What You Need To Know About Health Share Programs

If your health insurance premiums are making you sick, you might want to explore Man handing a healthcare professional a cardanother option that’s becoming increasingly popular: a health share program.

A health share program can be a way to get medical coverage that’s sufficient for your needs. With open enrollment starting soon, on Nov. 1, it’s worth your while to learn about this kind of health coverage before you renew your existing plan.

Here’s all you need to know about health share programs.

What is a health share program?

A health share program, also known as a health care sharing ministry, actually works a lot like a credit union. There’s no Big Cheese sitting on top of a wealthy corporation while trying to dream up new ways to squeeze money out of you. Instead, the program is run by a not-for-profit religious organization and is jointly owned by members who share expenses for their collective medical needs.

Most people opt to join a health share program because of the significant savings potential: A family of four can easily find a health share plan for just a few hundred dollars a month. Many others will choose this kind of health care because conventional health insurance covers medical procedures that are not in line with their religious beliefs.

Some popular health share programs include Liberty Healthshare, Medi-Share and Christian Healthcare Ministries.

How does a health share program work?

Health share programs are usually faith-based. As such, members must agree to uphold certain religious beliefs before joining the program. Once they’ve signed up, members are charged a monthly premium based upon their age and general health. They will then receive a membership card they can present to a medical practitioner in lieu of an insurance card. The practitioner will then bill the sharing program for the cost of the member’s visit.

How does a health share program differ from traditional health insurance?

While their goal is similar, there are several important differences between a health share program and traditional insurance. Most significantly, since sharing programs are not official health insurance providers, they are not subject to the same federal laws and regulations, as reflected in several of the differences listed below.

  1. Unshared amounts – Health share programs don’t have deductibles. Instead, every member has an annual unshared amount. Some programs will begin covering a member’s medical expenses after the member has shelled out as little as $1,000 toward these costs. Other programs, though, require members to pay $5,000 toward their medical expenses each year before the program kicks in.
  2. No network requirements – All health insurance providers have a list of doctors, medical professionals, clinics and hospitals that are covered under their insurance. But members of health share programs have the freedom to use any doctor in any health care facility they desire. If a doctor refuses to accept the membership card, the member can pay out of pocket and the health share program will reimburse them for the cost of the visit.
  3. Strict rules regarding pre-existing conditions – Unlike most plans offered by the ACA, many health share programs will not accept members who have pre-existing medical conditions. Some will accept members with pre-existing conditions, but will only begin covering the attached expenses after a year – and they will only partially cover them.
  4. Refusal to cover certain procedures – Health share programs reserve the right to deny coverage for procedures that are against their religious beliefs, like abortions. Many won’t cover the costs of birth control either.
  5. Lifetime caps on coverage – Sharing plans are usually accompanied by a lifetime cap on health coverage. These caps have a broad range and their exact amount depends on the member’s chosen plan. They can be as small as $250,000 or as large as $1,000,000.
  6. Incomplete coverage – Many health share programs don’t cover costs for an annual well visit. Lots of them will not pay for vision or dental needs either.
  7. No government protection – Since health share programs are not subject to government regulation, members lose out on the government’s protection if the program does not deliver as promised. This means every member is essentially taking a risk by signing up for the health share program.
  8. Lifestyle requirements – Lots of insurance providers will encourage and reward healthful lifestyles. But a health share plan will often require members who are even slightly overweight to consult with a nutritionist and start working out.

Health share programs can be a terrific way to free up some extra cash each month, but they are not for everyone. If you are in good health and you rarely see a doctor, a health share program might be right for you. Just be sure to read the fine print so you know exactly what you are signing up for before joining a program.

Your Turn: Are you a member of a health share program? Tell us what you love about it in the comments!

SOURCES:
http://blog.bcbsnc.com/2017/12/5-things-need-know-health-share-plans/

https://www.libertyhealthshare.org/faq
https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2014/10/24/cant-afford-obamacare-consider-a-health-care-sharing-ministry-instead
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.laurengreutman.com/save-money-with-health-care-sharing-ministries/amp/

6 Times A Bargain Is Not A Bargain

In the words of writer Franklin Jones, “A bargain is something you don’t need at a price Closing store signyou can’t resist.” And we couldn’t agree more.

With the biggest spending season of the year looming ahead, it’s time to brush up on your shopping smarts. Don’t get caught springing for something you can’t afford! This year, give yourself the gift of an intact budget and a credit card balance that doesn’t haunt you for months or years to come.

Here’s when that steal of a deal you can’t wait to show off to your friends is not such a bargain after all.

1When you don’t need it

The price might be right. But, if the heavily marked-down item is one you don’t need, you’re not getting a bargain at all. You’re just blowing money you could be using to put into savings or purchase stuff you actually do need.

Those flashy signs and hyped-up ads are enough to blind the most discerning shopper, so think carefully before plunking down your money on sale items. If an item is marked down 75%, ask yourself: Would I ever buy this item at full price? Would I buy it if the price was slashed just 30%?

When it’s a faulty product

Sometimes, it doesn’t pay to be cheap. If an item is retailing at a ridiculously low price, inspect it carefully. Hold it up to this checklist to determine its quality and durability:

  • Where was it manufactured? If the product bears a designer label, but also has a “Made in China” tag stuck on it, you’re likely looking at a cheap knockoff that isn’t such a bargain after all.
  • Are there any noticeable defects or missing parts?
  • Does the item appear to be worn out? You don’t want to be buying someone else’s heavily used returns.
  • Is the material cheaply made? Some clothing will start attracting lint and will sport unsightly “pimples” while still in the store. Unless they’re giving it away free, such poorly made clothing is hardly worth the price.

