Friday, April 18, 2014

Avoid Email Fraud


Keeping our information safe and secure is always a challenge as fraudsters continue to find evolving ways to trick consumers into giving up personal and financial information. In this episode of Money Minute, I give you a few tips of what to be on the look out for to keep your information safe in the world of emails. To view directly on you tube click here.

^Amy

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tax Refunds - What Do YOU Do With Yours?


Friendly Reminder: The Tax Deadline to file your 2014 returns is quickly approaching!
Don’t worry; there are several options still available to you if you’re interested in filing electronically or for an extension. For further information regarding your federal tax returns, please speak with your financial advisor or licensed accountant.  

I filed my first tax return when I was seventeen years old and I remember being overwhelmed with the concept of being financially responsible for filing documentation with the federal government. In retrospect, it’s a little amusing how nervous I was. I was a full time student; I kept my receipts, and received a sizable return. I recall a shopping trip to the mall, and a disapproving look from my father upon my return as I carried several bags into the house. He always said “Save. Save, because you never know what may happen.”

As I embark into my thirties, I reflect on a simpler time and if I had a choice, I would prefer to do a simple tax return vs. the complex return I filed in 2014. When I inputted my information I saw my sizable return dropped down to a much lower amount, lower than I expected. When I ponder on how much I would have saved had I started my savings plan a decade ago, it only gives me a migraine. As my husband and I decided what to do with our tax return this year, it made me curious as to what other individuals were planning for this tax season and here are a few responses:

“I will put my return in a high earning account. Make money off your own money is the best way to go.”

“Save 40% and place it in savings. Use the remaining to pay off any pending bills. Getting ahead just one month can create the financial cushion my family needs. ”

“I consider the tax return a blessing, and I paid for braces for my children.”

“I’m focused on home improvement this year, and preparing for upcoming hurricane season.”

“Personal. I work very hard for 365 Days and I save all year around. This comes once a year and I deserved it.”  

 “I didn’t receive a large return, but I paid off several bills and bought my daughter a graduation gift she deserved. I work hard for my family, and they’re entitled to my return as much as I am.”

“I set aside a portion of my return, and pay off any credit cards that have an interest free offer expiration approaching. That way, I prevent having to pay any additional interest, and lower my debt.”

“I have not received my tax return yet, but I will be saving a portion of it, and using the remaining funds for my summer vacation with my family. I save throughout the year, and I consider the Tax Refund a small portion of my savings plan.”

“Unfortunately this year we had to pay. Thankfully, we saved throughout the year so we didn’t experience a financial hardship.”

After hearing the last response it put things in perspective for me: Income Tax Returns can be considered a temporary relief to financial strain, the extra income to get ahead in monthly responsibilities, or an instant saving deposit. It important to remember that every financial situation is different. Every monthly expense sheet varies from household to household. There are several life events that can take a toll on your finances, and ultimately lead to long term financial commitments. Some are made with premeditated reasons, and others are due to the result of unexpected financial necessity. If you’re interested to starting your new saving pattern, consolidating debt, rebuilding your credit, take a look at Tropical Financial Credit Union services.

At Tropical Financial Credit Union, we understand that unexpected life events can occur and are willing to work with our members to achieve a positive resolution to the best of our abilities.

Happy Saving,

^Cari

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE

There's no better investment than investing in the education of our children.  For the past year, since introducing Young & Free Florida, we at Tropical Financial Credit Union have been working hard to help share financial literacy with high school and college-aged students throughout Southeast Florida.  Now we are taking it to the next level and offering five $1,000 scholarships to help out five hard working students in SE Florida to reach their scholastic goals.

Eligibility for all scholarships

  1. Scholarships are available for accredited colleges or technical schools.  
  2. The applicant must be a member in good standing of Tropical Financial Credit Union as of May 30, 2014; being a relative of a member does not qualify the applicant.
  3. Tropical Financial Credit Union employees, elected or appointed officials of this Credit Union, and their immediate families are ineligible to apply. Immediate family is defined as child, spouse, or parent.

Requirements

  1. Must meet all eligibility requirements.
  2. All applicants are required to submit a letter of recommendation.
  3. Applicant must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5.
  4. Applicants are required to submit an essay summarizing educational goals, how Tropical Financial Credit Union has assisted you in your finances, and your personal objectives. This essay must be a minimum of 250 words typewritten (not handwritten).
  5. The application and all supporting documents must be received at Tropical Financial Credit Union or uploaded onto the official scholarship application page on YoungFreeFlorida.com between April 1, 2014 and close of business May 30, 2014.
  6. Applicant must be accepted to a college or technical school before scholarship funds are disbursed.

