Blog Archive

Monday, December 7, 2015

Holiday Spending Is Getting Smarter, But You Can Be Smarter Still

The average American will spend nearly $900 on holiday presents this year. If you have two adults in your household, that’s almost $1,800.  The odds are good that you’ve already spent a good chunk of that on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday specials.  In looking at the sales numbers from the weekend, Americans are getting smarter about how they spend that money.  Brick and mortar stores suffered about a billion-dollar decrease in sales from 2014, largely avoiding many of the big-ticket items that lure customers into waiting overnight in cold parking lot lines.  Instead, consumers pushed online purchases to a record high of $4.45 billion, roughly 20 percent more than last year. At the time of this writing, Cyber Monday sales had not yet been released, so we can’t compare those.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Keep Yourself Safe During The Holiday Season

Every year, we hear about the same holiday safety tips – don’t drive tired, don’t drive drunk, assume every other driver is drunk and/or tired, etc. Those are all good ideas to keep in mind year-round.  Occasionally, we’ll hear one that’s specific to the season, like how frying turkey in the driveway is as dangerous as it is delicious, and it’s also not something to try while drinking or overly tired.  Unfortunately, this time of year is also one of financial dangers, many of which you won’t hear about on the morning news or read about in the paper.  Take some time, read our tips, and hopefully you won’t be a holiday victim.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Was There A Credit Union At The First Thanksgiving?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Financial Lessons Of James Bond

Everybody’s favorite spy is back in theaters this month with the release of “Spectre.”  To mark the occasion, we decided to take a look at his 50-plus year history to see what lessons we could learn about life and money from the greatest secret agent in film history.

Friday, November 13, 2015

How Will I Ever Retire If They Keep Moving The Finish Line?

What happens if you’ve made it to the day you thought you’d be retiring, but you’re simply not financially ready? Perhaps you passed your “Plan B” date.  Maybe even “Plan C” has come and gone.  You know you’ve been making the right moves, but a temperamental stock market, kids who stayed home longer than expected or an unlucky series of events keeps pushing back your time frame.  So, in exasperation, you ask …

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Gift Card Holiday Shopping Guide

With Thanksgiving only a few weeks away, holiday shopping is on the minds of many.  You might have gotten off to a solid start but have a few people left on your list that have you stumped when it comes to deciding what to get them. One of the simplest ways to check them off as complete is to pick up a few gift cards.  Clearly, they have become a go-to gift given that Americans spent nearly $32 billion on gift cards last year.  So it should come as no surprise that you’ll hear a lot more about gift cards as November rolls on. This is particularly true of your Facebook friends and family, who are probably choosing sides with one camp believing gift cards to be far superior to traditional gifts and the others finding them incredibly impersonal.  This guide will go over the case for and against gift cards and give you some tips on how to save money when shopping for them.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Daily Fantasy Sports

Every Sunday, Americans gather to watch football. Wherever you are, whatever else you do, the one thing we all (it seems) have in common is this Sunday ritual. When Dr. King called Sunday the most segregated day in America, he couldn’t have imagined the unifying force football would become, dominating popular culture and conversation in a way few other forces could.  In fact, of the 50 most popular programs last year, 90 percent of them were professional football games. Perhaps, in a world of DVRs and on-demand programming, football may be our last shared live event.

We’ve found a variety of ways to enjoy our shared obsession, from tailgating to fantasy football.  Over the last few seasons, a new way to enjoy football has come to dominate every commercial break, ESPN segment and preview article:  daily fantasy sports.  Daily fantasy sports, or DFS, is similar to fantasy football, but it’s played on a weekly basis rather than being a season-long experience.  It was also just declared “gambling” by the state of Nevada, which is an interesting development for the rest of the country.  If you’re curious about DFS, either because you might want to play or because you want to know what all of those commercials are about, this article explains what DFS is, why it’s controversial, and outlines the potential pitfalls that come along with it.
For fantasy football enthusiasts, DFS seems like a natural evolution.  Traditional season-long fantasy football has some major issues. For instance, a single injury can ruin a season, no two leagues have the same rules, and the whole season can swing from a waiver wire pickup of a running back no one had heard of a week prior. Most of these issues are rectified by a universal scoring system and the one-week duration offered by the major DFS sites and  If your fantasy football season has gone awry for any of the reasons listed above, joining a DFS league can seem like a logical way to ease the pain.  In addition, if your fantasy season is going great, DFS can seem like an appealing way to win some easy money.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Government’s $3 Trillion Dollar Plan

 So, whatever happened to that interest rate hike?  It was supposed to happen all spring, then all summer, and now we’re supposed to be fully confident that the Federal Reserve is going to raise interest rates by the end of 2015.  But so far, it hasn’t.  On one hand, that’s great news:  You still have time to lock in a fixed-rate mortgage or take out a low, fixed-rate home equity loan to pay off those credit cards before the rates go up. By the way, if you’re interested, that’s only a click away:

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Investing In New Media

It sounds like free money:  Everywhere you look, people are glued to their mobile phones, whether they’re in line at the post office, watching TV in their living rooms or cutting you off during the morning commute.  All you have to do is throw some money at the stock offerings for Facebook or Twitter and wait for the cash to start rolling in, right?  But, if you’ve checked recently, Twitter’s stock has plummeted, they’re laying off workers and investors are panicking.  Facebook had the same growing pains, and anyone old enough to remember Y2K also knows the names etched on the gravestones in the social media graveyard: Friendster, Myspace, Google Buzz, etc.

How can you protect yourself from disaster without missing out on what appears to be the wave of the future?  You don’t want to end up kicking yourself because you missed out, just like you don’t want to kick yourself for buying too much.  Below are some tips for investing in emerging technologies without losing your shirt.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Buying a Used Car Part Two: Loans and Negotiation

If you missed part one of our guide to buying a used car, take a moment  We covered choosing the right car, understanding the value of the vehicle and many aspects of the process up to the point you sit down with the person from whom you’ll make a purchase.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Buying A Used Car, Part One: Finding The Car

You’ve probably heard that a car is the second-largest purchase the typical American makes after their home, but that’s not really true.  It might seem like it, since the median home price in the US was just under $190,000 last year, while a new Honda Civic starts at about one-tenth as much.  When you look a little deeper, though, you’ll probably only ever own one home at a time, and when you sell it, you’ll get your money back. You might even make a profit on the sale.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Rethinking Your Money With Apple Math

When it comes to your finances, it can seem like all the advice you get is deadly boring, unbearably abstract or both.  For example, when it comes to paying off debts, how can you be expected to make a dent without first having a spreadsheet that compares all your credit cards and loans with columns for principal, interest rate, fees and maybe even frequent flyer miles?  It’s intense.  At the same time, when it comes to spending, you’re no better off. How do you compare the value of a fancy dinner to buying a new outfit for the kids?

