Monday, July 11, 2016


Review your budget- this tip is key to keeping sure you are in line with your financial goals. Whether you have a vacation planned, educational expenses or even a mortgage, it’s important to check your budget at least twice a year.  You want to be sure that you have the money set aside for bills, unexpected expenses and of course, to enjoy life.

Review your debt- Debt can be a good thing. Some debt means you are growing financially and working towards making your dreams come true… But then there is bad debt or debt that prevents you from making your dreams come true. Sit down and review your debt. See where you might be able to pay a little bit more or see what you might be able to pay off. Also, check to see if your debt has decreased since the last time you reviewed your budget. Are you making progress? Also look into the option of refinancing for a better loan rate. For instance, if you have an auto loan with the dealer or another financial institution, come talk to a Tropical Financial rep to see how we can better serve you by perhaps lowering your rate.

Check your credit report- gives you a free credit report once a year. It’s  important to look into your credit report and be sure that all is okay, especially if you are looking to apply for a loan and more so if you haven’t reviewed your credit report in over a year. You want to be sure that you are up to date and you know what is being reported. Plus, reviewing your credit report gives you time to dispute any claim that may not be yours.

Review your future- No matter what age you are, it’s important to start preparing for your future. Whether your future is college, retirement or even a house you call home. It’s important to set up and monitor retirement options and investments. The more money you can save now, the better off you are for tomorrow. Twice a year it’s a good idea to talk to a financial advisor if you have one and review the best options for you.

Insurance is another great thing to review during your financial check up. Look to see what you are paying and ask questions, look to see if there is a better option at a better price. Maybe you’ve reached an age where your insurance is ready to drop in price but you haven’t seen that on a statement. I know when I turned 25 my insurance decreased but I had to call up and make sure that change took place. So stay on top of your finances.

No matter where you are financially, it’s important that you do a mid-year financial check up to ensure you’re on the right path. And hey it’s a great time to prepare for tax season too. Who doesn’t want to get ahead of the game. While doing your financial check up, why not start working on your taxes. It will help with the stress of tax season!


Thursday, July 7, 2016


It’s summertime and for many that means vacation time. In May, I wrote a blog comparing Groupon VS Living Social when it comes to travel.  Turns out they are both good options when planning a family vacation because who doesn’t love to save money?

I am all about finding the best means of travel that will cost me the least amount of money, or I am always looking for Free money. Yup, I said it… Free Money! And no, I am not crazy.

What’s the Catch?

There is no catch, instead I want to share with you a trick that I learned about my credit card early on that I still use to this day and one I will always use. So what is that trick… Rewards Points! Have you heard of them? Do you have them?

At Tropical Financial one of the credit cards that is offered to its members is the Tropical Financial Visa Rewards Card. Or as I like to call it, money machine or my dream come true.

With the TFCU Rewards card, you earn one rewards point for every dollar you spend. So, chances are you use your credit card on a regular basis so why not build up points? Why not earn something for spending your money. Once you accumulate enough points, you can then cash them in for cash. Yup, there you have it… FREE Money! 

Of course there are many others you can cash in your reward points for such as gift cards, appliances, electronics, and so much more. The options are endless.

But how can I travel?

When I first applied for my credit card, I was given bonus points…. That’s FREE Money right there. I used my credit card for everyday purchases that I knew I could pay back, like gas, groceries and even work expenses (where I knew I would get reimbursed). All of those dollars added up to points which I then turned in for cash.

There have been numerous times, not just one or two but several more times where I have exchanged my points in for CASH. Cash that I didn’t have, cash that wasn’t in my budget and I was able to use to take a last minute vacation.

The points add up quickly when you use credit card for daily purchases. You just want to be sure you don’t get in over your head with your credit card balances. The time it takes me to save up points varies depending on my spending but hey an extra $150 is always nice when going out of town or an extra $200 is great for a last minute road trip to see a friend this summer.

The way I see it, extra cash is always awesome! So, get spending (wisely of course), start earning those points and start enjoying that extra money and those vacation too!


Friday, July 1, 2016


THIS is a very big year for me, as I will be celebrating a milestone birthday and am going to be celebrating in a BIG way – a European cruise! In the planning process we discovered taking a cruise like this was going to cost a lot more than we anticipated, but I didn’t want to use that as an excuse to ignore such a big milestone in my life.

I bet just about everyone reading this can relate to a similar story. The want, or even need, for something special, but not having enough savings to cover the entirety. Credit Cards are usually the first place we turn to when we put ourselves in these situations, but there really is a better way. Tropical Financial Credit Union has a special vacation loan to help members take those special trips without breaking the bank. The great thing about taking a vacation loan over using credit cards is that it’s a fixed rate for a fixed period of time, so you’ll know exactly what your payments will be and how long it will take to pay off that dream vacation. PLUS it allows you to save the credit cards for the incidentals while ON your trip. Total WIN-WIN.