When it’s going to go bad before you can use it

Costco, we’re looking at you! Sure, that gigantic package of peanuts that looks like it can feed a herd of elephants is insanely cheap, but who are you kidding here? We both know there’s no way your family can eat it before they start going bad. And there’s no money saved when half of an item gets chucked into the trash.

Before buying in bulk to snag a great deal, be sure the food won’t go rancid or get stale before you can eat it.

When the “sale price” is the highest the item’s ever been sold for at this location

Retailers often use underhanded strategies to attract consumers. One of these tactics is featuring an item’s price as a “sale price” when, in reality, the store has never sold it for more than the tagged amount.

Sometimes, the store operators will be basing their sale price on an inflated Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). But if the MSRP was artificially inflated from the start, you’re not really getting a bargain, are you?

Other times, the item will come with a pre-marked-down MSRP. The manufacturer’s label might read: “Original price: $49.99. Our price: $39.99.” Of course, the item was never sold at $49.99 and the retailer is just playing games with you. If an item is really marked down, you’ll see a new price tag slapped on top of the manufacturer’s label with the newer, lower price.

When you need to mail in a rebate to get the discount

Rebates are a retailer’s best friend. Most of us are just too lazy or forgetful to mail them in. So, we instead end up paying the full price with the retailer getting the last laugh. For instance, in one TiVo subscription promotion that included a mail-in rebate deal, a whopping $5,000,000 was never claimed.

If you’re the super-responsible type who doesn’t know the meaning of procrastination, enjoy those rebate deals. But, for the rest of us mere mortals, it only pays to pick up a rebate item with an instant at-the-register rebate. Otherwise, consider the item as being marked at its regular price.

When it’s part of a liquidation sale

Avoid liquidation sales like crime-ridden neighborhoods. While shoppers sometimes snag great deals at these sales, liquidation events are ripe with rip-offs. Retailers post signs claiming “Everything Must Go!” – but that’s where the honesty ends. The “Rock Bottom Prices” they advertise are often as high as the original MSRP – or even higher. The store owners are depending on shoppers to assume that all items are bargain-priced just because they’re at a liquidation sale. Don’t let them pull the wool over your eyes! Stay away from liquidation sales or proceed with extreme caution.

Sometimes a bargain is just that. But too often, what we think is an incredible deal is just another item we don’t need with a perfectly ordinary price.

Your Turn: Have you ever snagged a great deal only to realize later that it wasn’t quite the bargain you thought it was? Share your story with us in the comments below.

SOURCES:
https://www.fnbn.com/3199-2/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2012/03/03/beware-sometimes-bargain-sales-are-no-bargain/amp/
https://www.consumerreports.org/shopping/why-a-sale-isnt-always-a-sale/
https://www.google.com/amp/s/lifehacker.com/5695886/how-to-figure-out-when-a-sale-isnt-really-a-sale/amp  

Beware The Blackmailing Scam!

In a fresh twist on this age-old crime, scammers have taken to the internet. Online Man looking at computer worriedblackmail is nothing new, but a fresh wave of these scams hit the web last month, and it’s already ensnared dozens. Learn how to spot these blackmailing scams and you’ll get to keep your privacy, and your money, too.

Here’s what you need to know about the most recent blackmailing scams.

How it works

The victim gets an email from an alleged hacker claiming to have cracked their passwords, broken into their computer and used their webcam to watch their online activity. They may threaten to reveal that the victim has been visiting disreputable sites or to use their personal information to empty their financial accounts. The scammer then shares a willingness to back off-for the right price, of course.

As proof that they are “legitimate” hackers, the scammers will share an actual password that the victim has used many years ago. They may even include the password in the subject line of the email to grab the victim’s attention and ensure they actually open the email. Often, they’ll also include other bits of stolen data in their message to appear authentic.

If you receive an email like this, don’t panic. There’s no professional hacker behind the scam, no one has watched your online activity, and there’s not much the scammer can do with the information they may have.

The inclusion of the password might give you a scare, but there’s a simple explanation for how the scammer got hold of it. Over the last decade or so, there have been lots of massive database breaches within major corporations, sites and retail stores like Yahoo, eBay, Target, Macy’s, Sony PlayStation and dozens more.

Thanks to these breaches, there are now huge amounts of personal data and passwords floating around the internet. This data can be easily nabbed by a partially skilled hacker or bought on the black market. Once a scammer gets their hands on a password, they’re free to exhort the victim to pay a steep price in exchange for their privacy or security.

How to spot the scam

Many potential victims recognize this scam for what it is as soon as the hacker claims to have dirt on them. For many others, though, the outdated password is their clue. However, for victims who have been using the same passwords for years, this old code might still be in use and the scam can seem legit.

Now that you are armed with the knowledge that this scam is making its way around the internet and may contain an actual password you once used, or that you may still use, you are already a step ahead. If you receive an email with your password in the subject line, stay calm. Simply ignore the message. Better yet, delete it from your inbox and give it no further thought.

How to protect yourself

There’s not much you can do about any bits of your sensitive data that may be loose on the internet. However, you can do your part to protect yourself from falling prey to this, or a similar scam.