In 1986, The Economist created “The Big Mac Index” as a way to compare currency values across eras and national borders.  The index shows how many hours of labor it takes to earn the cost of a Big Mac.  So, if it took you 10 minutes to earn the cost of a Big Mac last year and it takes you nine minutes today, you are – in theory – better off than you were before. That’s true whether those gains come from getting a raise, moving to a town with a lower cost of living or improvements in McDonald’s supply chain to save consumers money.  While the value of a dollar changes over time, the value of a Big Mac to a hungry customer remains constant.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

News – How Boomers Can Retire The Way Millennials Work

article image2You may have noticed a surge in the number of ponytails and slightly exposed tattoos around the workplace water cooler. Or perhaps you find you now need to get to the office earlier if you plan to land a space for locking up your bike. Maybe you’ve had to make peace with the fact that the kid in your meetings who doesn’t look old enough to ride solo on a roller coaster is not an intern, but an actual employee!  Face it, millennials are a force in the American labor force. In fact, by 2020, they’ll represent more than half of all workers in the country.  In spite of what you’ve read, those pesky youths can actually teach us experienced folks some important lessons about money, some of which might make you rethink part of your retirement planning.  Here are some of the things they’ve figured out that the rest of us might want to consider:

1.)  Don’t be afraid to move.  USA Today recently reported that one-third of all employees in America are freelance, by-the-job workers.  In many cases, these jobs are being handled by young people, many of whom commute over Wi-Fi from home or a coffee shop. In fact, many of those young people would need an airplane ticket to come into the office.  An increasing number of young people live a “digital nomad” lifestyle, living in the cheapest cities and working wherever they feel most inclined.  It’s easier to make ends meet living in San Antonio, where the median home price is $150,000, than it is in San Francisco, with a median home price six times as high.

The same logic works for retirement.  There’s no reason to keep living in a pricey neighborhood just because it’s a convenient drive to the office you’re not visiting any longer.  In fact, many retirees are following the digital nomads abroad, retiring to Asia and Central America, where the cost of living is pennies on the dollar.  In Belize, for example, a couple can retire with a budget of around $13,000 per year.  That’s below the poverty line in the United States!  How many flights could you buy for the grand-kids with that kind of savings?  Would they love to visit you on the beach?  You bet they would!

If you think you might want to move, check out our mortgage rates or look into our home equity loans here: because even a fraction of your home value here could buy you property abroad.

2.) Know what to rent … know what to buy.   It used to be that every young person’s living room looked the same:  futon from the curb, coffee table from Ikea and an enormous corner bookshelf filled to the brim with DVDs.  Before that, the DVDs were LPs, the coffee table was a spool table and that futon was probably the same futon from the same curb, just 20 years earlier.  But if you ask millennials how many DVDs or albums they own, they’ll respond with a confused look.  Why would anyone own movies or music?  Paying $20 for one movie or album doesn’t make sense when you can get all of Netflix for $8 per month or Spotify for free.

The same is true for a lot of the things you might want in retirement.  Is it time to replace that car? Why not lease it?  Do you want to own that house forever?  Why not create a leaseback arrangement? Do you own a timeshare?  Sell it and put the proceeds into a high-yield money market account.  It’ll go a long way toward paying for your vacations, wherever you choose to go.

Or drop us a line, and let us walk you through your budget to see what you may consider selling or renting, instead of owning for the sake of ownership.

3.)  Get connected.  Young people can do just about everything through social media, even when they’re otherwise not technologically inclined.  I recently had a millennial ask me what use anyone could possibly have for Excel, which was stunning by itself, but then she proceeded to arrange a meeting over Instagram on her phone at the drop of a hat and on a Saturday afternoon, which was even more shocking.

Make your social media work for you.  Go through the social media apps on your phone, see what you use them for and why you have so many.  Then ask young people why they have apps you don’t.  Do those apps sound useful?  If so, get them.  If not, try them out anyway.  While you’re at it, follow the businesses you use most often, so you can find news and deals.  It’s better than email, faster and easier to interact.

Most importantly, if you’re not following us on Twitter and Facebook, now’s the time.  We put out a lot of great info to help you with your finances, and you can shoot us a question. With just a couple of clicks, you can see the questions other people have.  You might even learn the answer to a question you didn’t even know you needed to ask!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Securing Your Phone

If you spent the morning on Twitter, CNN, or just about any other corner of the Internet, you might believe that they only thing that’s happened anywhere in the universe this week is Apple’s product announcement on Wednesday. Joined by developers from Adobe and Microsoft, the company showed off a new iPad, new iPhone, and a pencil. That’s right, a pencil.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Check Fraud & Swiss Cheese

Just about every article you read about fraud, security and identity theft is based on the idea that with increased technology comes increased security.  In fact, we do everything we can to bring as much cutting edge technology to your defense as possible.  Unfortunately, some of the greatest vulnerabilities in your security come from low-tech attacks.
Think about it this way: A dedicated criminal wanting to get into your checking account has to spend thousands of dollars on an RFID skimmer, a device to crack your PIN, and other technological marvels out of a “Mission: Impossible” movie, but when they get access, our fraud protection kicks in after only a very small expenditure.  So, why would a criminal spend thousands of dollars when they could get the same benefits from spending $5 on a blunt object with which to threaten you physically?  Why steal RFID signals out of the air when you can pick pockets and shop online?  Why go high-tech and hassle with all our security experts when a criminal can go low-tech and wait for you to slip up?
It helps to think of your financial security as a metaphorical block of Swiss cheese.  Every layer of security may have a few holes, just like every step you take to protect yourself has holes.  The idea is that, if we put enough layers of cheese on top of each other, we can make sure that none of the holes go all the way through the cheese, leaving you vulnerable.  In that spirit, we’ve identified a low-tech hole in the cheese, and we’re putting down another layer. We’d like to make sure you put down some cheese, too.