Factors Considered

  1. Grade point average
  2. Written Essay
  3. Letter of Recommendation
  4. Community Involvement/Charitable Works
  5. Extracurricular involvement in school
  6. Employment history, if applicable
Applying is easy, simply log onto the YoungFreeFlorida.com Scholarship page to fill out the online application, including writing a short essay on what Tropical Financial Credit Union has done, or could do, to help you with your finances.  You can also download a pdf application from that page if you'd prefer to send in a hard copy.  All applications must be submitted or received by Tropical Financial Credit Union by 6pm on Friday, May 30th.  A scholarship committee will review all applications and choose five recipients who will be notified no later than the last Friday in June.  The recipients and their families will be invited to a ceremony where we will honor those chosen and award each with a ceremonial check for $1,000!

Don't delay - log on and start your application today!

^Amy



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mobile Matters


Friday 5:00 PM signifies the moment of freedom in my book. On my drive home, I pass my previous large chain financial institution and see the parking lot loaded to capacity with the drive through line stretching around the corner. I reassure myself that I can “just go to the bank tomorrow” and continue on my way.

Now, I don’t know about you but my Saturday mornings are considered my “errands” day. Waking up on a Saturday morning with a lengthy “to do” list will typically throw a wrench into my plans but if I get it all out of the way, I’ll be snugged on my couch with my book in no time. Now, the typical errands, one would run on a Saturday, range from: soccer practice, dance shows, children parties and ultimately making it to the bank before they close. My Saturdays usually begins with drop off my dog at the groomers, get a coffee the size of my face, pick up the weekly essentials at the grocery store, price check that item I paid full price for to see if it went down in price, pick up new clothing request for the husband, and make that deposit at the bank before 1 pm. Now, these are all feasible obtainable things to do if, and only if you wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed at 9:00 AM, on your day off.  When I discovered that
Tropical Financial Credit Union offered mobile banking, I was able to make my deposit from the comfort of my dining room table. I can still be in my pajamas, my dog can be running around the house, my purse may look like a disaster zone full of coupons and receipts, but my banking was as easy as a snap shot.

If you’re looking to simplify your life, I recommend checking out Tropical Financial Credit Union new mobile banking options for iPhone and Android phones. You’re able to mobile deposit, transfer funds, pay bills immediately, sign up for purchase rewards to get cash back on your everyday purchases, and if you have to pop into a financial institution you’re able to locate the nearest Tropical Financial Branch or any of our share branch options for your convenience.

Happy Early Weekend Everyone,

^Cari

Friday, March 21, 2014

Spring Cleaning Can Equal Savings!


Spring has sprung! This is the first week of spring and the weather has been beautiful, the sun shining, the wind blowing, and the allergies kicking up.  Have you gotten spring cleaning fever yet? 

We got it.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t drive a block before I see piles of yard cuttings and trash on the side of the road waiting for county pick up.  Inside the house, I already packed up our old clothes and shoes and sent them off for donation.  When you give, don’t forget your tax-deductible receipt!  And on every corner is a sign screaming, “Garage Sale”.

Just as I got rid of old clothes, one of my coworker friends brought in three bags of hand-me-downs for my nieces!  I know the girls absolutely loved the clothes but my sister loved the savings even more!   Which brings up an idea, consignment shops are a great way to make a little cash, and it might even give teens an incentive to clean up their room….hmmm?

Spring is the time of year we all check our home to-do lists and take care of routine maintenance like changing your air conditioning filters, cleaning out your refrigerator and freezer, and changing the batteries in your fire alarms.  Cleaner is always better and always makes things work more efficiently.  While you’re at it, check your hot water heater, turn the thermostat down to the lowest setting, this will make bathing in your house a little bit shorter but definitely more economical.

Now is also a good time to air out your house while the temperature is still cool enough.  It’s also a good time to get motivated to clean out and spruce up the outside of your home or garden. 

Make it a family affair and acknowledge their help.  A fun idea would be to have a garage sale and have them decide how to spend the proceeds.

So get to it, gather the troops and start your spring cleaning!  And maybe I’ll see you at the next Garage Sale. 

 ~Kat

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Refinance Your CAR at a Credit Union!


Refinance Your Car at TFCU
 
Do you suspect you’re paying too much for your car loan? It might be time to consider refinancing. Fortunately, most financial institutions that offer auto loans also offer refinancing. You’ll have your choice of companies, but because of their low rates and flexible financing options, you might want to consider a credit union first.

 What is Refinancing?

When you refinance, you transfer ownership of your loan from one creditor to another. You’ll apply to your new lender, and if you’re approved, they’ll pay your old institution your loan balance. Then you’ll send payments to your new lender each month. People often refinance if they find another lender that offers a more favorable rate than the one they’re currently paying.

