How to Plan for Your Child’s Financial Future

Piggybank family isolatedIn this economy and time period, every parent shares a mutual fear. You think to yourself, “What if my son or daughter isn’t financially stable in their lifetime?” You may be nervous that your child will not be able to pay off college loans or purchase a home when they are older. You might also be worried that your child will struggle to meet car payments, or that they won’t be able to save up money in case of emergencies or for when they grow older.

Read the tips below to learn how you can relieve your fears and help prepare your children for their financial future.

  • Teach financial responsibility. It’s natural to fear that your children will take on too much debt or be unprepared for financial emergencies when they reach adulthood. But you don’t have to wait until they make a mistake to prepare them to be financially responsible. It’s important to remember that it’s never too early to start talking to kids about money and saving. When your kids are young, you’ll want to start with simple conversations about money (sharing tips about your purchase decisions with them when you shop), and as they get older introducing more complex money matters (such as the value of having an emergency fund and saving for unexpected events).
  • Use an allowance as an educational tool. An allowance is an ideal way to teach about responsible spending and saving. Provide your children with the opportunity to save and spend their allowance as they please (with some guidance). This flexibility will allow them to learn early on that spending money as fast as they earn it can have consequences. Depending on the age and maturity of your child, you may choose to share with them a financial mistake you made in the past and how you recovered from it.
  • Plan for college. As college tuition increases, many parents worry about how their children will afford to attend, or how you as a parent can possibly save enough to pay for your child’s college education. As parents, consider beginning to save into a 529 Plan early in your child’s life. When it comes time to make college decisions, help your child evaluate the tuition and other college expenses (travel home, club dues, entertainment costs, etc.) for each college he or she is considering. Make sure to educate yourself on current student loan lending practices and options and help your child determine a realistic amount of student loan debt he or she can take on if necessary.
  • Prepare for life’s big purchases. Even for young adults with a responsible mindset, a lack of financial knowledge can be detrimental for large purchases like a car or home. As a parent, you can offset this concern by being open to discuss these things as your child grows older and begins managing their own money.
  • Reframe your money mindset. Changing the way you think about money can go a long way to alleviating your financial fears for your children and, at the same time, help your children learn to make smart financial decisions. The real question you should ask isn’t, “Can we afford this?” but rather, “Do we need this, and if so, is this the best deal we can get on it, and should we wait and buy it when we have saved the money for it?” These may seem like small differences, but they aren’t. How our children think about money will make a huge difference in their ability to wisely manage it and consequentially will have a huge impact on their quality of life.

Visit First Financial’s website resources tab to view a list of free financial calculators and resources that you and your children can utilize to help save for college and future big ticket purchases like a car, home, and how to save money.

Join us on Thursday, August 7th, for First Financial’s free seminar on this very subject – teaching your children about finances. The seminar will be held at the credit union’s Wall Office on Route 34 at 6pm. Space is limited so we recommend that you register beforehand.

For more information and to register online, click here.

 Article courtesy of Daily Finance Online, by Michele Lerner

Summer Vacation Scams: Possible Hazards of Hoteling

Customers paying at the hotelBooking a hotel stay for a summer vacation? Before you check in, check out how scammers can try to take advantage of travelers.  Always be aware and on the lookout for possible scams!

The late night call from the front desk.

You think you’re getting a late night call from the front desk telling you there’s a problem with your credit card and they need to verify the number, so you read it to them over the phone. But it’s really a scammer on the line. If a hotel really had an issue with your card, they would ask you to come to the front desk.

The pizza delivery deal.

In another scam, you find a pizza delivery flyer slipped under your hotel door. You call to order, and they take your credit card number over the phone. But the flyer is a fake, and a scammer now has your info. Before you order, make sure you check out the business (ensure it’s a franchise or reputable), or get food recommendations from the front desk.

The fake Wi-Fi network.

You search for Wi-Fi networks and find one with the hotel’s name. But it turns out it’s only a sound-alike and has nothing to do with the hotel. By using it, you could give a scammer access to your information. Check with the hotel to make sure you’re using the authorized network before you connect. Read more tips on using public Wi-Fi networks.

Other things to be cautious of when staying at or booking a hotel stay:

  • Always lock your car, and don’t leave anything valuable in your vehicle and/or visible.
  • Try to park your car as close to the front office of the hotel as possible.
  • Don’t leave anything valuable in your room unless there is a secure way to do it (like an in-room safe).
  • Check your credit card statement after your stay to make sure it’s accurate.
  • Be weary of hotel booking websites – there have been instances of advertisements claiming that for booking a hotel room you can receive a complimentary gift card from a known retailer. When clicked on, the scammers will oftentimes ask for a credit card number and more personal info.