Check fraud is still a major problem, and it could get worse as EMV chips and software security make ATM and point of sale transactions more secure.  Check fraud is an umbrella term for a variety of strategies scammers use, ranging from creating blank checks on computer software to stealing and using old checkbooks.  Your checkbook is a source of fraud vulnerability for many of these strategies, but the ways to protect yourself are fairly simple.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

It’s Not Time To Panic

It’s time to be calm, but you know that already.  The market has had a crazy week, filled with ups and downs flowing at a quick enough pace to ensure – if you were going into a meeting to discuss market forecasts – you really couldn’t write up an actionable plan.  You could have just as easily relied on an iPhone and a Magic 8 Ball.
Analysts don’t like that kind of uncertainty, so if you feel like the advice you’re getting on TV is aimed at making you panic, you’re probably right.  However, don’t let other people’s panic make you panic.  In fact, when everyone else is panicking, it’s the calm person who can actually get something done.
But the markets will open tomorrow and something could happen.  Who knows?  And if that something does happen, how do you keep from entering into a panic mode?  How can you resist the urge to pull all your money out of savings or rethink your entire retirement?  We’re going to explain why staying calm is the most important thing you can do, but let’s first play a game.  It’s really quick and it simulates the market using actual history.
The rules: Start with $10,000.  You can sell once, you can buy once, and then it tells you how much you made or lost.  Open this link in a new tab by either copying and pasting or right clicking on the link (options will vary depending upon your web browser):

How did you do?  Did you play it a few times?  Did it go better when you sold your investments when the price dipped?  That game is based on market trends for the last 35 years or so, and the only real way to win is to just not sell.  Your money will go up and up and up.  The market rewards calm.  Here’s why you should relax and let CORE Credit Union take care of you:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Shop Local!

Your credit union is built on the idea of people helping people.  You already know we can do a better job looking after your money than a mega-chain bank that answers to shareholders, because we know you and our community.  So why give that up when you find a bargain online?  Shopping locally is better for the community, better for the environment and the best way to find something unique that can make all of your friends say “wow.”

Shopping locally benefits your community.

When you shop locally, the money you spend stays in the community.  Buying a new pair of shoes from a local shop takes dollars out of your pocket and puts them into the pockets of a local resident, of course.  What you might not consider is that those dollars get spent by the business owners as well, and they’re also likely to spend their money locally.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Is It Time To Refinance?

With rumblings about a possible Fed hike in the prime interest rate, Janet Yellen has much of America scrambling to make sense of their savings. Many of us are uncertain about how to allocate investments to maximize our money.  For most of us, the bulk of our money is tied up in our homes, and any change in the prime rate brings with it one major question:  Is it time for me to refinance?  Unfortunately, any time macroeconomics dominates the national news, it’s difficult to find experts who can agree on what’s going to happen and even more difficult to understand what they have to say. That’s why we’re here.  We’ll do our best to explain what might happen, what it means for you, and help you figure out whether or not it’s time to refinance.

Question:  Why would the Fed raise the prime rate?

Answer:  While it’s impossible to guess all of the factors the Fed looks at when it makes a decision, a good indication that rates might go up is the fact that rates haven’t gone up since the Bush administration. Interest rates aren’t supposed to be this low for this long.  When interest rates are low, Americans are punished for saving and encouraged to spend, often racking up incredible debt.  Between credit cards, college tuition, and similar factors, the Fed might want to rein in all of this spending.

Question:  OK, then why wouldn’t the Fed raise the prime rate?

Answer:  There are a lot of really odd factors occurring in the global economy right now, and oddness makes for uncertainty, which increases risk, which causes economists to perspire.  Chief among the factors that might lead to an increase in the prime rate is the rapid rise in the value of the dollar, which hurts exports, particularly because the dollar is strengthening against the currencies of two of America’s largest trading partners: China and Europe.  Raising the prime interest rate makes Americans more likely to save their money, which takes dollars out of the market and raises the price of the dollar even further. This exacerbates the trade deficit by making importing products cheaper and exporting them more expensive.  An interest rate hike also makes it harder for businesses to expand, since they will have to pay more for their loans, and hits average Americans in two sensitive areas:  their mortgages and their credit card debt.

Question:  How would a rate hike affect my mortgage?

Answer:  A rate hike can only have one of two effects on your mortgage:  It can raise your payments or do nothing.  The only way a rate hike won’t raise your payments is if you have a fixed-rate mortgage; otherwise, your monthly payment is going to go up.

Question:  How can I keep my mortgage bill from going up?

Answer:  If you don’t want to start paying more every month for the house you already have, consider refinancing into a fixed-rate mortgage before the Fed raises interest rates, whether that’s next month, next year or both.

Question:  I already have a fixed-rate mortgage.  Is there any reason to refinance my home?

Answer:  If you were planning on refinancing at any point during the life of your mortgage, now is a great time to do it (and perhaps the best possible time to do it).  Once the prime rate goes up, you won’t be able to get as favorable a rate on your next loan as you would now, even if you’re moving from fixed rate to fixed rate.  If you want to get out of your old loan and into a new one, act before the Fed does, whenever that turns out to be.

Question:  Should I buy points?  Does the prime rate affect the price of points?

Answer:  The Fed won’t change the price of points on your mortgage, just the starting point for your rate before you buy any.  Whether you should buy points depends on a lot of different factors, and your best plan is to talk directly to a specialist at CORE Credit Union to figure out what’s right for you.

But a rate hike decreases the value of points. If you were going to buy those points with cash, the value of money in your savings account will go up if the Fed increases rates. If you were going to use some of the equity from your original loan, you might be better off putting it toward variable-rate loans, like the balance on your credit cards.

The Fed will eventually raise rates. So, it could be worth tens of thousands of dollars to refinance your home now. At the very least, you owe it to yourself to fill out an application.  If you still have questions you can call us at 912-764-9846 or drop us an email at

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Tax-Free Weekend … Every Weekend

For most of us, tax-free weekend has come and gone. It was a heady rush, getting our Black Friday fix in the sunshine of August, and the kids are ready to head back to school with new clothes (that they don’t yet hate) and school supplies (they haven’t yet lost). But what about the people who missed out? What about the kids who just need one more thing? What about mom and dad who deserve a tax-free spree, too? Is there a way to shop tax-free every weekend without ending up with the IRS coming after them?

The answer is yes, you can shop with a 10, 15, or 20 percent discount every day and do it without breaking the law. Some of our favorite tips for keeping costs down are below. They also come with a plan for turning your shopping savings into long-term savings, because it’s not enough to keep money in your pocket, you’ll want to put it to good use, too.

When you’re done reading, hit up our Twitter feed or Facebook page to share your favorite tips and post pictures of your best hauls.

Bring your smartphone. Don’t buy anything in a brick and mortar store without pricing it online first. If you’re the kind of shopper who frequently buys on impulse, just bring your smartphone and do a few searches of the most likely places you’d find the item you’re looking at, like eBay, Zappos or the website for the store where you’re shopping. The Amazon app even lets you scan a barcode with your phone’s camera and does the searching for you. You can save a lot with this simple 30-second step.
Shop for used gift cards. We all know the feeling of getting a gift card we’ll never use. Well, a variety of websites offer a place for people to sell their unwanted gift cards, often for well below the face value of the card. Everybody wins: The seller gets some value out of a gift card that would otherwise be sitting in a junk drawer and the buyer gets a nice discount.