Here’s how:

  1. Update your passwords frequently and use strong, unique codes for each site you visit. You can use a password generator like 1password or LastPass to make this simpler.
  2. Choose two-factor authentication when possible.
  3. Never open emails from suspicious or unknown sources.
  4. If you are targeted, alert the FTC at ftc.gov.

Don’t let those scammers fool you! Be alert, be aware, and learn how to spot these scams for what they are.

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a blackmailing scam? How did you spot the ruse? Share your experience with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/23/technology/personaltech/phishing-password-email.html

https://tech.co/online-scams-to-watch-out-for-2018-07
https://www.theguardian.com/money/scamsandfraud

Staying Safe Online

With the average American spending 24 hours a week online, internet safety is more Woman shopping online with her tabletimportant than ever. A hacked or compromised computer can put you at risk for money loss, phishing scams or even complete identity theft.

It gets worse: If your computer’s security has been breached, it can be turned into a “middle man” for online theft. Criminals may remotely control a computer with weak security and use it as a patsy for large-scale crimes against hundreds or thousands of other computer users. An unprotected computer can commit awful crimes without its owner even knowing about it!

Fortunately, keeping your privacy, money and sensitive information safe when browsing the internet is simple; all it takes is awareness, some proactive steps and lots of common sense.

Read on for steps you can take to keep yourself safe online.

Avoid fake sites

The easiest way to get scammed online is to visit a fraudulent site. If you’re browsing a site you don’t usually use, ask yourself these questions to make sure it’s safe:

  • Does your browser warn you against visiting the site? Whether you browse with Chrome, Firefox or Safari, your browser will warn you about certain sites based on actual data and user reports.
  • Is the web text riddled with grammar mistakes and typos? Reputablewebsite owners are careful to present a polished, professional look. If a site looks like it was written by a second-grader, leave it.
  • Is the site secure? Only visit sites with an “https” and not just an “http” in the address bar.
  • Does the digital footprint check out? Google the company’s name to see what the internet and Better Business Bureau are saying about them.
  • Is there a legitimate “Contact us” section? There should be an authentic physical address and phone number for the business.
  • Is there an excessive amount of ads? Ads are intrinsic to the online world, but if a website seems to be covered in intrusive ads, it’s likely a fake.
  • Check the shipping and return policies. If you can’t find this information, the site probably doesn’t really sell anything at all – though they are happy to take your money.
  • Is there a trust seal? Companies that deal with sensitive information make an investment to earn your trust. A trust seal, like the PayPal or Norton Secured seal, tells you the company has worked hard to deserve your trust.
  • Is the URL authentic? When redirected to another site, check the new URL to see if it matches the original company.

Practice password safety

It’s your key to almost every online board and gated site; do your best to keep it safe! Here’s how:

  • Use a password generator. The best way to ensure that your passwords don’t get hacked is to use a password generator like Sticky Password, LastPass or 1Password. These services generate a super-secure password for every site you visit – but you’ll only need to remember your one master password.
  • Change your password. If you don’t like the idea of using a password generator, experts recommend changing your passwords every 30-40 days.
  • Never double passwords. Using common passwords across multiple sites is easy on the memory but hard on your safety and security.
  • Use strong passwords. For optimal security, choose passwords that include a mixture of capitalization use, numbers, letters and symbols.

Update your browser

Perhaps the most neglected and simplest step of internet safety is keeping your browser updated. With just one click, you’ll increase your browser’s security and improve your computer at the same time.

Here’s why you’ll want to keep your browser running with its newest version:

  • Increased speed. Each new version of your browser is an improvement on the old one. Why lag behind when you could be using a faster browser?
  • Improved website compatibility. Lots of websites rely on updated browsers to share all of their graphics and features.
  • A better experience. A newer browser will offer you added features, customizable extensions and sleeker graphics.

Above all else, an updated browser will provide better security. Internet companies are constantly looking for ways to protect you and keep you safer; take full advantage of their efforts by always using the latest version.

An updated browser offers stronger protection against the most recent scams, phishing attacks, viruses, Trojans, malware and more. Newer browsers have also patched up security vulnerabilities that may be present in your older browser.

Updating your browser is super-easy and super-quick. Late model computers will update automatically as soon as new iterations are released to the public. If your computer is a little older, you can choose the “auto-update” feature available on some browsers for the same results. Otherwise, you can update your browser manually by following the instructions on your browser. These are typically easy to follow and take just a few clicks.

Follow these tips for safe online browsing. A few small steps now can save you heaps of aggravation and money lost down the line. Don’t let those hackers get to you!

Your Turn: How do you keep safe online? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.getsafeonline.org/protecting-your-computer/update-your-browser/

https://www.whatismybrowser.com/guides/how-to-be-safe-online/why-should-i-update-my-web-browser
https://security.stackexchange.com/questions/186780/how-often-should-i-change-my-passwords
https://usa.kaspersky.com/resource-center/preemptive-safety/top-10-internet-safety-rules-and-what-not-to-do-online

New Cars Vs. Used Cars

Q: I need a new set of wheels and I’m wondering if it’s better to spring for a new vehicle

Two women looking at car

or to go the cheaper route and buy a used vehicle. What do I need to know about each kind of purchase?

A: Any decision surrounding a purchase as large as a car needs to be made with careful research and consideration. There are pros and cons on both sides of the fence here. Your final decision, though, will depend on your budget, personal preferences and particular needs.

To make your job a little easier, we’ve outlined the pros and cons of each purchase type below.

Pros of new cars

  • Status symbol. The strongest allure of owning a new vehicle is obviously its attractiveness. You don’t hear many people bragging about their just-purchased used car or posting pictures of it all over their social media pages.
  • Fewer repairs. With a new vehicle, you can assume you won’t be dealing with major repairs or maintenance issues for a while.
  • Easier shopping. When everything is completely new, there’s no need to drag your prospective new car to the mechanic. It’s also easier to determine a fair price for the car.
  • More financing options. If you’re considering a new car, you’ll be offered attractive incentives like cash rebates from the carmaker and better interest rates from the lender.
  • Improved technology. Cars are getting more updates, and recent models have incredibly convenient technology, such as programmable settings, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, built-in Wi-Fi hotspots or lane-departure warnings.
  • Automaker’s guarantee. All new cars come with warranty coverage for their first three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Cons of new cars

  • Price. Of course, a new car is going to be more expensive. But it’s not just the price that puts you at a disadvantage – it’s the fact that you can get a perfectly comparable vehicle for much less.
  • Depreciation. New cars go down in value as soon as they leave the lot. In fact, a new car can lose 20% of its value once it’s owned. At the end of the first year of ownership, your new car can drop another 10% thanks to the mileage you’ve clocked and the wear and tear. You’ll feel this loss if you try to sell your car a few years down the line.
  • Higher premiums. Insurance companies charge more for newer vehicles. You’re also more likely to want the maximum coverage and protection when every dent in your new car is enough to bring you to tears.

Pros of used cars

  • Price tag. Let’s be honest here: No one would think of buying a used car if it weren’t for the savings. And those savings can be enormous! Consider this: according to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), the average American own 13 cars in their lifetime. A typical new car costs $30,000. If each car that a person owns throughout their life is just 3 years old and costs $20,000, the driver can save $130,000 on car costs throughout their life!
  • Less depreciation. The savings on a used car don’t end at the dealer’s lot. With the previous owner absorbing the initial depreciation on the car during its first few years of ownership, your vehicle will only experience a minimal drop in price. You can save yourself thousands of dollars in loss if you want to sell your car a few years down the line.
  • Lower insurance premiums. With your car weighing in at a lower value, your monthly insurance premiums will be more manageable. You can also opt out of full protection when your car isn’t a new model anyway.
  • Lower interest. If you choose to finance a used car instead of a new one, you’ll likely have a higher interest rate. However, since the loan amount is lower, you’ll save in total interest payments over the life of the loan.
  • Predictability. When purchasing a just-released car, you never know what issues might crop up in the future. But, when you’re buying a model that’s been around for a few years, you’ll have a wealth of research and ratings available on your car so you’ll know what to expect.

Cons of used cars

  • Complicated purchase. You won’t be able to walk into a lot and walk out with your new car an hour later. With a used vehicle, you’ll want to get a vehicle history report, ask to see the vehicle’s service records and bring it to a mechanic for a professional inspection.
  • Fewer choices. When buying pre-owned, you don’t get to be picky about things like colors, upgrades and features. If you find something in your price range that meets most of your specifications, you grab it!
  • Risk. Even if you do your homework well, you still run the risk of walking out with a lemon when you buy a used car.

It’s a multi-faceted decision, but by carefully weighing your options and personal preferences, you’ll drive off of the dealer’s lot with a real winner!

Whether you choose to go new or previously-owned, don’t forget to call, click, or stop by Destinations Credit Union to hear all about our auto loans. Not only do we offer one of the best car loan rates in the Baltimore area, between now and November 21, 2018 you can win prizes worth up to $200 in our CARnival of Savings event!

Your Turn: Did you buy your car new or pre-owned? Are you happy with your decision? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

SOURCES:
https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/loans/compare-costs-buying-new-car-vs-used/

https://www.autotrader.com/car-shopping/4-questions-help-you-decide-new-or-used-car-167808
https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/new-cars-vs-used-cars
https://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/cost-vs-value-should-you-buy-a-new-or-used-car/

How To Create And Keep Strong Passwords

Your passwords are like the keys to your life. And when it seems like there’s another bigPeople using computer with secure login screen security breach every week, you want to be absolutely sure your passwords are strong and safe. After all, with just a few keystrokes, a scammer can have full access to your personal information, financial accounts, social media pages and so much more.

But creating those perfect passwords – and remembering them – can be difficult.

Below, we’ve outlined 6 steps for creating and keeping super-strong passwords that will keep scammers guessing.

Step #1: Choose a password manager

With so much of our lives accessible online, it’s more important than ever to keep passwords secure. The best way to do this is to use a password manager. These services will generate strong passwords for all of your financial accounts, favorite websites and social media platforms and then keep them safely encrypted. You will only need to create and memorize one master password, which you will use when logging into all of your accounts.

There are lots of password managers on the market, but the ones that come most highly recommended are 1password, Lastpass and Keepass.

1Password and LastPass are both cloud-based services, and can be vulnerable to remote attacks. However, both services heavily encrypt your data and don’t store your one master password in the cloud. As long as that password is strong, you’ll be safe even if these services get hacked.