Now there’s no reason not to take that once-in-a-lifetime vacation. I’ve got my trip booked and paid for, now the only thing left is packing!


Wednesday, June 29, 2016


For Retirement, Start Saving Early and Build from There

Say that two young adults, Ben and Alice, have both started their first job — with new people, new responsibilities and new money in the bank account each Friday. Both work hard, but Ben also plays hard, eating out a lot and spending on vacations. Alice, meanwhile, makes sure to sock away a little bit of every paycheck in her retirement account, aware that times might not always be so flush.

Who do you think will be in better shape at the end of his career? Of course, it’s Alice: When it comes to retirement planning, it pays to start early and build over time.

But there’s hope still for Ben. Here’s some guidance on saving for retirement, no matter your age or how diligently you’ve been saving up to now.

Get time on your side
Retirement savings grow largely because of compound interest: The money put away in the early years will generate interest earnings of its own with each passing year. Because Alice has started investing at the beginning of her career, her savings will have more time to grow.

How much does time matter? If Alice invests just $100 a month beginning when she turns 25, and she earns an average of 7% on it each year until retirement at 65, she’ll end up with almost $265,000. For Ben to see similar results starting at age 35, he’ll have to invest about $220 a month — or $510 a month if he starts at age 45.

If you didn’t start saving right when you began your career, it’s OK. Just begin as soon as you can in order to take advantage of compounding interest.

Draw up a plan
How much is enough in retirement? Everyone’s answer is different and personal, but consider the 80% rule. That says you should plan to save enough so that for each year of your retirement, you can spend 80% of the amount you made in your last year working without exhausting your retirement fund.

To figure out how much you can save each month, take your monthly pay and subtract your regular monthly bills and payments, making sure to allow yourself enough money to have a little bit of fun. If you need to, take a side job and devote all of the money you get from that to your retirement savings. And remember that the amount of money you’ll actually need can change, so it’s smart to save even a little more than you think you’ll need.

Still unsure? Financial institutions like Tropical Financial Credit Union have advisors available to help with retirement planning.

Maximize your retirement benefits
If your employer offers a 401(k) and will match your contribution, put in enough to get the full match. So long as you can afford it, it’s getting the most “free” money available to you.

Beyond your 401(k), consider saving more in a separate individual retirement account — Roth or traditional — especially if you’re a Ben and waiting a bit to start saving. The primary difference between the two accounts is when you pay taxes: up front (Roth) or when you take distributions in retirement (traditional). Brokerage accounts are another investment type to consider.

It’s never too soon to start thinking about your retirement, not even if it’s the first day of your working life. And whether you’re a Ben or an Alice, there are ways to get to where you want to be.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 27, 2016


Getting an education is one of the most amazing accomplishments to have. To say you completed a 2 year, 4 year or even Doctoral program is a great accomplishment, but the student loans, those are another story. Often times College graduates find themselves buried in student loan debt and it’s so hard to come out on top.

But, it is possible!
Paying off college debt isn’t easy but it is possible and it all starts with YOU! First, find your motivation! Find what drives you. Is it the idea of getting rid of the financial stress from your degree? Maybe it’s the fact that you want to be debt free before your children go to college or it can even a short term goal of being debt free before you get married. No matter what your motivation is, find it!
Next, look ahead. Once you’ve found your motivation set a target goal. Is it 5 years, 6 months or even 15 years? What is the time frame realistically you would like to have your student loan debt paid off by?

Then, make a budget. You’ve set a goal now make that goal work with your budget. Look at budget and determine places that you can cut back or even eliminate… for a short period of time. Also, think about paying your loans bi-weekly instead of once a month or once every few months. This will help pay down the cost quicker.

Check! What’s next?

You’ve set yourself up for an obtainable goal and you’ve reviewed your budget, next try and search for student loan forgiveness programs. If you work for the government or even a nonprofit you might be eligible after a few years to forgive your loans! There are a few careers out there that qualify you for loan forgiveness programs, you just have to be in search of those programs.

Once you’ve looked into the forgiveness program, you will know what plans of action you can take from there. Can your loans be forgiven or do you have to continue paying back your loans? If you have to continue paying back your loans, don’t worry! It can be done! Oh and don’t forget about tax season! You may be eligible for a tax deduction on your student loan interest which will be great. And if you receive any money back from tax season, you should apply that directly to your student loans. After all, most of the money we receive is like “found” money so why not put it towards getting yourself out of debt?

But no matter what, be sure to continuously pay on your loans. While some months you might struggle just look at the bright side, the more you pay the quicker you pay it off!


Friday, June 24, 2016


Often times we hear the word budget and we are taken back. We hate the idea of living life on a budget because we feel confined, like we are being held back. But having a budget is a reality no matter what stage of life you are in. Just think, if you’re a college student, you need to have a budget so you can pay for classes and if you’re a homeowner you need to have a budget in order to make your mortgage payment or to fix things around the house. And if you’re a traveler you need a budget for all those vacations you enjoy. It’s hard to get away from budgeting… but having a budget doesn’t have to limit you. Instead it can help you save for the goals you have.