So, before you check out online or in-store, search Gift Card Granny and Gift Card Zen. They have some gift cards that will transfer to you in five minutes or less, allowing you to save 10-15% right away. All gift cards are backed by the site, so you don’t have to worry about scams. For many of the big chain stores like Target and The Gap, those online codes work in store as well, so you can save money while you wait to check out.

Clear your cookies. Retailers are smart, so they know that getting you to make a quick purchase on your first visit means they’ll probably get you to shop at their store for life. They’ll offer you a coupon for 10 or 20 percent off of your first purchase if you sign up for promotional emails on your first visit. Those offers often expire within 24 or 48 hours. As smart as retailers are, their websites are not quite as intelligent. It’s easy to make websites think it’s your first visit so you can get that coupon every time you visit. All you need to do is visit the site from a different browser than you usually use. If you don’t have more than one web browser, you can download Chrome, Mozilla or Opera for free, and use that for this trick next time, too. Sometimes you just have to use your phone. If none of that works, try clearing your cookies and browser history. Then, all you need is an email address you haven’t used at that site, and most of us have a few of those just waiting to be used.

Turn your everyday savings into long-term savings. It’s great to save a few dollars every now and then, but it doesn’t always feel like you’re really getting anywhere. But you were going to spend that money anyway, so if you put it in savings, it wouldn’t be a sacrifice. You can pull up our website at or app Apple®, Android™  or Kindle™  and transfer that money to savings before you even leave the store. If you put an extra $25 away every month, that’s $300 per year … without really trying!

If that seems like a lot of work, you can also work the gift card trick into your monthly budget. If you normally spend $25 per month on coffee, buy a $25 Starbucks gift card online from Gift Card Zen for $20 at the beginning of the month, then put $5 into your savings. Now you’ve got the savings and an easy way to stay on budget. The gift card can go into their app so the whole family has it on their phones – it’s like Starbucks is paying you $5 to make your life easier.

You can do this for all the places you shop. For instance, do you budget $100 for clothes, $300 for gas, $50 for eating out, $25 for coffee and $25 for movies each month? If you get gift cards for those stores at 10 percent off, you’ll save $50 each month, totaling $600 per year. If nothing else, you can put that in one of our Holiday Club accounts and have it at the ready to take care of your holiday shopping!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

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.

If you think you’re ready to move your credit card debt onto a single, low-interest card 4.9% fixed APR* for 12 months on balance transfers made between July 20 and September 30, 2015, try our CORE VISA credit card. You can apply online here:

If you have more credit card debt than you feel comfortable paying off in the introductory period of another card, you might consider a home equity loan.  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 start the application process here: or find out more by calling our home equity specialists here: 912-764-9846.

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 find a mortgage specialist here: 912-764-9846 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 Interest Plus Checking and Certificate of Deposit (CDs). Find out what we can do to put your money to work by checking out our financial products here:, and if you’re trying to get some money put together for college or retirement, don’t forget about our 529 and 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.

*APR - Annual Percentage Rate. Promotional rate applies to transferred balances only. Terms and restrictions may apply. All credit cards are subject to credit approval.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Empowering DIY: Making Your Own Luck

article image2
We all can point to that one person in our lives for whom everything seems to come easily. He or she has a good income, great house, beautiful children and the checkout line they choose always moves the quickest.  You probably really wonder about that person.  Why are they so lucky?  Why not me?
Well, why not you?  Recent research has confirmed ancient teachings telling us that we have more power over our own luck than we think.  If we focus our energy and attention in the right ways, we can make ourselves into the type of successful, powerful, happy people that everyone else will wonder about.  Read on for three tips from emerging science that can change your life:

1.) Don’t covet your neighbor, just focus on your own life.

Ancient theory:  The Epideictic.   Scholars have known about the epideictic since Aristotle discussed it in the third century BCE, though the details have always been murky.  Basically, we’ve always understood the power of praise and blame to define our world, but only recently have we been able to support it with science.

Modern science:  In one recent study, researchers played a video of a man spilling a glass of milk to two groups of people.  One group spoke English and similar languages, the others spoke languages in which blame wasn’t built into their sentence structure.  They found that the people from the first group, whose sentences are built around, “He spilled the milk,” could identify details about the man in the video that the other group could not. Your language is leading you to blame people, including yourself, even when it doesn’t help you!

We tend to credit ourselves when we succeed, and assume other people got ahead because they were lucky.  If you think people are luckier than you are, then you might need to rethink how you give credit.

The takeaway:  If you want to be luckier, stop worrying about upon whom to place blame.  Don’t blame yourself for your failures and don’t let life events force you into a negative mindset.  Who cares who spilled the milk?

2.) Trust your gut

Ancient theory:  Extrasensory Perception (ESP).  Perhaps you’ve had an occasional premonition or foreboding about something and chalked it up to coincidence. That’s because people are likely scoff when you talk about it as anything but that.  However, you can sometimes look at a situation and just know something is right or wrong even if you can’t put your finger on it.

Modern science:  More and more, scientists are backing you up.  Thin-slicing is a term psychologists use to describe the hunches we get from looking at a person or situation and making instant judgements about them.  Studies have shown that people respond as accurately to five-second clips of conversations and situations as they do to five-minute clips.

In his New York Times Bestseller Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell covers this topic very well, discussing topics from fashion to art fraud.  The feeling of instant recognition is so powerful that people with specific brain injuries don’t recognize their loved ones because they don’t feel the instant recognition.

Takeaway:  Lucky people know when to trust their gut.  Most of the scenarios you deal with daily are scenarios you’ve been dealing with for decades.  You’ve done alright so far, so let your instincts take over. Try to use analogies to determine if the problem in front of you is like the ones you’ve seen, and if so, go with your first instinct.  After all, your cave-person ancestors didn’t call an all-staff meeting every time they fought a mastodon, or you wouldn’t be here today.

3.) Keep it simple

Ancient theory:  Simplicity is at the heart of Taoism, Buddhism, Asceticism, Feng Shui, and many more.

Modern science:  Dr. Barry Schwartz and his colleagues have run countless studies to show that modern choices and convenience actually make us less happy.  For example, if offered a chocolate from one of those heart-shaped assortments, you’d probably prefer to choose one from among a big box with dozens of choices rather than having to choose among a slim selection.  Unfortunately, in his experiment, the people who chose from the smaller selection were much happier with their decision.  They didn’t wonder “what if” or experience buyer’s remorse.  The same is true with all sorts of variations on the same experiments.

