FICA-paying position at another time in their lives. This windfall elimination is the subject of a 1985 regulation that takes effect this year.

This change doesn’t affect members of the Armed Forces, whose checks have included FICA deductions since 1957. It also doesn’t affect state or federal employees who have FICA deductions from their paychecks. If you’re unsure, check your paycheck stub for a line labeled “FICA taxes.”

Those who didn’t pay in will have their direct benefits reduced by a proportion of their government pension. They will also have any spousal or widower benefits they would have received reduced by a similar amount. These so-called “double-dipping” eliminations will save Social Security $3.4 billion, helping to ensure the program’s longevity.

If you’re concerned about the availability of Social Security for your retirement, it’s never too late to take control of it yourself. Many savings vehicles are available, from savings accounts and certificates to IRAs. To find out what options work best for you, call, click, or stop by Destinations Credit Union today. Our representatives can walk you through all the options and help you get to the retirement of your dreams.

SOURCES: