Thursday, April 24, 2014

Money Matters BEYOND Tuition

Young & Free Florida Spokester Alysha Klein shares her tips and tricks
for saving money at college at our first Lunch & Learn event in Coral Springs

This is an exciting year for me as a parent. My daughter is a senior in high school, and as we approach her last month in school our weeks are filled with family visits, end of year banquets, prom, and of course GRADUATION!  In addition we have been very focused on preparing for her first year of college - a very exciting AND scary time.  I'm very proud to say that she has been accepted to FIU and will be studying marine biology, her lifelong passion.

Since she was a little girl I watched as her fascination grew for marine life - Shark Week was a BIG event in our household. I also knew that a degree in marine biology would be a must, so I have been putting money into a 529 account for her education.  I thought we were pretty prepared for paying the expenses for college, but then I found out that there are MANY more expenses associated with college beyond tuition.  There are lab fees, meal plans and books - all of which add up QUICK. 

One day I was talking with our Young & Free Florida Spokester, Alysha Klein, about how she tackled all those extras and she had a LONG list of ways to save money - from book loan programs to take out boxes in school cafeterias.  When she started listing how many ways we could save money just by knowing the ropes of the different schools, we decided we had to share this information.  What better way to share it then over a free lunch!

So now through the end of May we are holding Lunch & Learn sessions at our branches where Alysha will share her own experiences with saving money while at college.  If you have a child about to take that leap, you won't want to miss this event. In addition Alysha will tell you about the FIVE $1,000 scholarships Tropical Financial Credit Union will be giving out this year! 

Spaces are filling up quick for the events so register today for the next Lunch & Learn: Money Matters Beyond Tuition and learn ways to properly budget for all the expenses in that first year of college.

^Amy

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day!


Today is a day when we should all reflect on what we can do to help our environment.  Believe it or not, changing small things in your daily routines can have a big impact on your personal "carbon footprint."  Today is a day to bring those little things to the forefront of our consciousness and make a concerted effort to make changes.

Let's look at a five easy areas you can take a look at today:
  1. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth.  Simply by turning off the water in the morning and at bedtime can save 8 gallons of water! Saving water saves energy reducing carbon pollution (and saves money on your water bill).
  2. Use a power strip instead of the wall outlets.  Having devices plugged in, even when you're not using them accounts for more than $11Billion (yes Billion) in annual US energy costs! When you use a power strip for things like your computer and all the peripheral equipment allows them to completely disconnect from the power supply, which eliminates "standby power consumption" and help reduce carbon pollution, it also won't hurt that electric bill each month.
  3. Use cold water to wash your clothes.  90% of the power your washing machine uses comes from heating the hot water that you use to wash those whites.  There are plenty of detergents that have created cold water formulas that will keep your whites sparkling even when washed with cold water, why not give it a try and save energy while you're at it.
  4. Check out what kinds of bulbs you're using in your lamps.  Check out the five most used lamps/lights in your house and change them out with Energy Star qualified bulbs - not only could you save up to $75/year on your electric bill, but you'll also reduce carbon pollution!
  5. Speaking of lights - how about turning off the lights when leaving a room.  Seems to me that teenagers are notorious for walking out of a room and not turning off the light...try giving them the electric bill for one month and tell them they have to pay for it, watch how quickly those lights get turned off if it's THEIR money.  I tried it in my house and it worked like a charm, my daughter is VERY good about turning off the lights now!

If you're interested in learning more tips on how to reduce your own carbon footprint AND saving money, visit the EPA site and calculate your household carbon footprint, as well as learn more ways you can make a difference!

Happy Earth Day!

^Amy


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