Step #2: Create an unbreakable master password

Once you’ve chosen your password manager, create a strong master password. This code can open up every password of yours to potential scammers, so be extra careful about choosing one that is super-secure and virtually unbreakable.

Scammers are becoming increasingly more efficient at password-cracking. They use multiple dictionaries which include English words, names, foreign words, phonetic patterns and more. They look for dates, commonly used substitutions, like “$” for “s,” “@” for “a,” and they run their dictionaries with various capitalizations.

Follow the rules below and you’ll have a strong password.

  • Make it long. Many sites require a password that is a minimum of 8 characters long, but a 12-character password is even stronger.
  • Be creative. Avoid using names, places and recognizable words because these are easily cracked.
  • Mix it up. The best way to keep your password unbreakable is to mix up your capitalization and the kinds of characters you use, switching back and forth from letters to numbers to symbols.
  • Don’t use any of variation of these commonly used – and commonly hacked – passwords:
    •    123456123456789
    •    Passwordadmin
    •    12345678qwerty
    •    1234567111111
    •    1231231234567890000000
    •    Abc1231234
    •    iloveyouaaaaaa

If you’re unsure about your password’s strength, you can run it through an online password checker, like the one on OnlineDomainTools.com.

Bonus tip:Worried about creating and remembering a long, unbreakable password? Turn a sentence into a password by using mnemonics, misspelled words and symbols that only you will understand. Here are a few to get you started:

  • WOO!TAwonTWS = Woohoo! The Astros won the World Series!
  • D:'(OspldMlk.JdreenqOJ = Don’t cry over spilled milk. Just drink orange juice
  • 1tubuupshrtsin2Mpnts = I tuck button-up shirts into my pants.

Once you’ve created a super-strong master password, work on memorizing it. Don’t store the password anywhere online or on your phone; write it down on an unmarked piece of paper. Rip up the paper as soon as you’ve committed the password to memory. This should happen fairly quickly since you will be using it quite often.

Step #3: Update all your passwords

Next, you’re going to sync all the websites and accounts you use with your password manager. Follow the guidelines on your password manager for this step, as they differ with each service.

When you’re through, you’ll only be able to log into these sites by using your master password.

Some sites you use might employ outdated systems that won’t work with a password manager. For these sites, you will need to use different passwords. You can slightly amend your master password for these sites or create new ones using the guidelines above. Never double passwords; use a different one for every site you use.

Step #4: Use two-factor authentication

Add another layer of protection by choosing two-factor authentication whenever you have that option.

Step #5: Be careful with security questions

Ironically, security questions are extremely insecure. Anyone can Google your dog’s name or your mother’s hometown. And, if all a scammer has to do to retrieve your password with the “I forgot my password” tab is answer a security question, the strongest passwords in the world won’t do you any good.

Protect yourself by treating security questions like passwords. Never answer them truthfully. Instead, make up mnemonics or nonsensical answers that are hard to crack but easy for you to remember.

Step #6: Don’t let your browser or phone “remember” your passwords

Don’t be lazy; keep your passwords in your head and not on your devices. Otherwise, you’ll be in deep trouble if your computer or phone is swiped.

Keep your passwords strong and safe. You don’t want to be an easy target for scammers!

Your Turn: What’s your best tip for creating a super-strong password? Share it with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/lifehacker.com/how-to-create-a-strong-password-1797681069/am

https://lifehacker.com/four-methods-to-create-a-secure-password-youll-actually-1601854240
https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2407168,00.asp

 

Should I Refinance Before I Retire?

Q: I’m in my mid-50s and I’m preparing to retire sometime down the line. I’m wondering group of people around a table outdoorsif I should refinance my mortgage as part of my retirement planning. Is that a good idea?

A: Refinancing your existing mortgage can have a large impact on your financial health, for better or for worse. Be sure to consider all angles before deciding if a pre-retirement refinance is right for you.

The first thing you need to know before taking this step is that refinancing doesn’t come cheap. It’s only worth the cost if you come out ahead. Crunch the numbers carefully before making this decision. To verify if you will indeed gain from a refinance, check out this  calculator.

The second factor to consider is how long you plan on staying in your home. Financial experts only recommend a refinance for homeowners who plan to continue living in their home for at least 10 years. Otherwise, it is unlikely that they’ll recoup the cost of the refinance.

Another important issue to weigh is the significant tax savings that many homeowners believe a mortgage affords them. While this may be true under certain circumstances, it is rarely the case for those who are nearing retirement.

Homeowners are offered tax deductions on the interest of their mortgage payments. However, toward the end of a mortgage’s life, most of the monthly payment is going toward the principal of the loan and not toward interest. This means the tax savings from an older mortgage are minimal.

If you are holding onto a mortgage for this reason, consider a refinance that will lower those small interest payments and help you be rid of your house debt before you’re ready to retire.

Next, understand that there are a few ways to refinance, only some of which make sense for a homeowner who is nearing retirement.

Here are the three primary ways to refinance a mortgage:

  • Lengthening an existing loan into a new 30-year mortgage
  • Refinancing to a loan with a lower interest rate
  • Shortening the life of a loan to a new 10- or 15-year mortgage.

While the second two courses of action will afford you several long-term benefits, it is rarely a good idea to refinance a mortgage to a lengthier loan pre-retirement. Doing so has several disadvantages:

  • You may end up leaving your heirs with a mortgage to pay off after you pass on.
  • You will retire with debt. This can increase your stress levels and put a severe strain on your financial independence during your retirement.
  • You can trigger tax complications. With more fixed expenses to cover pre-retirement, you may be forced to pull money out of your retirement accounts. This can cause an increase in your income tax payments.

