Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Today and tomorrow social media sites and the Internet will be filled with family stories, pictures, and the annual sharing of warm and fuzzy Thanksgiving messages. This is also a time of year when we remember the great Thanksgivings past, back when we were kids sitting at the “kid table” (really just a card table set up in an adjoining room because there was no room at the main table). I want to use this moment to reflect back on the “good ole days.” See if YOU can relate to any of my classic Thanksgiving moments:
  • Counting the years until I could move up to the adult table – never mind the fact that there was no minimum age it really all depended on who showed up each year.
  • FOOTBALL! I LOVE football and I can attribute that to my uncle taking all the kids to the Detroit Lions game every year while the cooking was being done…see I figured I could get out of cooking every year if I just went to a football game. Turned me into a true fan.  Of course that also meant I never learned to cook!
  • The blood in the mashed potatoes from when my grandma would cut herself, because if there wasn’t a kitchen towel wrapped around her fingers/hands then it just wasn’t Thanksgiving.
  • The exploding glass jar that my grandma used to make the gravy thickener…now I don’t know what it means or how she did it, but it always involved flour and boiling liquid in a glass jar that she would shake up and inevitably it would explode as she removed the top. 
  • The fight for one of the coveted turkey legs (a fight I STILL win to this day!)
  • The four different pies that people brought and you’d feel bad if you didn’t put slices from at least three of them on your plate.
  • The post dinner story telling where we all would sprawl on the couches, chairs, even the floor and laugh at the stories from prior year get-togethers.

Now my family is very different.  My grandma passed away several years ago and with her gone the family traditions changed as we all went our separate ways to build new traditions.  But every year at this time I think back and share these stories with my own children so that even though we’ve built our own traditions, they will always know where it all started.

From all of us here at Tropical Financial Credit Union we wish you all health, happiness, and the creation of your own memorable Thanksgiving with family and friends!
Happy Thanksgiving,

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Black Friday Sales
The holiday season is upon us which means it’s time for one of my favorite hobbies… shopping! I love the thrill of retail therapy and if you give me a discount or a coupon, forget it, I can spend hours online or in a store sorting through racks and finding great deals.
But, are we always finding the best deals? Since 2005, Black Friday has become one of the biggest and busiest shopping days of the year. Each year the store hours have opened earlier and earlier creeping into Thanksgiving Day. People line up for hours to get the best deal on limited quantity. But, are you really getting the bargain you think you are? Probably not!

Time for a new Plan Maybe it’s time to rethink your holiday shopping strategy. According to many news articles these past few weeks (including NerdWallet), Black Friday deals may not be the best deals. In fact, if you were to compare Black Friday sale papers from last year to this year, you will find a lot of the same sale items and pricing. For instance, in 2013and 2014 Target has had the Apple TV advertised in their Black Friday deals and the price is still the same… $89.00.
Also, some companies are catching on to the thrill of Black Friday and instead of lowering prices they are rising them for Black Friday but giving you the idea that you are getting a deal. Sneaky I know!

The best time to shop
Toys!So, for bargain hunters like myself, when is the best time to shop so you can get the best price? According to DailyFinance, the time is now! If you are looking for toy this holiday season, the day before Thanksgiving is your best time to shop. December 8th and 19th were second and third on the best days to shop list.

Are you looking to get a new wardrobe or maybe buy some much needed accessories? Cyber Monday is the best day of shopping for you. If you can’t make it to the malls on December 1st, try keeping December 11th and 18th free on your calendar because the deals will be rolling out.
Every year people line up for electronics with Black Friday. Sadly, we missed the best deals for electronics it was November 1st. But, Black Friday will have some great deals as will the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The nice thing about shopping the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is you don’t need to camp out and be up at the crack of dawn.   
Happy Shopping!

There you have it, now make a list of the gifts you need, create a strong budget and get to shopping. Oh and this year spend time making memories with family on Thanksgiving instead of standing in lines.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014


When you think about your dream vehicle what is the first thought that comes to mind? Is it the style of the vehicle? Maybe you think about the color. Or is it the must-have features like leather interior you need to make it a dream come true? 

I am fortunate enough to already own my dream car. A 1972 Chevelle. It’s navy blue with white stripes and while it might not have all the bells and whistles of the modern cars of today, my Chevelle is perfect to me. 