Takeaway:  Lucky people make choices and stick with them.  Next time you’re in a convenience store, look at how many kinds of M&Ms they have.  Regular, peanut, peanut butter, mint, almond, pretzel, crispy … the list goes on and on.  Now check the sizes: regular, sharing size, fun size, big hanging bags, even bigger bags, mixed packs … so many to choose from.  Ask yourself:  Will getting your M&M choice exactly right make you any happier than picking one at random?  If not, then don’t waste your energy trying to get it right.  Lucky people make the right choice in this situation because they realize any choice is the right choice if they make it quickly and stick with it.

Want to improve your luck? The best thing you can do is improve your thinking.  Dump your baggage by focusing on yourself, trusting your gut and sticking to your decisions.  If you want to be the person who has everything going great, start by realizing that you already do. Count your blessings.  Then, realize everybody is showing you their best face all the time.  If your friend’s Facebook feed is filled with nothing but amazing life events and exciting vacations that seem to happen to everyone but you, remember that you’re seeing a condensed version of everybody’s life, with only the best parts put online.

If that doesn’t help, then think about it this way: Somebody, somewhere is looking at your life and envying your “luck.”

Monday, July 27, 2015

Google And Cybersecurity

Google had a good day last Friday. It’s safe to say it had a better day than you did, even if your day was fantastic. The company set a record for the largest single-day increase in value in the history of American investing at nearly $67 billion, breaking the previous record held by Apple.  Google did well enough that if it wanted to relax with a weekend of video games, movies, and pulp novels, it could simply buy Nintendo, Loews, and Barnes and Noble with the money it made just in that one day.

Last week was less enjoyable for Google’s customers, though. As investors were thrilled by YouTube’s growth, Gmail users were beset by faulty spam filters which hid so many legitimate emails that Linux founder Linus Torvald took to an online op-ed calling out the tech giant. The misstep was a rare occurrence from Google, but considering it followed a much-ballyhooed revision to its Gmail platform, it was worrisome for many. When considered in the context of major hacks of the U.S. government and infidelity website Ashley Madison this summer, the Gmail problems had people wondering what security Google has in place for the largest privately-held collection of American’s data.

Don’t leave your cyber security in doubt. We’re here to answer your questions about your online safety.

Question: Everyone is always going on and on about online security, but nothing has ever happened to me. Should I even care? What’s the worst that could happen?

Answer: If you’ve never paid attention to your Internet security and never had a security problem, you’re probably fine. You clearly have a rabbit’s foot offering you magical protection from scammers, spammers, spoofers, and identity thieves. Or maybe you have been compromised and just don’t know it yet.

If black hats get their hands on your machine, there’s no telling what they could do. In some cases, you’re looking at spyware and malware that’s merely annoying. In others, your personal and financial information could be compromised. You might even have had your identity stolen. Online security is crucial, and you really can’t be too careful.

Question: I don’t have Gmail. I use Outlook. I don’t use Android. I have an iPhone. I’m good, right?

Answer: Internet security is like a 1980s slasher flick: The instant you let down your guard, something bad is going to happen. No, you’re not safe and Google isn’t bad at security. They’re actually pretty good at it.  Their cyber security task force is responding to the perception of a problem, not an actual problem.

Conversely, consider the products offered by Apple: Apple is slow to offer security updates for OS-X and sometimes bizarrely laconic when it comes to iOS apps.  While Google and Microsoft update their iOS apps every two weeks or so, Apple often waits months. Apple also doesn’t support security updates for older versions of OS-X, so if you’re still running Snow Leopard or anything older, Apple stopped updating security on your machine last year, leaving about 1 in 5 users behind.  When El Capitan comes out this fall, it will likely mean that security updates will end for machines still using Mountain Lion.

Question: How do I know if my security is up to date?

Answer:  Every reputable piece of software you use, on your computer or on the Web, should allow you to view your security settings.  If you can’t find your security settings, Google it or look for help on the site.  If you still can’t find your security settings, consider using different software.

Question: What do I do if I think something fishy is going on with my account information?

Answer:  Let CORE Credit Union know right away.  The sooner we know, the sooner we can protect your important financial information.  You may have your credit or debit card information stored at your favorite shops and you don’t want anyone to mess with your cards.  After you’ve gotten in touch with us, get in contact with whomever is in charge of the site where you have suspicions.  See what they recommend.  It may be a good idea to notify the police.  Anyone who has access to your online profile is likely to have your home address, too.

Now is a really good time to protect yourself.  Update your password for all of your main accounts and any others you can think of.  Don’t write your password down, try not to make it obvious, and try to keep your passwords separate.  It may be a lot of work, but it will pay off in peace of mind.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Is It Time To Upsize Your Home?


Life rarely turns out the way we plan, and when a surprise comes along, it’s usually not an opportunity to simplify our lives.  If you’re one of the many parents blessed with one more angel than you had planned for, you understand just how such surprises can make the simplest things much more complicated.  Or maybe the innocent angel you’ve been raising has entered adolescence and wants some space alone.  Or maybe it’s gone the other way for you:  You bought a house when prices were low and wages were tight, and now that you have some equity and a higher income you’d like to bump up your standard of living.
If any of those scenarios sound familiar, it might be time to upsize your home. But is expanding right for you?

Upsizing is great …

You probably don’t need anyone to tell you that a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood would be fantastic.  If you could get the kids out from under your feet, you could go back to reading that book you never finished or start that workout regimen you’ve been putting off, or whatever it is that makes you want to plunk down your hard-earned money for a new home.

But there are really strong arguments to be made for upsizing that might not be as obvious.  For example, you may not actually want more square footage.  One way to upsize without getting a giant house full of rooms you might not need is to look into adding outdoors space.  Some homes have gorgeous patios, outdoor kitchens and even wood-burning outdoor pizza ovens!

Another alternative to upsizing your space is to move into the home of the future.  That Cape Cod or Queen Anne you’re in right now might be beautiful, but is it built for the 21st century?  Are the speakers built into the walls?  Is it set up for home automation?  Or does it have that one bizarre room with no outlets, like some mid-century houses in the Midwest?  For some people, particularly those with a home business, it can even be worth paying more every month if doing so moves you to a neighborhood with faster Internet.

Baby Boomers have been upsizing their homes at a surprising rate, often moving into larger homes for retirement.  Usually, people move into larger homes because they want the space and retirees presumably have an empty nest.  Moreover, as we get older, it can be harder to lug a vacuum up the stairs or commit to mowing an enormous lawn every weekend.  But Boomers have learned the value of luring others over, often choosing houses on artificial lakes or in gated communities with kid-friendly amenities.  Suddenly, the big house is a blessing, because there’s room for everyone at Thanksgiving!  If you’re wanting to cut down on your travel time or increase your hosting duties at social events, a bigger house might be just the ticket.