On the other hand, refinancing to a lower-interest loan, one with a shorter life, or a mortgage that offers both advantages together, can offer you several significant benefits upon retirement.

Here are just a few of the reasons you may want to consider this kind of refinance before you retire:

  1. Extra cash flow – Having more liquid assets is the primary reason many pre-retirement homeowners choose to refinance. By switching to a loan with a lower interest rate, you’ll find yourself with considerable monthly savings that can help you live out the rest of your years in financial independence. Use that money for basic living expenses, to fund your travels as you explore the world or even to finance a move to a retirement community. You can also choose to let that money grow by investing it in the market or adding it to your existing retirement fund. However you decide to use the money you’ll save on a lower-interest mortgage, you’ll come out ahead.
  1. Retire debt-free – If you have more than a decade to go until retirement, refinancing a 30-year mortgage into a 10- or 15-year loan can allow you to retire completely debt-free. As long as you can afford the higher monthly principal for the short amount of time left to pay off your loan, you’ll save on interest. Best of all, you’ll be able to retire with peace of mind, knowing that you don’t owe a penny.
  2. Pay off other high-interest debts – Some pre-retirement homeowners are carrying significant amounts of credit card or other debt. In that case, refinancing to a lower-interest loan can be an easy way to come up with extra cash to pay off a high-interest balance. Don’t let those credit card bills continue to haunt you throughout your golden years!

Refinancing your mortgage before you retire, can help you sail into your golden years, debt-free. Call, click or stop by Destinations Credit Union today to ask about your refinancing options. We’re committed to helping you achieve and maintain financial wellness through every stage of life.

Your Turn: Did you refinance before you retired? Which factors drove your decision? Share them with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bankrate.com/finance/refinance/decide-whether-to-refi-before-you-retire.aspx/amp/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.hsh.com/amp/finance/refinance/should-I-refinance-before-I-retire.html  
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.fool.com/amp/investing/general/2015/04/03/retire-with-your-mortgage-or-refinance.aspx  
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2014/02/05/7-pros-and-cons-to-refinancing-before-retirement/amp/  

Should I Be Concerned About Rising Mortgage Rates?

On June 13th, the Federal Funds Target rate was officially raised by .25%. This increase Two women reviewing loan documentsmarks the second time interest rates were raised in 2018 and experts expect another two increases this year.

The rate increase was prompted by optimistic feelings about the general state of the economy. The Fed pronounced the economy to be rising at a “solid rate” and claimed that inflation rates are close to their target goal of 2%. Most notably, unemployment rates have dropped to just 3.8% in May, 2018, tying with April 2000 for the lowest rate since 1969.

While this might be good news for the economy, all these indicators point to rising interest rates-and that might not be the best news for current and hopeful homeowners.

Is it a good time to buy a house? Should you choose an ARM or a fixed-rate mortgage? If you’re a homeowner, should you be taking any action now?

So many questions-and we’ve got answers! Read on for what you need to know about the rising interest rates and what it all means for you.

What you can expect for the rest of the year

Here’s what experts anticipate for the remainder of 2018:

  • More market increases. The fed is expected to raise interest rates again at their meetings in September and December.
  • A healthy economy that keeps growing. With unemployment rates at record lows and the recent tax cuts keeping the economy strong, business is booming across the country. Hiring is up and firing is down. If you’re an employee, you can anticipate a raise in 2018 and the security of a job you can hold onto for years.
  • More homeowners choosing to stay put. In 2017, U.S. homeowners gained $1 trillion in equity. This means most homeowners are now sitting on newfound wealth. It now makes more sense for them to tap into their home’s equity to fund renovations on their homes instead of going through the hassle and paying the costs of a move. Cash-out refinances, in which the homeowner takes out a bigger mortgage and pockets the difference in cash, will be especially popular. When homeowners stay put, it can create a tighter housing market which can make prices rise.

Why a healthy economy means higher mortgage rates

When the economy is thriving, inflation increases. This causes investors to seek higher returns for their investments. The only way to keep investors interested in mortgage bonds when the economy is booming is to raise interest rates on mortgages.

It’s more that, though. The Feds want to keep inflation stable so that it doesn’t spikesuddenly and trigger a market panic which can lead to a crash or a recession. By gradually increasing interest rates, they can keep the economy growing at a steady, stable pace.

What do mortgage rates look like now?

Mortgage rates have already surpassed predictions set by major housing agencies at the end of 2017. As of August 1st, 2018, mortgage rates are hovering between 4.5% and 5% and are not expected to drop anytime soon. If anything, they’ll only continue rising throughout the rest of the year.

If you’re a homeowner

If you own a home and haven’t yet locked in your interest rate, now is the time to do so. Rates are only going to continue climbing and you want to get the best interest rate for your mortgage before it gets too expensive to handle.

If you haven’t already, consider refinancing your existing mortgage to one with a lower interest rate.

If you’re in the market for a home

House prices have soared over the last seven years. According to the National Association of Realtors, the average price tag for a home is now $264,800, up by almost 100K from 2011. When you adjust these numbers for inflation, house prices have seen a 33% increase in seven years.

If you’re house-hunting now, don’t pay more for your mortgage than you absolutely have to.