Haven’t booked your trip yet? If you’re thinking of getting a vacation rental, take a moment to read up about rental listing scams. And check out these other travel tips, including tell-tale signs that a travel offer or prize might be a scam.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Check out First Financial’s ID Theft Protection products – with our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored.

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit.* To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and find out how you can enroll today – as well as get started with your first 90 days free!**

*Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

**Available for new enrollments only. After the free trial of 90 days, the member must contact the Credit Union to opt-out of ID Theft Protection or the monthly fee of $4.95 will automatically be deducted out of the base savings account or $8.95 will be deducted out of the First Protection Checking account (depending upon the coverage option selected), on a monthly basis or until the member opts out of the program.

Article Source: Amy Herbert – Consumer Education Specialist for the FTC, http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/hazards-hoteling.

A Message for Members Regarding Account Security Following the Target Data Breach

alert-resized-600The recent data breach announced by Target at its stores in the U.S. between November 27 and December 15 has created a high number of inquiries from First Financial members regarding the security of their credit and debit card accounts.

We want to assure members that your accounts with us are monitored 24/7 by an experienced team of security professionals for any suspicious or potentially fraudulent activity. First Financial employs the most advanced fraud detection and prevention technology to guard members’ credit and debit accounts against unauthorized access and use. Here’s a quick update for your peace of mind:

  • We are aware of the accounts that are known to have been used at Target stores on the dates noted above and we are watching the activity on these accounts closely.
  • Our member service contact centers are experiencing unusually high call volume as a result of this breach and the coverage it has received in the media. Unless you see any suspect transactions on your First Financial credit or debit accounts, there is no need to call.
  • If our security team observes any unusual activity on member accounts, we will contact members immediately to determine whether the transaction activity is legitimate and authorized.
  • It is also a good practice for members to keep a watchful eye on their accounts and transactions and look for any unauthorized activity or purchases.

We will continue to monitor all members’ accounts for suspicious activity. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please give us a call at 866.750.0100 or email us at info@firstffcu.com. Thank you for being a valued member of First Financial.

3 Ways to Build Your Credit Score – Without Using Credit Cards

credit scoreYou’ve probably heard over and over that it’s important to have a credit card or two and to use them responsibly if you want a high credit score. No doubt you’ve also been told that making monthly, on-time payments on your mortgage and car are other ways to keep your credit score healthy. All true.

Your credit score — for young adults perhaps just joining the credit conversation — is the number credit bureaus offer up as a symbol of your ability to repay a loan. Generally, the credit score number everyone is concerned with is the FICO credit score, which ranges from 300 to 850. The higher your score, the more likely lenders will allow you to borrow money, and the better the rate you’ll qualify for.

But what if you would like to see your credit score climb — but you’re not crazy about having a credit card? What if you live in an apartment and aren’t making mortgage payments? What if you live in the city and take the subway? What then? Here are some somewhat under-the-radar ways to build credit for those who prefer the road less traveled.

1. Use Your Rent Payments to Build Credit.

For most of credit and rental history, on-time rent payments haven’t officially counted as a sign of someone who is responsible with money. Things are slowly changing, however. Since 2011, Experian has included rent payments in consumers’ credit histories. But it isn’t automatic. If you want your rent payments to be included, you need to be proactive and opt in.

There are a number of websites that will send rental-payment information to the credit bureaus. Consumers who visit WilliamPaid.com can register and pay their rent through the site, and it’ll be reported to Experian (it’s free if you opt for electronic withdrawal; if you pay with a credit or debit card, it’s 2.95% of the total payment; if you pay in cash, a $10 flat fee).

2. Get a CD Secured Loan.

CD secured loans are typically extended by credit unions, precisely to help members build or rebuild credit reports and credit scores. Some community banks also offer them.

“The loan is approved for some small amount, normally not much more than $1,000,” says John Ulzheimer of CreditSesame.com. “But instead of the consumer getting that $1,000 like they would with a normal loan, the money is placed into an interest-bearing account with the credit union. The consumer makes payments monthly, and after a year or two, the loan is paid off, and the funds, plus dividends, are released to the consumer.”

Ulzheimer adds that because the loan was an extension of credit, the credit union can report the loan to the credit bureaus. “Everyone wins,” he says. “The consumer gets the benefit of the account on their credit reports, plus the loan proceeds with dividends.”

At First Financial we know how your credit score can affect your ability to get a good rate or even approval for a loan. Do you know how you can improve your credit score? Our First Score Program is a low cost, interactive session ($30) with a First Financial expert, which simulates your credit score with various “what if” scenarios. Once you get your credit score, First Score will tell you what you need to do to reach all of your financial goals. First Score will also tell you what actions will help you increase and decrease your credit score. 