… But maybe not?

You’ve been through this before, when you bought your current place. Buying a home is a little tedious and a lot expensive.  As you’re looking back on it, you might wonder why you’d ever go through that process again when it might be easier just to ask one of the kids to sleep in a tent out back or put up guests in a nearby hotel.

 The good news is that it’s not going to be that difficult this time.  You know what you’re doing and you should have fewer surprises.  You’ve got the down payment set up through the equity in your current home.  And if you’re already financing through [credit union], a new loan approval will be fairly quick and easy.

 What about right now?

 If you’re considering the idea of upsizing your home, now’s the time for action.  The dollar is gaining steam and plenty of economists are predicting we’re likely to see interest rates go up at some point this fall.  If you can get in before then, you’ll save some real cash in the long run.

 It’s also a good idea to act now because you can catch both sides of the housing recovery.  If your home has regained its value, but you know a neighborhood that hasn’t gotten back to full value yet, you can make a shrewd investment to get a bigger, nicer house in the other neighborhood and wait until that new home gets to the value it should have been selling at all along.  Right now, you’ve got a great buy low, sell high opportunity.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A New Kind of Grandparent Scam

For years, con artists have preyed on the elderly, claiming to be their grandchildren and in trouble with desperate need for  money.  This is the traditional grandparent scam and it dates back to as long as grandparents have had home phones.  Scammers know that grandma will do anything to help out, and they also know members of “the greatest generation” are excellent marks for phone scams.  In the traditional version of this scam, someone calls and tells the grandparent their grandchild has been jailed for a minor offense in a foreign country or has had a medical emergency befall them. Of course, other situations that would present an immediate need but be very hard to quickly verify are also used, so there is no one sure tell based upon circumstance.

In reality, the grandchild is not under arrest, in the hospital or in trouble at all. At the very moment the scammer says the grandchild is in the middle of an emergency, he or she is probably just staring at a cellphone screen, possibly while they’re in class, oblivious to the whole situation.

A new version of the scam has been making the rounds this summer and it has a 21st century hook. The FTC, the BBB and various news organizations are reporting that scammers are now claiming to be debt collectors and getting older Americans to fork over credit card information or wire money to the scammers.  Sometimes the collectors claim to be after young people, threatening that if grandma doesn’t come through with the cash, the grandchild will be arrested, have their license revoked or lose their job. Other times, the scammers claim the grandparents are on the hook for the debt and use their fear of losing their credit rating to finagle some easy money out of a frightened victim.

The debt collection angle is new to the grandmother scam, but hardly a new scam in itself.  Con artists have been calling with fraudulent debts and fabricated threats for years, often claiming a long-forgotten payday loan or other non-traditional debt has been turned over to the police. But as people have gotten wise to phony debt collection scams, they’ve combined the routine with grandparent scams to make a new scenario that feels very real.

With student loans and credit card debt through the roof, it’s easy to believe a loved one could have all sorts of debt we don’t know about. With the pressure on, it’s difficult to find out if it’s true.  But, if you didn’t co-sign a loan, you can’t be held responsible for paying it, no matter what someone tells you over the phone.  In fact, it’s illegal for a debt collector to tell you if someone else has a debt at all.  If you’ve ever called a credit card company on behalf of your spouse, you’ve probably
experienced the privacy laws in action, because the credit card company won’t even talk to you.
If you feel pressured to make a payment or provide personal information over the phone, try to get off the line as quickly as possible.  Offer to call them back, if necessary.  The more they try to keep you on the phone, the more likely it is that they’re fraudsters who are after a quick buck.  If you think you might be a potential victim of such a scam, let the FTC know immediately, at

Then, let CORE Credit Union know so we can make sure your accounts are safe, issue new information if necessary, and prevent any fraudulent charges.  We can also show you how to go through your credit report and find out if you have any debts you don’t know about.

When someone pressures you on the phone, it’s always a good idea to take a break and figure out what’s really going on.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Rebuilding An Emergency Fund

Q: I just had a pretty significant financial crisis. I underwithheld on my taxes all year and ended up cleaning out my savings to pay the bill. What do I do now?

A: All the best financial experts agree you need to keep an emergency fund. Keeping 3-5 months of living expenses in a savings account, certificate account, or investment account can be the difference between a temporary hardship and a life-long debt trap. Using that money instead of credit cards or short-term loans is a lot less expensive in the long run.

There are many reasons why you might need to use that money. It could be from an unexpected expense, like a medical bill or a car repair. It could also be job loss that forces you to tap out your savings. Whatever the cause, it’s a whole lot cheaper to pay for it out of savings than to have to borrow, and it’s much less embarrassing than having to beg friends or family to cover your bills.
In the midst of a stressful crisis, it can be hard to focus on the positive. It’s important to take a moment to congratulate yourself for having the foresight to manage your problem. Things could be much worse than they are now. In addition to all the stress you’re currently feeling, you could have a big ball of debt to add to it. It’s not because of luck, it’s because of good planning.

Despite that relief, you’re not out of the woods yet. Without savings, you’re in a position of significant insecurity. Another crisis right now, even a very minor one, can cause financial problems that will create a ripple effect on into the future. You could find yourself in a much worse position in three months’ time than you are now.

Getting back to a position of financial security should be your highest priority. That means rebuilding your emergency fund as quickly as possible. These three steps will have you back on track before you know it.

1.) Make an emergency budget – and stick to it!
Without an emergency fund, you’re one blown tire, one missed shift or one broken arm away from a financial catastrophe. That’s why an emergency fund is so important. Cut spending wherever you can. If you can do without cable for a few months, call and suspend service. Temporarily cutting back on media, clothes, and other discretionary spending is also a great idea.
Also, consolidate your savings. If you’ve been saving for a vacation, a new car or some other big ticket item, stop putting money into those “buckets” until you rebuild a few months’ living expenses. Once you return to having a decent cushion, you can get back to saving for your other priorities.
If these cuts aren’t enough, finding money in more extreme places might be helpful. If you can, spend a few months taking public transportation. If it works out well, you might find yourself thinking about selling your vehicle for another quick infusion of cash.

Remember, a budget is only as good as your commitment to it. If you make extreme cuts that you can’t keep, you’ll end up spending even more because you feel entitled to it. Make sure your budget is realistic and humane!

2.) Build income wherever you can
There’s no secret about building your savings. You can only save the difference between your income and your expenses. In your budget, you worked on the minimizing expenses part of that equation. Now, it’s time to turn your attention to the income side.
Raising your income at work could be as easy as asking for a raise. It could also mean taking additional hours or picking up extra shifts from co-workers. You don’t have to do so for the rest of your career, just for a few months until things get better.
You may also need to boost your income outside work. Selling old clothes and books can be a source of quick cash. Picking up freelance or contract work can also be a way to earn extra money. It’ll create a stressful few months, but it’ll be worth it to get back to security. You might also make connections that could help your career over the long term.

