Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Ready For College and Life on Your Own?

The moving boxes are unpacked and you’ve completed all your college checklists. Being on your own for the first time can be exciting and full of new experiences.  There probably won’t be anyone over your shoulder telling you how to spend your money, so you’ll also want to make sure you’re financially ready.

Here are three ways to be prepared:

1. Create a personal budget
Without your parents there to pick up all the tabs, you’re going to be buying more stuff on your own. It will be important to know how much things cost beforehand, so you don’t overspend. Take some time to figure out the costs beyond tuition and textbooks such as lab fees, gas and food that won’t fall under your school meal plan.

Write out a tentative budget that shows how much you could spend each month. As part of the budget, set aside a little cash for an emergency savings fund. This could help pay for unexpected costs, like parking tickets or laptop repairs.

2. Choose your checking options
After you’ve written a budget, you’ll want to keep track of your money to make sure you’re following your plan. One of the easiest ways to do this is to set up a checking account that offers online banking. In doing so, you can monitor where your money is going seven days a week by reviewing your account on your smartphone or computer.

Consider top checking account perks such as debit cards with purchase rewards, and accounts with no monthly service charges or minimum balance requirements. Financial institutions like TropicalFinancial Credit Union offer products for young adults that have all these features.

When you’re just starting out, it’s easy to slip up and spend more than what’s in your account. Look for institutions with forgiveness programs that discount the first few overdraft fees each year, and don’t charge extended overdrawn balance charges.

3. Weigh the benefits of establishing credit
If you’re responsible with your money and have regular income, now could be a good time to open your first credit card and establish a positive credit history.

Apply for a card that accepts first-time borrowers and offers competitive interest rates. If you manage your account well, it will be reflected on your credit report, which could make it easier to buy a car or home in the future.

Leaving home for college, you need to know how to handle your money. By setting a budget and choosing the right financial accounts, you’ll have the tools you need to do so.

Margarette Burnette, NerdWallet

© Copyright 2015 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 28, 2015


As Tropical Storm Erika inches closer to SE Florida we all are pulling out our storm checklists to make sure that we are ready. I’ve heard on the news that water is already becoming scarce, so hopefully you’ve already stocked up on bottled water along with batteries, propane, and all the other necessities that are the first to disappear off store shelves.

BUT what about your finances? There are three important things to do before the storm hits:
  1. Seal up important documents in zippered plastic bags
  2. Document all your belongings with photos and/or video
  3. Get cash

I’m sure you all know that even if Erika dissipates over the weekend, we are still in line for a heck of a storm and that will mean a LOT of rain along with flooding. Water can cause a lot of damage to a home and can destroy important documents if they aren’t protected. So be sure to stock up on plenty of large plastic bags that have a seal so you can put all those important documents safely inside. Make sure to keep them off the ground as well…just in case.

In addition, make sure to take some time in the next few days to take pictures and/or video of all the belongings in your home, it will help in case you need to file an insurance claim if you can show exactly the items that were damaged or destroyed in a storm. In addition make sure you have protected that policy in one of those plastic bags and have the phone number to your agent printed out and close by…without power you may not be able to access any websites.

Before the weekend gets underway you should also stop by the credit union or an ATM to get a little extra cash. Remember if there are power outages, card machines and ATMs may not be working so it’s important to have a little extra cash just in case.

Regardless of what Erika does over the weekend, she is an important reminder that we always need to be prepared for storms by having a plan and sticking to it. It’s a small price to pay when you live in paradise! Be safe everyone!!


Thursday, August 27, 2015


This week marks the start of a new school year for students all over Southeast Florida. Looking back I remember always looking forward to the first day of school and wondering if I would like my teachers or make new friends. One thing about me is I'm always looking for ways to stand out from the crowd, and often I did that by finding humor in things and thinking creatively…like turning the required uniform tie, into a bow tie. 

Alec in a bow tie
Yes this is actually me, with my over-sized bow tie

High school can be an exciting place to experiment with your personality and if it is a new school, then it is practically a clean slate where you can recreate yourself however you see fit.

I also always loved learning so I always got excited about what kind of things I was going to learn in each class. Now that I’m out and I can look back I realize there really were no classes on how to take care of my own finances as well as be responsible with my money so that I could structure the lifestyle I wanted once I graduated. If I could go back to high school, I would have looked for ways to get a head start on finances so that I didn’t feel so panicked and out of place after graduation.

As part of the Gen Next Program, Tropical Financial CreditUnion is visiting schools across South Florida for this very reason. We are teaching students about everything from the difference between debit cards and credit cards, to budgeting basics and the difference between leasing and financing a first car. If you would like us to come visit your school, head over to to submit a request.  

High school is the best time to get a head start on skills you will need for the rest of your life.  The more you learn, the better off you will be in the next stage of life.


Monday, July 20, 2015


The 14th Annual Christmas In July event sponsored by the Kiwanis and Broward County Board of County Commissioners took place this past Sunday in Ft. Lauderdale.  This event serves to provide some of Broward County’s homeless children with clothing, school supplies, book bags, books, toiletries, toys and a day of fun and entertainment.  Tropical Financial Credit Union had a team of employees volunteer at the event to help with the distribution.  Employees also collected donations and hosted jeans days at work to collect funds for this great cause. This is the latest example of TFCU employees being Everyday Heroes in the community.  