Housing agency Freddie Mac urges new-homeowners to shop around before choosing a mortgage. Get as many quotes as you can, do your research, and make some more phone calls. You do it before every other major purchase; why not shop around when it comes to a decision that will affect your monthly mortgage payments for years?

“One additional mortgage quote could save you $1,500 over the life of your loan,” Freddie Mac shares. “Five quotes could save $3,000.”

It’s also a good idea to consider an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). ARMS are 30-year loans that have fixed rates for a specified amount of time, usually 3-7 years. Rates will then change according to national rates. When mortgage rates are rising, ARMs are usually priced more reasonably than fixed-rate loans. 30-year fixed rates, now priced up to 5%, hovered in the high 3s throughout 2017. ARMs are now in the same range.

ARMs can give you a fixed, stable payment for up to 7 years. After the initial period, they can be adjusted just once a year-and there are limits to how much the rate can be increased.

Considering a refinance? Shopping for a mortgage? Don’t forget to call, click, or stop by Destinations Credit Union today to learn about the mortgage products we have available for you.

Your Turn: Have you taken any action in response to the Fed’s interest rate increase? Share it with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://themortgagereports.com/32667/mortgage-rates-forecast-fha-va-usda-conventional

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-20/fed-s-powell-says-case-for-gradual-rate-hikes-remains-strong
https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/housing-statistics
https://www.forbes.com/sites/advisor/2018/06/19/fed-now-hinting-at-four-potential-rate-hikes-in-2018/#20c2283f2d6a
https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/mortgages/adjustable-rate-mortgage-good-bad-idea-rates-rise/

Don’t Get Caught In A Free Trial Scam!

You know what they say: “If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.” And yet, dozens ofFingers pointing to computer key labeled Free Trial people fall for scams that promise them the moon – and they don’t realize they’ve been played until it’s too late.

Because of this truism, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning of an uptick in free trial scams. The scams come in several shapes and sizes, but most will look something like this:

You see an ad from Netflix or a cosmetic company saying you’ve been granted a temporary subscription to their service or product. They say it’s absolutely free. The only catch? There is none. They say that, anyway. That is until you’re asked to pay for hidden fees in addition to shipping and handling at a time when it’s too late to back out. Or, you might be asked to share all of your financial information even though you’re officially not obligated to pay anything.

In other words, there’s hardly a “free trial” that won’t cost you big.

In one such scam, a company aggressively advertised “free trials” for skin care products, dietary supplements and e-cigarettes on various popular websites. The lucky consumer would only need to cover the cost of shipping and handling and the product would be delivered – absolutely free!

Of course, the product wasn’t free and the unlucky victims sometimes paid close to $100 in fees before the first shipment was sent out. Worse yet, they were charged this same fee each month for the next year, with no way to back out of their contract until the 12 months were up.

In another scam with a similar setup, consumers were asked to share payment information for the $1.03 to cover shipping and handling for the “free” products. After their order was placed, another screen with a “Complete Checkout” button appeared. Shoppers who clicked that button unwittingly agreed to pay for monthly shipments of the product to the tune of $94.31 each month. And when that button was clicked, yet another “Complete Checkout” button appeared.

Again, those who clicked this button were subjected to a $94.31 charge each month. Consumers who’d taken the bait twice ended up with a total monthly charge of $188.62 – plus shipping.

In a third “free trial” scam, shoppers were lured into signing up for a 12-month trial subscription to a popular service, like Netflix, absolutely free. Unfortunately, though, the company advertising for the free trial wasn’t Netflix at all; it was a group of scammers. Victims were redirected to a new webpage where they were asked to share their sensitive information to qualify for the trial.

You can probably guess the ending: The scammer made off with the consumer’s information and emptied their accounts, went on a wild shopping spree or stole their identity.

Don’t let this happen to you! Here’s how to steer clear of free trial scams:

  • Do your research. A quick online search of the company name with words like “scam” or “negative review” should give you a basic idea of what the business is all about.
  • Read the fine print. Too often, there’s no way to refute charges relating to this scam because the consumer agreed to pay them. Don’t click anything without reading all of the terms and conditions attached to the offer. If you can’t find any, or you can’t understand them, opt out of the offer immediately.
  • Look for an exit strategy. Is there a way to cancel the offer? Can you change your mind about the product? If you only have a small pocket of time to cancel the trial, you might be looking at a scam.
  • Always review your credit card and checking account statements. This way, you’ll immediately spot anything suspicious and you’ll be able to determine if you can back out of a shady deal.
  • Never share sensitive information online. Unless you’re absolutely sure you know who you’re dealing with, it’s difficult to know if a website is 100% secure.
  • Check URLs. When signing up for a free trial, you’ll usually be redirected to a new site. Check the URL of the webpage and determine if it matches the company you are allegedly dealing with.
  • Ignore urgent calls to action. If an ad urges you to “Act now!” or claims an offer will expire momentarily, it’s likely a scam.

Read the fine print and only sign up for free trials that won’t cost you in more ways than you’d imagined.