3.) Build a backup plan
The worst thing that could happen right now would be another crisis with no way to pay for it. You may not have the money to deal with it, but you’ve still got your financial smarts. It’s time to make a plan.

Think about what you’d do now if you lost your job, even without your emergency fund. Make a list of phone calls you can make to find temporary work. Who in your network do you know who could use your skills on a temporary or contract basis? Do you know anyone who, if you absolutely had to, you could call for a quick loan?

There are a few other questions to ask. What stuff sitting around your house would you sell if you had to? What does your food budget look like with $50 taken out of it? It’s easier to make these decisions when you’ve got the time and space to reflect on it. Making these choices with a past due notice in hand is much harder to do.

Hopefully, you’ll never have to use these ideas, but you’ll feel better for having thought about them beforehand. It’s also something pro-active you can do instead of worrying. Taking action, any action, to remedy your situation can help fight the stress involved in insecurity and get you in a better head space. That alone is worth the effort.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Effects of China’s Market Crash On Typical Americans Like You

article image
Predicting the future of international finance can be a fool’s errand. Fluctuations in a small aspect of a small market can ripple in untold ways, changing the environment all the time, like the proverbial butterfly responsible for all of those hurricanes. Unfortunately, shrugging in the face of the unknown is really uncomfortable when it comes to finances. When we need to know how it will affect us, we go to financial advisors.
What about when we don’t have any specific investments in either area? How might it affect us then? Below are some of the people likely to be affected by the economic news of China’s struggles last week. Some it will hurt, some it will help and some we’ll have to wait and see.

You might be hurt if:

Your portfolio is heavy on retail brands. In the last decade or so, American demand for retail goods slowed at the same time Chinese demand grew, so many of our corporations recorded sales growth that was largely or exclusively based on Chinese consumers. Yum! Brands, Intel, McDonald’s and Starbucks all rely on Chinese consumers for between 15 and 20 percent of their revenue, and the Chinese middle class just got hit with back-to-back market crashes. We won’t really know which companies were hit the worst until sales figures and quarterly reports start coming out, but you should identify which stocks you own that are heavily invested in China and see what they plan to do to keep afloat.

Your income is directly related to manufacturing. Banks around the world are stockpiling dollars because American currency seems much safer than a Euro that’s dealing with a crisis in Greece or any Asian currency that is inextricably tied to China. As a result, the dollar has increased in value about 3% in the past month.
That sounds great, but a strong dollar makes exporting more difficult and makes imports cheaper, both of which make it harder for American manufacturing firms to compete with overseas factories. The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, has repeatedly pushed China to strengthen its currency for this reason, but has little to show for it. Some financial analysts suggested the Asian free trade agreement signed last month was meant to prevent exactly this kind of situation: Chinese market insecurities resulting in problems for American manufacturing.

You might be helped if:

You own a business. Whether your company is big or small, a strong dollar gives you a leg up right now. Obviously, you can order stock from overseas, knowing it will cost less and pocket the profit. It might be time to think bigger, though. If your dollar is worth 3% more than it was a month ago, that means any loan you take out will come at a discount. If you wanted to buy a $10,000 piece of equipment from China but scoffed at the interest rate, you can cut it considerably right now.

You own a home. It may not be obvious at first, but everything in your home goes through China. Your car had parts manufactured or assembled there, your clothes, your furniture … everything. You’ll feel the effects of Chinese firms trying to get sales every time you go to the store and possibly until Black Friday.

But you could also get a great deal on home fixtures and appliances very soon. Chinese factories need the cash, and with their domestic housing bubble bursting, you’re the only one left to buy that amazing new washer/dryer. What if you moved up your remodel to this fall? You could be looking at glorious home goods at ridiculous prices.

Talk to CORE about our small business, automobile and personal loans. Let’s see if we can help you capitalize on this opportunity.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Teach Budgeting With A Cellphone

For teens and preteens, having a cellphone is all the rage. And according to a recent article in  USA Today, more than a third of U.S. homes don’t have a landline. Parents have gone wireless, and in the interest of their children’s safety, many have provided their children with cellphones to have as a point of contact when they are home alone or in case of emergency.

But cellphones and children don’t always mix. Not only is there a hefty price tag, but there’s also a learning curve that children must navigate to avoid exceeding calling and texting limits. One Phoenix-area family has found a way around this challenge.

Rick and Sue Cercone canceled their landline phone about a year ago and, at the time, purchased a prepaid flip-phone for their then-10-year-old daughter, Katie, to use when she was home alone. Now almost 12 and heading into middle school, Katie wanted a better way to communicate with her friends. And while Rick and Sue weren’t opposed to the idea, they wanted to make sure Katie understood the value of the cellphone minutes she would be using.

The Cercones decided to use Katie’s cellphone as a means to teach her how to budget.

“We know that if Katie doesn’t have a tangible way to track her money, she blows it,” says Sue. So they purchased a cellphone with a preloaded card that Katie must budget to ensure she doesn’t run out of minutes.

Early on, Katie learned that one text equated to 30 seconds of talk time and a text with a photo was more. Once the card runs out, it’s up to Katie to purchase a new card.

“My parents are pretty hard to cough up money,” says Katie. “I have to save my money when I earn it now.”

Katie recently took a babysitting class and hopes to find jobs watching neighborhood kids and doing extra chores. She already saves a portion of her earnings, and now, rather than spend the remaining funds, she will set some aside to help fund her next cellphone card.

“Katie is learning that we’re not going to support her cellphone,” says Sue. “When she can tangibly see the minutes on her card go down, she knows those minutes have been spent.”

Though Katie wishes her parents would have simply added her to her family’s cellphone plan, Rick and Sue hope that, by budgeting her time more wisely, Katie will learn the value of a dollar and budget her money in other areas as well.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The New Homeowner Diet

Saving money is a lot like losing weight. It’s no fun, requires sacrifices and no one at a dinner party wants to hear about your plan.  For many first-time home-buyers, trying to save enough money for the down payment on a house can seem like a diet that won’t end. It might even be tempting to click one of those email links that promise magical results, even though you know there’s no magic pill for weight loss and no magic plan for saving money.