3. Self-Report.

“Credit reports only track money you’ve borrowed,” says James Miller, owner of Biltmore Wealth Advisors, LLC. That’s why credit reports don’t include information on whether you’ve been paying your utility bill and monthly rent on time, he adds.

Miller suggests consumers check out Payment Reporting Builds Credit, a national company that has been around since 2002 and allows consumers to sign up for free and self-report payments like rent, rent-to-own purchases and utilities like your water or electric bill.

“PRBC might not yet have the clout of the big three credit bureaus, but a solid report from PRBC might be enough to get your foot in the door with a lender,” Miller says. The PRBC site is free to use, but not all self-reporting third parties are free.

Keep in mind that none of these strategies will work if you don’t pay your bills on time. In fact, you could make things worse by self-reporting if the information being reported shows you’re always late with bills. But if you are paying without trouble, and you simply don’t own a house or credit cards and aren’t making payments on car or student loans, then getting lenders to see that you’re consistently paying bills on time may just lead to a higher credit score — eventually.

“The quickest way to build up a favorable credit score is to borrow and pay back the debt on time. There really is no way around that,” Miller says.

“It isn’t necessarily hard — it just takes discipline,” says Hitha Prabhakar, a retail and consumer analyst based in New York City and a spokesperson for Mint.com, a free and well-known money management website.

Having a well-paying job also helps. A good relationship with your bank or financial institution is another plus, Prabhakar adds. But above all, a long credit history without a lot of black marks is what will really make all the difference.

Click here to view the article source, from Dailyfinance.com.

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My Kid’s Drowning in Credit Card Debt! What Do I Do?

consumerismIf you trusted your son or daughter to keep track of their finances, and they slipped up, what in the world are you supposed to do?

Let’s say they’ve racked up a big, nasty credit card debt — to the tune of thousands of dollars. Should you pay off their debts to help keep their credit score above water? Or is it better to let them learn from their mistakes and suffer the consequences? Though each individual situation is different, here are your options, what’s at stake, and a few pointers to help you plot your course of action.

A Personal Loan, With a Contract

If you have the means, think about whether or not you want to loan your child the money. Sometimes the debt is manageable enough that you can pay it off in the form of a personal loan to your child. You can even decide to charge them interest as well, so they learn just how much a high APR can cost them.

But you have to examine the situation from a lender’s perspective, rather than simply write a check and expect your child will make payments. What is the child’s employment situation? Will he or she be able to make payments to you without the security blanket of your relationship making them complacent? Has your child typically been a responsible spender in the past, or does he or she impulsively purchase on a grand scale regularly? If you do decide to help protect their credit history, it’s a smart idea to sign a contract with your child to make your agreement more official and binding.

If You Co-Signed, You’re on the Hook

If you co-signed on your child’s account, you’re responsible for their debt. Because of regulations passed in the CARD Act of 2009, it’s more difficult for young adults to qualify for credit cards, so more and more parents are co-signing on accounts and acting as guarantors for their children. If you’ve already taken that step, you should hopefully have realized that your child’s purchases will affect your credit, regardless of your involvement.

In this case, it may be more prudent to pay off the debt if you can, cancel the account, and work together to come up with a payment plan to rectify the situation and make sure it never happens again. If you haven’t co-signed yet, sit down for a serious conversation with your child on your values and financial responsibility.

Lessons to Be Learned?

Bad credit now will impact their financial future later, but so will bad habits. If your child doesn’t learn from his or her mistakes now, there could be bigger and more damaging mistakes ahead. Will bailing your child out of their financial mess with creditors make them realize the gravity of their mistake? Or will you just end up fostering their sense of dependence on you? You won’t always be there, wallet in hand to save them, so if they can manage to take the credit hit, perhaps it’s best to let them learn the lesson this time, and give them some tough love.

Communication Is Key

Loaning money to someone you love is always, always messy. While your child should intellectually know that your love is unconditional (which is why your help comes so willingly), it’s emotionally very difficult to face your parents when you owe them money. Plenty of relationships have been ruined by debts of personal loans, both from neglected payments and feelings of shame. Be sure that if you choose to help your child, you commit to maintaining an open dialogue and doing your best to keep business and family separate.

Ultimately, each family and financial situation is different. But before you make a plan to tackle your son or daughter’s debt, you need to examine the situation from all angles. There are many factors in play, but above all, your relationship and your child’s sense of responsibility from this learning experience should be at the forefront of your mind.

Click here to view the article source, from DailyFinance.com.