Your Turn: Have you ever been duped by a free-trial, or similar, scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.lovemoney.com/news/amp/69117/netflix-free-trial-subscription-scam-warning-fake-1-year-offer-email

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/taxonomy/term/858
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/07/dont-let-free-cost-you

Back-to-School Shopping Hacks

You may be deep into your summer routine of lazy afternoons at the beach, family day mini shopping cart with school supplies insidetrips and bedtimes postponed in favor of firefly-chasing, but back-to-school season is already in full swing. And, any way you slice it, it’s going to be expensive! Between new backpacks, textbooks, a long list of supplies and a fresh autumn wardrobe, most parents are looking at a bill of close to $700 for school-related expenses this season.

Be proactive and save big! Read on for our handy list of back-to-school shopping hacks that will help you keep more money in your wallet.

1.) Plan to shop 5 times

To take full advantage of the sales and clearance events throughout the summer, don’t buy everything at once. Plan on making 5 shopping trips this season, and you’ll get the best prices out there.

2.) Stock up

No, your child doesn’t need a 6-month supply of No.2 pencils for the first day of school or five spare pocket-folders. But, if you buy enough school supplies while prices are low to last through the first half of the year – or even all the way into June – you’ll save big.

3.) Take advantage of loss leaders

Every week during back-to-school season, retailers will advertise one product at a super-low price. This is their loss leader, an item priced so cheaply that retailers actually lose money on sales. Of course the bargain-priced product attracts customers, so it’s worthwhile for the retailer, but all you need to worry about is snagging those ridiculous prices. Make sure you catch those hot deals!

4.) Shop the dollar store

Before you hit the typical retail stores, shop for real bargains at dollar stores like Dollar Tree and Family Dollar. You can find calculators, paper, pencils, pens and more – for just a buck!

5.) Buy designer backpacks online

If your kid is begging for a brand-name backpack, but you don’t want to shell out big bucks for a label, check out sites like 6PM and eBags. You’ll find fantastic deals on designer backpacks that will keep both the fashion-conscious child and mom happy.

6.) Look for manufacturer coupons

Comb circulars, like RedPlum and SmartSource, for manufacturer coupons from supply companies like Bic and Mead. You can also find them in magazines geared toward parents like Parenting or on online coupon sites, like Retailmenot and CouponCabin. These are usually steeper discounts than retailer coupons and they can be combined with in-store specials.

7.) Decode price tags

When shopping for new clothing, you want to know if you’re getting the best deal possible.

Most stores have a system for tagging items at their final markdown. Learn how to decode price tags and you’ll save big. Here’s how these popular stores mark their lowest prices:

  • The Gap: Ending in $.97
  • Target: Ending in an 8
  • Old Navy: Ending in $.47
  • TJMaxx: Yellow price tag

8.) Shop through Ebates for cash back

Do all your online shopping through cash-back sites, like Ebates, and get 2-4% of every purchase back. Ebates is affiliated with almost every major retailer, and it hardly takes any extra effort to shop through their site. It’s like getting paid to shop!

9.) Coordinate with other parents

To help you get the best deals and save some time, work together with other parents of school-aged kids. If you’re in Walmart when they have their penny deals on pencils and you can get a box of 24 for just $0.50, offer to buy a few boxes for your friend’s kids. And, when your friend finds the super-hot deal on crayons, they’ll pick up a few boxes for your kids. That’s money saved and fewer trips to the store.

10.) Use the season to teach your kids financial responsibility

With all the kid-centered shopping this season, it’s the perfect time for some financial lessons. Is your child desperate for designer supplies? Offer to pay for the regular price and let her fill in the rest with her own money. Give your older kids a list and some cash and let them shop on their own. Offer children a choice between a pricier backpack or a new pair of shoes. The teachable moments during back-to-school shopping are everywhere!

11.) Check out gift-card sites before you shop

Save by buying discounted gift cards to stores, like Michael’s and JCPenney, on sites like GiftCardGranny and Raise.

12.) Use the Amazon App to price-match

Have your phone handy when shopping so you can comparison-shop when buying your supplies. If an item is cheaper on Amazon, why buy it at the store (especially if you are an Amazon Prime member and can get free shipping)?

13.) Sign up for promotional mail

Most major retailers offer a discount for signing up for their promotional emails or text messages.

  • H&M: Save 20% on one item when you text your email address to 707-03
  • Kohl’s: Save 15% off your entire order by texting SAVE15 to 564-57
  • Old Navy: Sign up for a weekly text alert by texting 6046 to 653-689 and get a $5 coupon, and also sign up for promotional emails at OldNavy.com and you’ll be rewarded with a 30%-off coupon
  • Crazy8: Sign up for emails and receive 18% off your next order, plus free shipping
  • The Children’s Place: Input your email address in the pop-up box on TheChildrensPlace.com and get a $10 coupon.

14.) Take advantage of price-matching

Lots of stores you’ll be shopping at this season, like Office Depot, Staples and Target, offer to match any competitor’s prices. Take advantage of this generous offer by coming prepared with an online price posting of a cheaper item you’ve found elsewhere. You’ll visit fewer stores this way and save money, too.

15.) Shop early in the week

Weekly sales go live on Sundays and the best stuff gets grabbed first. Shop Sundays and Mondays so you never miss out on a great deal again.

Save big this season with [credit union’s] back-to-school shopping hacks!

Your Turn: What’s your secret back-to-school shopping hack? Share it with us in the comments!

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

https://www.worthpointeinvest.com/the-best-time-saving-hacks-for-back-to-school-shopping/
https://www.sixsistersstuff.com/10-back-to-school-shopping-hacks/
https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2015/07/22/14-back-to-school-shopping-hacks