Fortunately, if you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you already know how to save money. While most weight loss results are temporary, buying a home is something that won’t disappear if you skip the gym for a week: You’ll be living in a home you own, building equity and moving closer to financial independence.  So, here are some tips to get you moving toward that down payment, based on what you already know about trimming your waist:

Don’t bite off more than you can chew
One of the biggest mistakes new homeowners make is buying more house than they can realistically afford. At CORE, we want to get the right loan for you so that you can move into the home that’s comfortable and fits your lifestyle.  That doesn’t mean you have to use every dollar you qualify for. Let’s talk it through to figure out exactly how much you can spend every month and make sure you don’t get in over your head.

A good rule of thumb when planning is that you want to put down around 20 percent of the sale price. Before the financial crisis, a lot of people were putting down 10 percent or considerably less – as much as 0%. It didn’t turn out well for many of those folks, nor did it for their lenders.

Even if you feel comfortable with the risk that comes with a low down payment, putting down more money now can lower your interest rate, so you’ll pay less money in the long term and have a lower monthly payment.  It’s easy to see the down payment as your goal and forget about the rest of the mortgage, but this won’t be the last purchase you make.  You’re going to want to save for college, retirement or your dream vacation.  If you don’t put the money in now, you’ll have to do so later, and you’re essentially taking a loan from yourself against those future purchases.

No matter how long you run, you can’t burn off that midnight cheesecake
You may be making sacrifices and saving as much as you can, but still not feel like you’re getting any closer to your dream home.  You’re not alone.  Unlike their parents or grandparents, today’s typical middle class family has more than one job, and a surprising number of those families has three or more sources of income. Even with the popularity and necessity of taking on a second job, some people are embarrassed to do so, as if having a working spouse or taking on extra work on the side is a sign of failure.  Don’t be that person who’s too embarrassed to go to the gym because they don’t want anyone to see them get healthy.  There’s no shame in working.

You can’t lose weight without a scale
Most people keep track of their weight every day while dieting.  Some keep a food log.  Some count calories, points, or carbs.  The bottom line: You need to be able to see how you’re doing so you know when you can splurge and when you need to cut back.  The same is true when saving for a home.  Make a budget and stick with it.  If you have a bad month, don’t get frustrated. Instead, commit to doing better next month.

Everyone needs a spotter
When you save money every month, where does it go?  Do you have a series of Mason jars filled with crumpled singles?  Is it sitting in your share draft account, looking pretty when you check your balance but not doing anything else?  Even if you keep your money in one of our savings accounts, there’s a lot more we can do to help make your money work for you.  We have a variety of great savings plans, from low-risk savings certificates to interest bearing checking account for your deposits.

If you want to own a home, you need to save money, but you don’t have to do it alone.  Think of us as your personal trainer for your financial health.  Drop us a line at 912-764-9846 and we’ll help you figure out what you can afford and how you can get there.  Our plans are always easier to swallow than a kale smoothie. But then again, what isn’t?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Take A Bite Out Of Apple Pay     
Q: I’ve heard a lot about Apple Pay lately. I’m an enthusiastic Apple user, so I’m excited to hear about merging my wallet into my cell-phone. What is it, and how can I get in on it?
A: Whether you love Apple’s user-friendly and reliable products, or hate the price tag and the status symbol they represent, you’ve got to admit: they know business. Apple saw the future of finance and the future of technology rapidly merging and figured out a way to cash in on it. The new iPhone 6 comes with a new technology that’s set to change the way you pay for things. They’re capitalizing on that new technology with a payment system of their own: Apple Pay. Apple Pay is taking advantage of two new developments in payment infrastructure to save you time.
First, the technology. Apple’s iPhone 6 comes equipped with a near-field communication (NFC) capable chip. Near-field communication uses very short wavelength wireless technology to share information between appropriately equipped devices over really short distances. It’s like a WiFi network that only has a range of a few feet. While there are all kinds of neat potential applications for near-field communication devices (wireless access control could tie your door locks to your cell phone, for example, and automatically open the door for you when you walk up to your house), the biggest one at the moment is the payment infrastructure.
The release of Apple Pay also corresponds with a new standard of credit and debit card security, the Europay-Visa-Mastercard (EVM) security chip. The EVM chip is a small electronic device embedded into cards that contains a method for generating a unique identifier for encryption protocols. Think of it as a code generator that makes a new PIN for each transaction. EMV technology uses more secure encryption standards to protect financial data at point-of-sale terminals. The increasing urgency of its adoption is brought on, in no small part, by the recent security breaches at Staples, Target, Home Depot, and other major US retailers.
Apple Pay, then, is an attempt to combine both technologies within a device you already carry around. The iPhone 6’s NFC chip is capable of broadcasting an EVM signal. It takes both of these new payment technologies and puts them together to make a more secure payment infrastructure.
Apple will profit from this system if adoption is sufficiently widespread. Apple will charge card-issuing institutions (like Visa or Mastercard) a portion of the fee those companies charge retailers on every transaction. Card companies are hopeful that the increased security of their payment processing system and the greater convenience of pay-by-phone will encourage more people to spend more money, growing their businesses as well. If they’re right, it could result in significant gains for both Apple and the card companies. This profitability also explains the growing competition in NFC payment infrastructure development.
Apple Pay is by no means the only attempt to combine these technologies. Android-based smart phones have had limited success with Google Wallet, although the lack of standardization across Android devices holds back attempts to develop secure payment infrastructure. Wallet, unlike Apple Pay, also requires the download of a separate app, and only the most recent iterations of the Android OS support tap-to-pay.
A group of merchants called the Merchant Customer Exchange, a group that includes CVS, Rite Aid, Target, and Wal-Mart, are working on their own system called CurrentC. CurrentC uses visual barcodes to secure transactions in an entirely different way, and the system isn’t widely used outside those retailers. The group is so dedicated to the project that it is prohibiting retailers that participate in the exchange from accepting Apple Pay.
Apple Pay may be the most successful mobile payment solution in terms of widespread adoption. It will only work with the iPhone 6, because older models lack the necessary NFC equipment. If you already have an iPhone 6, though, you only need to use the pre-installed Passport app. There are simple, on-screen instructions for adding a debit or credit card. 
Early adopters report some hiccups in the payment process, though. The technology is still very new, and delays and payment failures occurred at the first big roll out for the technology. Both AT&T Park and Kauffman Stadium, the sites of the 2014 World Series, were using Apple Pay for transactions around the stadium. In most instances, the process worked as advertised, but, as with any technology, a few glitches prevented people from using Apple Pay consistently. Some people still resorted to credit cards or cash to avoid inconvenience.
The technology to accept Apple Pay payments isn’t everywhere yet. In fact, only about 2.4% of retailers have the facilities to accept pay-by-phone. However, the change is coming. By October 2015, every shop that accepts Mastercard or Visa will have to be using EVM technology, and it’s likely that this upgrade will include NFC equipment. For now, you’ll want to hold on to your wallet, but the future looks bright for this great advancement.