Finding your dream vehicle is easy to do… paying for your dream vehicle now that’s another story. There are ways to turn your dream into a reality and it all starts with the basics, creating a budget.  That can be in done in three easy steps.  To learn those steps, check out today's Money Minute to get started and create the perfect budget so you can quit dreaming and start driving!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014


What was the very first financial choice you ever made? Think about it.
It likely took place before your first job, even as far back as when your annual income consisted
of Tooth Fairy money and lucky pennies. The very first financial decision you ever made is also
one of the most important choices, it’s where to keep your money.

When you first made that decision, piggy banks, sock drawers, and “buried-in-the-sandbox-like pirate-treasure” all seemed like perfectly acceptable options. As it turns out, they aren’t nearly as super-secret as you might have hoped. Opening a bank account is the best solution, but in order to do that you first need to choose a financial institution—and so the choice becomes “bank or credit union?”

Banks and credit unions offer essentially the same products and services, but there are huge differences in the way they operate. Despite this, many people put more thought into building their Netflix queue than they do choosing their financial institution. It’s a Money Thing is here to help fill in the gaps and show you how the differences can affect your dollars. Whether you’re just starting out or rethinking your current financial setup, here is what you need to know.
The main difference between banks and credit unions is in their structure. Banks are for profit, while credit unions are member-owned and operated. This means that banks have numerous expenses that credit unions simply don’t have. Banks have to pay their shareholders, their private investors, and even their board of directors (credit union boards are typically volunteers elected by credit union members)—and all this is in addition to regular operating costs. Banks are set up in a way that allows a select group of people to make money off of your banking activity.

Credit unions, on the other hand, are set up in a way that allows all of its members to benefit from its profits. Once its operating costs are covered and reserves are set aside, the profits are distributed back to members in the form of free banking products, lower interest rates on loans and higher interest rates on savings accounts. Credit unions in the United States are also exempt from federal and state income taxes which translates to even more profit that comes back to members.

Credit unions sound pretty great, right? You might be wondering why some people choose banks over credit unions, even though credit unions consistently outperform banks when it comes to deposit and loan rates and customer service.

The simple answer is that banks are bigger, and some people believe bigger is better. A better approach is to find out what your banking priorities are. Here are some factors to consider:

 1) Am I eligible for an account? Banks are open to anyone. Credit unions have membership requirements, but don’t let that intimidate you! Requirements can be as simple as living in a
certain community or working in a certain field. For example if you live or work in Miami-Dade, Broward or Palm Beach County - YOU ARE ELIGIBLE to join Tropical Financial Credit Union!

2) How much does it cost to get set up? Are there any fees associated with opening an account? Is there a minimum balance required? Joining a credit union involves purchasing a share (at Tropical Financial Credit Union it's only $5), but this is different from a fee, it means that you’re a member-owner of the credit union.

3) Will I have good access to ATMs? You might feel as though you see larger bank ATMs everywhere, but credit union ATMs are just as accessible. In fact, the largest credit union ATM
network is actually larger than the largest bank ATM network. Find out what other financial institutions share your local credit union’s network. Free ATM transactions are not limited to machines with a particular credit union name on them.

4) What can I do online? More and more financial institutions are offering online banking services. Find out what you can do from your computer and smartphone. Can you check your balance? Schedule payments? Transfer money between accounts? Taking advantage of online products can be super convenient, and save you from taking a trip to the ATM or to the nearest branch. At Tropical Financial you can take your credit union with you wherever you go on your mobile device! With our mobile app you can deposit checks by taking a picture, check balances, transfer money and even add and pay your bills!

5) And speaking of the nearest branch, where is it? Find out what the hours of operation are and how they work with your schedule. Find out if you can bank through other branches, too. This could come in handy if there’s a location close to work or school. 

6) What can my financial institution do for me? Ask about products that are tailored to your
situation. How do the interest rates compare to other financial institutions? Are there free products you’re eligible for? Don’t settle for a financial institution just because you need an account. You should want to have an account there, too. At Tropical Financial we have different checking accounts to fit different needs - for the 25 and under crowd there's the Gen Next checking set up with extra benefits for those just starting out.

At the end of the day, choosing a financial institution is a personal decision with a huge influence on how you manage your money and your time. If you take some time to ask questions and compare services, you’ll find the best home for your finances.

Friday, October 31, 2014


Halloween is that spectacular time of year when we get to dress up and pretend to be something else, PLUS eat  A LOT of candy. Our department has always dressed up and this year is no exception (see picture above).