You could use a lower interest rate in one of a few ways. You might lower your monthly payment, or you could continue to pay the same amount, and simply pay off your vehicle more quickly. Just try to avoid lengthening your loan term when refinancing – the process should save you money in the long-term, not cost you more.

When Should You Refinance?

Not every loan should be refinanced. It’s possible that you got the best rate on the first try, and there’s no need to take another look. However, if you’re in one of the following situations, you might want to give it a try:

·         Your Credit Has Improved. If you weren’t able to qualify for the best rate when you first applied for your auto loan, and your circumstances have changed, you should definitely try to refinance. Maybe you were able to pay down your credit card debt, or maybe you fixed a few errors on your credit report. If you haven’t tried to improve your credit, but you know it could be better, access one of your free credit reports to see how you can improve. After you’ve taken some positive steps, apply for refinancing.

·         Interest Rates Have Gone Down. Interest rates have been very low for years now, and it’s unlikely they’ve changed much since you applied for your car loan. Generally, though, lower interest rates are a great reason to refinance. It may not seem like much, but a few percentage points off your loan could save you thousands of dollars.

·         You Didn’t Shop Around. Even if your credit is fantastic, you may have been able to get a better rate without knowing. But perhaps you didn’t do your homework. Luckily, it’s not too late. Run your figures through the loan calculator at your local credit union to see how much you can save.

 Keep in mind that the younger your car is, the better your chances of getting a more favorable rate with refinancing. Credit unions and other financial institutions often charge one rate for late-model cars, and another for older models. You may still get a discount if you’re near the end of your loan, but typically, it’s better to refinance early.

 How Can a Credit Union Help?

If you didn’t finance your initial loan at a credit union, you should consider one when it comes to refinancing. According to the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), credit unions often offer lower interest rates on auto loans than banks and other lenders, and many even provide guaranteed discounts or cash bonuses for refinancing with them. On top of this, credit union members report higher levels of satisfaction with the customer service they receive, compared with other loan recipients who go through banks or other financial institutions.

You usually have to be a member of a credit union to get a loan or a refinancing through them. The good news is that you probably qualify for membership. Most credit unions now base their membership on geography, rather than basing it on your employer or other organizational membership. If you live or work in a neighborhood or city served by a credit union, you’ll likely qualify for membership.

The Bottom Line

Refinancing isn’t always the best choice. It’s possible you don’t have much to gain from refinancing, or, worse, that it could set you back in your financial goals, rather than helping you reach them sooner.

But if you’ve recently improved your credit, or didn’t explore your options when you first applied, try to refinance with Tropical Financial Credit Union first. If you’re a new member, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the service, and if you’re a long-time member, you might be surprised by how much you can save.
 

Alice Holbrook, NerdWallet

Friday, March 14, 2014

IRA CDs - Why Saving Early Makes Sense


Start Saving Early for Retirement
 
·         In our home, we have a funky jar labeled “Spring Break Fund”. My husband and I will empty our loose change on a daily basis. It may not seem like much, but when this jar hits capacity, we dump it into a change machine and we’re pleasantly surprised with our new found income. At first, we started with a little over $25.00 and treated ourselves to a movie. We then realized the benefits our jar, and decided to treat this as our “surprise spending fund”. Before we knew it, loose change turned into dollars, and our jar started to reach capacity sooner than expected. Movies, turned into nice dinners, and we actually saved enough for one night hotel stay out of town. We started to put our loose change into a location as a commitment, and together reaped the benefits. 

Our savings jar started our conversation regarding our retirement plan for the future. We both have 401Ks through our respective places of employment, and savings accounts. We reap exactly what we put into these accounts, but the question that comes up is: “What are we getting in return?”. The fact of the matter is, we’re not receiving anything in return. With the dedication and commitment we display with our “surprise spending fund” and our respective savings accounts, we should be rewarded with our compensation. So began our research for the best long term retirement plan.

If we took half of our tax refund and opened an IRA with Tropical Financial Credit Union, our money will increase for simply being in the account. There are varieties of time frames to choose from, so please take note of that information. I strongly suggest researching and determining which option is the best for you. We’re planning on speaking to a financial advisor regarding opening an IRA for our future goal in owning a home. Now, your personal bank can offer a competitive rate, but you may receive a higher interest rate through a credit union. They will always put their members first, and often have the ability to offer slightly higher rates. 

Tropical Financial Credit Union is offering competitive rates to its members for your future lifetime saving plans. You can begin your IRA and Certificate of Deposit with as little as $500.00. Your investment earnings are tax-free and can be the jump start you need to accelerate your saving plan for the future.

Happy Savings,

^Cari