Pay Today!

One of the best ways to k
eep your budget strong and to avoid spending money that you don’t have is to pay your bills on time. By doing so you avoid late fees and save money on interest too. So if you have a bill that you pay monthly like a credit card or your electricity bill, set up a reminder on your phone. This way you remember to pay the bill and don’t have the excuse of “Oh I forgot!”. I have a cell phone calendar reminder for my credit card and it helps me keep track and remember.  Especially since I have e-statements which makes it super easy to forget a payment.

Take out or Dine in?

I enjoy going out to dinner. It’s nice that you don’t have to worry about grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning but rather you can just enjoy a meal. But that gets expensive and quickly too. It’s easy to spend $50 on one night’s dinner. So it’s about finding that balance and compromise. While cooking dinner at home might be time consuming think about how much money you could be saving in the long run. Instead of paying $50 per meal your likely to pay $10-$20 per meal at home.  

While cooking can be time consuming and cleaning can be a chore, why not divide the tasks up with your family or your significant other? In my house it is known that I hate to cook, but I do it because I love to eat. Therefore, when I cook someone else does dishes. However,  when they cook  I have no problem stepping up and doing the dishes. This way we all have our part in the meal prep. 

To Do!

We all have hobbies or things that we enjoy but when we think of a budget, we think it’s time to cut out the fun and focus on the serious. I believe in a healthy balance of serious and fun. It’s important to create a place in your budget for fun. Yes, I know it might sound crazy but if you are not having fun, you’re not truly living life. So, look for deals for family fun, date night fun and even fun that you can have by yourself. There are many great sites for deals and discounts and living in South Florida, we have some great free resources available to us.

We have tons of beaches and parks that are free for you to hang out at. So plan a date night at the park and have a picnic or plan a beach day with your friends and make it a pot luck. Some of the best memories I have with friends are beach days and they cost next to nothing.

Sometimes you might have to think outside the box but there are ways to have fun while keeping within a budget. Like checking out your local library for books instead of buying them or renting moves from Red Box instead of seeing them in the theater. Or carpooling with friends so you’re not the only one always driving.

Think outside the box when it comes to things you like to do and have fun with them. But always have a place in your budget so you don’t have to be the one stressing over finances.

Tuck it away!

If you are not good at budgeting yet you still want to save money or have goals and dreams you are trying to accomplish, then budget backwards. Instead of budgeting for life and using left overs for your trip, budget for your trip and use the “left overs” for life. So If I know my trip is going to cost $5,000 and I have two years to pay it off, I know that I need to save roughly $200 a month for that trip. So each pay period I will tuck away $100. And then use the rest of my paycheck to pay my bills, rent and any other expenses I might have. The best trick I have found when I have a goal in mind is to deposit that money into a separate account. Because, if the money is out of sight, it’s out of mind.

No matter how you decided to save for the goals you have, be sure that you pay what needs to be paid, compromise where there’s room and tuck away money every paycheck so that you can enjoy the life you have!


Monday, June 20, 2016


There are times in life when you want or need to spend more cash than you have on hand. You can borrow the money and pay it back a little at a time if you have reasonably good credit.
The most common way to borrow, if you don’t have a helpful relative, is to go to a financial institution. There are different types of personal loans available depending on what you plan to do with the money — just bear in mind that eventually you’ll have to pay it back with fees and interest.

You can take out a personal loan, for instance, to pay for a big project or consolidate debt. If you need a lump sum that you don’t plan to pay back within about a year, a personal loan could be the best answer. If you need funding relatively quickly, this could also be the right move. If your credit card interest rates are in the upper teens or higher, paying them off with a personal loan may work to your advantage. If you don’t have the time to save up money to meet your goals, borrowing might be the next logical step.


Most personal loans are unsecured. That means you’re borrowing the money based on your creditworthiness alone, without putting up collateral such as a car or house. Unsecured loans present a higher risk for the lender, since it’s essentially relying on your financial reputation to guarantee repayment. So this option carries a higher interest rate than one secured by an auto or a home. If you don’t repay a loan backed by such an asset on time and according to the terms, the lender can take your collateral or foreclose on your property.


Before you fill out a handful of online loan applications, check out the terms and interest rates to see what’s available, what’s affordable and what’s realistic. Understand that every time you apply for a loan, your credit score can take a hit, which may jeopardize your chances of getting the loan — or of paying a lower rate. Check available rates, including where you bank regularly. If you have a history with a lender, even just a checking account, it may be easier to qualify for a loan even if your credit isn’t great.

Before borrowing, it’s best to have a plan for how the money will be used and how you’ll pay it back. Taking out a personal loan can help consolidate debt, accomplish goals or even make a dream become a reality.

*Resource: Balance