Have you ever stopped to think what people spend on things like candy and costumes? This country spends BILLIONS of dollars on Halloween...yes you read that correct - BILLIONS! According to the National Retail Federation, Americans have spent more than $7Billion on Halloween related items this year!  Here's the breakdown:
  • $2.5Billion Halloween CANDY (wonder how much the dentist bills are next month?)
  • $1.4Billion Adult Costumes
  • $1.1Billion Children's Costumes
  • $350Million PETS costumes (yup I did that one too)
  • The rest in decorations & cards (you should see our yard)
  • $77.52 is the average each person will spend this year on Halloween (again you should SEE our yard)
Regardless of what YOU have spent on this holiday, we hope that you've been having fun and enjoying a LOT of candy.

From everyone here at Tropical Financial - we hope you have a BOOtiful evening and a very Happy Halloween!!!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014


I remember when I bought my first car - I did so much research and felt completely prepared...until I walked into the dealership. Then the "negotiating" started and I felt completely UNprepared. The sales guy actually started talking about how I needed to pay more for the car because he had six kids and diapers were expensive (not kidding). Needless to say I moved onto a different dealer and worked the game from the beginning, more unsure than ever if I got a good deal.

Fast forward several years when a friend told me about buying a car from Enterprise Car Sales.  I couldn't imagine buying a car from a rental agency, with so many people using those cars they couldn't possibly be in good condition. Then I found out that these cars are actually better maintained than most people do with their own carsBefore Enterprise sells a car, they put it through a rigorous inspection process.  They only sell the cars that pass inspection.  The cars that don’t pass are sent to auction and usually end up for sale at used car lots…the lots where I thought I could find the better quality cars!  That really opened my eyes. PLUS they have a set price for their cars - NO HAGGLING (and no stories of needing diaper money). Add that with a fair trade using Kelley Blue Book for your old car and excellent financing from the credit union makes for an easy experience that ends with YOU in a new ride!


Friday, September 26, 2014


As home values continue to rise in South Florida, it might just be time to check out what your home is worth. You may be pleasantly surprised and be able to tackle some big projects you've been putting off. I desperately wanted a new kitchen, and I found out that I now could afford it - it was "on the house"!
I wanted to share some great advice about HELOCs from our friends at Nerd Wallet ^Amy

Whether you need extra cash for home improvements, to consolidate credit-card debt or pay for medical expenses, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) may be your lowest-cost borrowing option this year. 

Besides low interest rates, this mortgage product provides a number of advantages, including potential tax savings, low fees and borrowing flexibility.

What is a HELOC?

A home equity line of credit lets you borrow against the available equity you have in your home, or its fair market value minus whatever is owed on any mortgages tied to it. A HELOC is a form of revolving credit, usually with a lender-set time limit and a variable interest rate on the money borrowed.  

If you’re approved for a HELOC, the maximum you can borrow will be based on the equity in your home.  For example, Tropical Financial Credit Union finances up to 90% of the property value minus the first mortgage. So if your home is valued at $200,000 and you owe $120,000 on the mortgage, your equity is $80,000 and you may be able to borrow as much as $60,000 ($200,000 x 90% = $180,000 - $120,000 = $60,000).

The credit line you receive comes with a draw period, which is the length of time during which you can use the HELOC funds. The period typically lasts from five to 15 years and at Tropical Financial the draw period is ten years. You can use and repay as much of the HELOC as you like during this period.  After that  you will have a repayment period - at Tropical that period is ten years. During that time you can focus on repaying the outstanding balance, thus regaining your equity.

Here are some other potential benefits of HELOCs:

Borrowing flexibility

HELOCs offer a convenient way to make use of the equity you have in your home when you need it, and if you don’t use it, you won’t pay any interest. This distinguishes HELOCS from second mortgages, home equity and personal loans, that provide advances on which repayment often must begin immediately

 Low interest rate

Since you are using your home as collateral,  the initial rate you’ll pay is likely to be significantly lower than a personal loan. However, remember that today’s rates, which remain near historic lows, are unlikely to persist for a decade, and in time you may end up paying a significantly higher rate on what you borrow. Ultimately, the terms for your HELOC will depend on factors that include the amount made available, your history as a borrower, credit score, work history, income and other debts.

 Potential tax break

The interest you pay on money borrowed through a HELOC can be treated like mortgage interest to reduce your federal tax bill. This aspect also distinguishes these products from personal loans and credit card debt, neither of which provide tax benefits. Consult with a tax adviser to determine your specific situation.  

Given these advantages, a HELOC may be your best option if you’re a homeowner in need of some extra cash. 

Steve Nicastro, NerdWallet