Tropical Financial employees are everyday heroes at work too.  They are dedicated to helping members achieve their financial goals, whether its buying a home or guidance on how to  repair their credit, helping members is what it’s all about for us! Together we create The League of Financial Goodness!

The truth is, heroes are all around us.  TFCU is looking to recognize ONE  local hero as the official League of Financial Goodness Local Hero  and, we need your help! If you know a local everyday hero, tell us about them by August 21st at  TFCU will be choosing one Local Hero and will be awarding them $2,500! Plus, TFCU will donate an additional $1,000 to the winner’s favorite charity! Click here for the official rules.

Tell us all about your local hero so they can get the “thank you” that every great hero deserves!


Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Best Way To Spend Your Money: Don't Buy A Thing

Summer is well under way and many young adults have taken the opportunity to seek and obtain a summer job! So what is the best way to spend your money that will allow you to achieve the most amount of satisfaction and happiness? Don’t buy a thing. Not one thing. Literally. 

Scientifically the best way to obtain happiness is by spending money on others, however if you want to spend money on yourself, you are much better off investing in experiences rather than material items or “things”. Traveling and going to large events is an exponentially more effective method for achieving happiness and satisfaction. For example, buying a $2000 luxury coffee table will only be useful as a piece of furniture and the happiness gained from that investment will only last a few days at most. However, going to get a bite to eat with friends will be a unique and enjoyable experience each time. 

According to a 2014 Psychology Today article titled Why Other People Are the Key to Our Happiness, “The interactions we have with other people affect the way we feel about life. Our close relationships keep us grounded and influence both happiness and the sense that we are part of a larger community. Interestingly, even our interactions with people we do not know that well give us a sense that we are part of that larger community. When we are first introduced to that community, those interactions and that feeling of belonging also increase our happiness.” Luckily in South Florida, there are lots of events and attractions happening almost every weekend and when there aren’t, there are several outdoor opportunities that will allow you to make positive memories and create opportunities to build long term happiness and friendships with new people! 

So this summer, don’t buy a thing. Buy experiences! Now get out there and have fun!


Monday, June 22, 2015

Mortgage Step Five: CLOSING!

The process is finally complete and the day you've been waiting for has finally arrived! Most of the time closings happen at the office of the title company, but be sure you double check the address so you know where to go. Make sure to bring your picture ID and have your arm nice and loose as you'll be signing a lot of documents.

As the day approaches make sure to resist the temptation of opening any new lines of credit or accessing existing ones to buy furniture or put a new car in the new driveway - additional credit may adversely affect the closing. Just before closing takes place your credit will be looked at one last time and if there's additional credit showing up it may hurt your debt-to-income ratio and the whole deal could be cancelled. I've repeated this warning throughout the home buying series because it has happened and I don't want you to lose your house because you bought the living room set too early.

At closing you usually will be joined by your mortgage loan officer and your real estate agent. In addition a representative from the title company will walk you through the closing documents. If you have questions ASK THEM - don't be afraid to speak up,  it's very important that you understand all the documents your signing.

Once all the documents are signed you'll be getting a little housewarming present from your Tropical Financial mortgage loan officer as well as the most important item - the key to your new home! With key in hand it's then time to turn that house into YOUR home.


Friday, May 29, 2015


Okay you found the house - CHECK
You were pre-approved for the loan - CHECK
You chose the perfect mortgage to fit your lifestyle - CHECK
Now we move into processing.

The toughest part of getting you into your new home is the processing. This is when all the documents are being verified and it definitely takes the most time. Even though you may not talk to your mortgage rep every day, rest assured the processors are very busy at work. Everyone in the process wants to see you in your new home as soon as possible!

So what can you do during this time? The number one thing you can do is keep the lines of communication open. Often your mortgage rep will need additional documents to verify information from you. Remember that the process is paused until you get what is needed back to the mortgage rep so the quicker you can return needed items, the quicker that closing date can be marked on the calendar.

So what NOT to do during this time? Do NOT open any new lines of credit during this processing period of time. Remember that credit is pulled one last time just before closing and if you've opened a new line of credit (for new furniture or a new car) that can affect your debt-to-income ratio and could prevent the closing from taking place. Feel free to plan out what you want to buy for that new house, but wait until after you close and you have keys in hand before heading to the furniture store to make those big purchases that may require more credit.

Also keep in mind that if you're buying a home that was a foreclosure or part of a short-sale, these transactions take even more time. Trust me, when I moved down to Florida I bought a house that had been foreclosed on and was technically owned by the government so every step had to be verified by a Fannie Mae rep in Washington...yeah they don't always move real swiftly up there.  I thought I had planned it perfectly, but the process took 2 more weeks than expected and I ended up in a hotel for a few weeks until I could get the closing completed. Needless to say I had to pack some extra patience during that time, but I made sure the mortgage processing folks here at Tropical Financial had exactly what they needed as soon as they needed it.

Remember that the end result is you and your family in your new home, and THAT is worth the wait!